PHOTO: Butch Dill/AP

MOBILE, AL – As they say down in this quaint Alabama Gulf Coast city, the draft starts here. With Super Bowl LVI one week away 2,000 miles away in Inglewood, CA, the unofficial start of the NFL off-season and path to the NFL Draft began at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

With notables such as Heisman Trophy finalist in Pitt QB Kenny Pickett, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder and Malik Willis of Liberty drawing a lot of attention down in Mobile, due to their unique skill sets, none of them disappointed during the National’s 20-10 win over the American.

Below are my thoughts and observations from the 73rd Senior Bowl.

1. Heisman finalist QB Kenny Pickett was clearly the best quarterback down in Mobile. He looked the most NFL-ready—in going 6-of-6 for 89 yards and 1 TD—dare I say, even had a little Burrow swag in him. This is not the strongest QB class and more than likely, a team will trade up and reach for him.

Keep an eye on QB-needy teams like Houston (No.3), Carolina (No.6), Denver (No.9), Washington (No.11) and New Orleans (No.18).

If Pickett somehow slips past the newly-named Commanders at 11, two surprise teams to watch would be the Cleveland Browns at No.13 and the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20—who may possibly trade up for Pickett considering Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement and the uncertainty over Baker Mayfield and his recovery from injuries.

Even though I have been one of the biggest Mayfield apologists and supporters in the past, the bottom line is that despite being 1-1 in the post-season, for his Browns career, Mayfield is 29-30 as a starter, has displayed questionable decision-making, lost a lot of the accuracy and velocity he displayed two years ago, and has cost Cleveland winnable games in clutch time.

Also, one must consider that current head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew berry did not draft him No. overall out of Oklahoma back in 2017, so they owe him no loyalty, and need to move in a different direction under QB.

2. After Pickett, there is a serious drop off at QB. While North Carolina’s Sam Howell (6-for-9, 67 yards passing 29 yards rushing, one touchdown) the forementioned Ridder showed some flashes, in going 4-of-6 for 68 yards and two TD’s, the only other potential first-rounder is possibly Willis, and he’s likely to go either late in the first or in the second or third rounds and will need to sit a year behind a veteran and be ready by 2023.

Still a bit raw in terms of passing with just 11 yards total, Willis’ strong arm and legs—in rushing for 54 yards, as highlighted by a 28-yard rush, captured the eyes of NFL scouts in attendance in looking for the next Russell Wilson-like dual threat QB.

3. Minnesota’s Boye Mafe and Western Kentucky’s DeAngelo Malone looked like a potential war daddys during practice all week and would be nice late round steals for some team along with Senior Bowl MVP in Oklahoma DL Perrion Winfrey thanks to his five tackles, 2 sacks and one TFL. Don’t be shocked if they both become quality rotational players in the right system. What’s with Wisconsin producing some quality TE’s these days?!? Owen Daniels, Lance Kendricks, Troy Fumagalli, now possibly Jake Ferguson? Thanks to a decent showing in leading all receivers with 62 yards and one TD, Ferguson would be a nice second-third round selection for a team in need of a pass-catching TE.


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