2020 NFL Draft: Senior Bowl Matchups that Could Shape the Class

It is hard to be on twitter these days without catching a glimpse at some big new Senior Bowl, Shrine Game or NFLPA Bowl declaree. The Senior Bowl in particular, is the premier NFL Draft event leading up to the big day.

For nearly 70 years, this game has provided an additional platform for an array of NFL talent to face off to prove their worth against the elite senior athletes in the entire country. With that amount of top notch, next level talent, we are given the opportunities to witness some good ole’ fashion competitions.

For an event like the Reese’s Senior Bowl, the one on one portion of the week is the money maker. In those situations, traits are on full display.

It’s time to preview some of the most anticipated individual battle to look forward to at the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl. Pass rush, pass coverage, redzone reps, let’s get after it folks!

 

Robert Handy-Hunt (Louisiana OL) vs Derrick Brown (Auburn DT)

Welcome to the party Robert Handy-Hunt. The University of Louisiana Lafayette has had a remarkable season thus far in 2019. With a 10-2 record and Sun Belt championship game appearance, the Ragin’ Cajuns have been buoyed by a fantastic running game.

Aside from their three headed monster at running back (Trey Ragas, Elijah Mitchell and Raymond Calais), the offensive line has been a huge reason for the teams success.

Occupying the right tackle position for the team, Handy-Hunt possesses a ton of desirable traits that will make his transition inside a relatively smooth one.

He is an absolute mauler in the run game, where he is able to transfer the momentum from his initial punch through his lower body. His background at offensive tackle should allow for Handy-Hunt to make a seamless transition as a pass blocker, demonstrating great balance in that area.

Just how effective he will be counteracting power inside as a pass blocker is something to keep a close eye on. 

He will be matched up against some phenomenal interior defensive line talent down in Mobile. With names like Raekwon Davis (Alabama), Javon Kinlaw (South Carolina) and Neville Gallimore (Oklahoma) potentially making up the interior for the South squad, Handy-Hunt should have his hands full all week. 

It is one player matchup in particular, however, that present an opportunity for this 6’5” 320 pound behemoth to make some money. 

Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown has been a headliner for the 2020 NFL Draft class for some time now.

Standing at 6’5” and 320 pounds, it is easier as an evaluator to marvel at Brown’s combination of brute strength and athleticism for a man his size. Playing mostly inside of offensive guards in a 1 tech or shade nose during the entirety of his career, Brown has been victim to an astounding amount of double times during his Tiger career.

These one on one opportunities will serve Brown to show the untapped pass rush potential he possesses. We have all seen the flashes from Brown, winning in a variety of ways. It is time to unleash him… and who better to match up against than a small school stud who is beginning to climb draft boards everywhere? 

 

Brycen Hopkins (Purdue TE) vs Ashtyn Davis (Cal DB)

I have not been quite as giddy about Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins during these stages in the draft process.

I understand the attraction. Hopkins is a loose hipped athlete that does some outstanding things getting in and out of his breaks. He is what everyone would envision for a modern day “detached Y”with the ability to run a varied route tree.

I am just struggling with an all around assessment of Hopkins game. He sports a very limited frame, lacking the lower body to gain a necessary level of mass. Without being able to gain much power, there are big limitations to Hopkins ever being able to resemble anything close to an inline player.

Considering his limited projection as a blocker, Hopkins is going to have to shine as a pass catcher in Mobile.

With this type of athlete, we know he can take advantage of some one on one opportunities against opposing linebackers. What I would be interested in seeing is what type of separation Hopkins is able to generate against defensive backs.

There is one defensive back in particular I am beyond excited to see matched up against Hopkins.  

University of Cal safety Ashtyn Davis has been a media darling for some time now. His versatility,  coupled with his potential elite athletic profile has had NFL evaluators throughout the majority of the season.

At 6’1” and 200 pounds, his build looks far similar to that of a press man cornerback.

Don’t get it twisted, however, Davis is more than willing to mix it up near the line of scrimmage.

The coverage versatility Davis plays with is going to be his biggest selling point as a prospect. Playing a variety of short and deep zone coverage while at Cal, the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl will provide a big opportunity for Davis to be tasked with man coverage responsibilities against slot receivers during the week.

As the game is becoming more and more about matchups in the passing game, having a safety who can serve as an “eraser” against athletic tight ends is a huge sell. That is what we are looking for from Davis.

Whether that matchup happens during the week of practice or during the game itself, it stands as one of the most telling one on one battles to watch out for. 

 

Prince Tega Wanogho (Auburn OT) vs Alton Robinson (Syracuse DE)

Now this is a matchup we won’t be seeing during the practice week, barring some unforeseen numbers issues on the roster.

Even so, the game will still have more than its fair share of individual matchups between Auburn offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho and Syracuse defensive end Alton Robinson.

Wanogho has been talked about for a couple of seasons now. His combination of outstanding size (6’7” 305 pounds) with phenomenal athleticism should allow Prince to find a home on the blindside in the future. He possesses every tool to make that transition, profiling several elite traits.

Playing in the Auburn offense, Tega Wanogho is not often tasked with traditional pass sets. In their heavy RPO approach, he is often in attack mode, zone blocking to a high degree.

That makes him an especially tough evaluation.This week is going to be huge for Tega Wanogho to show comfortability in his kick slide while working against some very talented pass rushers. 

Syracuse edge Alton Robinson may just be the most talented of the bunch.

After a big time junior season for the Orange, Robinson has had a quite 2019, recording eight less tackles for loss and six less sacks. Like the rest of the team, Robinson has had some very uneven play this year after coming into the season with some first round hype.

Senior Bowl week is going to present a huge opportunity for Robinson to reassert his once blistering draft stock. Especially against a guy like Prince Tega Wanogho and his skillset.

Let’s all be honest with ourselves for a second, pass rush one on ones are the pinnacle of fun. I bring you the most fun attraction in that department. 

 

Devin Duvernay (Texas WR) vs Kindle Vildor (Georgia Southern DB)

There is no wide receiver who has made himself more money this season than University of Texas slot man Devin Duvernay.

With an elite speed profile, Duvernay has been able to round out his game this season, doing the little things to assert himself as much more than just a flashy deep threat.

With a sturdy frame, attention to detail in his route breaks and some very strong hands, Duvernay could very well end up in the first round conversation come April.

Coming into 2019, fellow wide receiver Colin Johnson was the Longhorn everyone was talking about. The tables have been turned a full 180 this season with Duvernay being the unquestioned top wide receiver prospect on the Longhorns team.

With Duvernay’s short and sturdy build (5’11” 210 pounds), it is almost a certainty that some evaluators will pigeonhole him into the slot position. Something that I believe would be a huge mistake.

It is his speed element that adds a huge bonus to the senior’s game. That speed profile makes him versatile to his alignment. He has no problem attacking leverage and forcing defensive backs into vicarious positions. He is able to quickly get on top of defenders, which should allow him to play some on the outside as well. 

One potential matchup that could be an especially fun one for Duvernay, is his matchup with Georgia Southern defensive back Kindle Vildor.

Vildor has played on the perimeter for the majority of his Eagles career. It is his lower body explosion and short area quickness that should provide him for some ability to work both inside and out.

That ability will help this 5’11” 190 pounder to quiet size questions moving forward. His plus ball skills should also allow for him to contend with Duvernay in the air, where he is surprisingly good for a player who is slightly lacking in length.

Now I know what you are thinking, a Georgia Southern-Texas battle is pretty typical (I hope you understand the sarcasm), but this matchup in particular will help to highlight two of the most versatile chess pieces in the entire 2020 NFL Draft class. 

 

Zack Moss (Utah RB) vs Evan Weaver (Cal LB)

The All Star game circuit is all about showing what players can and can’t do. This allows for a large scale evaluation of prospects and how they may fit into various types of schemes and philosophies.

For running backs, that centers around the passing game.

Can they block? Can they catch? Can they run any type of varied route tree? Those are the questions. The ones that Utah running back Zack Moss, in particular, will look to answer in Mobile.

In an event that could cement Moss as the top rated senior running back, all eyes are going to be on him to see what type of three down potential he may have at the next level.

If he is able to answer these questions, slap an early Day Two grade on him and call it a day. 

On the other side of the coin, there will be more than a couple linebackers who will attempt to prove their worth on the all important third down. This will include the national leader in tackles, the University of California’s Evan Weaver.

Amassing an astounding 172 tackles in 12 games so far this season, Weaver projects as one of the most polarizing figures in the 2020 class.

There is a lot to like. His run fills are phenomenal. He shows a remarkable understanding for gap integrity and in effect, always appears a step ahead of the opposition. He is a throwback, two down thumper who makes his money asserting his will in the running game.

And in all honesty, he shows a nice feel in zone coverage. His drops are urgent, and he clearly understands how to transition quickly post trigger step.

But what type of athlete is he? These one on one pass coverage reps will show that very quickly. 

There is nowhere to hide. My eyes are going to be squarely pegged to a Moss-Weaver matchup when the time comes. The questions on what third downs may hold in their future will be answered soon, and I for one, am all in for it. 

 

 

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