After getting the opportunity to travel to Mobile, Alabama to take in the practices live, Joe Ferraiola and Michael Nuttle went home to watch the game, collect their thoughts, and exchange some notes on the wide receivers participating in the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Below are their thoughts on who impressed them and who could’ve done more to help themselves based off their time in Mobile.
Receivers Who Impressed
Zay Jones, East Carolina
If you hadn’t heard of Zay Jones before the Senior Bowl, you are likely to hear plenty about him now. Jones ran solid routes during practice and showed enough speed to separate from corners vertically. He made a name for himself during the game where he almost scored three touchdowns, though only one of them counted on the stat sheet. Jones caught everything thrown his way within and beyond his frame. He did an excellent job of adjusting to passes thrown behind him as well. Jones did a good job of tracking the deep ball, and he also has the speed to separate from the corner on the quick slant.
Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
Switzer may have had one of the best weeks of all the wide receivers at the Senior Bowl. Despite his diminutive stature (officially measuring in at 5’8 ½”), he displayed the ability to extend his catch radius and secure passes thrown well outside his body, playing bigger than his height would suggest. He also showed a strong work ethic with his consistent effort throughout the entirety of the practices. He has an unselfish mentality and was very willing to be a blocker in the run game. His small size (officially measuring in at 177 lbs) can lead to him being pushed around and it showed when trying to take on defenders physically, having difficulty maintaining blocks and breaking tackles.
Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
Reynolds had an up-and-down week of practice but finished with a strong performance in the game recording 6 catches for 96 yards and one very nice touchdown catch in which he used his speed to get behind the cornerback and then made a good over the shoulder catch. His ability to track the ball on the deeper throws was something he flashed at times throughout the week. He also showed an ability to win the contested catches on a consistent basis. For all of the nice catches he made on deeper routes, he struggled to consistently secure the ball in the shorter area and had some bad drops on passes thrown within his frame on slant routes.
Amara Darboh, Michigan
Darboh had arguably the most consistent week of practice from a receiver on the North team. ITP’s own Shane Alexander said that Darboh really impressed him during the weigh-ins with his physique. He measured in at 6’1 ¾”, 215 lbs with 9 ⅞” hands. He showed some good straight-line speed, giving cornerbacks issues when running deeper routes in one-on-ones as well as seven-on-sevens. Darboh also impressed with his smooth route-running ability. One catch that comes to mind was when he won on a fade route to the back corner of the end zone.
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
Taylor was a player that received plenty of buzz coming into the week and for all intents and purposes, he lived up to it with his performance throughout the week. A lot of what we saw was consistent with the tape viewed before going to Mobile. Taylor is an athletic player and displayed it well throughout practice, easily getting behind defenders in one-on-one drills as well as separating from defenders with quick, fluid cuts. He did show some issues with adjusting to the ball in the air when being closely guarded and he was never really challenged physically.
Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
Taylor officially measured in at 5’7”, 175 lbs., but had a really good week of practice. He is a tough slot receiver who has the quickness to play the position at the next level. All week he displayed the toughness to go make catches over the middle. Despite his size, Taylor made some nice catches away from his frame where he had to use every bit of his catch radius. In some of the drills where he was being pressed he struggled to get off the line. However, as a slot receiver he won’t face press coverage often.
Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
Kupp impressed a lot of people this week to the point where some are saying he can be a first round pick. We won’t go that far, but he did have a good week. Kupp impressed showing his speed to challenge the corners in practice vertically. He also displayed good hands as he was catching everything thrown his way this week. He showed no hesitancy to go up and make catches over the middle. He proved that he can play to a higher level of competition than he was used to at FCS ball this week.
Receivers Who Need to Improve
Jalen Robinette, Air Force
Jalen was a late arrival to the Senior Bowl after participating in the East-West Shrine Game the week before. His size will interest some teams, measuring in at 6’2 ¾”, 218 lbs with 10 ⅞” hands, but the Air Force receiver had an up-and-down week of practice. Consistently catching the ball was an issue for Robinette as well as releasing off the line of scrimmage quickly. His route running was adequate, showing some sloppiness with his footwork when working through his cuts. Jalen is a tough football player, though, and uses his size well to fight off contact at the catch point and to dominate defenders on the outside as a run blocker, something he got a lot of practice on at Air Force as they are a run heavy offensive team.
Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse
Etta-Tawo had a week of practice that showed more downs than ups. He was plagued with a bad case of the drops each day at practice, even on passes thrown within his frame. He appears stiff when running and that seemed to affect his ability to sink his hips and work smoothly through his cuts. This lack of precision made it difficult for him to separate from the defenders at the break point in his stem. He does have good straight-line speed and was able to get behind some defenders on deeper routes in one-on-one drills and also showed some nice ball tracking to secure deep passes. When met by a physical defender, though, he struggled to release and separate quickly.
Travin Dural, LSU
Dural showed off some good speed on the straight-line work that will catch anyone’s attention, but struggled with his footwork on breaking routes. While working through cone drills requiring crisp footwork, he struggled to efficiently move in and out of his cuts and even lost his footing a few times. Like many of the other receivers, drops were an issue for him, having passes bounce off his hands that were thrown within his frame. At 6’1” and 206 lbs, he has good size and he did use it well to hold his ground physically against cornerbacks, but again, the drops seemed to find him when having to try to work through the contact to secure the catch.
Chad Williams, Grambling State
Williams came into the week relatively unknown compared to some of the other Senior Bowl players but he did some things to turn heads. He displayed some deep threat ability when making a contested catch on a streak during one-on-ones and was efficient through his cuts. Consistency and strength were the biggest knocks on him, however. There were plenty of very catchable balls that went through his hands during the practices and he didn’t show much in terms of physical strength when dealing with a cornerback trying to jam him at the line of scrimmage. Chad also found himself in the middle of scuffle during the second day of practice and had to be separated by the coaches.
Fred Ross, Mississippi State
Ross made some nice catches this week. However, in person you do see that he does drop some passes that’d you like to be caught. He also could stand to refine his route running as he isn’t always efficient with his steps when working through the breaks in his routes. He finished the week off well with the game on Saturday where he made some sound catches while working from the slot a majority of the time. Ross can be a viable receiver, but he’ll need to refine some of his game.
Artavis Scott, Clemson
Scott’s performance was just on the cusp of landing him in the “Those Who Impressed” group. You can tell he is a smart player, understanding where he is going to be able to find holes within a defense and get himself open, but the physical aspect is what held Artavis back in having a stand-out week. Officially measuring in at 5’10 ¼” and 193 pounds, he is not the poster child for physically dominant receivers. He struggled when having to work against bigger cornerbacks and was easily outmatched from a strength perspective. He didn’t show much in terms of explosiveness either, which may be derived from only being 12 months removed from having surgery on a torn meniscus. Athleticism isn’t everything though, and Scott can still find a place in this league being a smart wide receiver.
Jamari Staples, Louisville
Staples had an interesting week, to say the least. There were plenty of times when he displayed the athleticism to be a threat on the outside, but consistency issues troubled him throughout the week. When working against a physical corner, you saw an unwillingness to use his hands to try keep space and separate from the cornerback and instead would try to juke and step any which direction to try to get the defender to commit one way. Even if this wouldn’t work, he would continue and become very inefficient with his body movement. His route running could use some refinement as there was some sloppiness with the footwork when working through the cuts. He showed good hands throughout the week of practice, but was not a immuned to the occasional drop on a pass within his frame.