The 2020 Senior Bowl game is the final step in the first leg of what Charles Davis referred to as the “Triple Crown” of the lead-up to the NFL Draft this April.
College All-Star games, comprised of mixed rosters from the Senior class entering the league in 2020, coached by NFL coaches for the first time. With the advancement in fan intelligence surrounding the draft prospect and player evaluation, these games have become more and more popular.
What was once discussed through the lens of highlights, favorite players and school allegiance, is now commonly referred to through verbiage indicative of evaluation. Fans used to talk about who won the game. Now, a lot talk about who won an individual rep.
So, let’s showcase a few players from each roster fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to want to keep an eye on. Whether it’s to evaluate them, themselves, or just to get a feel of what their team might be looking for in April.
SOUTH TEAM PLAYERS TO KNOW
1. S, Antoine Brooks Jr. (Maryland)
The Buccaneers’ depth at safety is thin. Dangerously thin. Of course, they could use free-agency to boost this area of their roster with some one-year contracts. Or, they could look for a versatile player who plays with a lot of intensity and is known for making plays.
Antoine Brooks Jr. has shown ball skills and took reps as a linebacker. He’s a hybrid player, which is something the Bucs have shown interest in before, and would be a solid special teams contributor out of the gates.
Groomed properly, Brooks is the kind of prospect who could quickly turn into a guy Todd Bowles will want to get on the field as much as possible.
2. DT, Javon Kinlaw (South Carolina)
If you’re just hearing bout Javon Kinlaw, then I’d like to welcome you to draft season! Hope you enjoyed your time under that rock. Enjoy the sunshine and some fresh air.
Seriously, everyone has been hearing about Kinlaw, watching Kinlaw, and the thought of Kinlaw, Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston playing along the same defensive front is the stuff of offensive coordinator nightmares.
Will he last to pick fourteen? Will the Bucs have their quarterback situation figured out when pick fourteen rolls around? Those are the real questions.
3. QB, Justin Herbert (Oregon)
Speaking of the quarterback situation. With perhaps it’s best group of quarterbacks ever assembled in Mobile, the Senior Bowl has a projected first round draft pick on each sideline this year.
Justin Herbert led the Oregon Ducks to the Rose Bowl, and defeated the Wisconsin Badgers to cap off his collegiate career.
Now, he’s looking to kick start his pro career, and certainly did himself a lot of favors during practices this week.
There are questions about whether or not he’ll even be in play when the Bucs select their first player of the 2020 NFL Draft, but future telling is not what we’re here for. Interest is. And the Bucs have to be interested in every first-round quarterback this year. Even if they don’t end up needing one in April.
NORTH TEAM PLAYERS TO KNOW
1. CB, Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame)
Troy Pride Jr. out of Notre Dame may have made the most money for himself this week in Mobile. With the absence of some of the top corners who were expected to compete this year, this cornerback took the opportunity to step up, and did just that.
What should interest the Buccaneers - and their fans - even more, is he did so in man coverage and in press.
If this is what Pride Jr. can do with one week of NFL coaching, imagine what he might be capable of once he gets into the right pro system. One which uses a lot of man, prefers press coverage guys, and is known for teaching and developing young talent into professional playmakers.
Sounds like a fit, right?
2. QB, Jordan Love (Utah State)
He wouldn’t be a Buccaneers draft prospect if half the fan base didn’t complain about him. So Jordan Love out of Utah State might be the best first-round prospect for this team since Devin White came out way back in one-year ago.
Does it make sense to replace a five-year quarterback with a bad touchdown to interception ratio with a rookie, who has a bad touchdown to interception ratio? Some would say no. Some would say, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
No matter which side of the ‘Love-Boat’ you’re on, one thing is certain. This quarterback is getting plenty of day one attention, and after a fairly rough beginning to the week, had an overall strong showing during Senior Bowl practices.
3. WR, K.J. Hill (Ohio State)
Listeners of the Locked On Bucs Podcast will say K.J. Hill is on this list simply because he’s an Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver. But it’s not that simple.
As much as James Yarcho hates the Buckeyes, he also admits - off air mostly - that he knows my bias for my favorite collegiate allegiance goes out the window when it comes to talking about players who could fit with the Buccaneers.
Hill is talented. Period. He’s been talented in Scarlet and Gray, and he’d have been talented in yellow and blue. He just wouldn’t have had an offense worthy of his talents is all. Zing!
Don’t believe me? Here’s a tweet praising one well-known play Hill made during practices from a guy in Denver with no ties to the Buckeyes (as far as I can tell).
K.J. Hill, ladies and gentlemen pic.twitter.com/5Z6Ch1M584— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) January 23, 2020
Hill isn’t a day one guy. But this isn’t new for Ohio State receivers. Michael Thomas and Terry McLaurin are just two examples of receivers coming out of Columbus who out-performed their draft position by miles.
Tampa Bay already has one Big-10 receiver on their roster in Chris Godwin (Penn State). Adding Hill on day two would give them another young receiver to go in and compete for the third spot behind Godwin and Mike Evans for 2020.
Those six guys aren’t the only ones who have had good weeks in Mobile. Let us know if there are any other prospects you’re specifically watching as well!