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Three Matchups to Watch During Senior Bowl Week

Look inside to see which matchups you should watch for during the Senior Bowl.

John Owning

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Arguably the most important part of the pre-draft process for seniors entering the NFL draft is the Senior Bowl week down in Mobile, Alabama. During this week, players will go participate in practices and interview with teams, which will be critical aspects of each team’s evaluation of each player.

Even though the week culminates with a game between the North and South teams, the most important facet of the week will be the team practices. In these practices, there will a myriad of situations where team scouts and executives will get an opportunity to evaluate each player. There will be one-on-ones, seven-on-sevens and team scrimmage drills that will help give an accurate representation of each player’s skill set.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most important matchups that will be taking place during the practices down in Mobile, Alabama.

South Offensive Tackles vs. South Defensive Ends

Players to spotlight:

Offensive Tackle – La’el Collins, Ty Sambrailo

Defensive End – Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Markus Golden

One of the most important parts of each practice is the pass-rush one-on-ones. This helps identify which offensive linemen are adept in pass protection and which defensive lineman are skillful pass-rushers.

For the south squad, all eyes will be on their two prominent offensive tackles, La’el Collins and Ty Sambrailo, and how they do against prominent pass-rushers Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Markus Golden.

Collins appears more prepared than Sambrailo to combat the considerable defensive end talent as he has gone up against top-tier defensive ends such as Florida’s Dante Fowler in his collegiate career. On the other hand, Sambrailo doesn’t have much experience going up against this type of talent at Colorado State.

Golden and Odighizuwa aren’t as heralded as their offensive tackle counterparts, but they are extremely talented in their own right. Odighizuwa is a powerful player who has deceptive quickness and fantastic hands. Golden is an athletic defender who uses his up-field burst and impressive flexibility to turn the corner on opposing offensive tackles.

Collins appears to have the skill set to be able to deal with Odighizuwa because of his strength and ability to anchor. However, he may have some trouble with Golden as he will really have to do a good job with his kick slide to deal with Golden’s burst.

Sambrailo is the exact opposite as he has the athleticism to deal with Golden off the edge, but he lacks the strength or “lead in his pants” to adequately defend Odighizuwa’s power-rushes.

While both the tackles look like locks to go in the top-50 picks, this is an opportunity for the defensive ends to prove that they deserve to be there as well.

North Interior Offensive Linemen vs. North Interior Defensive Linemen

Players to spotlight:

Interior Offensive Linemen – Laken Tomlinson, Jamil Douglas

Interior Defensive Linemen – Danny Shelton , Carl Davis

Another important drill that will take place throughout the week is the nine-on-seven or inside run drill, which pits the whole defense, without the secondary, against the whole offense without the wide receivers. The only plays allowed are runs, so it tests each player’s ability to hold up at the point-of-attack.

This drill is especially important for the interior offensive lineman as they are supposed to be the players responsible for creating movement in the run game. Jamil Douglas is listed as an offensive tackle, but he is widely viewed as an offensive guard at the next level. Therefore, he should see a lot of time inside throughout the week. The other interior offensive lineman to watch for is Laken Tomlinson.

Douglas and Tomlinson are slower-footed guards who are at their best at the point-of-attack. They create a lot of movement in the run game, but they struggle anytime they have to move laterally, whether it be in the run game or pass protection.

They will have their hands full, as they will be pitted up against two stellar defensive tackles in Danny Shelton and Carl Davis. Shelton is a gigantic defensive tackle at 6’1 and 339 lbs. and he combines it with deceptive quickness and a great deal of strength. He tends to disappear throughout games, but when he is on there are few players who are better. Davis is a similar player to Shelton, but in a taller and leaner package as he is listed at 6’4 and 315 lbs. Davis has very good initial quickness and strong hands to penetrate and make plays or hold his ground against double teams and allow his teammates to get the glory.

Douglas and Tomlinson should be able to hold their own on any drive blocks and downhill runs as they understand how to dominate their man one-on-one. However, the real test will be on any zone or stretch plays that require them to move laterally and make blocks.

All four of these players have an opportunity to significantly increase their stock if they have a productive week in Mobile.

North Wide Receivers vs. North Cornerbacks

Players to spotlight:

Wide Receivers – Justin Hardy, Jamison Crowder

Cornerbacks – Eric Rowe, Quinten Rollins

The most anticipated matchup during the week of practices will likely be when the North team’s wide receivers match up with the North team’s cornerbacks in one-on-one passing drills. These two units are probably the most talented of any other unit on either roster this week.

Justin Hardy is the best wide receiver prospect at the senior bowl as he seamlessly combines production with skills. Another receiver to keep your eye on is Jamison Crowder. He may be hard to spot because of his short stature, but he brings big time skills to the table as he has elite quickness and change of direction skills that are sure to give opposing cornerbacks fits.

While Hardy and Crowder bring a ton of talent to the table, cornerbacks Quinten Rollins and Eric Rowe may be even more talented. Rollins has only played one year of football in college, but you could never tell by the way he plays. He brings elite athletic ability to the field, but he does not shy away from contact like you would expect from a former basketball player. Eric Rowe has elite size at 6’1 and 201 lbs., but he mirrors it with quick feet, fluid hips and a great ability to play against the run.

Hardy is a fantastic route-runner with sure hands, which will really test Rowe and Rollins’ ability to play man coverage. If they make any mistake Hardy will be able to fully capitalize. Crowder will test Rollins and Rowe’s foot speed as they are both large cornerbacks; it will be interesting to see if they can keep with smaller and speedier receivers like Crowder.

If Hardy has a fantastic week, he can possibly push himself into the late-first or early-second round consideration. Crowder has the opportunity to rise in Day 2 if he can run clean routes while displaying natural hands. Rowe has the opportunity to rise to possibly be the first cornerback off the board if he can hold his own against the considerable receiver talent. Rollins could be the biggest riser as he could possibly rise from a Day 3 all the way to a late first-round option if he shows he can stick with the receivers throughout the week.

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com

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