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Burning questions for NFL scouts hitting Mobile

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5) Which prospects should we be keeping an eye on in one-on-one drills?

One of the annual highlights of Senior Bowl week is watching the offensive and defensive linemen battle in one-on-one pass-rush drills. It’s fun watching the receivers and corners compete against each other, too, but it feels like there’s more to glean from the big uglies battling in the trenches.

Now, this aspect of the week doesn’t tell the whole story about a prospect. Terence Steele struggled badly in one-on-ones three years ago and went undrafted, but now has started 40 games in three years for the Cowboys. On the flip side, Perrion Winfrey dominated at last year’s Senior Bowl from start to finish but still slipped to Round 4. Regardless, it’s still fun to watch these drills.

I asked NFL scouts for the offensive and defensive linemen (including some linebackers with pass-rush backgrounds or skills) whom they wanted to see most in these drills and received some interesting answers:

Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin: He earned some Round 1 grades entering the season and features a big, powerful upper body as an interior rusher, most likely from the nose. “He’ll have two or three big wins where the crowd goes, ‘Ooooh,’ ” a scout predicted. “He’s tossed a few guys off the snap and he’s quicker than you think.”

Andre Carter II, edge, Army: Now that a potential obstacle to his pursuit of an NFL career has been cleared, Carter figures to be the highest drafted player from Army since the 1940s, having burst onto the scouting scene with a 15.5-sack breakout in 2021. That said, the AFC scouting director remains ambivalent. “Just not strong enough,” he said. “Two- or three-year development guy, I think. Good athleticism and length and all that, but the pass-rush stuff is limited. There’s not enough power in his game. The better [offensive linemen] will use that against him.”

Ali Gaye, edge, LSU: A southeast area scout who has been through Baton Rouge multiple times mentioned Gaye, who had seven sacks in 27 college games, as a player who needed a big week. “Looks the part, beautiful frame, but just not enough on tape for me,” the scout said. “They liked him there, but I need to see him dominate more.”

Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State: The biggest blocker in Mobile (6-foot-8, 375 pounds) has a great chance to elevate among a good but not great group of OT prospects. “Those big guys tend to either dominate or be dominated in those (drills),” a scout said. Jones was vastly improved as a pass blocker this past season, using his basketball background and mass to stymie most rushers.

Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State: The one-on-one drills could help determine if his future home lies at guard or tackle. “He’s got short arms, so that’ll be the test,” a scout said. “He just hasn’t seen this type of talent, maybe outside his own team, so you want to see that matchup.”

Will McDonald IV, edge, Iowa State: McDonald was one of the most productive pass rushers in college football the past three seasons, totaling 35 tackles for loss and 27 sacks for the Cyclones during that span. But he weighed in at 241 pounds, which is light for a pass rusher. “He’s just not big, but he’s relentless,” said the AFC director.

O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida: The Louisiana transfer followed Billy Napier to the Gators and raised his game in the SEC, to the point where he could end up in the top 50 picks. The southeast area scout likes Torrence as a ready-made run blocker for a gap-blocking scheme. But the scout noted he’s “a lunger and a bit stiff, so the quicker guys inside can beat him in those drills.”

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