On Wednesday, the Reese’s Senior Bowl staff unveiled their annual Watch List for the 2020 game on January 25. The game has been a springboard for many future NFL players, as was noted here about the Oakland Raiders. To honor that, we’ll look back at the players from the 2019 Senior Bowl drafted by each NFC East team.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Senior Bowl players
Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis
Pollard was the leading rusher at the Senior Bowl with 60 yards, capping off a strong college career and working his way into the fourth round, where the Cowboys selected him at pick No. 128. So far this preseason, with Ezekiel Elliott out, Pollard has rushed nine times for 45 yards and a touchdown. He is quickly making a case to earn work early on as a rookie, especially if Elliott continues his holdout. If so, Pollard may see a lot of work Week 1 against the Giants.
Jalen Jelks, Edge, Oregon
Jelks started 25 games as a junior and senior for the Ducks, totaling 116 tackles and 10 sacks before making the trip to Mobile. The Cowboys selected Jelks with the No. 241 pick in the draft and Jelks has one sack through two preseason games.
New York Giants 2019 Senior Bowl players
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
You may have heard about this one. Jones was the MVP of the Senior Bowl, marking the third consecutive year the Giants drafted the Senior Bowl MVP. They drafted Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta in 2018 and California QB Davis Webb in 2017. Jones was 8-for-11 for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Jones would become one of the most controversial draft picks in recent memory. Media and analysts alike were all dumbfounded by the pick. Not just because of how high the pick was (No. 6) but also because Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins was still on the board. But so far, Jones has not been bad at all.
He led the Giants on a touchdown drive in his first, and what would be his only, drive in the preseason opener against the Jets. Lightning delayed the game and took Jones out of the lineup and he finished 5-for-5. Jones kept the strong performances going against the Bears. Sure he lost two fumbles, but he was still 11-for-14 for 161 yards and one touchdown. Quick math says that Jones is 16-for-19 for 228 yards and two touchdowns this preseason. Not a bad start.
Oshane Ximines, Edge, Old Dominion
Ximines is one for the history books. Ximines played 50 games for the Monarchs, totaling 176 tackles and 32.5 sacks. He became the first player from Old Dominion ever selected to the Senior Bowl and eventually the first Monarch ever drafted into the NFL. And in the third round, at that, at No. 95 overall. Through two preseason games, Ximines has played 44 snaps and has registered one sack.
Corey Ballentine, DB, Washburn
If there is one thing the Senior Bowl does very well, it’s finding talent at the smaller schools. Ballentine is no exception, coming from Division II Washburn in Topeka, Kansas. Ballentine won the Cliff Harris Award, given to the nation’s best small-school defensive player. His work at the Senior Bowl helped him get selected at No. 180 overall by the Giants. Unfortunately, Ballentine was injured in a shooting the night after the draft at an off-campus party that killed his college roommate. Fortunately, Ballentine is recovered from his injuries and already has a highlight interception to his credit against the Jets.
Philadelphia Eagles 2019 Senior Bowl players
Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
Dillard was quite the riser throughout the draft process and his week at the Senior Bowl was a huge reason for that rise. The Eagles even jumped ahead of the Houston Texans to get to No. 22 to select Dillard. Dillard is seen as the heir apparent to current left tackle Jason Peters and is already proving how good he can be. Through two preseason weeks, only the Titans’ Jack Conklin has a higher grade among offensive tackles from Pro Football Focus and Dillard has played 42 more snaps than Conklin. The future of the Eagles’ offensive line looks very bright.
Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern
Thorson was initially selected for the game, but an ankle injury caused him to pull out of the game. He left Northwestern after throwing for 10,731 yards and 61 touchdowns while also rushing for 27 touchdowns. The Northwestern product was taken with the Eagles’ final pick of the draft, No. 167 overall in the fifth round. Thorson played almost the entire game against the Jaguars last week after Cody Kessler had to leave the game with a concussion. Thorson went 16-for-26 for 175 yards and a touchdown, improving off what was a rough debut against the Titans, going 2-for-9 for 22 yards.
Washington Redskins 2019 Senior Bowl players
Montez Sweat, Edge, Mississippi State
Sweat was already an athletic freak during his time with the Bulldogs and only further cemented that fact during the week in Mobile. But then his story took quite the turn. After also dominating the Scouting Combine, it was revealed that a test in Indianapolis showed a pre-existing heart condition. Fortunately for Sweat, doctors deemed the condition low-risk and he was allowed to participate in Indianapolis. At least it was thought that he had a pre-existing heart condition.
The day of the draft, it was revealed that Sweat might have been misdiagnosed at the Combine. From Adam Maya’s piece on the potential misdiagnosis:
“Tests taken at the combine revealed Sweat might have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which results in thickening of the heart walls, as doctors in Indianapolis measured nearly two centimeters of thickness, according to Ian Rapoport. Sweat has since met with several experts, who concluded that doctors at the combine accidentally included capillary muscle in their testing and that Sweat’s actual measurement is about 1.5 centimeters, Rapoport added.”
“Which would mean there is no risk for Montez Sweat under this diagnosis,” Rapoport said. “This discrepancy would explain why some teams are absolutely fine with it.”
In the end, Sweat still went in the first round. The Redskins moved up 20 spots, from No. 46 to No. 26, to select Sweat, the second of three players from Mississippi State selected in the first round. The Titans took Jeffrey Simmons at No. 19 and the Raiders chose Johnathan Abram at No. 27.
Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State
McLaurin was fresh off a fantastic career at Ohio State. He may have only caught 75 passes in 44 games as a Buckeye, but his per-catch average rose every year, hitting 20 yards per catch as a senior. He also hauled in 11 touchdown receptions.
Fast forward to the Senior Bowl and McLaurin turned a lot of heads throughout the week with his speed and route-running. He was arguably the most impressive player during the week in Mobile. He ended up just outside of the top 75 in the draft, going No. 76 overall to the Redskins. And his impressive run is only beginning. He is already learning all three receiver positions for Washington and very well could be an early star on offense for head coach Jay Gruden.
Ross Pierschbacher, OG, Alabama
Pierschbacher was a constant on the Crimson Tide offensive line over his four-year career, starting 56 games. He played left guard, right guard and center. The Redskins took him in the fifth round at No. 153 overall. He is currently battling for the backup center job, as he is currently listed as the number three center on the team behind Chase Roullier and Tony Bergstrom.
Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison
Moreland is another example of the Senior Bowl staff finding great players that aren’t at the FBS level. Moreland is the all-time career leader in interceptions for the Dukes, totaling 18 career picks. He also returned six interceptions for touchdowns. Moreland actually first made his mark at the East-West Shrine Game and performed very well. He earned the call up to the Senior Bowl the following week and continued improving his stock. Moreland was taken at No. 227 in the draft. And despite his smaller size (5-foot-10, 179 pounds at the Combine), Moreland has constantly been making plays so far this preseason for the Redskins. It would not be a surprise to see Moreland start at nickel in Week 1 against the Eagles.
Bill Riccette is a writer for PFN, covering the NFC East and South. Follow him @Bill_Riccette