Roundtable: Senior Bowl Takeaways

1. What was your biggest takeaway from Senior Bowl week?

Andrew Hirsh: The defensive linemen were as good as advertised, if not better. Noah Spence was a monster off the edge from start to finish; Vernon Butler wreaked a lot of havoc inside. Each registered a sack during Saturday's contest. Virtually everyone in attendance said Sheldon Rankins had a tremendous week, too, even though he had to sit out of the actual game with an injury. 

Jay Adams: I agree with Andrew here. The defensive linemen were fantastic during Senior Bowl practices and the game itself. The great thing here is that a lot of those guys will be hanging around in the second, third, fourth, etc., rounds, so there's the potential to get some solid value with these guys.

Kelsey Conway: The play in the trenches. As Jay and Andrew alluded too, this year's draft class is stacked with talent at the defensive line position. But, the offensive linemen also had a good showing, too. GM Thomas Dimitroff told me the play of both of those positions particularly stood out to him, and I agree. Players like OG Cody Whitehair, OT Jason Spriggs and OL Nick Martin played well enough to improve their draft stock moving forward.

2. Who was someone you learned a lot about during Senior Bowl week?

AH: Braxton Miller. The quarterback-turned-receiver looked good this season, but there were still a lot of questions about his long-term prospects at wideout. Based on everything the Senior Bowl media tweeted and wrote about, Miller looked like an NFL-caliber talent, one who might be worth a high draft pick come April. 

JA: Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler. Playing at a small school probably limited the amount of national press he got, but he certainly turned heads during the Senior Bowl. At 6-3, 325 pounds he's got the girth to plug up the middle but a ton of athleticism to rush the passer. I loved what I saw out of him in Mobile.

KC: Boise State S Darian Thompson turned a lot of heads. Thompson is a complete safety, with a physical build enables him to do a variety of things. He's praised for his ability to tackle well and his instincts. Thompson had 19 career interceptions at Boise State, a Mountain West Conference record. He had an impressive 65 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two forced fumbles, and four passes defensed in the 2015 season. If Thompson has a strong showing at the Combine, he could very well climb up several team's draft boards.

3. While seniors have dominated the news cycle in the last 10 days or so, the juniors in this year's draft class are especially impressive. Who's one junior to keep an eye on in the coming months?

AH: Andrew Billings is someone who intrigues me. A gigantic defensive tackle who's listed at 6-foot-1, 310 pounds, he's someone who can eat up a lot of space. This serves him particularly well in the run game, but he's a solid pass-rusher, too: Last year he led Baylor with 5.5 sacks thanks to his ability to shed blockers with his brute strength and his surprising quickness. 

JA: Mississippi's Robert Nkemdiche will have a lot of eyes on him leading up to the draft. The defensive tackle seems to have all the things you like to see out of a backfield disrupter, but he's going to be fielding a lot of questions about his arrest in Atlanta for marijuana possession and falling out of a hotel window. The team that drafts him will have done their due diligence to make sure they're going to get a return on their investment in him. Leading up to the time his name comes off the board, however, will be interesting to watch as he currently stands as a mid-to-late first-round selection — right where the Falcons happen to be. 

KC: Pittsburgh's Tyler Boyd. The 6-foot-2 wide receiver, known for his explosiveness and versatility, could make a splash at the Combine. He's already a known name, but a strong showing could solidify any questions about his potential. Boyd broke many records while attending Pittsburgh, including career catches (254) and receiving yards (3,361).

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