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Cover 4: What to look for at college all-star games


The crew discusses what to look for at the college all-star games this week:

John Schmeelk: The Senior Bowl roster this year might feature the best set of talent I have seen since I started covering the game in Mobile in 2018. The best part of watching three days of practice are the 1-on-1 drills between the offensive and defensive lines and the wide receivers and cornerbacks. There are elite players at all those positions this year.

At offensive tackle, Taliese Fuaga, Tyler Guyton, Kingsley Suamataia, Jordan Morgan, and Troy Fautanu (who could move to guard) are all potential first-round picks. They will have to block stalwart defensive linemen and edge rushers Laiatu Latu, Chris Braswell, Byron Murphy II, and T'Vondre Sweat – all Day 1 and Day 2 picks. Latu will compete with the offensive tackles as the highest player taken from these rosters.

Dynamic wide receivers like Xavier Legette, Devontez Walker, Ladd McConkey, Malachi Corley, and Roman Wilson going against cornerbacks Quinyon Mitchell, Kalen King, Johnny Dixon, Ennis Rakestraw and Rutgers product Max Melton will also be a focus. Who can separate and who can cover with press man coverage is the focus of the week. It should be a fun and educational week as the evaluation process continues in the final two times (Shrine and Senior Bowls) that these players will play real football before they are drafted in April.

Dan Salomone: Matt Citak brought the below stat from the AP's Josh Dubow to my attention this morning, and it's pretty astounding.

It's not a reflection on the most dominant program in college football history, but it is a good reminder that players can come from any round and any school. That's what makes these all-star games so valuable. Players from smaller programs – or even ones from powerhouses who don't have the individual hardware – get exposure to hundreds of NFL scouts and personnel executives through practices and, just as importantly, interviews.

View photos of every NFL player selected with the sixth overall pick since the first draft in 1936.

Lance Medow: How players fare in practices leading up to the all-star games are usually more telling than the performances in the contests themselves, so feedback from the 1-on-1 drills likely provides the most substance, especially the wide receivers and corners. The former need to prove they can separate, and the latter hold up in man-to-man coverage. Case in point, at last year's Senior Bowl, Michigan State wide receiver Jayden Reed had an impressive showing and ultimately was selected by the Packers in the second round while Illinois safety Sydney Brown also stood out because of his instincts and coverage skills and landed with the Eagles in the third round. Several players will be able to help their causes and draft stocks by showcasing their abilities against similar caliber talent in a very focused setting.

While the quarterbacks usually steal the show, if you look at the teams that advanced to the conference championship games, they all have game-changing playmakers. The Ravens showcase wide receiver Zay Flowers and tight end Mark Andrews, the Chiefs turn to running back Isiah Pacheco and tight end Travis Kelce, the Niners can lean on running back Christian McCaffrey and wideout Deebo Samuel, and the Lions have a plethora of weapons highlighted by running back Jahmyr Gibbs, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, and tight end Sam LaPorta. There's no better place to scout for the next potential athlete than at some of these all-star games and a player or two that can also be used to slow them down.

Matt Citak: Joe Schoen has made it clear that the Giants will be adding to their quarterback room this offseason, either through free agency or the draft. If they decide to go the draft route, there will be some interesting options to choose from. The top three quarterbacks – Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels – could easily be the first three picks, which would leave the Giants with the next tier of quarterbacks to choose from, whether it's in the first round or later in the draft. Luckily for the Giants and the rest of the league selecting beyond the first three picks, almost all of the other highly-ranked quarterback prospects will be participating in either the Shrine Bowl or Senior Bowl.

The Shrine Bowl will feature several quarterbacks who should hear their names called in April's draft. Florida State's Jordan Travis, the 2023 ACC Player of the Year, will be in Frisco, Texas, while Maryland's Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua's younger brother, will also be there.

Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, who will serve as the head coach of the West Team, will get a front row seat and should be able to gather plenty of intel for the front office on the entire roster, not just quarterbacks.

But it's the quarterbacks participating in this year's Senior Bowl that I am most interested to see. This group consists of Washington's Michael Penix Jr., Oregon's Bo Nix, Notre Dame's Sam Hartman, Tennessee's Joe Milton III, Tulane's Michael Pratt, and South Carolina's Spencer Rattler, who are some of the top quarterbacks in this year's draft. According to ESPN's Mel Kiper, Penix is the No. 4 QB, while Nix (No. 6), Rattler (No. 7), Pratt (No. 8) and Milton (No. 9) all find themselves in the top 10 (the only top QB not participating in either all-star game, outside of the top three, is Michigan's J.J. McCarthy, Kiper's No. 5-ranked QB).

Giants quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney will serve as offensive coordinator for the National Team, which features Penix, Nix and Hartman. These all-star games represent the beginning of the pre-draft process (outside of the college season itself), and are the first real chance for prospects to leave their mark on NFL GMs and coaches. I for one am excited to see how all of the quarterbacks perform, especially during the practices throughout the week.

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah released his updated ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft.


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