Each year, the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama is where the top college prospects go to showcase their on-field talent for one final time in front of NFL executives prior to the NFL Draft. The Senior Bowl is the premier collegiate All-Star game, coached by NFL coaches and prospects participate in practices and drills against their peers.
Here are 10 prospects that Buffalo Bills fans should keep an eye on from the North team throughout the week.
QB Kevin Hogan, Stanford
6’4” 218 lbs
Bills General Manager Doug Whaley made it clear that the team will be looking to upgrade the backup quarterback position this offseason. Kevin Hogan has led the Stanford Cardinal offense for four seasons and while he doesn’t have any one “elite” trait, he’s a sound player with tools that can be developed.
Hogan shows good accuracy on intermediate passes and possesses enough mobility to extend plays. He’s not a flashy prospect but after a quietly impressive 2015 season, a strong week of practices could go a long way for the projected Day Three prospect.
WR Tajae Sharpe, UMass
6’2” 200 lbs
Tajae Sharpe had a great week of practices at the East-West Shrine Game and will now have another opportunity to showcase his abilities against a crop of more talented players. Sharpe is a fantastic route runner with great ball skills, but he doesn’t have great deep speed and could stand to add a few pounds to his lean frame.
Nonetheless, Sharpe is an intriguing prospect that could separate himself from the pack of mid-tier receivers with another good showing in an All-Star setting.
WR Leontee Carroo, Rutgers
6’1” 215 lbs
Leontee Carroo is one of the more impressive wideouts in the 2016 NFL Draft class, but has off-field issues that scouts and executives will thoroughly question him about. He’s got great size, hands and is a threat at all three levels of the field. Carroo has the ability to get vertical and make contested catches.
If he can show scouts and coaches that he can refine his route running and get in and out of breaks more quickly, he could solidify himself as a Top 75 pick in the draft.
OT Kyle Murphy, Stanford
6’7” 305 lbs
Like his teammate Kevin Hogan, Stanford left tackle Kyle Murphy isn’t a flashy player, but he’s been a consistent and quality player for the Cardinal offense. He’s not going to wow anybody at the combine, but he rarely gets beat and is consistent as a run blocker and pass protector.
Murphy stays square in his kick slide, mirroring opposing pass rushers, but he needs to improve his punch to re-direct them. As a run blocker, Murphy has adequate strength to hold the line of scrimmage, but needs to get stronger in the lower half to improve his leg drive.
OT Jason Spriggs, Indiana
6’7” 305 lbs
Jason Spriggs is arguably the most athletic tackle in the 2016 NFL Draft. The former tight end has great lateral quickness that allow him to mirror edge rushers and move them behind the pocket. His length and quickness make him an intriguing prospect, but his technique—punch, hand use, balance—all need to be refined in order to reach his potential.
Spriggs will likely impress in one-on-one drills that typically favor the defensive linemen, and is likely to be selected within the top 45-50 picks of the draft.
OG Joshua Garnett, Stanford
6’5” 320 lbs
Stanford left guard Joshua Garnett is an absolute monster when it comes to run blocking, showing off impressive play strength and the ability to routinely drive defensive linemen off the ball.
He plays with a mean streak and is always looking for work at the second level. He’ll need to improve his pass protection, as he can sink his hips and anchor, but doesn’t have the quickness to recover if he’s beat across the face.
DL Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
6’4” 308 lbs
Vernon Butler is your prototypical 3-4 defensive end, displaying great length and a thick lower body that allow him to serve as either a one or two-gap defender. He uses his hands well and has exceptional power. He’ll need to show scouts that he can win with more than just a bull-rush, but Butler is a stout run defender with a relentless motor that will impress scouts.
NT Austin Johnson, Penn State
6’3” 325 lbs
Carl Nassib got the publicity on the Nittany Lions’ defensive line this season but nose tackle Austin Johnson was a dominant force in his own right. Routinely lining up at the zero or one technique, Johnson showed that he could not only occupy multiple blockers, but also split double teams and disrupt the pocket. He plays with a high motor and will chase the ball through the whistle. Johnson projects well to both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if we see him become a “riser” on many draft boards throughout the process.
EDGE Kyler Fackrell, Utah State
Kyler Fackrell probably has the chance to be the biggest “unknown” to rise up draft boards with a good showing in Mobile this week. With prototypical size to play as an end in even fronts or a rush linebacker in odd fronts, Fackrell has good play strength and some experience in coverage. He’s got long arms that allow him to manipulate offensive linemen and a frame that could support added weight. Right now, he can rely on his sheer power to win as a pass rusher, but if he can show scouts he can convert speed to power off the edge, Fackrell could solidify himself as a day 2 pick.
LB Joshua Perry, Ohio State
6’4” 255 lbs
Joshua Perry is an overlooked piece on a loaded Ohio State defense that features as many as seven potential top-64 draft picks. The 6’4” 255-pounder played all three linebacker positions on the Buckeyes’ defense and has some ability as a pass rusher as well. Perry can be slow to react to plays, but he’s a great athlete for his size that can drop into coverage, defend the run and blitz. He’ll be an interesting player to watch, as far as how he’s utilized (as a MIKE or SAM) but he has a huge opportunity to make a name for himself this week.
S Darian Thompson, Boise State
6’2” 215 lbs
Darian Thompson is one of the more impressive safety prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s got great range for his size with excellent ball skills to match. He’s instinctive and understands route concepts, routinely breaking on balls (19 interceptions, nine passes defensed in four seasons). He’s physical against the run, but not overly aggressive and will fill his assigned lane. Thompson is versatile enough to play either free or strong safety—a must in today’s NFL.