Senior Bowl Watchlist: National

Senior Bowl watchlist
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

This is the second part of the first Senior Bowl watchlist by the Around the Block scouting department — read the first part here. By this time next week, almost 150 prospects will be in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl is the most prestigious collegiate all-star game for draft prospects.

They will practice with NFL coaching staffs during the week then play in a game on Saturday, February 5th. The Senior Bowl provides a fantastic opportunity for prospects from diverse backgrounds to prove themselves on a level playing field.

This year, the Detroit Lions and the New York Jets will be coaching up the players. The scouting department for Around the Block put together a watchlist of players from each Senior Bowl team, the American and the National. This Senior Bowl watchlist will preview the players on the American team, coached by the Detroit Lions.

Quarterback – Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Desmond Ridder was a near-unanimous choice among the scouting staff for the National team quarterbacks. Ridder has been the starter for Cincinnati for four seasons now and is among the winningest quarterbacks in college football history, boasting a 44-5 record as a starter. Three of those losses came at the hands of some of the best programs in college football: Alabama (in the College Football Playoff), Georgia (in the Peach Bowl), and Ohio State.

Despite this success, many questions surround Ridder. He’s a gifted athlete but is not an elite runner; his arm is good but not elite. Furthermore, he struggles with maintaining consistency in his accuracy in ball placement. In Mobile, Ridder will need to show he can distribute the ball accuracy to all levels of the field. 

Offense – Khalil Shakir, Boise State

Khalil Shakir might have the longest highlight reel of all the players in Mobile. He routinely makes incredible leaping, one-handed catches while keeping at least one of his feet in bounds. But Shakir is more than just a walking spectacular catch.

He’s a highly versatile playmaker who can return kicks, run the ball, and occasionally throw it. His teammates reportedly call him “Swiss”, referencing the versatility of the Swiss Army Knife. With that being said, Shakir struggled with drops during his career at Boise State. He will have to show consistent, reliable hands during the week of practice. 

Christian Watson, North Dakota State

Staying in the upper-middle part of the country, another player who was a favorite of the scouting staff was Christian Watson. A massive target (6’5”, 208), Watson led North Dakota State in receiving for the last three seasons. He also served as their primary kick returner, earning All-Missouri Valley Football Conference and FCS All-American honors at the position.

This shows that Watson is not your typical big receiver who only wins vertically; he’s a remarkable athlete in short areas, and the North Dakota State offense uses him in screens to take advantage of his run-after-the-catch skills. Like most smaller-school prospects, Watson will need to show he can hang with the best of the FBS; can he separate from faster, more athletic cornerbacks? Can he defeat press-jam technique at the line of scrimmage?

Offensive Line – Daniel Faalele, Minnesota

Daniel Faalele will be very hard to miss at the Senior bowl. At 6’9” and 380 pounds, “big” does not adequately describe the Australian offensive tackle. Faalele is relatively new to football, only playing competitively when he transferred to IMG Academy. He played at 400 pounds during his early years at Minnesota but slimmed down when he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID travel restrictions.

When he returned in 2021, he dropped at least 20 pounds and played the best season of his career. Faalele will need to show that he has the movement skills to keep up with NFL-caliber edge rushers. He’s also still pretty raw as a technician, but his physical gifts make him a rather intriguing ball of clay. 

Defensive Line – Logan Hall, Houston

Last year, Payton Turner exploded onto the scene at the Senior Bowl, which helped him become a first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints. This year, another Houston Cougar will be looking to replicate Turner’s journey. Logan Hall came to Houston as a tall, lanky edge rusher. But he’s put on around 50 pounds to become a dominant interior defensive lineman. He’s remarkably explosive for someone of his size, especially considering the weight he’s added.

Hall will most likely take reps at defensive end and defensive tackle; he will need to show he has the play strength to hold up in run defense against larger, stronger offensive tackles. Furthermore, he will need to display a diverse arsenal of pass rush moves and counter, allowing him to win matchups in a variety of ways. 

Linebackers – Chad Muma, Wyoming

Chad Muma will also be following in the footsteps of an alumna from his school at the Senior Bowl. Two years ago, Wyoming linebacker Logan Wilson parlayed his excellent time in Mobile to become a third-round selection by the Cincinnati Bengals. He is a vital part of their defense that helped carry them to the AFC Championship this weekend.

Muma is arguably an even better prospect than Wilson, so a strong showing at the Senior Bowl could cause his draft stock to skyrocket. He is a versatile player who plays well in coverage and when rushing the passer. Again, like most smaller-school prospects, Muma will need to show he has the speed and athletic ability to succeed in the NFL. As a former safety, this should not be a problem for him. 

Defensive Backs – Jalen Pitre, Baylor

The last player on our Senior Bowl watchlist is another hybrid player, Jalen Pitre from Baylor. Pitre is the reigning defensive MVP of the Big 12, contributing significantly toward Baylor’s turnaround that won them a Big 12 Championship. He played the Star position for Baylor this season, which is their designation for the slot/overhang defender. He filled a variety of roles for his defense, stopping the run, defending the pass, and even occasionally rushing the passer.

As the NFL modernizes its defenses, players like Pitre should be in much higher demand. In Mobile, the Jets’ coaching staff might try to see if Pitre can succeed in a more traditional safety role so that he can stay on the field for every down. He will need to display that he can succeed in deep zone assignments and prevent separation in man coverage.

Author: Mitchell Wolfe

Scouting Academy Graduate, 2020 Boston College, 2017 Temple University (Master of Sport Business), 2021

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