Which Senior Bowl stars helped their draft stock the most?
Forget about the 21-point thumping the North Team laid on the South in Mobile, Ala. on Saturday in the 2015 Senior Bowl. Few care about the team aspect of the game, preferring to focus more on individual game-day efforts and workouts throughout the entire week.
The entirety of the Senior Bowl is about the player. Who can show NFL coaches and scouts in a week’s time that they deserve more of a look (read: more money from a higher draft slot) than the year’s worth of game film they produced?
Second-rounders can turn into first-rounders. Small-school stars can emerge on the NFL scene. Solid players can show a brief glimpse of enormous upside that peaks the interest of a scout, thus elevating draft stock.
The name of the Senior-Bowl game is improving one’s worth in the eyes on an NFL team. Here are the stars that did the most to improve their draft stock while at the Senior Bowl.
Danny Shelton, DT — Washington
Shelton came to Mobile as a likley first-round prospect. He left as a potential top 10 draftee and a force to be reckoned with on the inside of the defensive line. The only way to slow Shelton down this week was to double team him, or grab him. By the third day of practices, the numbers on his jersey had been pulled off from all the holding offensive linemen did in the trenches.
Any offensive lineman that spoke on the subject, mentioned Shelton as the hardest interior lineman to go up against. Shelton greatly reduced the amount of time he’s going to have to wait on April 30.
Laken Tomlinson, G — Duke
One of the guards that sang the praises of Shelton was Duke’s Tomlinson. While he was battling with Shelton, however, Tomlinson was showing that he deserved a lot more draft-day attention.
Tomlinson didn’t always win when matched up against Shelton, but he didn’t lose often either — and he was never manhandled. Tomlinson was offered as the toughest guard to play against during practices at the Senior Bowl, and that should go a long way toward helping Tomlinson.
As a guard, Tomlinson won’t be a first-round pick. But after the Senior Bowl, he won’t have to wait terribly long on Day 2 to hear his named called.
Nate Orchard, DE — Utah
The 2015 draft is rich with pass-rushers. And because of how he performed in Mobile, Orchard could now be considered a first-round draft pick.
Orchard finished second in the nation with 18.5 sacks in 2014, and showed folks at the Senior Bowl that those numbers could be replicated against the best talent available. He was one of the defensive ends that continually blew by linemen with his speed, and when power was necessary he showed the strength to be a bully too.
Not only did Orchard prove he could get after a quarterback, he offered soft hands (he picked off a poorly-thrown screen pass in 11-on-11 drills) and made an impressive play by staying with his assignment and closing down to back end of a play and thwarting an end-around.
Powerful, agile and football smart are good traits to have in a pass-rusher.
Cameron Artis-Payne, RB — Auburn
Artis-Payne didn’t finish as the top Senior-Bowl rusher (he gained 43 yards on 10 carries and caught three passes for 35 yards), but he did have a truly impressive opening drive where he showed power running and a keen pass-catching ability.
With the kind of vision and burst Artis-Payne exhibited, he should rise in the ranks of running backs in the 2015 draft, a draft class rich with talent. To grab the attention of NFL teams, a running back needs to be able to run with force, and possess good hands. Dual-threat isn’t just for quarterbacks anymore.
Phillip Dorsett, WR — Miami
Dorsett didn’t play in the Senior Bowl because of an injury, but he was one of the most impressive receivers in practice, and those sessions were extremely valuable to the former Miami star.
With the ability to absolutely blow by defensive backs with his world-class speed, Dorsett should climb up draft boards in the pre-draft process on his wheels alone. But he also ran crisp routes in practice, showed good hands and fought for the football, and won, against defenders with more size.
Dorsett is explosive off the line, and drew comparisons all week to T.Y. Hilton and Brandin Cooks.
Carl Davis, DT — Iowa
Davis was always thought to be more athletic than his film portrayed, but he never showed that at Iowa. He sure did in Mobile, however.
In addition to his strong base and being a tough player to move off his spot, Davis revealed a knack at getting penetration into the backfield. He was one of the most disruptive interior forces in practice, and many offensive linemen paired him almost equally with Danny Shelton in terms of being difficulty to handle.
Davis was a Day 2 prospect prior to the Senior Bowl, but could have worked his way into the first round.
Shaq Mason, G — Georgia Tech
In the time he spent with the Yellow Jackets, Mason learned well how to explode into his assignment and work effectively with angles in a zone-blocking scheme. His skills were on display in Mobile.
There was little doubt Mason could move forward, but how would he handle pass protection? He used awesome strength and an ability to leverage himself into a winning week at the Senior Bowl.
Many scouts watched Mason and thought center instead of guard. Everyone looked on and saw a prospect that incredibly improved his draft stock.