Often the stars of the Senior Bowl, the receivers will make their rounds on social media for the plays they make in 1-on-1 drills. If you thought past years carried a lot of anticipation, are you in for a real treat in 2024? This receiver group in Mobile is loaded.
Xavier Legette is sure to be one of the headliners. Drawing comparisons to D.K. Metcalf, the South Carolina star is a physical specimen who burst onto the scene in his fifth year. He has incredible acceleration for a player his size. He should dominate in drills all week and has first-round potential. Tez Walker is a name that many football fans know at this stage, in large part for the drama that kept him off the field this year. The NCAA finally approved his waiver in time for him to play in the final eight games of the regular season for UNC. He is an athletic big-play threat who should turn a lot of heads with his performance in Mobile. Throw Ladd McConkey into the group that could potentially go in the first round. The Georgia standout was hampered by injuries this season, but has been really impressive when fully healthy. He is a great route runner with good hands. Teams will love his inside-outside versatility.
There are a ton of guys in this group who figured to hear their name called on Day 2 of the draft as well. Ricky Pearsall is a dynamic playmaker from the slot who has a knack for making tough catches. Malachi Corley is a fan favorite. The former running back has a similar playstyle to Deebo Samuel with his impressive ability after the catch. Roman Wilson was a touchdown machine for the national champion Wolverines this year with 12 scores. He played in a run-heavy offense but should get a chance to shine this week. Jamari Thrash is someone I am really excited to watch this week. He is a savvy possession receiver who knows how to beat zone coverage. Putting him in 1-on-1s will be really interesting to see if he can win in more ways against man coverage. Plus, drops were an issue for him this year.
Jacob Cowing and Brendan Rice are both on that Day 2/Day 3 fringes entering the week. Cowing was Noah Fifta's favorite target this season, with 90 receptions and 13 touchdowns. It will be fun to see him work a bit more downfield after having an average yards per reception under 10. That figure ranked 400th in the nation among qualified receivers. Rice is the son of the greatest receiver of all time. It is unlikely he follows in Jerry's footsteps in that regard, but he has a high football IQ and great size at 6'3", 210 lbs.
Johnny Wilson is one of the most unique players in this draft class. He is built like a tight end but plays like a receiver. He will be a matchup nightmare at the next level, especially if he can improve his hands. Drops are the biggest flaw in his scouting report. On the flip side, you have Texas A&M dynamo Aniais Smith, who at 5'10, is one of the smaller receivers in Mobile. He is an all-purpose contributor with great run-after-catch ability and provides additional value on special teams. It is hard to believe these two players play the same position.
Teams looking for a home run hitter will be focusing heavily on Javon Baker out of UCF. He had the second-highest yards per reception average in college football this past season. He has the ability to take the top off a defense but is far from a one-trick pony. The Alabama transfer will have a chance to show he can perform in a more pro-style setting after running a limited route tree for the Knights. Meanwhile, the Senior Bowl is always fun to see players from big programs that struggled to earn opportunities because of the talent in front of them get a chance to prove themselves. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint both fall into that category. Rosemy-Jacksaint had a similar situation featuring in an offense led by Brock Bowers, McConkey and Dominic Lovett. He had a few more opportunities to showcase his talents with Bowers and McConkey struggling with injuries. This is a big week for him.
Some smaller school stars include Tulane's Jha'Quan Jackson, Rice's Luke McCaffrey (yes, that one) and Southeast Missouri State's Ryan Flournoy. Jackson got off to a hot start with 230 yards and four touchdowns in his first three games. He finished the season with just 439 yards and did not score again the rest of the year. He is a burner, but he will need to show he can impact the game more consistently. McCaffrey is the former Nebraska quarterback and brother of 49ers star Christian McCaffrey. He transferred to Rice in 2021 and switched to receiver in 2022. He racked up over 1,700 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns since he made the change. He could be a big riser coming out of this week. Flournoy is a JuCo transfer who posted back-to-back strong seasons at the FCS level. This is a big jump, but he has already shown he can compete against bigger competition with 96 yards against Kansas State to open the season.
This tight end class won't dazzle quite the same way as last year's group, but the 2023 draft was maybe the best tight end class we have ever seen. This year's crop is considerably weaker, with no guarantee that any of the players suiting up this week go before Day 3.
Michigan's A.J. Barner is an interesting prospect. He is a great blocker with decent receiving ability. He did not have much production with the Wolverines, posting 64 receptions for 610 yards over the course of three seasons. He has some untapped potential, but at minimum should get himself on the field early on as a blocker. Theo Johnson falls into a similar category. He has a bit more production than Barner, 73 catches for 885 yards and 12 touchdowns in three seasons, but he is primarily an athletic blocker who has the potential to grow at the next level. Brevyn Spann-Ford of Minnesota also fits the trend (must be a Big Ten thing). His totals of 90 catches for 1,032 yards and 7 touchdowns in three seasons slightly outpace his fellow midwestern compatriots. He is not quite as polished a blocker as the other two, but similarly, his receiving role has been limited. It will be interesting to see them all playing outside the Big Ten.
Let's talk about some guys who do have a bit more receiving production. Ben Sinnott posted over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons. On the flip side, he is not a reliable blocker. He fits much more of the modern mold for the position as a player teams would ideally flex out or put in motion pre-snap. Similarly, Jared Wiley had a bit of a breakout campaign with 520 yards and eight touchdowns this year. He is a big target at 6'7", but also struggles as a blocker. Arizona's Tanner McLachlan also fits into the category. He accounted for just shy of 1,000 yards receiving over the past two years. He is a better run blocker than Sinnott or Wiley, but he is definitely a receiving tight end. These three won't be a scheme fit for every team, but they will have plenty of suitors.
Jaheim Bell belongs in a category of his own. Florida State deployed him more as a traditional tight end this season, but in 2022 he played more of an H-back role. He racked up 73 carries for 261 yards and three touchdowns. That versatility will be exciting for teams like San Francisco and Green Bay who love to create matchup problems and utilize players who can move around the formation.