The folks at the Reese’s Senior Bowl put on a great event every year and that’s obviously the reason coaches, general managers and personnel people representing all 32 NFL teams annually gather in Mobile to scout some of the best players about to enter the draft in a couple of months.
And while the game, which will be played Saturday, is a good part of the week, it’s typically the week of practices that are most beneficial to teams as they watch how players interact and learn and work.
It’s also a time for teams to have almost unlimited access to speak with the players.
Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy on Friday announced the Practice Week Award winners, which he explained on Twitter:
And why does this matter, you may ask, when teams don’t need the opinions of players to decide which players they think are special or performed well during the week?
Because game recognizes game — often better than scouts do.
So it would behoove the teams to consider these players, especially if they play positions of need.
What follows are the best practice players of the week and what teams need to notice them because they have significant needs at the position:
Liberty’s Malik Willis was named top QB on the American team in a vote from defensive teammates at practice. Pitt’s Kenny Pickett was named top QB on the National team in a vote from defensive teammates.
Who should care? The rumor circulating the practices was that the Steelers had their eyes on Willis and that makes sense because although he’s not built like a latter day Ben Roethlisberger, he has a very good arm. Although he’s still a developmental player, Willis is hoping to vault to the top of the quarterback draft class that is considered, well, not stellar.
Other quarterback needy teams include New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Houston, and Washington.
Baylor’s Abram Smith was named top RB on the National team in a vote from LBs and DBs. Alabama’s Brian Robinson was similarly named top RB on the American team.
Who should care? The Miami Dolphins are desperate for running back help (assuming they’ve stopped tanking, of course). Last season the Dolphins signed two players– Phillip Lindsey and Duke Johnson — late and the season and both were almost immediately better than the players that had been on the squad since the start of training camp.
And again, Johnson and Lindsey were on the street for a reason.
Other RB needy teams include Buffalo and Atlanta (unless Cordarrelle Patterson is their permanent guy).
Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning was named top OL on the National team in a vote from DL and LB groups. LSU’s Ed Ingram was named top OL on the American team.
Who should care? Everyone. Everyone needs starting offensive linemen in today’s NFL. Everyone needs depth at the positions.
Dallas, Chicago, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, and the New York Giants as much as anyone.
Calvin Austin, a former walk-on at Memphis, was named top WR on the American team in a vote from DB group. North Dakota State’s Christian Watson was named top WR on the National team.
Cleveland, the New York Jets, New England, Miami and Jacksonville are among the teams that need wide receiver help.
San Diego State Daniel Bellinger was named top TE on the American team in a vote from DL, LB, and DB groups. Colorado State’s Trey McBride was named top TE on the National team.
A team without a good tight end is a team that’s going to struggle in the red zone.
Tennessee, the Giants, Jets, Texans, Jaguars, Chargers, Seattle, are among the team with a plausible need.
UConn’s Travis Jones was named top DT on the National team in a vote from OL group.
If you cannot stop the run, you cannot win in the NFL. Also, if you cannot create pass rush, you’re defense is incomplete.
The Eagles, Minnesota, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, Baltimore, Jets and Bills need to improve their pass rush either from the edge or up the middle.
Auburn’s Roger McCreary was named top CB on the American team in a vote from the WR group. Cincinnati’s Coby Bryant was named top CB on the National team.
Who should care? Corners are in high demand now because every team basically starts three and often needs four to play a lot of snaps.
Arizona, Atlanta, Houston, Cincinnati, New England and Buffalo could use help at the position, among other teams.
Texas A&M’s Leon O’Neal was named top DS on the American team in a vote from TE and WR groups. Baylor’s Jalen Pitre was named top DS on the National team.
Safeties need to be able to cover as well as tackle these days. Box safeties such as Seattle’s Jamal Adams are an increasingly rare breed. The Lions could use one to help Tracy Walker and the Falcons need urgent help at the position.
Oklahoma’s Brian Asamoah was named top LB on the National team in a vote from OL, TE, and RB groups. LSU’s Damone Clark was named top LB on the American team.
Aside from the idea they make great special teams contributors, today’s linebackers have to cover. Run stoppers are basically one-down players now.
About half the league could benefit from adding a linebacker.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero