The Senior Bowl is probably one of the least important games of the the year to a college football fan. After all, the season is over and all of our favorite teams won’t be suiting up again until next September. So why would anyone care? As it so happens, the Senior Bowl is perhaps the only” all-star” game in sports that actually matters. The reason being that is one of the most important games of the season for the players. The Senior Bowl can serve as a forum for NFL draft prospects to show their skills against the college football’s elite upperclassmen. Those who perform well may see their draft stock sky rocket a la Kareem Hunt, who had 118 yards in last year’s contest. Hunt has since gone on to a successful NFL career, leading the league in rushing yards this past season. Many players like Hunt have been able to use the Senior Bowl as platform to show off against the country’s best players, and prove they have what it takes to succeed against athletes the caliber of those they’ll be seeing in NFL. But just as a good performance may benefit a player’s prospects, failure to perform could potentially cast doubt on a player’s NFL future. In a sport where every prospect is dissected at nauseam, a good performance in the Senior Bowl is paramount for many of these players. As such, I figured it would be a good idea to take a look at who might be catapulting up draft boards with their performances this Saturday.
Kyle Lauletta (Richmond)
Many of the quarterback prospects in this upcoming draft are already household names. You’ve got your Sam Darnolds, your Josh Rosens, and Baker Mayfields all generating tremendous amounts of hype. One name you will likely not be familiar with is that of former Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta. After his performance this Saturday, people should start to get to know the name. Lauletta took home the Senior Bowl MVP after throwing for 193 yards and 3 touchdowns. I try to not to read to much into this, but Lauletta has certainly made a case for himself as the best quarterback outside of the elite crop of prospects. He certainly won’t be challenging Darnold, Mayfield, or Rosen for the top spot, but Lauletta could very well find himself a home in the NFL as a late round selection in this year’s draft.
Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)
Penny has put up mind-blowing numbers all season. However, for some reason NFL personnel seem reluctant to give the former San Diego State running back the respect he deserves. Despite leading the NCAA in both rushing and all purpose yards, Penny was not even invited to the Heisman ceremony; nor was he considered among the top running back prospects coming into the weekend. This lack of respect for what Penny has accomplished likely stems from the fact that the running plied his trade in the Mountain West conference. In addition, his predecessor Donnell Pumprey amassed similar numbers in the same offense just a year prior. As such, Penny came into this Senior Bowl weekend with a lot to prove to NFL Scouts. And Prove himself he did – Penny answered critics with 64 yards rushing on 9 attempts (7.1 YPC). What’s more, he took a broken down pass play for 73 yards and a touchdown. This type of performance will have even the doubters question whether Penny is this year’s Kareem Hunt.
Josh Allen (Wyoming)
Much has been made of Josh Allen’s lack of a supporting cast. Scouts seem to agree that Allen is a top quarterbacks in this draft. Yet his production this past season doesn’t exactly scream first round prospect. His lack of passing yards and touchdowns has generally been attributed to an anemic supporting cast at Wyoming. As such, scouts were anxious to see how would perform with real talent to throw to. Suffice it say, he did not disappoint. Allen threw for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns on only 13 attempts. This performance against upper echelon talent should reinforce his status as one of the top quarterback prospects of 2018. Allen should still be characterized as more of a “boom or bust” after struggling with accuracy issues during drills this week. Nevertheless, I’d bet somebody in the top 15 will be willing to gamble on Josh Allen after his star performance in this year’s Senior Bowl
DJ Chark (LSU)
The LSU wide receiver sure picked a good time to have the biggest game of his career. Despite solid production throughout his career with the Tigers, Chark had generally been regarded as a 2nd-3rd round prospect coming into the weekend. However, 160 yards receiving and a touchdown could go a long way towards elevating his status. Personally, I’ve always seen DJ Chark as a second round prospect at minimum. His stats this past year don’t exactly jump off the page. But when you consider the fact that he put over 870 yards receiving with Danny Etling throwing to him, his numbers become significantly more impressive. Chark’s performance in the Senior Bowl, in which he earned Co-MVP honors, is perhaps a taste of what he may be able to do at the next level with a legitimate quarterback passing to him.
Marcus Davenport (UTSA)
Marcus Davenport has been evaluated as a potential first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Despite only playing in the Conference USA, Davenport is regarded as a top defensive end prospect alongside stars for big name Program’s like LSU’s Arden Key and NC State’s Bradley Chubb. However, after struggling in drills earlier in the week, some began to question such a high appraisal. Fortunately for Davenport, his ability shined through during the Senior Bowl game action. His performance in yesterday’s game was one in which he’d be described as “unblockable”. He even managed to get on the scoresheet with a fumble recovery for a touchdown. This type of standout performance against college football’s should cement Davenport’s first round grade.