The Senior Bowl tends to have a big impact on where players are drafted, given that NFL general managers are getting a close look at these prospects for the first time. This is especially magnified for quarterbacks. Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Joe Flacco and E.J. Manuel all enjoyed outstanding Senior Bowl performances in the past and had improved their draft stock as a result.
There are five quarterbacks projected to be first-round picks this year. Three weren't eligible - Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson - but the other two, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield, were able to participate. All eyes were understandably on them, but some of the other unknown signal-callers stepped up.
I do this every year: I'm going to take a look at how each of the signal-callers performed in the Senior Bowl and what each of their draft range is. This will be followed by a poll at the bottom of the article.
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Josh Allen has an incredible physical tools. He has the strongest arm of all the quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft class. However, he has glaring accuracy and mechanical issues that need to be resolved. It sounds like most NFL teams believe that this can be fixed with some great coaching. We'll see.
Allen did not have a good showing early in the Senior Bowl game, though he opened with a nice play on his first possession, running for a first down in the 2-minute drill at the end of the first quarter. However, he held the ball too long on multiple occassions on that drive, and his left tackle was called for a hold once as a result of this.
Allen's second drive was disappointing. He overthrew Penn State receiver DaeSean Hamilton by about eight yards even though Hamilton had separation. Allen then took a sack because he held on to the ball too long. This was a common theme for Allen throughout the first half, though he did follow that up with an accurate slant for what should've been a first down, but the receiver dropped the ball.
It was not a pretty showing for Allen in the opening half. He was just 2-of-5 for only 14 yards prior to intermission, and NFL Network analysts Terrell Davis and James Jones took the opportunity to criticize him, suggesting that Allen doesn't have "it," and that he looked very frazzled.
Apparently, Allen thought the same thing of himself because he reportedly asked the coaching staff for another opportunity in the second half. Two of his three drives following intermission concluded with touchdowns. He started with a side-armed pass to tight end Durham Smythe as he was getting tackled. Allen scrambled for a first down, then converted a fourth down with a short toss to Gesicki. Allen then showed nice touch on a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Conklin, dropping the ball through a tight window.
Allen shredded the South defense on the next possession. He delivered a quick, 31-yard strike to Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup. He then showed great touch again on a 27-yard score to Smythe. Allen didn't lead the North into the end zone on his final drive - he had a wild misfire in the flat - but the possession featured a perfect dime to Penn receiver Justin Watson along the sideline for a 34-yard gain.
Allen's final numbers were terrific; he went 9-of-13 for 158 yards and two touchdowns. That means his stats in the second half were 7-of-8 for 144 yards.
This game was a microcosm of Allen's overall draft stock. There's a lot to love, but Allen is inconsistent and needs a ton of work. Still, despite the issues, he almost certainly won't fall out of the top 10 picks.
2018 NFL Draft Projection: Top-10 Pick
Kurt Benkert, QB, Virginia
Kurt Benkert is a medium-armed quarterback who is mobile enough to extend plays with his feet. He showed that on his first drive when he made a nifty move to avoid a pass rush. He made sure he wasn't past the line of scrimmage, and he lofted a floating pass to running back Rashaad Penny over BYU linebacker Fred Warner, who didn't know what was coming. Penny snatched the ball and took it the distance, scoring on a 73-yard touchdown.
Benkert was on the field for four more drives, but didn't have any other positive moments. His second possession was nondescript, as he had to throw the ball away under pressure on third down. He moved the team into the end zone on the next drive, but was intercepted in the red zone. He threw a fade to a receiver into the end zone, but the pass was tipped into the air by South Carolina cornerback Jamarcus King and picked off by another defender.
It appeared as though Benkert suffered a concussion right before halftime when he scrambled and didn't slide feet first. He got dinged up and left the field, but returned after missing one play. He wildly overthrew a receiver downfield, and then tossed a couple of low passes in the flat. Then, following a dropped pass, Benkert moved right into a sack.
Benkert finished 4-of-11 for 90 yards, one touchdown and a pick. He made one great play, but excluding that, he was just 3-of-10 for 17 yards and a pick. Benkert confirmed his status as a third-day prospect.
2018 NFL Draft Projection: 4th-6th Round
Luke Falk, QB, Washington State
Luke Falk didn't play in the Senior Bowl game because he attended the funeral of former teammate Tyler Hilinski. Falk is a third- or fourth-round prospect who should be able to fit into a team running the West Coast offense.
2018 NFL Draft Projection: 2nd-4th Round
Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
Kyle Lauletta was named MVP of the Senior Bowl, but didn't have the best start. He threw behind runnning back Rashaad Penny and then was strip-sacked, but was lucky that a teammate recovered. After that, however, Lauletta sliced and diced the North team's helpless defense.
Lauletta's first great pass was a 74-yard touchdown bomb to LSU receiver D.J. Chark. On the next drive, he hit a tight end down the seam despite throwing from his own end zone. The completion went for 41 yards. Lauletta then avoided two sacks somehow on a play that had the crowd oohing and ahhing. He actually looked like Eli Manning on the Helmet Catch play in Super Bowl XLII, but without the actual helmet catch throw. ,br>
At any rate, Lauletta followed all of this up with a beautiful fade pass to Central Florida receiver Tre'Quan Smith for a 42-yard gain. This set up a sequence in the red zone when Lauletta moved in the pocket and fired a touchdown in a small window to his second read.
Lauletta wasn't done. He had nice pocket movement on a play in which he found Chark for a 13-yard completion. He then fired a strike to Oklahoma State receiver Marcell Ateman for his third score. The pass was impressive, as Lauletta fit the ball into a tiny window on a slant.
Lauletta finished 8-of-12 for 198 yards and three touchdowns. The Richmond product has average size (6-2) and arm strength, but he's accurate and smart. He was seen as a mid-round prospect before the Senior Bowl, but it wouldn't surprise me if a team desperate for a quarterback took him in the second round.
2018 NFL Draft Projection: 2nd-4th Round
Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska
Tanner Lee has a big arm, but possesses poor pocket awareness and shaky accuracy. All three attributes were on display at the Senir Bowl.
Lee opened the game well, finding Gesicki after climbing the pocket. He delivered an accurate pass, but the Penn State tight end dropped the ball. Lee then connected with Gesicki for a 22-yard gain, but the drive nearly ended when Lee threw a pass that should've been intercepted. Lee hurled the ball late and across his body, and San Diego State cornerback Kameron Kelly dropped the potential pick.
Lee had some overthrows in the 2-minute drill of the second quarter, and he probably wishes he ended his afternoon on that sequence because he was strip-sacked by Marquis Haynes in the second half. Top-15 prospect Marcus Davenport scooped and scored. Allen then was picked off on a horrible pass hurled way behind Gallup. His final pass was a horrible overthrow.
Some team may draft Lee because of his powerful arm, but the Nebraska product is really going to have to be coached up to turn into a viable quarterback. He's a late-round prospect at the moment.
2018 NFL Draft Projection: 5th-7th Round
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
There was some question as to whether Baker Mayfield would play, as his mother was dealing with health issues. He started and played, but was on the field for only two drives. He actually left the stadium at halftime to return early to be with his family.
Mayfield's stats were underwhelming; he finished 3-of-7 for only nine yards. His numbers should've been better, however. His second pass was a nice slant in a run-pass option that was right on the money to Jaleel White, but the receiver dropped the pass. He then took a sack on his third play by Marcus Davenport, as Mayfield held the ball too long.
Mayfield's second drive saw defensive tackle Andrew Brown deflect a pass at the line of scrimmage. Mayfield then overthrew a fullback on a wheel route. His final pass was late; it was a third-down strike to Gesicki, but it was broken up because Mayfield waited to long to release the ball.
This wasn't the sort of performance Mayfield supporters were looking for, but it's difficult to determine anything after just two drives. Mayfield is likely to be chosen in the top half of the opening round.
2018 NFL Draft Projection: Top-15 Pick
Brandon Silvers, QB, Troy
Brandon Silvers threw just two passes because the South team had such a huge lead and wasn't getting the ball much in the fourth quarter, per Senior Bowl game rules. He completed one of them for nine yards. It's a shame that Silvers, a late-round prospect, didn't have much of an opportunity.
2018 NFL Draft Projection: 6th Round-UDFA
Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky
Mike White is a very intelligent quarterback who should be chosen on Day 2 or early on Day 3. In fact, there has been speculation that the Browns like Mike White.
If this rumor is true, Browns general manager John Dorsey had to be pleased with what he saw Saturday. White didn't open the game particularly well, sailing his second pass, but his second drive was terrific. He delivered a perfect slant to J'Mon Moore in a tight window to convert a third down. He then used his eyes to move defenders, and he capitalized with an accurate touchdown to Tre'Quan Smith.
White wasn't done after that. He launched a bomb to D.J. Chark on the next possession and managed to hit the LSU receiver in stride for a 63-yard completion. A sack and a missed field goal disrupted the drive, but that shouldn't take anything away from his perfect pass.
White had one more drive prior to the end of the opening quarter. He fired a sideline strike while getting hit to convert a first down in the 2-minute drill. He was able to move the team into field goal range, and the kicker hit a 53-yarder to end the quarter.
White finished 8-of-11 for 128 yards and a touchdown. He helped himself a lot, and given how many teams are desperate for a quarterback, it's not out of the question that he could be chosen in the second round. White will probably go in Rounds 3-4.