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2021 Senior Bowl: Kellen Mond among prospects who bolstered NFL draft stock

MOBILE, ALA. -- After a week of practices here in Mobile, 100-plus prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft capped off a crucial job interview in Saturday's Reese's Senior Bowl. The National team, coached by the Miami Dolphins staff, defeated the Carolina Panthers-led American team, 27-24. Here's a look at standouts from the game, as well as notes from interviews with players and coaches.

Three standouts from the Senior Bowl game

Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M. Quarterbacks don't generally play much more than a quarter in the Senior Bowl, particularly in years where the game carries four passers on each squad. But with three per squad this year, and Alabama's Mac Jones -- Mond's teammate this week -- sitting out due to a left ankle injury suffered in practice on Thursday, Mond got extra playing time and took advantage of it in winning MVP honors.

Mond started both halves, giving way to former Wake Forest and Georgia QB Jamie Newman in the second and fourth quarters.

"More playing time is always good. I didn't know I was going to start until back at the hotel (pre-game) it was talked about," Mond said.

Mond completed 13 of 25 passes for 173 yards, leading an American squad comeback from a 13-0 deficit to a 16-13 lead with two third-quarter TD passes, prompting NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah to say Mond "is making a little money today," during the broadcast of the game.

One of those scores was perhaps Mond's best throw of the game, to Clemson WR Amari Rodgers, threading a throw over the middle between defensive backs Darren Hall of San Diego State and Thomas Graham Jr. of Oregon. Hall was also involved in Mond's worst throw, dropping a would-be interception that bounced off his chest.

Mond's head coach this week, the Carolina Panthers' Matt Rhule, liked what he saw from the QB.

"We're talking about a really, really football-smart guy here," Rhule said after the game. "He's got one of those memories. You give him a play and he knows it. He kind of got into a rhythm there in the third quarter, just ripping some seam balls, making some plays. I think he's got a bright future."

Dez Fitzpatrick, WR, Louisville. The former Cardinals standout proved to be the toughest cover for American squad defensive backs, getting open with ease and showing excellent body control on a pair of catches, one on the sideline in the first half and then high-pointing a catch on a back-shoulder throw from Texas QB Sam Ehlinger in the second half.

"We saw him do a toe-drag swag catch on the sideline, then come back and win a 50-50 ball along the boundary. (It was an) outstanding week of work for Dez Fitzpatrick," said NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks.

Fitzpatrick said he's been comfortable getting two feet in bounds, although the NCAA rule requires only one for a completed catch, for the last two years.

"I'm comfortable with adjusting to two feet in bounds. I've been working on it for the longest time," Fitzpatrick said. "... It came second nature to me."

Fitzpatrick recorded game highs of six catches and 90 yards.

Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina. Carter showed big-play ability during the practice week, and flashed it again in Saturday's game with a nifty run of 27 yards on which he broke or avoided three would-be tackles. He deftly sidestepped Missouri safety Tyree Gillespie in the backfield, then bounced the play to the sideline before being shoved out of bounds by Georgia's DJ Daniel. He later scored on a 12-yard run up the middle that became a scrum at about the 5-yard line, with several offensive linemen, along with even Notre Dame QB Ian Book, pushing Carter forward the rest of the way. Carter's compact frame and power allow Carter to shrug off tacklers, and showed lateral quickness to beat defenders to the perimeter.

Jeremiah said Carter was the most impressive running back in Mobile during the practice week, and Brooks included Carter on his list of draft prospects who made money with their performance. He rushed eight times for a game-high 60 yards and caught two of three targets as a receiver for 15 yards.

Additional Senior Bowl notes

Top players sidelined: A number of top players were out for the game for injury or other reasons. NFL clubs were able to get a good look at them during the practice week, but they got a better look at others on Saturday as the aforementioned Jones, Wake Forest DE Carlos Basham, Florida WR Kadarius Toney, RB Najee Harris and OL Alex Leatherwood of Alabama, Ohio State RB Trey Sermon, Tennessee OL Trey Smith, Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace and brothers Sage (Wake Forest) and Chazz (North Carolina) Surratt were among 28 unavailable.

Defensive leaders: Tulane DL Cam Sample earned Defensive Player of the Game honors with a game-high seven tackles, and assisted on a sack. ... Florida State DE Janarius Robinson registered one and a half sacks among five tackles ... Ohio State LB Tuf Borland made a diving pass breakup between the hashes in coverage, and added a tackle for loss. … Auburn LB K.J. Britt made five stops, one for a loss, with a pass breakup … Minnesota CB Benjamin St-Juste recorded two impressive pass breakups in the first half.

Block of the day: Michigan FB Ben Mason flattened South Alabama LB Riley Cole in the second quarter, leading the way for a short gain by Carter.

Quotable: "I don't know that I remember a better game from a corner in an all-star game than what (Washington CB Keith) Taylor Jr.'s done today. He's been outstanding. He's just been in position every time." -- Jeremiah, via the NFL Network broadcast.

Successful protocols: Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy announced 3,635 COVID-19 tests were administered throughout the week with only one positive result. Players and NFL personnel were tested daily.

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