Underclassmen like Joe Burrow and Chase Young will likely dominate coverage of the 2020 NFL Draft, but it's never wise to forget about college football veterans. The Class of 2020 will get one more moment in the spotlight at the Reese's Senior Bowl on Saturday in Mobile, Alabama.
Two teams of 58 seniors will take the field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in hopes of improving their draft stock. Notably, there are five players who are projected to be first-round picks in our latest mock draft, but several more could join those ranks.
Similar to the Pro Bowl, the Senior Bowl has extra rules that limit how teams can strategize, in an effort to protect players' health. All blocks below the waist are prohibited, and defenses can only rush four players at a time. Offensive formations must include at least one running back, one tight end, and two wide receivers on each set, as well.
Even though players compete in a watered-down version of the sport, it's a big event because they'll receive instruction from NFL coaching staffs. Sure, Zac Taylor and Matt Patricia may be a downgrade from last year's duo of Kyle Shanahan and Jon Gruden, but this is these players' first real taste of the NFL.
Although several notable seniors will not be participating in Mobile — including SEC defenders Derrick Brown, Raekwon Davis, and Kristian Fulton — there are plenty of key players to keep an eye out for.
2020 Reese's Senior Bowl
When: Saturday, Jan. 25 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Where: Ladd-Peebles Stadium (Mobile, Ala.)
TV: NFL Network
Things/Players to Watch
All eyes on the quarterbacks
Six quarterbacks will be participating in Saturday's game, and all are expected to be drafted. Two, in particular, have a shot at being a first-round pick: Oregon's Justin Herbert and Utah State's Jordan Love. Herbert turned down a chance to go No. 1 overall in last year's draft to return for a historic senior season, while Love has an opportunity to show his potential is within reach. He came into the season with high hopes riding on his big frame and arm but posted a 20:17 TD-to-INT ratio after putting up a 32:6 mark the year before.
Also of note of Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts, who built himself into a legitimate draft prospect in his lone year in Norman under Lincoln Riley's watch. Washington State's Anthony Gordon followed in the footsteps of Gardner Minshew II to throw for 5,579 yards and 49 touchdowns — second in the FBS only to Joe Burrow — and has a chance to prove himself against tougher competition. Shea Patterson (Michigan) and Steven Montez (Colorado) need to show better footwork and accuracy but put together solid college careers.
Will any offensive skill player stand out?
A number of skill position standouts from last year have already made their mark in the NFL — looking at you, Deebo Samuel and Terry McLaurin — and this year's Senior Bowl could be similarly stacked. Wide receiver will be intriguing once again, even with potential first-rounder Brandon Aiyuk out after failing a physical. USC's Michael Pittman Jr. showed his production (101 receptions, 1,275 yards, 11 touchdowns) can live up to his size (6-4, 220), and Ohio State's K.J. Hill has an opportunity to display his good hands and quickness. Texas' Collin Johnson is built like a tight end at 6-6, 220 and will aim to show off his athleticism.
There aren't nearly as many big-name running backs since that position is crowded with talented underclassmen, and it can be hard to stick out at running back in these types of games. Still, a few are worth keeping an eye on. Joshua Kelley rushed for 2,303 yards on 5.1 yards per carry after transferring to UCLA and earning a scholarship, and he has some of the better vision and footwork of this group. Lamical Perine never broke out at Florida but plays big for his size, and Antonio Gibson — who largely played receiver at Memphis — has perhaps the best big-play ability of the group.
Tight end is another interesting position, although no one currently stands out — let alone a senior — when it comes to first-round potential. Dayton's Adam Trautman has stood out in practice not only for his size (6-6, 253) but for his route-running and ability to extend plays after the catch. FAU's Harrison Bryant shows flashes of elite athletic ability and has improved as a blocker. Purdue's Brycen Hopkins could also be worth watching after tying for the Big Ten lead with seven touchdown receptions at tight end.
Which defensive players are worth keeping an eye on?
Nearly every NFL team could stand to improve its pass rush, and there's plenty of that at the Senior Bowl. Kenny Willekes has been incredibly productive with 18 sacks and 36 tackles for a loss over his last two seasons at Michigan State and will put his strong motor and good handwork on display in Mobile. Darrell Taylor put up similar numbers at Tennessee, but he has had more mixed results in the run game and could stand to improve his draft stock with good measurables. South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw will have a chance to show he can be the best defensive tackle in the draft with Derrick Brown absent.
Linebacker is similarly stacked, starting with a pair of Alabama defenders in Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings. Jennings led the Crimson Tide with 8.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss, while finishing third with 83 tackles. He is strong against the run and is projected to go in the first few rounds. Injuries have slowed Lewis, but he is immensely talented and is one of the best speed rushers around. Wisconsin's Zack Baun proved to be one of the Big Ten's best defenders the last two seasons and is quick enough to play inside or outside in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
Many of the top defensive backs will not be participating, but plenty of intrigue remains. Notre Dame's Troy Pride Jr. is exceptionally fast, although he hasn't been able to turn that into a ton of turnovers. Reggie Robinson II has the type of frame (6-1, 197) that teams crave and has been productive throughout his career at Tulsa, and California's Ashtyn Davis is an athletic, ball-hawking safety, although his physicality has been questioned at times.