2018 Senior Bowl: Day 2 Practice Observations

Colts.com is in Mobile, Ala., this week for the 69th annual Senior Bowl. Here’s some news and notes from the second day of practices from Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

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MOBILE, Ala. —With Day 2 of practices for the 69th annual Senior Bowl now wrapped up, let's take a look at some of the top news and notes from Ladd-Peebles Stadium:

North Team:
• Depending on who you talk to, the big-name quarterbacks for the North Team either struggled or weren't so bad in Wednesday's practice session. I will say this: you can certainly see why Wyoming's Josh Allen is such a highly-regarded prospect, as he absolutely threaded the needle on some big passes on Wednesday, including one play in particular when he found Colorado State wide receiver Michael Gallup wide open over the top for a touchdown (related: Gallup looks legit). But then you see the frustrations that come with Allen, like when he telegraphed an easy interception to a safety during 7-on-7 drills. Then there's Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy award winner who is clearly a work in progress when it comes to working from under center, but, as advertised, has a knack to catch your eye over and over with his athleticism and his throwing ability. He's been compared a lot to Drew Brees (Mayfield measured in at just 6-foot tall on Tuesday), and I can definitely see that, with maybe a little better running ability out of the youngster.

• While the guard position, by many accounts, is very deep in this upcoming NFL Draft, the tackle position, by many accounts, is not. But Tyrell Crosby from Oregon is one tackle who really showed something at Wednesday's practice. Inserted at both left and right tackle, the 6-foot-5, 319-pound Crosby definitely has the size, footwork and arm length needed to be shaped into an everyday offensive lineman in the NFL. Crosby came in at No. 42 on NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah's "top 50 prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft," released on Tuesday, and while Jeremiah said he "wishes (Crosby) were a little more athletic," he says "he has all the skills to be a solid starting right tackle."

• UTEP went 0-12 in 2017, but you'd never know it by watching the Miners' guard, Will Hernandez, handle his business during Wednesday's practice. Sometimes you hear the word "mauler" thrown around for the really nasty, really good offensive linemen, and I'd say that's an accurate description for this 6-foot-2, 340-pound monster. Hernandez was handling the defensive linemen across from him with ease and attitude, and even drew some jawing from the defense after a couple drills (in fairness, Hernandez could've certainly sparked things with a few choice words of his own).

• Going to the North Team defense, I like what I saw out of Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. Phillips was a constant in the offense's backfield on Wednesday, and especially was a stud during one-on-one drills. That might not be all that surprising considering the 6-foot-4, 295-pounder has a wrestling background. And get these numbers: Phillips had a team-best 103 tackles for the Cardinal in 2017 — *103 tackles for an interior defensive lineman — *and 17 of those were for a loss. While the Colts were able to begin improving their defensive line with the likes of Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods last season, imagine being able to bring in a guy like Harrison to the mix, too.

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South Team:
• If you haven't learned Shaquem Griffin's story by now, you'll want to look it up. Born with a deformed left hand that was amputated by age 4, Griffin is now trying to become the first one-handed player in the modern era to become an NFL draft pick — and I can tell you right now, he will become the first one-handed player in the modern era to become an NFL draft pick. The question now is where he'll play defensively. He showed off his versatility during Wednesday's practice, playing in a pass-rusher role, taking snaps at outside linebacker and also playing in the defensive backfield at safety. Jeremiah said Wednesday he believes Griffin could become a stud special teamer in the NFL while his team finds what position best suits him, but perhaps he would thrive in more of a "dime linebacker" type role, a la Clayton Geathers.

• Another UCF standout, tight end Jordan Akins, had the play of the day (in my books), as he jumped and came down with a one-handed touchdown grab right at the pylon. A former baseball prospect in the Texas Rangers organization (he was a fourth-round pick in 2010), Akins came back to football and in 2017 set career highs with 30 receptions for 459 yards and four touchdowns. At 25 years old, Akins, who suffered a torn ACL back in 2015, might have a year or two on most of his Senior Bowl teammates, but the converted wide receiver is perhaps just as good an athlete as any.

• Don't let the small-school experience get things twisted: Kyle Lauletta can play the quarterback position with the big boys. A University of Richmond product (from the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision), Lauletta had a solid showing on Wednesday, particularly in the South Team's situational drills. While Lauletta certainly can't spin it like an Allen can, he seems to have the ability to make the right decisions and get the ball where it needs to be. For the Spiders, Lauletta, a three-year starter, played in 40 games and completed 758-of-1,194 (63.5 percent) of his passes for 10,465 yards with 73 touchdowns to 35 interceptions.

• NFL team GMs and scouts certainly have their eyes on those who stand out during practices, but it's also important to note those who are challenged and to see how they respond. Alabama defensive tackle Da'Shawn Hand is a player who, by some accounts, didn't have the best first day of practice on Tuesday, but came out on Wednesday with something to prove. Hand won several one-on-one battles with better leverage and strength than the man across from him, and could be quite a pickup in the middle rounds of this year's NFL Draft.

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