The Senior Bowl, and the practices leading up to Saturday's kickoff at 2:30 p.m. EDT offer college football seniors their first chance to make a great impression for the 2016 NFL Draft. We take a look at 10 prospects who could move up draft boards after a strong finish to Senior Bowl week on Saturday.
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Carson Wentz, quarterback
All eyes will be on Wentz this Saturday -- his draft stock has picked up a ton of momentum heading into the Senior Bowl. He measured in at 6-foot-5 and 233 pounds with large hands and long arms. He is accurate from within the pocket, athletic for his size, and he can make all the passes required of him at the next level. His NFL-ready quick release is a nice bonus. After playing at the FCS level for North Dakota State, he stands the most ground to gain against the Senior Bowl competition. Some believe he could eventually be the first quarterback off the board with a top-three selection overall.
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Jarran Reed, defensive lineman
Reed was productive on an Alabama defense with a lot of talent, and his scheme versatility makes him a good bet to make an even greater impact at the NFL level. At 6-foot-3 and 311 pounds, he has the quickness you would expect from a gap-penetrating, 3-technique defensive tackle. However, he is dominant at playing the run thanks to his lower body strength. He can play on the interior line of any defensive scheme. Reed is currently projected as a mid-to-late first-round pick, but he will likely move up draft boards into the top 10 starting this Saturday.
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Reggie Ragland, linebacker
At 6-foot-1 and 259 pounds, Ragland has the look of an inside linebacker built in the Jerod Mayo mold. He is one of the surest tacklers in this draft class. Although he is not built like him, Ragland reminds me more of former Alabama inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower in the sense that he can rush the passer in addition to stopping the run. Although his best fit will be on the inside in a 3-4 scheme, he can succeed in any scheme. For team in need of a linebacker who can successfully attack the line of scrimmage, Ragland is their guy.
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Noah Spence, defensive end
Spence’s off-field issues from when he was at Ohio State will be evaluated, but the Eastern Kentucky product checks all the boxes you want from an edge rusher. He has the ability to bend the edges, and he can also win with the bull rush. He checks in at 6-foot-2 and 254 pounds -- by all accounts he has dominated practices throughout the week and will look for his performance to translate to the field on Saturday.
Kenneth Dixon, running back
Playing his college football at Louisiana Tech hasn’t put Dixon on too many first-round radars yet, but that’s about to change after the Senior Bowl. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound running back offers a unique combination of patience, burst and balance. He is also an excellent route runner and arguably the best pass-catching back in the class. He forced 66 missed tackles in 2015, ranking him among the league leaders at running back, per Pro Football Focus. Dixon’s smooth running style reminds me of Matt Forte, but his size allows him to run with a much lower pad level.
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Austin Johnson, defensive lineman
Johnson is not quite the physical specimen that Reed from Alabama is, but he is another big interior lineman with surprising lateral agility. Johnson is a mountain of a man -- he checked in at 6-foot-4 and 323 pounds at the Senior Bowl weigh in. His best spot at the NFL level might be as a nose tackle in a 4-3 scheme, but don’t be surprised if he makes an impact similar to what we’ve seen from Jonathan Hankins of the New York Giants. He can move well for a big man.
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Sterling Shepard, wide receiver
The slippery wide receiver from Oklahoma has drawn early comparisons to Tyler Lockett for his route running and ability to get open underneath. Despite being known for his quick-twitch athleticism, Shepard is not afraid to go over the middle and make a contested catch. At just 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds, he plays bigger than his size. Shepard is the type of receiver prospect who can make an impact at the next level without going through much of a learning curve.
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Jeremy Cash, safety
Cash is a physical safety that thrives when playing in the box -- he was used in a lot of very creative ways in Duke’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme. Cash is easily the most talented prospect that fits this new-age NFL niche. He can make an impact similar to what Deone Bucannon has delivered the Arizona Cardinals as a linebacker/safety hybrid. Bucannon plays in the middle of the Cardinals' defense and is constantly around the football. Both players entered the league at 6-foot-1 and around 210 pounds.
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Kyler Fackrell, linebacker
Fackrell may not have the big-school background out of Utah State, but he has a lot of upside entering the NFL as a lengthy edge rusher. At just under 6-foot-5 and 244 pounds, Fackrell’s best fit is at outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He finished with 82 tackles, 15 TFL, four sacks and 12 quarterback hurries in 2015.
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Carl Nassib, defensive lineman
It took a while for Nassib to develop into the player he was in 2015 -- his first season as a starter for Penn State. However, it didn’t take long for him to dominate. Nassib finished with an NCCA-best 15.5 sacks. At just under 6-foot-7 and 273 pounds, Nassib has drawn comparisons to a poor man’s J.J. Watt. You just don’t find defensive end prospects with this combination of size and production very often. With a dominant Senior Bowl, he will move up draft boards.