The Dak attack is on! Senior Bowl 2016 review

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano

 The Senior Bowl provides an opportunity for the top college football players in the country to showcase their talent in front of NFL scouts and head personnel. Considered by many to be an integral part of a player’s stock value entering the Draft, the Senior Bowl is one of the most-watched games at the conclusion of the college football season.


The consensus among lead analysts (to the detriment of Fantasy Football players) is that this year’s first round will be dominated by defensive players (so much that the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock has first-round grades on at least 10 defensive tackles alone). True to form, several defensive linemen stole the show during the game, most notably Sheldon Day (Notre Dame), Noah Spence (Eastern Kentucky), and Jarran Reed (Alabama). In particular, Spence was a disruptive force who consistently was able to penetrate into the North team’s backfield. Expect all three players to be taken within the first 15 selections in March.


But enough about defense already. Fantasy Football players are concerned about offense, after all.


North Dakota State’s quarterback Carson Wentz had been the talk of the town in the practices leading up to the game, and his physical tools have led many to assume that he will be drafted within the first five selections of the draft. Wentz possesses great size at 6’5 233lbs., and is highly athletic as well. Since he played at a smaller school he has drawn constant comparisons to Joe Flacco, but his upside is much higher, as he has the ability to be much more than just a “game manager”. During the game Wentz displayed the ability to get outside the pocket and scramble when necessary. Although his stat line wasn’t particularly impressive (he completed six of 10 passes for 50 yards), there were several passes which should have been caught by his receivers, including two on plays where Wentz threw the ball on the run. Critics who wondered if the game would overwhelm him at a higher level were answered quite clearly.


Alabama’s Jake Coker started for the South team at quarterback, and wasn’t nearly as impressive. While he did demonstrate the ability to read the defense well enough, he flat-out missed his receivers on a handful of plays, and failed to put much touch on the ball downfield. Coker isn’t as athletic as Wentz, and he seemed to only take what the defense allowed him to, rather than making plays on his own. Coker projects to be selected as a third-day prospect.


Dak Prescott

(Dak Prescott, Mississippi State)

While the other two signal-callers started the game, the player who walked away with the “Most Outstanding Player” was Dak Prescott from Mississippi State. Prescott found a favorite target in Baylor’s Jay Lee, and connected with Southeast Missouri State’s Paul McRoberts for a red-zone touchdown before halftime. Prescott’s final numbers were quite impressive (completing seven-of-10 passes for 61 yards) also showed the ability to pick up yards with his legs. While he wasn’t projected to go in the first few rounds, Prescott’s stock has certainly climbed as a result of this game. His career path may be akin to Tyrod Taylor – a work in progress with significant upside.


In the backfield, the most notable player was TCU running back Aaron Green, who scored on a 25-yard touchdown run towards the end of the first quarter. On the play he was afforded plenty of space within the first few yards from scrimmage by his offensive line, but Green made two fantastic cuts to make defenders miss, before scampering for the pylon. He is a threat in open space that will find a nice starting point as a change-of-pace option.


A strong week of practice from Louisiana Tech’s running back Kenneth Dixon put him on the radar of many scouts entering the Senior Bowl. While he didn’t flash quite in the way that Green did, Dixon showed the ability to pick up tough yardage between the tackles. Dixon showed that he was a dual-threat this past year, catching 33 receptions for 464 yards and seven touchdowns. His route-running drew comparisons to Shane Vereen from Mike Mayock during the game.


At receiver, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller entered the game with the most buzz after he was crowned the “Practice Player of the Week” by several NFL scouts. Miller only played during the first quarter, but his immense upside and shortcomings were evident instantly. He has incredible control of his body and is an impressive physical specimen at 6’2, 215 lbs., but still needs to develop better route-running to compliment his quickness and speed.  Miller is a converted quarterback and is widely considered a work-in-progress, but will still be selected within the first round due to his upside alone.


This year’s draft class is extremely thin at wide receiver, and the only other name of note from the Senior Bowl was Clemson’s Charone Peake. A talented player whose career in college was capped due to knee injuries, Peake played well in practice entering the Senior Bowl, and caught the attention of many scouts. At 6’3 and 215 lbs., expect him to be drafted on the second or third day as an upside flier.


In terms of name value alone, Kansas State tight end Glenn Gronkowski (you guessed it, the younger brother of New England’s Rob Gronkowski) drew plenty of headlines. He finished the game with three receptions for 37 yards, and is considered to be the top prospect atop this year’s class. Ohio State’s tight end Nick Vannett made several notable plays during the game, including two well-executed routes up the seam. He has also drawn praise for his solid blocking skills.