The 2018 Senior Bowl is the last college football game of the year, making it over seven months until the next college football game kicks off. It is crazy to think of it that way, but it is the case. Nonetheless, it is the last opportunity for prospective NFL players to make an impression before their pro days or if they are lucky the combine.
This year saw the game to be a high scoring but lopsided game. There were a lot of takeaways we can look at here, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. I know I broke down the East/West Shrine Bowl snap by snap, but unfortunately, I am not going to do that here. Time is way too precious with so much on our plate.
I am going to go through the players I though made a difference or stood out to me. There were a lot of rotating pieces so I will not be touching on everyone, but rather those who really stood out to me.
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Allen looked pretty miserable in my opinion in his first half performance. He showed me everything that I had a concern about with him: unsteady feet, throwing from the back foot, overthrowing receivers and putting them in tough positions. They announce team kept saying that the first half is all he would play. At that point, I really thought he did a bit of damage to himself.
Then they trotted him out in the second half to try to mount a comeback. He seemed like a totally different player. He was focused, made smart throws and put the ball only where a receiver could get it. This was the guy all the evaluators were head over heels for.
He has a great attitude and seems willing to commit to whatever team takes him. My biggest fear with him is just that he is going to give us too much of the bad end of his skill set at a pro level.
Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky
I loved Brandon Doughty when he was at WKU, and I struggled to see how and where life would go on without him. Mike White transferred from USF during Doughty’s senior year, and while sitting out, learned the offense and had a pretty solid two year run with the team.
In this game, he stood out to me as the best quarterback. He routinely used patience and poise to wait for his receivers and threw them open a number of times. He made some great completions to DJ Chark, who you will read about in a second. I was perhaps undersold on White, as it would be very easy for him to be a result of that system, but he looks like the real deal.
He is likely to be a mid-round QB, but a smart team like the Steelers could grab him and groom him to take over when Ben Roethlisberger retires.
Rashad Penny, RB, San Diego State
Penny was being undersold during this draft process as a result of his size. It makes sense: running backs take a lot of damage when they handle the ball 15 times a game and they are his size. To me, he showed exactly why it made sense for a team to take a chance on him.
He had a big run during the first quarter of the game for 34 yards. He fought his way through holes and created extra yardage for himself. Those types of things go far with evaluators. It is one thing to be able to go through openings, but to find creases to create extra yards is clutch.
It is highly unlike to impossible that he would be a three down back in the NFL, but given the right system, could find himself on the field a lot.
D. J. Chark, WR, LSU
Well, the biggest thing here is that this should come to no surprise. If you listened to any of our podcasts, you would know that we railed consistently on the poor QB play at LSU. It is no wonder Chark did not have a monster year at any point in his career.
He did, however, show exactly what talent will do if put in the right situation. I think it could be fair to say that no one did as much good for the NFL future this weekend than Chark did. He showed skills to separate in coverage, showed strong hands as well as speed that made him elusive.
Perhaps he is not the high end talent that Odell Beckham or Jarvis Landry was, but he could certainly be a high end receiver in the NFL.
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
There was a pretty good amount of buzz on Davenport as he headed to the Senior Bowl. He picked up steam within the draft community as the season went on, and it got to the point where he is a mid-first round pick in several mock drafts out there. There is a good chance he will move up in mine.
This is a game where he was just everywhere. The North offensive coordinator had to sell out to make sure he did not get into the backfield. Even when they did, his impact was still felt. As his teammate sacked the quarterback and a fumble resulted, Davenport picked up the ball and got to the endzone. This type of nose for the football is going to give him an advantage at the next level.
I do think depending on his pro day and combine that we could see him taken within the top 12 picks with an outside shot at being a top 10 pick if someone really believes in him. There were some rumblings that he seemed unsure and insecure during interviews, which rubbed scouts the wrong way.
Poona Ford, DT, Texas
I believe that Poona did not get invited to the combine. After strong performances in both the East/West Shrine Bowl and the Senior Bowl, that is borderline criminal.
Ford was another guy I was not super high on through most of the season, but these last few weeks, he has really shown me a lot. His ability to bully through lineman to get to the backfield has jumped out to me on a number of occasions.
I doubt we hear his name called in the first two rounds, but I think he is going to be an interesting situation who could move up the draft board as the process moves on.
Shaquem Griffin, OLB, UCF
Griffin is more than just a feel good story in the 2018 Senior Bowl. He is someone who you can expect to see a lot of material on because he only has one hand.
Yes, his story is inspirational, but he is a top-level talent on the field as well, and quiet frankly, that is far more important. It is not more important in the scope of life, but feel good stories and success in the NFL are not positively correlated.
Griffin did get an invite to the combine and he had a very good Senior Bowl as well. I would expect him to be more of a late round pick, but I think there is a lot of upside there.
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE, Oklahoma
I guess it makes some sense to give the defense on the North side of the ball game some love. If we are going to, it is going to be Okoronkwo, who is currently sitting in a position where he could end up being a first round pick depending on how things go.
We saw the talent flash here, including on one play where he was able to get into the backfield and absolutely lay the quarterback out. He showed us that he had the ability during his time at Oklahoma, and it makes sense that he does it here.
The 2018 Senior Bowl was a good step in the right direction for him, and with a strong showing the rest of the draft season, he will hear his name called on Thursday night.