With the 2022 Senior Bowl wrapping up this week, players will be climbing and falling the NFL team draft boards, and draft grades will be ranging from the “great job” to “come see me after class”. Let’s dive into some of the Senior Bowl players that I thought stood out and could make a huge impact in New Orleans, now that the Saints have announced their new Head Coach, Dennis Allen.
Jalen Pitre DB, Baylor
Pitre possess all of the things that you love about a true “position-less” football player. At the Senior Bowl Pitre’s speed and ability to cover tight ends, running backs, and wide receivers was put on display; everything about this kid screams versatile defensive back, his athleticism, his instincts, and his high motor stand out the most. If I had to compare him to a current NFL player, it would be last year’s breakout rookie, safety Jevon Holland! Size does not matter. If PJ Williams were to leave in free agency this offseason, Pitre would make a lot of sense as a day two pick.
Trevor Penning OT, Northern Iowa
I hate to be that guy, but if Terron Armstead leaves in free agency, offensive tackle becomes an immediate need right behind Quarterback. Whether you move Ramczyk to left tackle or not, you can’t have success in this league without offensive linemen. Penning on paper has great size (6-7/ 330). During the Senior Bowl I saw something in Penning right away that stood out. Penning plays aggressive and will drive you into the ground, he moves with extremely quick feet and is an overall powerhouse. Day one of the Senior Bowl was rough for Penning, however after that he turned the switch on, he really dominated the rest of the week both in practice and during the game. Penning has the size and strength to play both right or left tackle, has excellent technique as a pass blocker and is only recorded a 99.9 run blocking grade in 2021 according to PFF. He very easily could be a target at pick 18.
Trey McBride TE, Colorado State
Now, before I get into McBride, let me start by saying this is a very stacked tight end group. Personally, I would love ANY of these cats come to New Orleans; whether its McBride, Ferguson (Wisconsin), Ruckert (OSU) or Calcaterra (SMU). I couldn’t help but keep an eye out for McBride during practice all week. McBride might not be the fastest or most athletic tight end, but he does everything you want out of your tight end; McBride can make even the most contested catch, which we saw a few times throughout the rainy practice, always seemed to create separation and was always able to get opened. He might be the best blocking tight end in the draft and could be a great target for the Saints in the first or second round and be an immediate upgrade.
Tariq Woolen DB, UTSA
In today’s NFL, you can never have too many cornerbacks. Last year, the Saints hit a home run with Mansfield native Paulson Adebo so let's make it 2 for 2 on Texas native corners. Woolen followed the same path as pro bowler Trevon Diggs as a wide receiver then changing positions to cornerback. In Woolen’s really only one true season at corner, when watching the tape, he makes it look so effortlessly. He really drew intrigue at the Senior Bowl and absolutely killed it. His size alone (6-4/205) makes him a promising prospect if he were to fall into the 4th/5th round he could be an absolute steal for the New Orleans Saints.
#UTSA CB Tariq Woolen was my winner at CB this week at the Senior Bowl.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 5, 2022
6033, 205, 33.5” arms. Clocked 22.45 MPH (@ZebraTechnology) and looked controlled/fluid in drills.
My SB winners at every position: https://t.co/VvNMnMSYNv pic.twitter.com/abEfgq4Svb
Zion Johnson OL, Boston College
Taking a little page from our own Dylan Sanders, there might not have been a better player, nor someone who had a bigger week then Zion Johnson from Boston College. This was a guy who constantly stood out in one and one’s. He not only played well as a guard but also played center, absolutely killed it and helped his stock climb higher and higher. All 3 days of practice, Johnson stayed after to work on his snaps. Work ethic isn’t something you can measure on paper or with a stopwatch. It’s things like this that make you stand out. If the Saints want to invest in the interior part of the line, Johnson is the pick.
Zion Johnson vs Travis Jones. Two stand out prospects at the senior bowl. Zion Johnson continues to impress. pic.twitter.com/fycdglW1HI— The GOAT House (@GoatHouseNFL) February 3, 2022
Otito Ogbonnia DT, UCLA
The great Dylan Sanders has done it again. In his post Senior Bowl mock draft, he had Ogbonnia going in the 4th round to the Saints. He tore it up last week at the Senior Bowl constantly in one on ones and wreaked havoc during the game. He is all lower power and getting under you with power and speed. He could be an excellent addition and great value in the fourth round.
UCLA DL #91 was an absolute terror in 1-on-1 drills— #NoMusicNoIntro (@askmetostay323) February 1, 2022
Carson Strong QB, Nevada
Now here me out here, if the Saints either find a bridge guy or decide to use their first or second round pick on another position, I really wouldn’t mind seeing them take a chance and develop Strong. Going into the senior bowl, we knew two things about Strong, first he is extremely limited with mobility and of course after the knee injury, how healthy is it/ can it hold up in the NFL? During practice, it wasn’t much but during team drills you saw Strong go through progressions and move around the pocket and run for positive yards, which again isn’t much to go off of but is still a positive. Also, we learned he has one cannon of an arm. I’ll admit of all the Quarterbacks during practice all week, no one took as many deep shots as Strong and even in the rainy conditions, it didn’t seem to slow him down or rock his confidence. Strong had the most to gain heading into the Senior Bowl and despite a lackluster game, he could be someone worth taking a closer look at, considering Strong has already met with the Saints.
Carson Strong takes off and runs for a few yards— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) February 2, 2022
Important to see this pic.twitter.com/EIz84JR2zt
Carson Strong with the best throw of the morning to Christian Watson pic.twitter.com/qZoi9HxPq0— Luke Carr (TD4LC) (@LukeCarrNFL) February 2, 2022
Velus Jones Jr. WR, Tennessee
Now you really didn’t think I was going to write this piece and not include a wide receiver or two that the Saints would use? Well, it’s about time I mentioned a receiver so let's go. Outside of North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, Jones had the best hands among all receivers during the Senior Bowl. His savvy route running, and level of awareness was on display in Mobile last week. One of his best traits and something I noticed right away besides his hands, was the ability to track the deep ball and make the adjustments like this play. The Saints are in need of another playmaker at the receiver position and Jones Jr. could be that guy in the later rounds.
Tennessee WR Velus Jones Jr. getting a TD on his teammate Alontae Taylor pic.twitter.com/2wMzr7q8MO— Talkin’ Giants (@TalkinGiants) February 2, 2022
Danny Gray WR, SMU
Danny Gray was a kid who only practiced on the first day of practice, got hurt and was then ruled out for the rest of the week. He arguably had the play of the week, catching a dime of a pass from Malik Willis. Gray is a guy who on paper and based on film, you watch at SMU this past season. He has elite speed and burst off the line of scrimmage, a savvy route runner, plays with a swagger and a confidence that you want your receiver to have. He has good hands not to mention according to Zebra, he ran at 22.01 MPH during this play. He is definitely someone that the Saints could and would love to add to their receiver core.
Brian Asamoah II LB, OU
If the Saints were to lose Kwon Alexander in free agency, I have his replacement lined up and ready to roll. Among all linebackers from both teams, I thought Asamoah was the best pass covering linebacker all week during practice. He’s a smaller guy (6-1/222), however he makes up for it with excellent sideline to sideline speed and excellent awareness and ability to recognize plays. His leadership and ability to be a coach on the field make him a great leader. Should New Orleans be in need for another linebacker, Asamoah could be your guy in the third/fourth round.
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