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Scouting the Senior Bowl: South Team Offense

SEC stars like Evan Engram and O.J. Howard abound on the South Team’s offense. How much interest must the Saints have?

NCAA Football: Memphis at Mississippi
Mississippi Rebels tight end Evan Engram (17) battles for possession of the ball with Memphis Tigers defensive back Jahmahl Pardner (26) during the third quarter of the game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Credit: Matt Bush
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl officially kicks off next its slate of events next Monday, January 23rd, and Canal Street Chronicles will be well-represented for a week of practices, player interviews, and NFL draft rumors.

For now, let’s take a minute to evaluate the rosters and try to see who will draw the attention of New Orleans Saints scouts and coaches. The South Team will be coached by Hue Jackson’s Cleveland Browns staff, and players I’m dialed in on include:

NCAA Football: Washington at California
California Golden Bears quarterback Davis Webb (7) celebrates with teammates after a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Credit: Kelley L Cox
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks and Tailbacks

  • Antonio Pipkin, Tiffin
  • Davis Webb, Cal
  • Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee

The biggest name in this group is Davis Webb, who started just one year for the California Golden Bears after transferring from Texas Tech. The Saints happened to catch Cal’s Week 10 game against Washington, which they lost 66-27. Webb was swarmed by the Huskies defense, throwing three picks to one score while completing just 48.9 percent of his passes.

Antonio Pipkin is a name to remember. While he played at a small program, Pipkin has shown to be an instinctive passer who has traits that will impress NFL evaluators. This in-depth read courtesy of Inside The Pylon’s Mark Schofield is worth your time.

  • Donnell Pumphrey, San Diego State
  • Matt Dayes, North Carolina State
  • FB Freddie Stevenson, Florida State

Donnell Pumphrey and Matt Dayes are both smaller-sized backs who have a lot of experience in working as receivers. Pumphrey set the new college football yards from scrimmage record with 7,444 yards during his four years at San Diego State despite maybe standing 5-foot-9 and weighing 180-pounds. Dayes is a bit stocker, but no less agile and may be able to handle more damaging contact in the NFL. They’re both exactly the kind of tailback the Saints need to fill in the role created by Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, et al.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama
Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) celebrates as he scores a touchdown in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tight Ends and Wide Receivers

  • Evan Engram, Ole Miss
  • Gerald Everett, South Alabama
  • O.J. Howard, Alabama

All three of these tight ends have reputations as top-shelf athletes with impressive receiving ability. Evan Engram is probably the best pure pass-catcher of the bunch, and he projects really well in the Saints’ offense as a big slot weapon. Saints scouts have also seen him play live three times this past year against Florida State, Alabama, and Arkansas - games in which Engram piled up 25 catches for 370 yards and three scores.

O.J. Howard is the other most well-known tight end participating in this year’s Senior Bowl, and some analysts speculated that he may not attend. He is, however, and Howard has a great opportunity to fill in gaps on his on-field resume with a solid week of practices. He and Gerald Everett are both better blockers than Engram, and are seen as more complete tight ends than big receiving targets.

  • Artavis Scott, Clemson
  • Fred Ross, Mississippi State
  • Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
  • Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
  • Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
  • Travin Dural, LSU

This is a very good receiver group. Josh Reynolds and Taywan Taylor are both underrated deep threats, thanks to a shared ability to get vertical and use their lanky frames to reel in off-target passes. Fred Ross is more physical than them and may have a future as a red zone specialist thanks to his 17 touchdowns the last two years.

Ryan Switzer is a favorite of Draftniks and probably appeals to many pro scouts. The slot receiver has strong hands (he caught 96 passes in his senior year) and good enough play speed to contribute in the NFL. His matchups in one-on-one drills during practice will be a good test for him.

Another prospect who should seize this opportunity is Travin Dural, who has caught more than 30 passes in a year just once (2014). He’ll get opportunities in Mobile that weren’t there for him in LSU’s limited passing offense.

NCAA Football:  Florida at Louisiana State
LSU Tigers guard Josh Boutte (76) and center Ethan Pocic (77) and quarterback Danny Etling (16) in action during the game against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium. Credit: Jerome Miron
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line

  • C Ethan Pocic, LSU
  • C Jon Toth, Kentucky
  • G Danny Isidora, Miami
  • G Isaac Asiata, Utah
  • G Jessamen Dunker, Tennessee State
  • G Nico Siragusa, San Diego State
  • T Antonio Garcia, Troy
  • T Conor McDermott, UCLA
  • T Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
  • T Justin Senior, Mississippi State

There’s a popular narrative that this isn’t a good offensive line class, but that’s not true. There aren’t the obvious elite athletes that are usually overrated, drafted early, and fail to pan out like Matt Kalil, Luke Joeckel, Jonathan Cooper, or Greg Robinson, but there’s plenty of talented linemen who should be good values for teams on draft day.

Inside at guard, where the Saints should have the most interest, Danny Isidora looks like the top prospect. Isidora was a captain on Miami’s offensive line and plays with well-coached technique. He regularly buried his opponents in the turf and should be something of a sleeper on Day 3 of the draft. The Saints caught Miami’s game against Virginia Tech live, a loss in which Isidora was the only positively-graded member of the offensive line.

Both South Team centers are good prospects but I like Jon Toth more than Ethan Pocic. Pocic plays too tall, which is understandable for a 6-foot-7 human being, and looks like a tackle miscast as an interior lineman. Toth is a very intelligent player who led his team in knockdowns and looks rock-solid in pass protection.

Forrest Lamp and Antonio Garcia are two tackles who are quickly vaulting up draft boards. Coming from lesser-known programs at Western Kentucky and Troy, they have each impressed NFL scouts with their natural kick-slide and clean pass protection. Lamp surrendered just one pressure to Alabama’s defensive line, and hasn’t allowed a sack in nearly three years. They should dominate Senior Bowl practices.