When the time came for Senior Bowl practices to start on Tuesday, many of the big names that highlighted the offensive line group had pulled out due to injury or other personal reasons. Potential first round picks such as Chukwuma Okorafor, Frank Ragnow, and Martinas Rankin were hobbled prior to Mobile and deemed it necessary to skip out on the all-star game altogether. Intriguing Division II standout Desmond Harrison of West Georgia was also held out of the practices due to a knee injury sustained during a regular training session prior to the week. This left the rosters ravaged and sorely lacking in star power.
Alas, this simply meant there were more reps to go around, as every prospect looked to show out for the countless scouts and media members who swarmed into Ladd-Peebles Stadium. With an abundance of raw talent to go around, guys like Pitt’s Brian O’Neill, Army’s Brett Toth, and Alex Cappa of DII Humboldt State all seized plenty of chances to showcase their talent and the fact they belong on an NFL team, regardless of how many pundits question their “level of competition” or “raw talent”.
The pads cracked, jerseys were ripped, and many a muscle was flexed as the big guys up front put on a show for the masses. But who separated themselves from the pack? And who gained or lost a comma on their paycheck?
Lets dive in:
Offensive Line MVP: Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
After watching Isaiah Wynn go to work in the College Football Playoffs, it was evident that this guy has what it takes to be one of the best guards in the entire class. Wynn has played left tackle his entire life. Although this likely won’t be his position in the NFL, Wynn showcases elite athleticism for someone his size and is already the picture of what a guard should be in the NFL (6’3 320 lbs). Against the Sooners in the CFP Semifinals, Wynn rarely struggled to corral stud EDGE rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, a guy who also earned himself some money this week. Against Alabama the following week, Wynn once again put a muzzle on the Tide’s loaded front seven.
This week in Mobile, Wynn was unsurprisingly kicked inside to left guard and spent a lot of time against Alabama’s Da’Shawn Hand, and UTSA’s Marcus Davenport when he spent some reps rushing inside. Wynn was the warden in town this week and was wire-to-wire the most consistent lineman. I would be vehemently surprised if Isaiah Wynn makes it out of the first round in April.
Most Surprising: Bradley Bozeman, Alabama
Before Mobile, Bradley Bozeman was my lowest-rated center out of all the guys invited. When I threw on his tape against teams like LSU and Clemson, Bozeman looked like a stick in the mud. He also lacked the spring off the line that I covet at the center position. But I’ll tell you what, Bozeman didn’t need those things to impose his will against the interior defensive linemen that wound up going against him.
When Bozeman’s initial punch found it’s target, it looked as if he was just “settling” down his opponent. Like trying to calm a wild horse, he used a powerful anchor and heavy hands to wrangle opposing defenders. By far the biggest surprise of the group, and the first player to really cause me to reconsider his initial evaluation.
Most Disappointing: Sean Welsh, Iowa
This was definitely a tough reality to come to terms with, especially as a former Hawkeye myself. Sean Welsh had himself a long, long week here at the Senior Bowl, which was far from my expectations for the scrappy guard out of Iowa. I knew Welsh was going to come in on the smaller side for a guard (he measured in at 6’2 3/8 and 296 pounds, officially) but I didn’t expect him to be the smallest lineman at the entire event. Just by viewing Welsh from the stands, you could tell he lacked the necessary mass to hang with the big boys.
Regardless, I was still in his corner. Former Iowa guard Marshal Yanda has never looked the part of an elite NFL lineman, but that hasn’t stopped him from being the best at his position for the last four or five years. Unfortunately for Welsh, he was the only offensive lineman whom I saw get put on skates during one-on-ones, and I consistently saw him struggling to handle any bigger rushers throughout the week. I am not totally out on the Sean Welsh fan club, but strides will have to be made (and carbs eaten) if Welsh hopes to maintain a mid-round grade from me.
Most Underappreciated: Skyler Phillips, Idaho State
Let me tell you something friends. I watched Skyler Phillips like a hawk all week, and it’s a damn travesty that he still isn’t getting the attention he so desperately deserves. In a group littered with big names from big-time schools, Phillips went to the middle of Ladd-Peebles Stadium and planted a flag (a la Baker Mayfield) that had “I Belong” written in bright, shiny letters.
From the limited tape I could find of Idaho State football, all the things I saw and loved about Phillips stood the test of the Senior Bowl. He has one of the most refined hand techniques in pass protection at the position and plays with a tenacity that made it apparent he could have, and should have, played at the Division I level. If you haven’t already, be sure to write this name down. And don’t mind that racket you hear…it’s just me pounding the table for this guy.