After three days of practice and an entertaining game, the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl is in the books. In difficult circumstances, Jim Nagy and the team ensured a well-run and safe environment for NFL Draft prospects to show their skills in front of NFL brass. Some prospects shone, whereas others sank in the spotlight. So, who were the winners and losers of the 2021 Senior Bowl week in Mobile?
2021 Senior Bowl Winners
Demetric Felton, RB, UCLA
UCLA running back Demetric Felton had one of the best weeks in Mobile and was without question one of the big winners of the 2021 Senior Bowl. Despite being listed as a running back, Felton did most of his work as a receiver in Mobile. It should be no surprise to anyone familiar with his college game. Felton may have had 233 carries as a back, but his eight career receiving touchdowns outstrips his rushing touchdown totals.
Felton proved himself to be a dynamic offensive weapon this week. He provides speed, quickness, and an incredible ability to change direction. Importantly for his transition to the NFL, he showed he could parlay all those attributes to be a dangerous threat anywhere on the field. Although practice is more important than the game itself, Felton finished his week off in style with the game’s opening touchdown.
Quinn Meinerz, OL Wisconsin-Whitewater
One of the beautiful aspects of the Senior Bowl is that it provides opportunities for players to face opposition they would never normally face. Even more beautiful is when those players grab the opportunity with both hands and shake the life out of it. Case in point: Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz.
Despite a rough start to the week, Meinerz was, without a doubt, one of the 2021 Senior Bowl winners. A player who came into the week with a late-round grade — or worse — from most outlets, Meinerz has soared up draft boards and is a consensus top 100 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Meinerz was strong, controlled, and demonstrated he can play with excellent leverage. He also showed versatility in lining up at guard and center during the week. His toughness was illustrated by playing through practice with a broken hand. Despite the injury, he passionately pleaded to be allowed to play on Saturday. The kid is impossible not to root for.
D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan
After recording 768 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns in just six 2020 games, the buzz around D’Wayne Eskridge began to build just before the start of the Senior Bowl. By Wednesday night in Mobile, the Western Michigan wide receiver has already emerged as one of the 2021 Senior Bowl winners.
Measuring in at just over 5’9″ on Tuesday, the biggest question mark over Eskridge coming in was how a receiver of his size would compete in the NFL. By Tuesday night, those questions had been answered. Eskridge immediately flashed speed, incredible change of direction, route running savvy, and the ability to make catches beyond his frame.
Eskridge faced a good National Team defensive back room and had the beating of them all.
Richie Grant, S, UCF
In a divisive 2021 NFL Draft safety class, there hasn’t been one player who naturally stands out. However, UCF’s Richie Grant helped force himself into the conversation as one of the winners at the 2021 Senior Bowl.
Grant made plays all week long in practice. From an impressive pass break up on a Mac Jones pass on Monday to multiple interceptions during team drills on Thursday, Grant stamped his mark on the National Team receivers. He was sticky in coverage and showed great football instincts to break on the ball in several instances.
As a further sign of how impressive Grant has been this week, he was voted the American Team defensive back of the week. Practice players of the week are voted on by the position group they faced in practice. It’s another graphic demonstration of how tough it is to go up against Grant. He has a bright NFL future.
Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
Sometimes at the Senior Bowl, a player only needs one day of practice to exert their dominance over the event. This year that player was Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike. Having opted out of the 2021 college football season, scouts were eager to see what impact that would have. Their questions were answered early and often.
Onwuzurike was dominant early and often on Tuesday. Earlier in this piece, I mentioned Quinn Meinerz’s rough start to the week, and Onwuzurike caused that rough start. The Washington defensive tackle showed explosiveness, strength, and used his length well to win in one-on-ones consistently. Although he didn’t appear again this week, there was no doubt that Onwuzurike was one of the winners at the 2021 Senior Bowl.
There were rumors that NFL teams considered Onwuzurike the best interior defensive lineman in this class before the Senior Bowl. Those rumors will certainly gain credence after his showing this week.
Dillon Radunz, OL, North Dakota State
After garnering early-round attention not so long ago, it felt like the hype around Dillon Radunz had dissipated. Consider that hype to be well and truly back after the North Dakota State offensive tackle emerged as one of the big winners of the 2021 Senior Bowl.
The 6’5″, 304-pound tackle won consistently in one-on-ones through the week. He showed little signs of rust after NDSU’s season was delayed until the spring. Exhibiting good footwork, athleticism, and a strong base, Radunz made some impressive plays, including one against Rashad Weaver.
Additionally, Radunz showcased his versatility by taking reps both at tackle and at guard. He could have an NFL future at either position. Radunz’s play this week was rewarded with him being named the overall practice player of the week.
2021 Senior Bowl Losers
Deonte Brown, OL, Alabama
2021 Senior Bowl losers seems like an overly harsh term. However, for some players, there is no other way to describe it. One of those was Alabama guard Deonte Brown. He was impressive in the measurement room on Tuesday, but outside of that, there was little positive to take away from his week in Mobile.
He was beaten several times during practice and the game. Brown also showed little athletic ability, especially when attempting to get out to the next level. If he is to be successful in the NFL, Brown will likely have to trim down. Many of his problems came against more athletic edge rushers, which is exactly what he’ll face in the NFL.
Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
It seems a long time since Marvin Wilson was receiving first-round consideration as a 2020 NFL Draft prospect. He returned to FSU for the 2021 season, and his stock has done nothing but plummet ever since. The 2021 Senior Bowl was an opportunity for him to overcome that, but he emerged as one of the losers from the event.
Although he found some small success against Deonte Brown on Tuesday, he was ineffective the rest of the week. He missed practice on Thursday and didn’t feature in the game on Saturday. For a player who missed time with injury in 2020, it’s another additional red flag against his NFL Draft stock. Wilson looks technically and physically challenged as an NFL Draft prospect. As a result, it would be a surprise if he’s taken anywhere other than in Day 3.
Tuf Borland, LB, Ohio State
It was a case of Tuf by name, tough by nature when trying to describe Tuf Borland’s week in Mobile. Although he had a nice pass breakup in the game itself, the rest of the week was extremely underwhelming from the Ohio State linebacker. He was one of the biggest defensive losers at the 2021 Senior Bowl.
At 6’0″ and 229 pounds, Borland doesn’t have the requisite build to play linebacker in the NFL. Unfortunately for him, this was demonstrated by a bruising encounter with Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert. Borland came out the wrong side of that battle, as he did with many one-on-one matchups this week.
Quintin Morris, TE, Bowling Green
There’s no denying that Quintin Morris has athletic ability, as demonstrated by a delightful catch and hurdle in the game on Saturday. However, the rest of the week was more stumble than hurdle, as Morris emerged as one of the biggest offensive losers of the 2021 Senior Bowl.
The former wide receiver struggled to keep a hold of the ball all week. Additionally, he offered little evidence of any blocking ability as a tight end. It may seem harsh to describe a small school tight end as one of the 2021 Senior Bowl losers. However, I held high expectations that Morris would come in and impress in Mobile when I wrote my top tight ends to watch at the Senior Bowl piece.
Quarterback-needy NFL teams
If you’re an NFL team in need of a quarterback — and there are plenty — you may well be the biggest losers of the 2021 Senior Bowl. The Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams’ mega-trade that followed the 2021 Senior Bowl’s conclusion showed that teams are looking more closely at veteran quarterbacks than to try and decipher the positional puzzle that exists beyond the top four guys in the class.
Kyle Trask was an early injury casualty, so teams couldn’t get a closer look at him. Mac Jones emerged as the clear winner of the quarterbacks that did practice in Mobile. However, that was to be expected. Jamie Newman had his moments of quality in practice, but they weren’t consistent. Kellen Mond saved his best football for the game itself. Sam Ehlinger had his struggles passing the ball but threw a touchdown in the game. Ian Book was Ian Book.
What I’m trying to get at here is that no one player, other than Jones, separated themselves from the other. They are all inconsistent quarterback prospects with some good traits but also some troubling ones. Outside of the top four guys — Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance — there isn’t a quarterback you can trust in this class.
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