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The Next Wave: Biggest takeaways from the 2021 Senior Bowl


We are now a few days removed from what could be considered the most hectic, yet relevant Senior Bowl in history.

The top seniors around the nation gathered together in the new Hancock Whitney Stadium on South Alabama's campus this past Saturday for a chance to give NFL scouts an opportunity to look at them. Many players made the most out of the opportunity, especially those from non-Power Five schools that performed exceptionally.

The National Team defeated the American Team in a tightly contested battle 27-24. Quarterback Kellen Mond was named the 2021 Senior Bowl MVP with his 173 passing-yard, two-touchdown performance in Mobile.

Here are a few of the biggest takeaways from the Reese's Senior Bowl that may affect how the Raiders draft in two months.

The Palmetto State wideouts showed out in Mobile

The most impressive wide receivers that caught my eye in the Senior Bowl were in-state rivals Amari Rodgers from Clemson and Shi Smith from South Carolina.

Both Smith and Rodgers were on the radar for big performances going into the Senior Bowl after impressing many throughout the week of practice. Neither of them disappointed.

Rodgers, the son of former NFL quarterback and Mobile, Ala., native Tee Martin, capped off his All-ACC season with 4 receptions, 23 yards and a touchdown. Rodgers' four receptions were the most of any receiver on the American Team. Smith finished the game with three catches and 57 yards, using his speed to breakout for a cool 32-yard catch in the second half.

If the Raiders are trying to find more weapons to put around Derek Carr, who is coming off a career high season in quarterback rating, either one of these guys would be huge gets to compliment Darren Waller and Henry Ruggs. The Raiders already have a proven track record of bringing up the Palmetto State for talented wide receivers, as they currently have third-down machine Hunter Renfrow from Clemson and rookie Bryan Edwards from South Carolina.

Sleeper QB on the rise?

While quarterback Kellen Mond from Texas A&M took home Senior Bowl MVP honors, I was even more impressed with the man who came in under center after him.

Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman stepped in and was able to make some impressive throws and show poise in the pocket on the Gulf Coast. Despite being sacked five times and throwing an interception, Newman finished the game with 114 yards and a touchdown and completed 71 percent of his passes, the highest completion rate of all quarterbacks in the game.

Newman had a productive career at Wake Forest after battling several quarterbacks for the starting job in Winston-Salem. His redshirt senior season, he threw for 2,868 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He rushed for 574 yards and six touchdowns. Newman decided to transfer to Georgia for the the 2020 season but wasn't able to have a breakout season as a Bulldog as he decided to sit out for the season due to the pandemic.

Newman is considered the enigma of quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft due to concerns of accuracy, mechanics and starting experience in college. The Senior Bowl may have played a role in possibly alleviating those concerns for teams. With his 6'4, 230-pound frame and mobility to make plays, the former Demon Deacon could be a mid-late round steal for someone looking for a quarterback to develop.

Deep pool of edge rushers

It's no question that one of the Raiders biggest priority this offseason is bolstering the defensive line to find guys to get after the quarterback. The Silver and Black fortunately have a lot of talent to evaluate from what they saw in Mobile.

The most impressive performance came from American Conference standout Cam Sample from Tulane University. Sample won Defensive MVP honors for his seven tackles and half a sack. This performance from Sample definitely has put him on the map, after already having six sacks and 52 tackles this season with the Green Wave.

"We don't play the Alabamas or Ohio States every week, but we're always hungry," said Sample after the game.

A plethora of Power Five conference defensive ends, with more notoriety than Sample coming into the Senior Bowl, also played well to help continue rise their high-round draft status.

Patrick Jones II from Pittsburgh and Janarius Robinson from Florida State, both finished the game with 1.5 sacks and dominated the line of scrimmage for a large majority of the game. Jones finished his senior season with 44 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, nine sacks and a fumble recovery. Jones was also named a first-team All-American and first-team All-ACC. Robinson racked up 26 tackles, including seven for loss with three sacks his senior season.

Jonathon Cooper from Ohio State was productive in the Senior Bowl as well, finishing with four quarterback hurries and a pair of sacks. Cooper also made a few comments during Senior Bowl week on his desire to play in the Silver and Black.

"I would love to be a part of the Raiders, honestly," said Cooper after practice last Thursday. "I think it's a great program. It's a great place. I think they're going in the right direction, great coaching over there. I would love it."

All four of these men showcased their ability to use their speed and explosiveness to win off the line of scrimmage and get to the quarterback, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Raiders decide they want to take a shot on one of these edge rushers in the first four rounds of the draft.

As the 2022 Senior Bowl approaches, take a look back at current Raiders who participated in past Senior Bowls. Not pictured: guard John Simpson (2020), quarterback Nathan Peterman (2017) and defensive end Carl Nassib (2016).

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