Ladies and gentlemen, it’s draft season.
The unofficial kickoff to the NFL’s offseason just concluded as the 72nd annual Senior Bowl week wrapped up on Saturday. The Senior Bowl provides college football’s top veteran players an opportunity to display their skills and demonstrate their potential value to all 32 NFL teams. It also allowed some assistant coaches to gain reps as the head man. New York Jets tight ends coach Ron Middleton saw his National team prevail over Detroit Lions running backs coach Duce Staley’s American squad 20–10.
The New England Patriots have benefited from Senior Bowl festivities in recent seasons, selecting or signing 12 Senior Bowl alumni over the last three drafts. Major contributors like Mac Jones, Kyle Dugger, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Jakobi Meyers all made their mark on the Patriots with solid showings at the Senior Bowl. Here’s a list of players who made strong impressions at the event in 2022.
Winner: OT Trevor Penning
This entry was etched in stone by the end of Thursday’s practice, as Trevor Penning put together three of the most impressive practices the Senior Bowl has seen in recent seasons.
The 6-foot-6, 330-pounder put a stranglehold (almost literally) on his competition throughout the week. He was the most physically dominant player at the Senior Bowl, putting together a highlight reel that is sure to be shown at high school football facilities around the country.
He is an extremely smooth mover at 330lbs. Pass sets are polished and he does a good job of changing direction in the short area. Here he is displaying just about all of his positive traits in one rep. pic.twitter.com/Y80u6xvAIk— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) February 3, 2022
He capped off his week with another strong performance in the Senior Bowl game where he continued to show the mean streak that made him a topic of conversation throughout the week. That sound you hear is this young mans stock rising.
To learn more about Penning and his possible fit in New England, click here.
Winner: TE Jake Ferguson
Far from the consensus number one tight end at the Senior Bowl, Jake Ferguson was able to make a lot of talent evaluators second guess their grades on him with consistently solid performances throughout his week in Mobile.
He capped off the week with a three-catch, 63-yard, and one-touchdown performance, leading all receivers on the day. A big knock on Ferguson’s game was his lack of creativity ands agility as a runner after the catch. He proved that some of those concerns were overblown, averaging more than 20 yards per catch on the day.
Loser: TE Charlie Kolar
On the opposite end of the spectrum, it seems as though all of the concerns that evaluators have with Charlie Kolar are valid. Kolar is far from a precise route runner and has been historically inconsistent throughout his career. All of his concerns showed up on a two-play stretch where he dropped a surefire first down pass and then gave up a sack to the next man on our list.
Winner: EDGE Boye Mafe
Three tackles for a loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, and a stock price that shot through the roof, Minnesota edge rusher Boye Mafe had a day on Saturday.
Boye Mafe is just another addition to this absurd EDGE class. pic.twitter.com/oOtiIzZHkm— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) February 5, 2022
One of the most physically talented players in the draft, Mafe has always shown flashes but never put everything together to show what his true potential was. With his record-breaking performance in the Senior Bowl, he picked one hell of a time to do so. Mafe’s week was a demonstration of exactly what the Senior Bowl is all about. He displayed the talent he possesses in front of all 32 teams and potentially shot himself up into the top 100 picks in April’s draft.
Winner: IOL Zion Johnson
Another player who wrapped up a “winner” spot before the game had been played, Zion Johnson was the best player in Mobile this week.
Johnson claimed the Senior Bowl’s “Practice Player of the Week” award on Friday after making headlines for staying late after practice to continue to work at snapping the ball, something he didn’t do in college. Johnson made it known that his goal is to be able to play every spot on the offensive line. He showed this week that his goal isn’t all that far fetched.
Winner: LB Chad Muma
Chad Muma had a “holy crap this dude is everywhere” kind of game on Saturday.
While many people noticed quarterback Malik Willis on this play, watch No. 48 in orange:
His range, ability to stack and shed blockers, and play recognition are all lightyears ahead of anyone else we saw at the second level this past week.
Winner: DT Travis Jones
The best true nose tackle at the Senior Bowl, Travis Jones was an absolute battering ram on Saturday.
He pushed the pocket, two-gapped, shed blockers, and produced on the stat sheet. You don’t get much of that out of a 325-pounder. Watch him bully another grown man here.
Travis Jones is a bully pic.twitter.com/xE2cJiSGND— solvingfootball (@solvingfootball) February 5, 2022
If that’s not something that winners do, I don’t know what is.
Loser: QB Carson Strong
Quarterbacks just can’t turn the ball over in games like this. It’s essentially a job interview, and Carson Strong had two turnover-worthy plays when he threw an interception and fumbled on back-to-back series.
Strong was fighting an uphill battle this week as he was by far the least proven quarterback with the least amount of physical tools to work with. His performances during the week didn’t do anything to make us feel like he could overcome those deficiencies, and his performance in Saturday’s game made some of us feel even worse than we did going in. Tough week for the Nevada product.
Winner: DL Perrion Winfrey
M. V. P.
Similarly to Boye Mafe, Winfrey paired three tackles for a loss with a pair of sacks, showcasing physical dominance over his peers.
The difference between Winfrey and Mafe, was Winfrey’s continued dominance from Tuesday through Saturday in Mobile. Every single day he showed up and showed out, leading to a phenomenal performance on Saturday afternoon where he was the best player on the field.
Winner took home Reese’s Senior Bowl MVP honors and made himself a boatload of cash this week. I’d say he’s a winner.
To learn more about Winfrey and his possible fit in New England, click here.