Senior Bowl Preview: 8 Players to Watch

Posted Jan 25, 2016

Team insider Myles Simmons names four players on each team who may make headlines with a strong Senior Bowl performance.

Each year the Senior Bowl brings some of the top talent in nation to Mobile, Ala. for what is widely regarded as the premiere college All-Star game. With NFL coaching staffs leading both teams -- the Cowboys for the North and the Jaguars for the South -- these players will be exposed to the way a pro team runs its week for the first time.

It’s invaluable experience not only for the players, but also for everyone who observes. Be it scouts, coaches, or general managers, much of the NFL flocks to the city in southern Alabama to watch the week’s practices, which are thought of as more indicative of a players’ skill than the game itself.

Over the past few years, the Rams have drafted their share of players who have competed in the Senior Bowl. Many regard defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s showing over the practice sessions as one of the more memorable they’ve seen. Based on his performance in his first two years in the league, that should come as no surprise.

But Rams’ safety T.J. McDonald, right tackle Rob Havenstein, and quarterback Sean Mannion have also participated in Mobile over the past few years. With that in mind, here are some players on both the North and South squad who are likely to make some headlines during the week, and just might end up with Los Angeles in 2016.


Carson Wentz - QB - North Dakota State

Wentz spent the last two years as North Dakota State’s starting quarterback, leading the team to its fourth and fifth consecutive FCS National Championships. But playing his four years in FCS, the 6-foot-6 quarterback does have something to prove heading into the spring draft. He could confirm many of the positive impressions of him with a strong week in Mobile.

Braxton Miller - WR - Ohio State

A two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year as a quarterback, Miller made the switch to wide receiver in 2015 in part to help alleviate the Buckeyes’ logjam of QBs. He finished the year with 601 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. How his skill set fits with a pro offense should be intriguing to monitor this week.

Kevin Peterson - CB - Oklahoma State

Peterson was one of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented to the top defensive back in college football. He made five picks in his career, often defending the opposition’s best receiver in Oklahoma State’s defensive scheme.

Adolphis Washington - DT - Ohio State

Washington will have to answer some questions about some of his off-the-field issues, but he was undoubtedly one of the better defensive linemen in college football. Partially overshadowed by potential top-five draft pick Joey Bosa, Washington still recorded 13.5 sacks and 25.0 tackles for loss over his four years at Ohio State.


Jake Coker - QB - Alabama

Running back Derrick Henry may have won the Heisman with his outstanding 2015 season, but Coker proved his value in the Crimson Tide’s run to its National Championship. The 6-foot-5 quarterback completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,110 yards with 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his senior year. His experience could prove useful against the nation’s best.

Sterling Shepard - WR - Oklahoma

Shepard produced in all four years at Oklahoma, particularly in his senior season of 2015 when he caught 86 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. A semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, Shepard was one of the primary cogs in the Sooners’ offense that reached the College Football Playoff.

Sheldon Rankins - DE - Louisville

Rankins has been plenty productive at Louisville over the past couple years, racking up 26.5 tackles for loss and 14.0 sacks combined in his junior and senior seasons. He’s a versatile player who can line up both on the inside and outside, which helped him to lead the Cardinals in tackles in 2015.

Noah Spence - EDGE - Eastern Kentucky

Spence is another player who has seen his share of off-the-field issues, as they were the reason he transferred to Eastern Kentucky. That said, he is one of the better edge rushers in the class, having racked up 22.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in 2015 -- with at least one sack in nine of 11 games. He could improve his draft stock with a strong performance this week.