The Senior Bowl is always one of the most exciting parts of draft season. It is where the top seniors across the country go to compete against their best opponents. For many people, it’s the first time seeing certain players in person. Its a grand time, and it has always lived up to the excitement.
Speaking of excitement, there’s no more exciting moment at the Senior Bowl than when two top prospects clash in a 1v1. The 1v1 drills aren’t realistic by any means and are typically weighted towards one side of the ball, but they’re damn fun.
Disclaimer: Senior Bowl invites and acceptances won’t be final until after the end of the College Football Playoffs, so there is a chance not all the players on these match-ups make their way down to Mobile, so players with an asterisk have not yet been confirmed as participants. Here are the top 1v1 battles we want to see at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
#5. Prince Tega Wanogho vs. Kenny Willekes*
Wanogho has been strong for Auburn this season and has been dominant against edge defenders who lack elite physical traits. When lined against defenders who lack bend and burst, he’s nearly impenetrable. Kenny Willekes has been dominant for the Spartans and is one of the most productive pass rushers in the country. At times, Willekes looks unstoppable despite lacking great athletic ability or any real bend or flexibility. It’s the age-old question: what happens when an unstoppable force takes on an immovable object? Wanogho should be the favorite leading into the match-up, but don’t be surprised if Willekes brings out some clever pass rush moves to try and get Wanogho off his base.
#4. Brycen Hopkins vs. Ashtyn Davis
Brycen Hopkins has separated himself in a weak tight end class. The Purdue product has been a model of consistency as he’s had at least three receptions in eight of Purdue’s ten games. Ashtyn Davis is half of California’s dynamic duo on defense. He’s a stellar safety who excels both in run defense and as a play-maker against the pass. In the NFL, Davis will be asked to cover tight ends in man coverage, and the Senior Bowl will shine some light on whether or not he’ll be able to do so. Hopkins isn’t an elite athlete, but he has strong size, good route running, and excels in jump ball situations. Davis possesses the athletic ability to comfortably keep up with Hopkins, and even has likeable size at 6-1. However, the 6-5 Hopkins will look to win when the balls in the air. As long as Davis can stay between Hopkins and the ball, he should fare well for himself.
#3. Shane Lemieux* vs. Javon Kinlaw
This is a match-up of pure potential. Lemieux has great size at 6’4 and 315 lbs, but he also possesses functional athletic ability that lets him move fluidly as a pass protector. He has the physical traits to be an excellent guard in the NFL and should be an early Day 2 selection. Javon Kinlaw stands at 6’6 and is leaner than Lemieux, weighing in at about 310. However, Kinlaw’s burst and athletic ability have been more than any guard can handle this year. This battle will be in favor of Kinlaw because that’s just how 1v1 ones are, but if Lemieux can hold his own, and take a couple of reps, it’ll be excellent for his draft stock.
#2. Antonio Gandy-Golden vs. Kristian Fulton*
Antonio Gandy-Golden (AGG) has gathered a number of fans in the draft community. He provides highlight plays and is a great physical specimen. His biggest concern? The level of competition he faces during his time at Liberty. There’s a pretty good chance the Gandy-Golden has not lined up against a cornerback who will be drafted in the next two seasons. That all changes at the Senior Bowl. LSU’s Kristian Fulton is someone many believed could have been a first-rounder last year. He chose to return to school, and it was a great choice. LSU is currently the top team in the country and should be the favorites to win the national championship. If AGG and Fulton were to match-up, it’d likely be the most-watched match-up in Mobile. Both players are great athletes with strong size and long arms. AGG gets to face off against the top senior cornerback, and Fulton will look to cement himself as a top-20 pick.
#1. Tyler Biadasz* vs. Derrick Brown
Tyler Biadasz was someone I viewed as a top-15 player in last year’s draft class, and he hasn’t done anything to change my mind. Derrick Brown came into the year as a player many believed could be a top-5 pick. This match-up is size on size, power on power, technique on technique. It’s quite possibly two future All-Pro players facing off against each other for the entire crowd. Lineman don’t typically get a lot of love or attention, but this match-up will demand the eyes of everyone at the Senior Bowl. Both these players are elite first-round prospects, and the war between them in the trenches will be one not commonly seen.