MOBILE, Ala. — With the college football season behind us and the deadline for players to declare early passed, it’s officially draft season for 30 NFL teams.
The first marquee event leading up to April’s draft is the Senior Bowl. Senior prospects who were selected from across the nation will have a chance to make an early impression on NFL teams.
While evaluators will certainly be familiar with the prospects’ game tape, this is their first opportunity to get up close and personal with their potential draft choices. Teams will be able to watch the players go through drills, see how they assimilate and interact with their new teammates and most importantly, get the prospects behind closed doors to better understand who they are as people.
Senior Bowl week is far from an end all be all, but it is a key piece of the evaluation puzzle. In recent years, we’ve seen players like Baker Mayfield, Daniel Jones and Terry Mclaurin send their stock skyrocketing with their performances on and off the field.
Practices begin in Mobile, Alabama, Tuesday before the week concludes with the game Saturday.
The Colts hold nine picks in the 2020 draft, including three within the top 44 (13, 34, 44). Indianapolis has priority needs at quarterback, defensive line and wide receiver, although many of this year’s top-flight pass catchers are underclassmen.
Below are the top five prospects the Colts should key in on this week:
Justin Herbert — Quarterback — Oregon
2019 stats: 14 games, 3,471 passing yards, 32 passing TDs, 6 INTs, 66.8% completion percentage
No quarterback in the 2020 draft has a more impressive combination of size, arm strength and athleticism than Herbert. The 21-year-old’s physical traits compare to those of Josh Allen, who was drafted seventh overall in 2018 by the Buffalo Bills. At times, Herbert looks like a can’t-miss, franchise quarterback. But his inconsistency as a passer leaves him widely-regarded as the third quarterback in the 2020 class, behind LSU’s Joe Burrow and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
Although his teammates speak highly of him, Herbert has a reputation has an introvert, and NFL teams will want to get to know him better to determine if his leadership style will transition to an NFL locker room. Herbert comes with loads of upside but also a bevy of questions marks and is one of the most polarizing players in the upcoming draft.
Javon Kinlaw — Defensive Tackle — South Carolina
2019 stats: 12 games, 35 total tackles, 6 sacks
A first-team AP All-American in 2019, Kinlaw gave linemen fits with his size (6’5″, 315 lbs), quickness and power. The 22-year-old has a non-stop motor that keeps him fighting until the play is blown dead. Kinlaw registered 10 sacks over the past two seasons and is one of the top interior defenders in this year’s class.
After defensive tackles Denico Autry and Margus Hunt combined for 14 sacks in 2018, the Colts’ defensive interior as a whole posted just 6.5 sacks last season. Indianapolis will want to take a long, hard look at Kinlaw, who has the potential to be a dominant force in the middle of their defense for years to come.
Jordan Love — Quarterback — Utah State
2019 stats: 13 games, 3,402 passing yards, 20 passing TDs, 17 INTs, 61.9% completion percentage
Love caught the nation’s eye in 2018 with 39 total touchdowns — 32 passing & 7 rushing — and just 6 interceptions. But when Utah State lost several key offensive players in 2019, Love came crashing back to earth. Still, with a cannon arm, 6’4″, 223-pound frame and more than enough mobility, Love has the kind of traits that could make him a first round selection.
An impressive week in Mobile could allow Love to surpass Herbert in the eyes of teams as the draft’s number three quarterback. He’ll need to convince evaporators that they’ll be getting the 2018 version of Love, and that his 2019 season was an aberration.
Terrell Lewis — Edge — Alabama
2019 stats: 10 games, 31 total tackles, 6 sacks
Whatever team drafts Lewis will be banking on his best football being ahead of him. After seeing limited snaps as a freshman in 2016, injuries restricted Lewis to just three games over the next two years. Finally healthy, he returned in 2019 to be a disruptive player for the Crimson Tide and was named Second Team All-SEC.
The 21-year-old has the size NFL teams covet in an edge defender with a 6’5″, 258-pound frame and 34″ arms. Lewis is an explosive athlete with a muscular build, good flexibility and a violent style of play. His technique as a pass-rusher could stand to be refined, which isn’t surprising given his lack of playing experience. Lewis will likely shoot up draft boards after teams get their their hands on him at the Senior Bowl.
Neville Gallimore — Defensive Tackle — Oklahoma
2019 stats: 14 games, 30 total tackles, 4 sacks
Gallimore fits what the Colts are looking for at defensive tackle. He is a gap penetrator who is at his best when using his quickness and hands to burst into opposing backfields. He is an explosive, twitchy athlete who played with good leverage and improved effort in 2019.
Where Gallimore can stand to improve is against the run. He is much more effective attacking rather than trying to anchor and stand his ground. The Canada native is a top-50 player in the upcoming draft and could create first-round buzz with an impressive showing this week.
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