clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFL Draft experts list the biggest “risers” in the 2023 Senior Bowl

The annual All-Star game has some players standing out among the rest.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 01 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers, along with the rest of the NFL, are in Mobile, Alabama this week as they watch the Senior Bowl practices and these prospective players gear up for their first taste of pre-draft play.

Throughout the week of practices there are always players who shine brighter than others. If you missed the practices being shown on the NFL Network, here are some players who have played well, according to the NFL Draft experts at ESPN.

Let’s take a look:

Tulane RB Tyjae Spears

About 200 yards up a hill from the Senior Bowl practices at Hancock-Whitney Stadium in Mobile lie the South Alabama football offices. As former Tulane star tailback Tyjae Spears sped through defenses in practice this week and showcased burst and suddenness, the Jaguars’ defensive staff issued deep exhales. South Alabama opens next season at Tulane on Sept. 2, a sneaky good game between two of the better Group of 5 teams in 2022. That means the South Alabama staff, coming off a 10-3 season, has been consuming plenty of film of Tulane (12-2), which won the AAC and outraced USC in the Cotton Bowl.

“Thank god Tyjae Spears isn’t playing for Tulane next year,” South Alabama coach Kane Wommack told ESPN with a laugh.

Spears shined throughout his career with the Wave, rushing for 2,910 yards over four years. He particularly dominated in his finishing kick, as he torched USC in the Cotton Bowl for 205 yards on 17 carries, including four touchdowns. In the AAC title game against UCF, he rushed for 199 yards on 22 carries. Wommack saw a runner whose edge and motor transcended his 5-foot-10, 204-pound frame.

“He’s got elite vision, a low center of gravity, and he has the trait where you see guys at the running back position that play with an expectation,” he said. “There’s this threshold of, are you above the line or below the line in terms of overall talent. But that can come in all sizes — big guys, small guys, fast guys, strong guys, whatever. But you just see a guy that plays with an expectation, and I think you see that in the USC game that he’s got that expectation. And I think that makes you a different-level back.”

Illinois RB Chase Brown & S Sidney Brown

I polled a bunch of execs, coaches and scouts over the course of the week on the biggest risers based off practices. The same names kept popping up, no matter who I talked to.

The Brown twins from Illinois received a lot of buzz. Running back Chase Brown is the better prospect and will be drafted higher, but safety Sydney Brown looked really good all week long. An AFC exec told me that they will both probably be underdrafted and we’ll look back at this class in three years and wonder why they weren’t picked higher. He said he’d absolutely want both of those guys on his team.

Iowa CB Riley Moss & Georgia Tech EDGE Keion White

Two scouts called out Iowa cornerback Riley Moss, who looked smooth, fast and instinctive in coverage. Moss sees it, feels it and knows the angles to take, and he looks like a Round 2 pick. Georgia Tech edge rusher Keion White’s professional approach impressed an exec, too. The exec said from the moment White showed up at the Senior Bowl, you could just tell he’s a pro and ready for the next level.

Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV

The NFL found its next combine standout in Iowa State edge rusher Will McDonald IV. I talked to several scouts in Mobile who expect him to test very well in Indianapolis in a month. McDonald plays with a lot of explosion, though a chief concern is his thinner frame. He was listed at 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds in college, but many noticed he looked a little bigger this week. (McDonald did in fact weigh in at 241.)

Ohio State OT Dawand Jones

Ohio State offensive tackle Dawand Jones is out for the rest of the Senior Bowl after reporting concussion-like symptoms early in the week, though the move is considered precautionary. Jones told trainers he had a headache, so he’s being held out to be safe but will stay with the team throughout the week. The massive 6-foot-8, 375-pound tackle had a good first practice, so he overall helped himself in Mobile. But teams wanted to see more.

Other names of players who are standing out:

  • Jayden Reed, WR, Michigan State (great release off the line of scrimmage and solid play speed)
  • Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford
  • Aubrey Miller Jr., LB, Jackson State
  • YaYa Diaby, DL, Louisville
  • Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin
  • Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska

For the Steelers, when it comes to positions of need, there are certainly positions which stand out above others. For instance, there is a need to add another wide receiver to the room, but is that need higher than that of the trenches, both on offense or defense? Most would say it isn’t.

The Steelers have reportedly been doing plenty of homework on the offensive and defensive lines throughout the week of practices, and it will be interesting to see how these aforementioned players perform in the culminating event for these prospective players.

Keep tabs on all things 2023 NFL Draft, and Senior Bowl coverage, right here at BTSC as the Steelers prepare for the rest of the NFL offseason.