The Senior Bowl is my favorite pre-draft event. While the combine gets more hype, I think there is more to learn about football players from five days of televised practices and a game than there is from the “Underwear Olympics”. This year’s Senior Bowl — the first under new director Jim Nagy — featured somewhere between 8 to 10 of the top 50 players available in the 2019 draft depending on whose big board you prefer. Most of the players that participated will likely be drafted before the end of the weekend in Nashville.
The Titans have taken at least one Senior Bowl participant every season since Jon Robinson took over as GM. In 2016, it was defensive tackle Austin Johnson, safety Kevin Byard, wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, and guard Sebastian Tretola. In 2017, they added tight end Jonnu Smith and receiver Taywan Taylor. Last season, they grabbed quarterback Luke Falk. History would suggest that at least one future Titan played in Mobile on Saturday.
Here are five guys that I see as excellent fits for the Titans who helped their draft stock this week.
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Deebo’s domination in Mobile started at the weigh-in. Checking in at a shade over 5’-11” and 216 pounds with giant 10 1/8” hands, Samuel is thickly built without sacrificing explosiveness.
The explosive movement skills were on display throughout the week in one-on-one and team drills.
There is a lot to like about Deebo’s game overall. He’s an advanced route runner who regularly wins with a variety of releases against press coverage and can make you pay after the catch with both speed and physicality. Samuel shows the ability to attack the ball in the air and make contested catches on tape, one of the traits that I think translates best to the NFL level. Additionally, he served as a punt and kick returner at South Carolina and could potentially take that load off Adoree’ Jackson’s shoulders in Tennessee.
The drawbacks with him are his height/arm length are both below average which makes his catch radius smaller than most elite wide receivers. He’s also struggled with injuries at times during his college career. A hamstring issue cost him multiple games during his freshman year and a broken leg — combined with a subsequent foot sprain during the rehab process — ended his junior year after just 3 games.
Deebo Samuel’s game reminds me a lot of Jarvis Landry’s, except with more top end speed. Currently projected to be drafted somewhere between the end of the first round and the end of the second round, he should be on the board for at least one of the Titans first two picks and I think he’s a guy they should seriously consider.
Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State
Bradbury is a guy that is starting to make some waves as possibly the top interior offensive lineman in the draft and his performance during Senior Bowl week did nothing to slow that down (he’s playing center with the red helmet in the clip below).
As the game progressed, the starting North OL really got the run game going. L to R: Scharping, Deiter, Bradbury, Lindstrom, Risner. pic.twitter.com/HeuFDJDwt8— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) January 28, 2019
Bradbury is a former tight end who moved to center after adding weight early in his college career, but he still moves like a tight end. That mobility makes him an absolutely perfect fit for a zone blocking team like the Titans. Bradbury spent his college career operating an offense that’s heavy on outside zone so he’d likely fit in pretty seamlessly in Tennessee early on.
The one question in his game is a lack of anchor at times. He’s far more of a technician than a road grader and he can struggle with powerful bull rushers on the interior.
The comp that best fits him, in my opinion, is Jason Kelce. The hyper athletic Eagles center also converted from a skill position to offensive line during college and has used his quickness to make him a back-to-back First-Team All-Pro selection in 2017 and 2018. Bradbury’s draft stock is similar to Deebo’s, currently ranging from the end of the first round to late in the second. I would expect him to post some great movement numbers at the combine which could push his stock higher. It’s hard to imagine a better scheme fit for the Titans on the offensive line.
Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
Sweat was generally considered the highest rated player at the Senior Bowl on most draft boards coming in and he lived up to the hype throughout the week, showing off his length, power, and athleticism.
The first thing you notice with Sweat is his length. At 6’-6” and 252 pounds with 35 5/8” arms, he’s able to use those dimensions to keep offensive linemen away from his body while he works a multitude of pass rush moves.
After transferring from Michigan State, Sweat saw his career take off after arriving in Starkville, putting up 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 2017 and then 12.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 2018. That kind of production, combined with the size and movement skills at a premium position make it hard for me to see Sweat sticking on the board until 19, but I was also sure that Harold Landry was going to be a top 15 pick at this time last year so you never know.
From a fit perspective, I love the idea of Sweat in a Titans uniform. Tennessee’s current crop of pass rushers — basically just Jurrell Casey and Harold Landry — are shorter players who win with speed/quickness. Getting a guy with some length and power added to the mix that can give offenses a different element to account for makes a ton of sense to me.
It’s not a perfect comparison, but Sweat reminds me a little bit of Danielle Hunter of the Vikings with his blend of length, power, and athleticism. If he makes it to 19, I would expect him to be in the mix for the Titans.
Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College
The three guys above are all players that I expected to like coming into the week and only further cemented their status as draft crushes of mine with their work in Mobile. Lindstrom was probably the guy that changed my outlook the most.
RG Chris Lindstrom was the best OL today. This unit was great but Lindstrom was the best.— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) January 27, 2019
*Hook on the zone run
*Combo, Upkick thru to BS LB
*Widens hole then climbs
*Skip pull and delivers a shot (Ledbetter didn’t want any)
*Perfect combo w Bradbury
Every concept #Bills pic.twitter.com/gAAutSDDbp
He’s widely considered one of the top interior offensive linemen in the draft, but he did some really impressive work at the Senior Bowl. He’s nowhere near Bradbury’s level athletically, but he moves well enough. The strength of his game is technique. He’s great with his hands and understands how to create leverage despite less-than-elite power.
Lindstrom has the look of a day one starter at guard in the NFL, something the Titans could be looking for in April. It’s also worth noting that Mike Vrabel’s son was a freshman offensive lineman at Boston College this year and the Titans just hired BC’s strength and conditioning coach for the same position so Tennessee might have more insight into Lindstrom’s game and personality than most.
Khalen Saunders, DL, Western Illinois
Saunders made headlines for a few reasons throughout the week. First, he chose to miss the birth of his first child to participate in the Senior Bowl festivities. Whether or not you agree with his choice, it certainly shows a level of commitment to football that could bode well for his professional prospects. Then he pulled off a back flip after practice at 6’-1”, 320 pounds.
That’s a 310-pound lineman— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) January 22, 2019
Khalen Saunders out of Western Illinois pic.twitter.com/xKhGsUdmXv
While that is certainly impressive, back flips from defensive linemen don’t win many football games. However, pass rush moves like the one he put on this left guard certainly do.
Khalen Saunders with the club/swim for the sack pic.twitter.com/KiwYPdhJlt— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) January 26, 2019
Saunders moves exceptionally well for his size (obviously) and packs a lot of power into his compact frame. He’s really got a little bit of Jurrell Casey to his game. Some already view him as a top 50 prospect, so he may not fall much further than the Titans 2nd round pick.