FRISCO, Texas – The Senior Bowl continues to soar in the NFL offseason pecking order.
It’s an unfortunate circumstance in 2021, given the continued efforts to bypass the COVID-19 outbreak, but it’s hard to deny the benefits of the annual All-Star Game.
The NFL has already canceled the NFL Scouting Combine, at least in the traditional sense. Private practice sessions and visits to academic institutions will also not take place in 2021. That means these three days of practice in Mobile, Alabama will arguably be the best opportunity to watch class members. this year’s draft in something akin to a normal environment.
Luckily for the Cowboys, there will be plenty of talent on hand this year. Gone are the days when the Senior Bowl was considered an afterthought, as several of college football’s biggest stars – including Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith – will be in Mobile for the proceedings.
That said, here are a handful of names the Cowboys will no doubt have an eye on, and just might make sense in their draft plans.
- Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama
DeVonta Smith and Mac Jones will be making headlines this week, but teams with offensive line needs would be well advised to keep an eye out for Alabama’s star offensive tackle.
There is debate as to whether Leatherwood is projecting himself as a guard or tackle in the NFL, and he will have a chance to make his case by practicing on left tackle this week. He was named a unanimous All-American playing the position for the Crimson Tide last season.
If you follow the Cowboys’ preliminary scenarios, you’ve undoubtedly heard of star tackles – Oregon’s Penei Sewell and Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater – as possibilities for pick # 10. It seems unlikely that Leatherwood will climb that high. in the bill, but this week will be a great chance for him to jump on the radar.
- Ifeatu Melinfonwu, CB, Syracuse
They aren’t the busiest DB group in Senior Bowl history, and he was struck by the news that Washington’s Elijah Molden will not be competing due to injury.
Melifonwu is intriguing, however. He is the younger brother of former UConn security Obi Melifonwu, who garnered a lot of attention in 2017 with his rare height and athleticism.
It’s fair to say that young Melifonwu has this in common. At 6’3, 213 pounds, he’s definitely an intriguing height – and that’s especially interesting, given defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s preference for longer turns.
Melifonwu started two years for Syracuse, finishing with 88 tackles, three interceptions and 26 breakouts in 19 starts. The early prognosis is that he’s likely a second or third round pick. But if he does well against this impressive receiving group, don’t be surprised if that rating skyrockets after the Senior Bowl.
- Carlos Basham Jr., DE, Wake Forest
Another legacy of the draft, Basham is the cousin of Tarell Basham – who was a much-discussed Cowboys target in 2017.
In a more sophisticated class that seems a little drab, Basham looks like one of the best in the bunch, and arguably the best in Mobile.
Basham finished with 19.5 career sacks in four seasons with the Demon Deacons. Most impressively, he’s made 35.5 career loss tackles – including a ridiculous streak that saw him make at least one loss tackle in 23 straight games.
Wake Forest lists him at 6’3, 280 pounds. If those measurements are even close to accuracy, Basham has a leg up on acquiring the size and strength to play in the NFL.
It’s probably not a name to know for the No. 10 overall pick, but Basham could be a terribly intriguing option at the top of the second round – provided he doesn’t play his way to a more draft slot machine. high.
- Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington State
It’s a terribly intriguing prospect for a position – much like Edge Rusher – that lacks a bit of star power.
Onwurzurike was the first All-Pac 12 team in 2019, totaling 45 tackles, six tackles for a loss and two sacks for the Huskies. He chose not to participate in the 2020 season without ever playing a cliché.
Now he’s coming to Mobile to remind people of what he’s capable of. If he does well, it’s no exaggeration to say that he could jump into the conversation as one of the top defensive tackle prospects in this draft class.
For a Cowboys front that lacked size, let alone production, on the defensive tackle, the 6’3,293-pound Onwurzurike could be of immediate help.
- Quite a few linebackers
If there’s a position for the Cowboys in the Senior Bowl, maybe it’s that linebacker group.
Jaylon Smith has been the butt of constant criticism in 2020, and Leighton Vander Esch has once again struggled with durability. Add to that the possible retirement of Sean Lee, and it’s understandable that many see the job as a badly needed draft.
These practices in Mobile could offer a multitude of possibilities.
None of these guys are likely to be the 10th overall pick, but they could all be found later.
For starters, there’s Ohio State star Baron Browning, who just made an appearance in the national championship game. He had 29 tackles and three tackles for loss in the Buckeyes’ shortened season, but he showed in a big way in that loss in the national title game to Alabama, scoring five tackles, a sack and a large strip from Crimson Tide Mac Jones quarterback.
There is also Chazz Surratt standout in North Carolina. Originally a quarterback, Surratt instead developed into a linebacker for the Tar Heels. He finished with 91 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and six impressive sacks for the UNC Orange Bowl team.
Another fascinating storyline would be LSU’s Jabril Cox. The 6’4, 231-pound linebacker started his career with three world seasons in North Dakota State, earning All-America status and helping the Bison win three national titles. In an effort to increase his draft stock, Cox climbed to the FBS level in 2020, and he continued to impress. On an otherwise lackluster LSU defense, Cox made 58 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss and three impressive interceptions.
Finally, there’s Auburn’s KJ Britt, who missed the vast majority of the 2020 season with a thumb injury. Britt was the first All-SEC team in 2019 thanks to 69 tackles and 10 tackles for loss, but the injury prompted him to undergo surgery on October 9, ending his year. It remains to be seen what Britt will do this week in Mobile. But he definitely has the athleticism to make a name for himself in this draft cycle.