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Fact or Fiction: Top positions at the Senior Bowl

The best group at the Senior Bowl is the offensive line.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - I honestly didn’t see as much high end talent on the offensive line at the Senior Bowl in 2019 as I saw in 2018 when Will Hernandez, Isaiah Wynn and even Austin Corbett could have been possible first round picks. Offensive tackles Andre Dillard and Dalton Risner and centers Elgton Jenkins and Garrett Bradbury weren’t nearly as dominant as last year’s group. I thought the defensive lines were actually the best group this year. Both teams’ defensive lines, in my opinion, were better than their offensive line counterparts this week. Montez Sweat was probably the most talented player in Mobile. L.J. Collier, Daylon Mack, Zach Allen and others all had their moments, too.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Pass rushers Montez Sweat, an All-American from Mississippi State, and Jaylon Ferguson, who broke the all-time NCAA sacks record at Louisiana Tech, might have something to say about this. But this offensive line group here in Mobile is talented and battle-tested. When calling NFL teams to help formulate the Senior Bowl rosters, executive director Jim Nagy said the league was the most “fired up” about the hog mollies on offense. “They’re all blue-collar, tough guys,” he said. “They’re the kind of guys who play in the NFL, have had a million snaps, have had a million starts at big schools.”

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - The deepest position group in this year’s draft class is arguably the defensive line/pass rushers, and the Senior Bowl group certainly showcases plenty of notable names who will be wreaking havoc during the 2019 NFL season. Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat tops the list thanks to the combination of his athleticism and upper body strength. He recorded at least 10.5 sacks in each of his last two seasons with the Bulldogs and is considered one of the best prospects in this year’s draft class, regardless of position. Oregon’s Jalen Jelks’ sack production isn’t as impressive as Sweat’s, but he’s an elite tackler that led all defensive linemen in the PAC-12 in that category last season and can play inside as well as on the edge. You can’t overlook some of the players from smaller programs, such as Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson, who led the nation with 17.5 sacks in 2018 and broke Terrell Suggs’ NCAA career sack record by collecting 45, and Oshane Ximines of Old Dominion, who has a knack for getting after the quarterback.

Two of the top three quarterbacks who will be drafted this year are at the Senior Bowl.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - After this week in Mobile, I think Dwayne Haskins is very secure as the top quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft. Who will the next two be? My guess is that Kyler Murray will become the apple of some general manager’s eye and sneak into the top three quarterbacks off the board. Neither Haskins nor Murray are at the Senior Bowl. Two of the QBs in Mobile, Drew Lock and Daniel Jones, will be in the mix for the other quarterback in that group.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - I think as we get through the combine and deeper into the draft process, Kyler Murray will continue to rise, just like Baker Mayfield did a year ago. I don’t know if he will surpass Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, but teams will see what Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, did for the Browns, and believe Murray, the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, can do the same.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - Two of the top three quarterbacks in this year’s draft class are Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray of Oklahoma State and neither are taking part in the Senior Bowl, so this is an easy fiction for me. I think the jury is still out for the remainder of the quarterback class, including all eight signal callers at the Senior Bowl. Of those eight, West Virginia’s Will Grier is an intriguing player to watch.

Saquon Barkley will be the Pro Bowl Offensive MVP.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction I’ll keep this one short and sweet: the Pro Bowl is a passing game. A receiver or quarterback will win MVP, not a running back.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - We’ve seen what the sensational rookie can do when defenses are trying their hardest against him. That’s not exactly the case in the Pro Bowl. Like the NBA All-Star game, defense is optional. Just think of what Barkley can do in that situation.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - A running back hasn’t won Offensive Pro Bowl MVP since 2007 when Adrian Peterson claimed the trophy. Interestingly, that was Peterson’s rookie campaign with the Vikings and it’s not a stretch to say that like Peterson in 2007, Saquon Barkley put together one of the most impressive rookie seasons for a running back in NFL history. Given those connections and the fact that Barkley is always a good bet for a highlight or two, I’d say he has a very good shot at winning the award and ending the lengthy drought for running backs

The next Giant to make his first Pro Bowl is guard Will Hernandez.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction SLAM! I am going to roll the dice here and go with Evan Engram. His play the final four games of the season was very encouraging, and he is improving as a blocker. Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula will maximize his abilities and even when Odell Beckham Jr. returns, the coaches will make sure the ball gets spread around so Engram gets plenty of opportunities. Aside from George Kittle and Zach Ertz, there aren’t a lot of dominant tight ends in the conference anymore, and Engram has a great chance to make the Pro Bowl.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Only two Giants offensive linemen played 100 percent of snaps this season. Rookie Will Hernandez was one, and left tackle Nate Solder was the other. The value of getting that many reps next to a two-time Super Bowl champion can’t be understated. Coach Pat Shurmur, a former center, has said that at some point this offseason, something will click with Hernandez and he will realize how much he didn’t know he didn’t know. That is all behind him now. People outside the organization have taken notice of him, too. He was named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - Will Hernandez just wrapped up his first season in the NFL and plays a rather deep position in the NFC, especially in the NFC East with the likes of the Cowboys’ Zack Martin and Brandon Scherff of the Redskins. I don’t think the tight end position is as deep in the NFC and that’s why I think Evan Engram has a good chance to be the next Giant to make his first Pro Bowl. When fully healthy, Engram has proven he can be a consistent playmaker as he showcased in the final four games of 2018 with at least 75 receiving yards in each contest. Outside of the Eagles’ Zach Ertz and George Kittle of the Niners, there are not many otherestablished tight ends in the conference, so it’s not a stretch to think Engram could make a name for himself moving forward.

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