Some NFL scouts watch the tape of the actual Senior Bowl and some scouts do not watch the game. Those that pass on watching the Senior Bowl game did not miss very much as this was a very uneventful game overall. Some of the top prospects in the game opted out after sustaining some minor injuries in practice while other relevant prospects like Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. opted out of playing in the game.
South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler was voted the game MVP for his work on the opening drive of the game. Rattler lofted in a pretty touchdown to Georgia’s Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint for a score from about 30 yards. It was a terrific throw by Rattler to loft the ball into a tight window over Virginia cornerback Willie Drew. Rattler completed 4-of-4 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Rattler has a strong arm and plus athleticism, and he is capable of making some highlight reel plays. However, he is short and must improve his decision making and ball security for the NFL. As a result he is more of a mid-round backup in the 2024 NFL Draft but Rattler possesses the physical tools to be a pro starter.
The best play of the game came in the fourth quarter when Washington State cornerback Chau Smith-Wade made a diving interception deep down the field at the 16-yard line. He got up and raced across the field with an insane interception return slashing through players that took him all the way to the one-yard line. On the final play of the game Smith-Wade made a leaping interception in front of Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey. Smith-Wade practiced well in Mobile and solidified his day-two standing for the 2024 NFL Draft.
Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton did not have an impressive week of practice and that carried over into the Senior Bowl game. In the second quarter Milton lofted a pass deep downfield but Oregon safety Evan Williams covered a ton of ground to dive in front of Cody Schrader for an interception. Smith-Wade had the second interception of Milton late in the fourth quarter. Milton is a mid-round backup and developmental project.
Another quarterback who struggled was Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman. He had a throw-away pass that he was lucky to not have ruled a fumble, and shortly later Hartman fumbled a snap that he was fortunate to recover. In the second quarter Hartman was picked off by Louisville cornerback Jarvis Brownlee Jr., as he made a superb adjustment and catch to snatch the pass. Hartman received a lot of playing time, but struggled to move the ball. Hartman looks like a day-three prospect to compete for a third string spot.
In the second half of the Senior Bowl game, Florida State defensive tackle Braden Fiske made some big plays showing his speed to fire off the ball and make plays in the drop backfield. Fiske came close to a safety with a sack of Joe Milton as the 1-yard line. Fiske got on the shoulder of the guard to get a push in the pocket and chase down Milton. Fiske had four tackles with .5 sacks in the Senior Bowl game.
Fiske had a good week of practice in the pass rushing one-on-ones. However Fiske does lack some strength and that could be seen with this lateral anchor. He was getting blasted out of his gap by bump blocks and he is going to need to address the lack of power in order to have a shot at becoming a starter. Fiske could be a mid-round developmental pick.
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix is the favorite to be the first player drafted from either Senior Bowl team, and like Rattler, Nix did not play very much. On his second possession Nix made some precision passes to move the ball in the short to intermediate part of the field before throwing a short touchdown pass on third-and-goal to Minnesota tight end Berwyn Spann-Ford. Nix threw some accurate passes in the short to intermediate part of the field. While Nix does not have a cannon for an arm, he is an accurate and intelligent passer. Senior Bowl helped to verify that he could be a pro starter.
North Carolina wide receiver Tez Walker had some dropped passes in practice and that continued in the Senior Bowl game with him missing on two deep balls that could have gone for long gains in the opening quarter. Walker is speed receiver that can challenge defenses over the top. He should run fast at the NFL Scouting Combine, but Walker needs to show significant improvement in his hands in Indianapolis.
Cal linebacker Jackson Sirmon had a good week of practice and finished it off by playing well in the Senior Bowl. He had a nice series in the second quarter reading the eyes of Hartman to bat down a pass and then making a good open field tackle on a scrambling Hartman to force a punt. Sirmon showed good instincts as a run defender with the speed and athleticism to contribute in pass coverage. Sirmon could end up being a mid-round steal.