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Is Baker Mayfield a first-round pick? Plus 7 more things to watch at the Senior Bowl 2018

A week of practices where the spotlight is on Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and others.

Rose Bowl Game - Oklahoma v Georgia Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala. are this week, and in the past they’ve had serious implications on where players get picked in the NFL draft.

Last year’s Senior Bowl featured four eventual first-rounders in Evan Engram, O.J. Howard, Hasson Reddick and Tre’Davious White. Kareem Hunt, Zay Jones, Taylor Moton and others were also on the North and South rosters.

This year’s rosters, which will be coached by the Denver Broncos and the Houston Texans, feature plenty of storylines to follow.

The evaluation of Baker Mayfield continues

No player has boosted his NFL draft stock more this season than Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. Before the year started, he was regarded as a mid-round prospect. Now he’s widely regarded as a first-round pick, and a good showing at the Senior Bowl could lock him into the first round of 32.

The most important part of the week for Mayfield may not even be what happens on the field. Instead, Mayfield’s interview sessions with teams will carry the most weight as they try to figure out if his brashness is a positive or negative. The weigh-in portion of the Senior Bowl will be important as well. Mayfield is listed by Oklahoma as being 6’1 and 220 pounds. It will be important for his draft stock that his listed height is close to being accurate.

Baker Mayfield’s path to the Heisman Trophy was one of a kind

Josh Allen’s time to shine

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen had a rocky season, completing less than 60 percent of his throws. He suffered through some injuries and plainly was just inconsistent as a passer. But at 6’5 and 240 pounds with a big arm, Allen is the type of player who should stand out in this setting. Could it paint a deceptive picture of Allen as a prospect? Potentially. But if Allen doesn’t look like the best player on the field, there will be even more questions about him.

Both Allen and Mayfield will be coached by the Denver Broncos, who could use the fifth-overall pick in the draft on one of them.

Introducing Marcus Davenport

If you don’t know much about Texas-San Antonio pass rusher Marcus Davenport, you will after this week. If you were building a pass rusher, it would look like the 6’7, 255-pound Davenport. The Roadrunners’ edge-rusher is landing high in the first round of mock drafts after registering a season of 55 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks.

Pass rushers with the length and speed of Davenport don’t last long on draft night. In Mobile, teams will be closely watching his footwork and quickness off the snap. If he proves to be good in those areas, the mock drafts could become reality.

Power on the interior

This should be a good week for guards. There aren’t many people clamoring to watch UTEP football, but the Miners have a potential top 100 pick in guard Will Hernandez. He started 49 games at left guard at UTEP and excels as both a run and pass blocker. The two-time All-American is the type of player who will get drafted on the second or third day in April and start straight away.

Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn was a starter for three years with the Bulldogs. The first two were at left guard before he moved out to left tackle last season. He’s listed as a guard by the Senior Bowl, and it’s his more natural position. Wynn is a powerful blocker who was the key to Georgia’s excellent run game. Then there’s Taylor Hearn of Clemson. He’s one of six graduated juniors who is participating. Hearn is a mammoth blocker at 330 pounds, but he can get out on the move and pick off defenders in space.

Players who need good weeks

Alabama and Ohio State have the most players at the Senior Bowl with four each. Several of the players from those need to stand out. That starts with Alabama defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand. He was about as blue-chip of a blue-chip as there could’ve been coming out of high school in 2014. But on Alabama, Hand worked in a rotation on the line and was often overshadowed by players like Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen. Hand often lined up at end, but at the Senior Bowl he could get some looks on the inside.

Ohio State ends Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis were also used in a rotation and need good weeks. Both are big ends who at times had middling production in Columbus. Holmes in particular got caught behind players like Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa and had only four sacks in his career.

Small school players to the forefront

More so than any other type of player, the all-star game circuit helps players from smaller schools. The two most interesting at this year’s Senior Bowl is South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert and Dubuque cornerback Michael Joseph.

Goedert has emerged as a potential first-round pick because of his athleticism and skill as a pass catcher. Goedert’s playing style leads to comparisons to Travis Kelce. The only Division III player at this year’s Senior Bowl is Joseph. The Small College Defensive Player of the Year, Joseph didn’t even play football his first year at Dubuque while he worked to add weight to his frame. Joseph has never faced players of this level, but if he can hang he can land a draft spot.

The Senior Bowl could have been the coming out party for West Georgia offensive tackle Desmond Harrison. The former Texas recruit stands out in games with an impressive combination of athleticism and aggression. Unfortunately he’s sitting out practices due to injury.

Shaquem Griffin has something to prove

There was arguably no better story in college football last season than undefeated Central Florida. More specifically, there was no better story than the Knights’ Shaquem Griffin. The pass rusher was a second-team All-American last season and had 33.5 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks in his career. He did that with just one hand. Now part of the unforgiving draft process, Griffin will have to prove himself all over again.

A loaded group of wide receivers

Wide receiver is almost always one of the stacked positions at the Senior Bowl, and this year is no different. Michael Gallup of Colorado State, Allen Lazard of Iowa State, DaeSean Hamilton of Penn State and Cedrick Wilson of Boise State highlight the North team’s receivers.

Lazard is an imposing player at 6’5 and 222 pounds. He doesn’t have a lot of speed, but he’s physical and should do well in one-on-one settings during practice. Wilson is a speed player who will fit a specific role on a team as a receiver who creates separation and also plays on special teams. Gallup is a dependable pass catcher who fights for yards after the catch.

The South wide receivers are headlined by Marcell Ateman and James Washington of Oklahoma State. Washington is built like a running back at 6’0 and 205 pounds, and he runs like one after the catch. Ateman excels at working on the outside and routinely beats defensive backs at the catch point. D.J. Chark of LSU is the sneaky one to watch on the South team. He’s not particularly physical at 6’4 and 108 pounds, but he gets up field in a hurry and is a good big-play threat.