The Reese’s Senior Bowl is a fantastic opportunity. Whether you’re a small-school phenom, a prospect from a larger school who maybe didn’t get a fair shake, or even a Power 5 phenom, the practices, and game give you a golden opportunity. Every year we see guys — both heralded and unheralded alike — come down to Mobile, AL, and make a name for themselves during the week. That’s what this week is all about, taking the best seniors in the nation and positioning them for success at the next level.
We’ve only had one day of practices so far, but the cream of the crop is already beginning to separate itself. Some names you would expect (Montez Sweat) have confirmed what the tape shows — and then some. Other guys who you may not have heard of (Penny Hart) have burst onto the scene and declared “I’m here, and I’m going to be here on draft day.” We’ll see if they can demonstrate consistency throughout the week, but there were some clear winners on the first day of Senior Bowl practice.
Top Defensive Performer – Montez Sweat
Montez Sweat came to Mobile already generating some buzz in NFL Draft circles. Sweat, the EDGE rusher from Mississippi State, was generally looked at as a mid-first to early-second round type player. From the moment Sweat set foot on the practice field, he looked like a man determined to vault himself into the top 10 discussions. If his first practice is any indication, he’s going to do just that.
Why should players come to the @seniorbowl?
Montez Sweat was a solid tier 2 edge rusher with nice traits before this week. After interviews and a dominant practice he’s receiving top 10 talk from scouts.
Come compete and you might just make a few million while you’re at it.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 23, 2019
The winning for Sweat started early with the weigh-in and measurements portion of the day. Sweat came in at 6’6″ and 252 pounds. His wingspan measured over 84 inches. That’s some excellent size and length for your edge rusher, and when he got to the practice field, he showed that he knows how to use both.
Sweat was manhandling the offensive linemen all day in 1-on-1 drills. When you throw on the tape of Sweat, you see that he has all the tools you want from an EDGE defender, he just needs to put it all together on a consistent basis. That’s precisely what Sweat was doing out there yesterday. Whether it was bull rushing the OT and putting him on his back, or hand-fighting with the OT and using his length advantage, Sweat showed it all.
Top Offensive Performer – Penny Hart
Who? If you didn’t know the name Penny Hart, don’t sweat it. Hart isn’t a name who was on many people’s radar coming into the week. After the first practice of the week; though, that has changed dramatically. The Georgia State product was one of the standout wide receivers on a day where this entire column could be devoted solely to the position.
The knock on Hart is going to be his size and that he comes from a school like Georgia State. Despite those roadblocks, Hart was a baller in the first practice. He was one of the fastest guys on the field Tuesday, posting a top speed of 20.6 MPH according to Zebra Technology’s tracking. That number put him second at the position, just behind Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin.
— Reese’s Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) January 22, 2019
Hart put that speed on display early and often in the first practice. His acceleration and suddenness were almost startling, making some of the defensive backs look downright silly trying to match up with him. He’s not merely a straight-line burner, though. Hart is the perfect slot receiver, exhibiting plus agility and very nice route-running ability.
At only 5’8″ and coming from a small school, he’s likely going to be a guy who needs to make an impact on special teams before he can see the field as a receiver. However, I would not be surprised if Hart were to make a Jakeem Grant-like ascent from special teams ace to contributing wide-out.
The second day of practice was moved indoors to the Southern Alabama facility due to the threat of inclement weather. Due to the limited amount of space available, the practice was not made open to the public or the media. Only two representatives from each team were allowed to be in attendance. Recordings of the practices will be made available to those of us down here covering the event later tonight. Check out the site tomorrow for the Day 2 winners!