For the second time in three years, quarterback will be the marquee position to watch at the Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Wyoming's Josh Allen and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, both projected first-round draft picks, get their first postseason chance to impress pro scouts as the runup to the NFL Draft begins.
A total of 112 senior prospects will be scrutinized in practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The annual all-star game is at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Two years ago, North Dakota State's Carson Wentz and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott enjoyed great weeks at the Senior Bowl. Wentz was picked No. 2 overall by Philadelphia. Prescott boosted his stock and was picked in the fourth round by Dallas. Both are NFL stars.
Allen is vying to be one of the top three QBs in the draft, with underclassmen Josh Rosen of UCLA and Sam Darnold of Southern California. Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner, had the best production of any QB in the nation in 2017 and projects as a first-rounder. But how high? Top 10? Top 20? He must answer questions about his lack of height and his maturity.
"I think all eyes are going to be on Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield," said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper on a conference call this week.
"Baker will be watched very closely to see how he handles himself all over the place," Kiper said. "You want him to be the CEO of your football team. For Josh Allen, it's to go down there and do what Carson Wentz did. ... Just stick out as a big-time quarterback. Rosen's not going to be there. Darnold's not going to be there. It's a great opportunity for Josh Allen to show that just doing the eye test, he looks like the No. 1 player overall."
Here's a look at five players to watch Senior Bowl week:
1. Josh Allen, Wyoming. The 6-foot-5, 233-pounder draws comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger because of his size and cannon arm. Allen can move in the pocket, too. From a physical standpoint, he is everything the NFL wants. His performance, however, didn't come close to matching Roethlisberger's college results. Allen completed only 56.2 percent of his passes in his career. He hit 56.0 percent as a junior, when he had good talent around him. He hit 56.3 percent as a senior, when his supporting cast was poor. Scouts will be watching his ball placement.
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma. Just how short is Mayfield? He's listed at 6-1. Fair or not, it's a big issue because most short QBs fail in the NFL. Mayfield can help his draft stock by performing as well as 5-11 Russell Wilson did in 2012. Mayfield is not quite as phenomenal an athlete as Wilson. But like the Seattle Seahawks star, he's great at operating outside the structure of the play design. Mayfield is fiery. He has raised eyebrows with some off-field incidents but it's unfair to lump him with failed first-rounder Johnny Manziel. Mayfield works harder than Manziel.
3. Marcus Davenport. Texas-San Antonio. He's probably the No. 2 pass rusher in the draft, behind North Carolina State's Bradley Chubb. How well does he step up in competition, after dominating in Conference USA? Davenport has the phenomenal length and wingspan, at 6-6 and 255 pounds, to be an NFL star. He had 8.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss as a senior. A good week can help solidify his spot as a top-15 draft pick.
4. Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State. He's a fascinating small-school prospect with the size (6-5, 255) to be a three-down tight end. He had only one offer, from a Division II school, out of high school and walked on at FCS South Dakota State. He has great hands. He starts the postseason as a second-round prospect but could push into the first round if he shows he can excel against big-school talent.
5. Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan. Should NFL teams lean toward finished O-line products or raw prospects who could become all-world players? It's an annual question. Okorafor, 6-5 and 330, has first-round gifts but not first-round play. He came to America in 2010 from Botswana, so the game doesn't come naturally to him. He's raw. He's light on his feet but should dominate more. A possible late first-rounder who is a tough evaluation for NFL scouts.