One of the most important weeks in the NFL Draft process wrapped up on Saturday with the 71st annual Senior Bowl game. Brian Flores’ National team prevailed over Matt Rhule’s American squad by a score of 27-24.
Keeping with tradition, the Senior Bowl provided college football’s top seniors with an opportunity to display their skills and demonstrate their potential value to all 32 NFL teams.
The New England Patriots value this game and process perhaps more than any other team, drafting or signing eight Senior Bowl alumni over the past two seasons alone. There will without a doubt be a few more acquired this draft season, so with that in mind, let’s take a look at the guys that set themselves apart, for better or worse.
Winner: WR Amari Rodgers
In a rare case of a player whose stock has risen between his final college game and the Senior Bowl, Amari Rodgers just continued that trend with his play on Saturday. Playing in the slot and split out wide, Rodgers showed some versatility and success from both spots. His touchdown came on a great shake route between two defenders while taking a hit, and his catch on a two-point conversion came across the formation where he got wide open without trouble.
Winner: EDGE Elerson Smith
It’s hard to have a better series than Elerson Smith had early in the first quarter. In a four-play stretch he recorded a quarterback hit (with a bad roughing the passer call), a first-down-saving tackle from behind, and a tackle for loss on an end-around where he stayed at home and controlled the edge. He single-handedly took his defense off the field. Smith chipped in a few nice plays here and there for the rest of the game but it was that early series that landed him here.
Loser: OG Deonte Brown
It was a rough week for the man who’s been getting Michael Onwenu comparisons as Deonte Brown struggled in pass protection. Early on he was blown by for a strip-sack. He then missed a key block on a fourth down and the running back was stopped. The foot speed and agility is nowhere near where it needs to be for him to play and be successful at the next level.
Winner: WR/RB Demetric Felton
We all wondered whether or not Felton could make the switch from running back to wide receiver. Felton showed he could with a solid touchdown reception that showed some short area quickness and route running skills. He also got the chance to show off the running back agility to get in for the touchdown.
Winner: FB Ben Mason
A gym rat fullback from Michigan? Bill Belichick is on the phone as we speak.
Loser: EDGE Jordan Smith
Throughout the draft process I’ve mentioned how much I like Jordan Smith’s tools but worry about his on-field IQ and the coaching he’s gotten from the staff at UAB. The constant mistakes he made throughout Saturday’s game were evident that he needs some time if he’s going to be a real player at the next level.
Loser: WR Frank Darby
Frank Darby’s biggest question coming into the week was whether or not he could show some consistency. With more drops (2) than catches (1) it’s safe to say he wasn’t able to change the narrative. The flashes are there, and they’re pretty awesome, but he didn’t do anything to help himself on game day.
Winner: CB Keith Taylor
Not often that you will see a guy give up two touchdowns and still make one of these lists. Other than a small misstep and a missed call, however, Taylor was perfect. He’s got great size and length and shows incredible patience in man coverage. Not a guy that will fall for many stop and go moves. The guy made himself a good amount of money on Saturday.
Winner: WR Dez Fitzpatrick
It’s pretty obvious by the statline (6 catches for 90 yards) but Dez Fitzpatrick was wide open all day. A fluid route runner with reliable hands, Fitzpatrick proved he was much more than the number two receiver from Louisville. He improved his draft stock greatly. He was also wide open for a 50+ yard touchdown but quarterback Feleipe Franks missed him.
Winner: RB Michael Carter
The man who averaged 8.0 yards per carry in 2020 continued his ways by averaging 7.5 yards per rush on Saturday, including an incredible touchdown run that pretty much sealed the National team’s victory. He proved that his size shouldn’t play a factor in his draft stock. Michael Carter is the real deal.
For those of you wondering, some potential Patriots targets from this list are Amari Rodgers, Dez Fitzpatrick, and Ben Mason. All played extremely well and slot into the places that New England has plenty of draft capital.