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Senior Bowl Practice Report: Day two showcases first-round sleepers

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

I’m down here in Alabama at the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl and things are heating up. The week of practice started on Tuesday, but that is really the “baseline” day of things are that going to happen across the next few days. From that point on, scouts want to see if players improve, decline or stay the same as what they showed on Tuesday.

The second day of practice is not as crammed as the first day, but practice seems to be more intense. Players know what is on the line at this game and their draft stock can rise or fall about a round based on what they do here in Mobile.

Because of that, players are ultra-competitive and trying to make the biggest and most positive impression they possibly can to the scouting community. This creates a great practice environment with plenty to report on.

Here is my day two practice report at the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

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Lots of Love

One of my favorite players here at the Senior Bowl is Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. Heading into this game, he was one of the players I was most excited to see during this process and he has not disappointed. Love is mechanically sound and has a strong arm as a passer. However, what is standing out the most is his pass placement on deep passes.

When the athletic quarterback is taking some shots downfield, they are connecting – but it’s greater than that. When these passes of 20-plus yards and tossed to the heavens, they fall back to the receiver’s hands usually in stride or in a spot where only the receiver can get the ball. Love was already a first-round pick heading into the Senior Bowl, but there are people who work in the NFL that I talk to that project him to be a top-10 pick at the end of April.

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Mims FTW

This wide receiver class in 2020 might be the best in NFL history. It’s not only a top-heavy class with four or five receivers likely getting drafted in the first round, but there is talent at the position throughout this draft class.

A player thought to be a second-round pick is Baylor’s Denzel Mims. He has speed to burn and can take the top off the defense with his track speed. He’s not just a track guy who happens to play football, he is a wide receiver with track speed. Mims has wowed scouts with his speed, but his “my ball” mentality on difficult or contested catches has made him one of the best receivers at the Senior Bowl this year.

If the Broncos don’t take a receiver in the first round, then a player like Mims would make for a great addition in round two.

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From Homeless to First Round

One of the best stories here at the Senior Bowl is the journey of South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. He’s arguably the best player here regardless of position and had already done enough to cement himself as a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

Learning about his story and how he got to this point of his life has been fascinating. Kinlaw had to deal with extreme poverty and homelessness after emigrating from Trinidad and Tobago as a child. He says his mother is still basically homeless and he uses that as motivation to be the best player he can be.

Watching him on the practice field at the Senior Bowl, Kinlaw is showing why scouts were so excited about his game.

Kinlaw should be on the radar for the Broncos, but he might be off the board before they pick in the first round. In fact, if Kinlaw was a top-five pick, I wouldn’t be surprised.

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The New Guy

For a player who had never caught a pass in a game until 2016, Dayton tight end Adam Trautman has been one of the talks of the town this week at the Senior Bowl. Trautman has been looking good as a receiver on the practice field. Playing against the highest level of competition, the small-school prospect has not only shown that he belongs, but that he can shine.

Dayton has not had a player selected in the NFL Draft since 1977, but all that is going to change this year because of Trautman. In fact, there are teams I talk to that have him as the No. 1 tight end on their board. Things change quickly in football, and Trautman (with his size/speed combination and nose for the end zone) has changed plenty of minds about what the small-school prospect can be at the big-time level.

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Miscellaneous Notes

The Broncos 2019 NFL Draft class has gotten them a ton of respect from NFL circles. In fact, there is some regret out there from teams who did not choose both Drew Lock and Noah Fant.

Lock was at this game a year ago and he did not have a bad week at all. He showed his big arm, athleticism and charisma as a quarterback for the entire league to see. Even Broncos general manager John Elway told Lock he would be a top-10 pick in the draft yet no team – even the Broncos who were originally in that spot – pulled the trigger on the selection.

Team officials I talk to that still need quarterbacks are regretting that decision.

In fact, I communicated with one team executive yesterday who was really down on the fact his team didn’t take Fant before the Broncos did at No.20 overall.

“Fant is going to be the best tight end in this class,” this official texted me when talking about the young tight end. Even though Lions tight end (and Fant’s college teammate) T.J. Hockenson had more hype heading into the draft last year, Fant has shown more on the field and his performance has made teams regret their decision to go in a different direction.