The 2022 Reese's Senior Bowl has concluded, giving the Las Vegas Raiders more opportunity to evaluate players going into the NFL Draft in April.
This draft will be the first conducted under the helm of General Manager Dave Ziegler and Head Coach Josh McDaniels with the Silver and Black. The two, fresh within their roles, had one of their first real opportunities with this historic collegiate showcase to pencil down some prospects who could help the Raiders build upon their success from their 10-7 season and wild-card playoff appearance.
In Saturday's Senior Bowl, the National Team outlasted the American Team 20-10 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. Oklahoma defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey of the National Team was named the game's MVP with five tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks.
Here are a takeaways from the game and some names to watch heading into the draft.
Top cornerback in the nation shows flashes
A young man the Raiders could consider drafting is Coby Bryant.
Bryant had a wonderful season for the Cincinnati Bearcats, winning the Jim Thorpe award for best defensive back in the nation while being on the first non-Power 5 team to make the CFB playoffs. The cornerback who shares a name with the late NBA legend had 11 pass deflections and three interceptions in his senior season as a Bearcat and was one of the biggest names to be asked to play in the Senior Bowl.
Before the start of the game, Bryant was selected as the top cornerback on the National Team in a vote from the wide receiver group at practice player-of-the-week awards. While his three tackle game wasn't the most impressive stat line ever, he showed his ability to play some sticky coverage on a few top wide receivers in the nation during the game.
Currently, Bryant is projected to go between round 2 and 3 in the draft, and could be a very viable option for the Silver and Black to take on Day 2. After all, the last Jim Thorpe award winner the Raiders selected happened to be PFF All-Rookie safety Tre’von Moehrig.
Signed, sealed and delivered for Kenny Pickett
Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett may have had the most impressive showing for any quarterback in the Senior Bowl, but he had the least amount to prove of any passer in attendance.
The Heisman runner-up and ACC Champion came into the Senior Bowl as the highest-rated quarterback – and left the Senior Bowl under the same circumstances with 89 passing yards and a touchdown, while completing all six of his passing attempts. This last victory puts the icing on the cake for Pickett's collegiate career with over 100 total touchdowns to his name in his five seasons as a Pittsburgh Panther.
I would be very surprised if another quarterback is taken off the board before Pickett this April.
Willis, Howell look throughly impressive
While Pickett was the quarterback with the least to prove, Liberty's Malik Willis and UNC's Sam Howell quite possibly had the most – and they both showed out.
Willis and Howell were both top-ranked quarterbacks going into the 2021 season, as two players that were considered top-15 draft picks back in August. While the two didn't have disappointing seasons by any stretch, they somewhat fell to the lofty expectations that were set for them going into their senior campaigns. Willis finished his season with a 27:12 touchdown to interception ration, tacking on 13 more scores on the ground. Howell was the only quarterback this season who had over 3,000 passing yards and 800 rushing yards – but finished with a 6-7 record and a loss to South Carolina in the Duke's Mayo Bowl.
The two quarterbacks put that all behind them this week in order to rise their draft stocks back up and prove their abilities. They showed great mobility in and out of the pocket Saturday, as Willis was the leading rusher for the American roster with 54 rushing yards on five carries. Howell finished with 67 passing yards and 29 rushing yards while completing 67 percent of his passes, even running in a touchdown of his own.
With a successful combine and Pro Day, Willis and Howell could see their names called early on Day 2 or be fringe first-round selections.
FCS superstar in the horizon
The second coming of Kolton Miller at right tackle could be Trevor Penning.
Penning – out of the University of Northern Iowa – checks all the boxes: 6-foot-7, 321-pounds, strength and good footwork. The FCS product dominated the Missouri Valley Conference and got a taste of elite Power-5 talent this week in Mobile. He was the only offensive lineman named as a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, presented to the National Offensive Player of the Year in FCS football.
He was a pleasant surprise for many scouts and draft experts during Senior Bowl practices and in the game Saturday.
PFF ranked Penning as the fifth-best offensive tackle coming into this year's draft and has a strong chance to be a first-round pick. I honestly wouldn't be disappointed if the Raiders are looking at him with their No. 22 pick.