What might have been the most-important Reese’s Senior Bowl week in the game’s 71-year history wrapped up Saturday in Mobile.
With the NFL Combine set to include no in-person interaction between players and scouts and what shape various pro days will take still anyone’s guess, the Senior Bowl became extra crucial for 2021 NFL draft hopefuls. More than 130 college all-stars descended on Mobile for a week of practices and meetings with pro scouts, coaches and talent-evaluators.
So who made the biggest impressions during Senior Bowl 2021 week? With the caveat that it’s very difficult for a player to hurt his stock at the Senior Bowl, here are a few of the players who shined in Mobile (listed in alphabetical order):
1. Carlos “Boogie” Basham, DL, Wake Forest — How can you not love a big man named Boogie? The 6-foot-3, 281-pound Basham did not play in Saturday’s game, but proved all week to be a constant presence in the other team’s backfield. With the ability to play both inside and outside depending on the scheme, Basham should be a valuable commodity come draft day.
2. Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina — The short-but-stout (5-8, 202) Carter was an electric playmaker for the Tar Heels (back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons) and showed that ability during practice and in Saturday’s game. He also worked some at slot receiver during practice, adding to his attractiveness for teams looking to find a versatile threat at the next level.
3. Dez Fitzpatrick, WR, Louisville — The wide receivers group was a deep one this year, and the 6-2, 202-pound Fitzpatrick stood out as much as any of them during the week. He formed an especially close connection with Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, which carried over to Saturday’s game. The two hooked up twice on the National team’s game-opening scoring drive and Fitzpatrick ended the day with six receptions for 90 yards.
4. Richie Grant, SAF, Central Florida — If there was anyone who “made money” this week, it might be Grant, who dominated in three days of practice. A highly-productive three-year starter at UCF, he led his team in tackles twice and finished second the other time.
5. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama — Harris shut things down after Wednesday, but gets a lot of credit for doing as much as he did in practice with an ankle that was nowhere near healthy. Running backs don’t often go in the first round, but Harris’ combination of size, tackle-breaking ability, receiving skills and competitiveness might be too tempting to pass on for pro teams.
6. Creed Humphrey, OL, Oklahoma — Oklahoma has a history of producing outstanding NFL offensive linemen, and Humphrey is the latest. With the ability to play both center and guard, he’s the kind of guy you might look up 15 years from now and see he’s been to 10 Pro Bowls.
7. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama — Jones did not play in Saturday’s game due to an ankle injury he incurred during Thursday’s practice, but he was by far the best quarterback in Mobile. Jones’ leadership skills and accuracy opened eyes all week, as he proved his gaudy numbers in 2020 weren’t just the result of his supporting cast. He could sneak into the top half of the first round of the draft.
8. Quinn Meinerz, OL, Wisconsin-Whitewater — Every year, there is a small school player who captures the imagination of everyone in Mobile for whatever reason. In the past, it’s been North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz or Southern Illinois’ Jeremy Chinn, and this year it was the 6-3, 320-pound Meinerz, a Division III player who showed up with a mullet, practiced in a crop-top jersey and suited up Saturday despite a broken hand suffered in Thursday’s workout.
9. Dillon Radunz, OL, North Dakota State — Radunz has prototypical tackle size (6-5, 308) and played for the program that is essentially the Alabama of the FCS level (if not more dominant). He more than held his own in Mobile, winning the overall practice player of the week award as voted on the players he faced during drills.
10. Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida — Toney didn’t play in Saturday’s game to the disappointment of his hometown fans, but the former Blount High School standout enjoyed an outstanding week of practice. His speed and versatility (he’s a former high school quarterback) should play well at the next level, and there’s a chance he could wind up getting drafted in the first round.