There’s only one place you’ll be able to see a full collective of collegiate football players looking to turn pro, with all thirty-two teams on hand - including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - to see it go down.
The practices are over, the players have put down their tape, and all that’s left is the actual game on Saturday as the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl gets set to claim victory on many fronts.
For one, they’re the only spot this year where you’ll see a gathering of NFL prospects like this. Unless something drastically shifts direction in the coming weeks with the NFL Scouting Combine, getting this week in the books in Mobile, Alabama was made all the more important because of the remaining COVID-19 impacts on football scouting.
So this was it. And there are plenty of players who took full advantage of having the undivided attention of every organization in professional football. Here are some of my favorites, both from a general viewpoint and through a Buccaneers specific lens.
JAMIE NEWMAN (QB, WAKE FOREST)
This fits a bit into both categories as a personal favorite with a potential Bucs connection. Newman said he’d spoken to every team in Mobile. However, this is pretty normal business for events like these, so there’s not much to read into with that.
What you can read into is just how good Newman looked throwing the ball and operating with his Senior Bowl teammates.
For those who don’t know, Newman opted out of the 2020 college football season, so this was his first time playing competitive football in a while. There was some rust, sure, but it was to be expected.
What I don’t think was expected was the way the ball jumped out of his hand at times. He’s still got some developing to do of course, and isn’t ready to be a starter in 2021 by any means. But he’s an intriguing prospect who could really develop into a solid NFL contributor if paired with the right coaching staff.
The Buccaneers need a quarterback of the future, and investing a developmental pick in Newman could be wise, bu the future of the franchise post-Brady is one nobody can foresee at the moment.
All of them. Najee Harris (Alabama) is one most football fans will know coming into the game, but they’ll know Michael Carter (North Carolina), Kylin Hill (Mississippi State), and Larry Roundtree III (Missouri) when it’s all said and done.
To be honest, all the backs had something to show this year, but those three on top of Harris - the known commodity - are the ones who stood out the most for me. And all of them looked good catching the ball.
DILLON RADUNZ (OL, NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY)
You’ve heard of Trey Lance? What about the guy trusted to protect his blindside?
Dillon Radunz wasn’t on my radar entering the week, but some pre-practice hype from Ross Jackson of the Locked On Saints Podcast, and then my own eyes looking to see what it was all about, have me sold.
Radunz was physical, technically sound, and dominated competition all week. My interest in him grew from curiosity, to interest, to desire, over the three days. He looks to have all the tools necessary to develop into a strong NFL starter, but even if he doesn’t inherit a top spot, he can certainly bolster any offensive line’s depth, especially with his ability to play left tackle and guard.
Regardless of what the future holds for Tampa Bay and Donovan Smith, getting Radunz would be smart, if he’s even available when Jason Licht gets on the clock at pick thirty-two.
BENJAMIN ST-JUSTE (CB, MINNESOTA)
Former teammate of Buccaneers safety, Benjamin St-Juste made quite the impression this week. He’s long, smooth, and physical. So physical he drew several flags in practice on Wednesday, but had a much cleaner day on Thursday.
Now, those flags might raise some flags for some folks, but it all needs to be taken with a grain of salt. One of the values of the Senior Bowl is to get an introduction into NFL life and that includes the officiating. There are things St-Juste and all the defensive backs could get away with in college football that they just won’t get away with in the NFL.
Also, the officials are there to hold strict standards. I saw prospects getting called for penalties that I’ve certainly seen NFL defensive backs gets away with - and more - especially in games as recent as the NFC Championship Game.
CAMERON SAMPLE (DL, TULANE)
I came into the week really interested in seeing what Marvin Wilson (Florida State) had to offer on the defensive line. By the end of practices he wasn’t wearing pads and was on the sidelines watching. I’m not sure if he’ll play Saturday or not, so I want to point you to a guy I’m more confident you’ll actually see in the game.
That guy is Tulane defensive lineman, Cam Sample. Another shout-out is in order as Dylan Sanders of Full Press Radio, Whole Nine Sports, and more, was on hand and pointed out Sample as a prospect worth watching.
Boy was he right. I didn’t watch Sample intently on every day there, but on the third day the Tulane defensive lineman was winning, and winning often.
As I sit down to watch the game on Saturday, I’ll be looking for more samples, of Cam Sample. I’m sorry.
NICO COLLINS (WR, MICHIGAN)
Look, I wanted to throw down three offensive guys and three defensive ones. And there are more good defensive players to watch (Jordan Smith, EDGE, UAB), but I had to include Nico Collins in here.
When you look at the Buccaneers wide receiver room, you have some really good pairings of player types.
Antonio Brown and Scotty Miller represent the shorter, but shiftier and faster types of receivers.
Chris Godwin and Tyler Johnson are taller, but not tall (in NFL terms anyway), and can operate on the perimeter or from the slot.
Then you have Mike Evans, the tall receiver with the amazing wingspan and physicality to make contested catches. Who is his counterpart on the roster? Justin Watson measures the closest, but I don’t think anyone would describe his game as imposing or all that physical.
Getting passed up on the rotation by both Miller and Johnson also speaks to the fact Watson may have peaked with the Bucs. Just is what it is at this point.
Enter, Nico Collins. Where will Collins land on draft boards? That’s the big question. Many thought he had day one potential entering the 2020 season, but in the early mocks he’s not on the first-round list of receivers being drafted. So, day two? Day three?
The wide receiver drafting practices have been interesting in the past few years, and another deep class should be fun to watch as they find out where their NFL careers will begin.
Perhaps the Bucs will look to add more speed if Antonio Brown isn’t brought back, Perhaps they’re confident enough in Scotty Miller they look to add another sizeable receiver with length. Whatever the strategy becomes in April, Collins is a player worth watching this Saturday.
Alright Bucs Nation, that’s going to do it for our coverage from Mobile, Alabama and the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. I know NFL Draft talk isn’t the priority for fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers right now - thank goodness - but I appreciate those of you checking out these updates and observations.
Enjoy the game if you’re watching, and hit the comments to let me know who your favorites are before and during the game! Also, if you’ve followed me or listened to the Locked On Bucs Podcast much, you know me putting two Wolverines on this list is...something.