20 players to watch at the Senior Bowl

The Senior Bowl is on the horizon and that means the 2019 NFL Draft is right around the proverbial corner.

As such, the Texans have made an investment in Senior Bowl alumni since I’ve been covering the team (since 2014). Jordan Akins, D.J. Reader, Julien Davenport, Carlos Watkins and Nick Martin are the current members of the roster that competed at the Senior Bowl and in the last five seasons, the Texans have drafted ten players out of the Senior Bowl.

That being said, chances are reasonable that the Texans will utilize the Senior Bowl to find players to be members of the 2019 roster and beyond. I figured I’d give you a quick snap shot of the players headed to Mobile that will have my attention.

Now, my eyes will be trained in certain areas for the Texans, but I picked at least one player from each position to highlight.

Quarterbacks

(North) Drew Lock, Missouri
6-4, 225 lb.

Lock has every opportunity to secure a first round destination with a strong week in Mobile. That success alone may not do it, but combined with a strong senior season, Lock could be in the conversation to hear his name called on night one. All eyes will be on Lock as he steps under center at the Senior Bowl.

(South) Tyree Jackson, Buffalo
6-7, 245 lb.

Oh boy, he certainly looks the part, that’s for sure. He entered the transfer portal at the end of the season, choosing to leave Buffalo for another school. Eventually, though, he just decided to declare for the NFL Draft prior to the deadline. Because he graduated, he was eligible for the Senior Bowl and accepted the invitation. He’s got some skills now (size, arm strength) and has a national stage to show them off at the Senior Bowl.

**Running Backs

(South) Wes Hills, Slippery Rock
6-2, 218 lb.**

After a strong showing at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Hills put on an outstanding show out in California and was named MVP for the week. He doesn’t have much buzz nationally...yet, but another strong week will put him in a team’s cross hairs looking for a big, talented back.

(South) Ryquell Armstead, Temple
5-11, 215 lb.

I have a man crush on Armstead, who had six rushing touchdowns against Houston in a 59-49 win over the Cougars. He even played a bit of linebacker this season as well, but his future is at running back in the NFL. He’s powerful, quick and explosive with the ball in his hands, but I love his toughness and willingness to do anything for his squad to win.

Check out the best tackle shots from the 2018 season.

Hybrids

(North) Tony Pollard, Memphis
6-0, 208 lb.

He did a little bit of everything for Memphis and he’ll start the week at running back, but the closest comparison I can think of for how he was used, physical stature, etc...is former Vikings/Seahawks star Percy Harvin. He’s not quite that explosive and productive, but Pollard is a Swiss Army Knife type of player entering the NFL when teams are ALL looking for players of his ilk.

Wide Receivers

(North) Andy Isabella, UMass
5-10, 195 lb.

The Minuteman star looks like he fits the slot receiver bill from central casting, but he can play outside as well. He doesn’t have the stature of most receivers in Mobile, but he’s one of the few that can play inside and outside well enough to give his future NFL team options. He led the nation in receptions per game with 8.5 and was tied for sixth in the country with 13 touchdowns, more than one per game on average.

(South) Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
6-2, 210 lb.

The one person who gave me the heads up on Johnson two years ago? Jadeveon Clowney. One day in the locker room, he just brought him up randomly asking if I had seen him play. I said I hadn’t and he gave me that look like I was a fool for not doing so. After going and watching him after talking to JD, Clowney was right. Johnson has next level skills and I think he could make a significant statement this week in Mobile.

Tight Ends

(North) Donald Parham, Stetson
6-8, 240 lb.

Yes, those dimensions are correct. He looks like he should be snagging rebounds for the Stetson basketball team instead but he was an All-American tight end for the football team. When this tall, lanky “tight end” gets into the secondary it’s trouble for linebackers/defensive backs. I can’t wait to see him up close and see how he wins in 1-on-1 competition with linebackers/safeties and whether the North team experiments with him at receiver.

Check out the best shots of Texans sacks from the 2018 season.

Offensive Linemen

(North) Dennis Daley, South Carolina (Tackle/Guard)
6-6, 324 lb.

After two years in JUCO, Daley stepped into the South Carolina lineup and locked up the left tackle position for 22 straight starts. I’ve heard some talk that Daley might move to guard in the future but I’m anxious to see him at tackle this week. He has size and length that make me think he can play tackle, but this week in Mobile will his opportunity to ensure that’s the case.

(South) Andre Dillard, Washington State (Left Tackle)
6-5, 305 lb.

When I first saw Dillard back in 2016, I was really impressed but no one was even talking about him, so I thought I had found a potential gem. Then, I found out he was just a sophomore. Now, fast forward to his senior campaign in 2018 and still no one was talking about him. I thought he was one of the best tackles in the 2019 NFL Draft and, thankfully, as we neared the Senior Bowl, he started getting the acclaim that he deserves. He’s not heavy but he can dance with speed, hold up against power and live out on an island with ease. He may not maul defenders in the run game, but his quickness and outstanding feet make him easy to study and covet.

(North) Dalton Risner, Kansas State (Guard/Tackle)
6-5, 308 lb.

When our pal Andre Ware got back from calling a Kansas State game this fall, he RAVED about Risner. When I asked him, what stood out to him, he said “EVERYTHING”. He spent some time with him in the production meetings and just loved everything about him. He’s a mauler and will bury guys at the point of attack and he looks like he’ll be a guard in the NFL. But, Colts right tackle Braden Smith was destined to be a guard until the Colts made him a tackle and he eventually made the All-Rookie team at tackle. Risner isn’t quite as athletic as Smith but that versatility does remind me of the Colts tackle. He may cross-train in Mobile (play both guard and tackle) but he’ll get the first crack at tackle, which will give him a great chance to make a strong first impression for coaches potentially seeing him for the first time.

(North) Kaleb McGary, Washington (Tackle)
6-8, 324 lb.

McGary’s teammate Trey Adams was the one that got all of the hype and pub in recent years, but McGary might end up being the better prospect. He’s gargantuan at 6-8 with long arms and he more than looks the part at tackle. I like his demeanor on the field and look forward to seeing him against the North pass rushers all week.

Defensive Linemen

(North) Charles Omenihu, Texas (End)
6-6, 275 lb.

Perhaps no senior raised his stock more than the freakishly built, and wildly gifted, Omenihu. Although he was far from a defensive liability earlier in his career, he definitely hadn’t tapped into his loads of talent...until this year. He went form 7.0 TFL and 4.0 sacks in 2017 to 18.0 and 9.5 in 2018. Each week, I saw him improve and by the end of the season, he was often the best player on the field on either side. Now, the Senior Bowl is his final hurdle to pass. If he proves that this year was not a fluke, I could easily see teams jockeying to get into position to draft Omenihu early on day two.

(South) Daylon Mack, Texas A&M (interior defensive line)
6-1, 320 lb.

Mack followed up what was a tremendous senior season with a STRONG performance at the East West Shrine Game. That gave him a shot to come to Mobile for a chance to show it off against the best college linemen in the game. He’s a tremendous athlete for a guy his size and has strength, power and quickness in spades. He’s not as adept rushing the passer as he is playing the run, but this week is still a great showcase for Mack.

Check out the best Week 17 images from Texans team photographer Zach Tarrant. Presented by Houston Methodist.

Linebackers

(North) Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois (Stack)
6-1, 237 lb.

He was one of the nation’s best pass rushers in 2017 and 2018 but at his size, he more than likely projects inside and that’s where he’ll play this week in Mobile. That said, he has a tremendous nose for the football whether he’s rushing the edge or moving to the inside. I’m more curious how the transition looks as opposed to whether he succeeds or not, if that makes sense.

Secondary

(North) Jordan Brown, South Dakota State (Cornerback)
6-1, 200 lb.

Brown is one of my true sleepers in this draft class and I love his game. He was a former high school receiver from Arizona who was cajoled and convinced to take a visit to South Dakota State. He fell in love with it and then moved to cornerback, which probably made him a draftable prospect. He’s more than that, though, with his smooth movement skills and size. The NFL is always looking for his type and this should be a showcase for him against the best in the nation.

(North) Kris Boyd, Texas (Cornerback)
6-0, 195 lb.

Boyd was up and down throughout his career and that was evident in games too. He made a ton of plays throughout his career, but would give up a deep catch after blowing a coverage or misjudging the flight of the ball. He struggled in games against 50/50 catch masters but he’s got an opportunity to swing scouts in his favor with a strong week in Mobile.

(South) Rock Ya-Sin, Temple (Cornerback)
6-2, 190 lb.

First, start with the bad a-- name - Rock Ya-Sin. Then, look at his size and dimensions. He transferred to Temple after starting his career at Presbyterian College in South Carolina. He was a 1st Team All-Big South player but transferred because PC moved from FCS to Division II. So Ya-Sin transferred in January 2018 and became a Temple Tuff player nearly immediately. He’s a southerner (Decatur, GA) so he gets to finish his career in the South with a huge spotlight on him in Mobile.

*(South) Lonnie Johnson, Jr., Kentucky (Cornerback)
6-3, 206 lb. *

Johnson is one of the biggest cornerbacks in this draft class so I’m intrigued to see his movement skills up close. At that size, teams will consider a move to safety in their scheme, but I think he can play cornerback and be disruptive with his size and length.

(North) Nasir Adderley, Delaware (Safety/Nickel/Cornerback)
6-0, 200 lb.

The player that I haven’t seen much of that I’m most intrigued to see live is Adderley. I’ve heard so much about him and he’s gotten more than his fair share of buzz leading up to Senior Bowl week. I also want to see if the North staff decides to cross-train him during the week or just leaves him at safety. He’s a very intriguing day one candidate and can’t wait to see him ball.

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