QBs get to be teammates before NFL draft
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Quarterbacks Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield got to enjoy being teammates for a few days on their way to the NFL.
Both likely first-round draft picks were the headliners for the Senior Bowl all week, divvying practice snaps for the North team leading up to Saturday’s game.
“It’s fun. He’s a fiery competitor,” Wyoming’s Allen said. “We were hyping each other up on the field, and that’s what it’s all about. Coming out here having fun, meeting new guys, being able to compete with the best and progress every day.”
Oklahoma’s Mayfield hasn’t said if he’ll play in the game itself. The Heisman Trophy winner told reporters after Thursday’s practice: “We’ll see.”
Regardless, he and Allen got to work through three practices led by Vance Joseph and the Denver Broncos coaching staff with NFL eyes upon them throughout. The Broncos, who draft fifth and are in the market for a quarterback, had wanted Mayfield to be on their team.
“We wanted to have an opportunity to get to meet him,” said Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, Denver’s general manager and president of football operations. “Obviously we’ve seen what everyone else has seen, what he can do on the field and the type of player that he is. To be able to be around him and get to know him a little bit was important.”
His take after a couple of practices: Both Mayfield and Allen had made “some bigtime throws.”
Mayfield arrived a couple of hours before Tuesday’s first North practice after flying home to Austin, Texas, to be with his mother, who he said wasn’t “not doing too great.” He did enjoy working with the Broncos coaches.
“It’s been a great experience being around them, learning from them and competing against some of the best quarterbacks in the country,” Mayfield said.
The Senior Bowl hasn’t had two quarterbacks selected in the first round of the same draft since Jake Locker and Christian Ponder in 2011. Plus, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph made an appearance in Mobile but couldn’t practice or play because of a foot injury, though his top target, wide receiver James Washington, is on hand.
Other top QB prospects like UCLA’s Josh Rosen and USC’s Sam Darnold are underclassmen.
The other North quarterbacks are Washington State’s Luke Falk and Nebraska’s Tanner Lee.
The South, coached Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans staff, is led by Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert, Western Kentucky’s Mike White, Troy’s Brandon Silvers and Kyle Lauletta of FCS Richmond.
Here are some things (and players) to watch in the Senior Bowl:
WINNING MATTERS: The practices are the primary focus of NFL teams but Virginia’s Bengert says winning matters, too. “We want to win that game,” he said. “We aren’t just going to show up on Saturday to get walked all over. We’re looking to win that game and we’re practicing with a competitive nature and it’s getting fierce out here.”
INTRIGUING DEFENDERS: UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin , who doesn’t have a left hand, is a playmaker with a high motor. He was named practice player of the week. UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport is a potential high first-round pick though he’s not a national name — yet. Both play for the South team. Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips is among the standouts on the North defense.
RASHAAD PENNY: The San Diego State and South team running back, who led the nation in rushing and all-purpose yards, is trying to become the next Kareem Hunt. Hunt, who played for Toledo, ran for 118 yards in last year’s Senior Bowl and led the NFL in rushing for the Kansas City Chiefs as a rookie.
“That gives hope to a lot of Group of Five running backs or a lot of Group of Five players,” Penny said.
A three-time Mountain West Conference special teams player of the year, Penny has also gotten looks at his route running and fielding punts.
VANILLA OFFENSES: The offenses are limited in what they can do by Senior Bowl rules —and by so few practices together. “I have a 12-year-old son named Michael at home that can run these plays,” O’Brien said he told his players. “I mean, we’re not reinventing the wheel. You can only be in certain formations. This is not a scheme-fest, this is an evaluation-fest.”
GAME RULES: The game will only have kickoffs at the beginning of each half, with all other drives starting on the 25. Teams have to go for two points after any second-quarter touchdowns and teams will start the second and fourth quarters from the 25. If a team trails by 20-plus points when it scores it keeps the ball.