The 2023 Reese's Senior Bowl is right around the corner, with practices beginning on Jan. 31 and the game scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 4 (2:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network). All of the events will take place at Hancock Whitney Stadium, which is on the campus of the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama.
For many of the players on hand, that week will ultimately confirm what we have already seen on the college gridiron. A few guys, however, will exceed the expectations of those in attendance, showcasing enticing instincts, speed, throwing velocity, strong hands and/or tackling skills in the kind of competitive environment that isn't universally available to college football players across the country.
I expect the following individuals to shine in Mobile, earning starter grades from teams and landing in the top 100 by the time the 2023 NFL Draft rolls around. I've ranked the prospects below in descending order of how highly they will be selected come April.
NOTE: Heights and weights are via school measurements.
10) McClendon Curtis, OL, Chattanooga (6-foot-6, 328 pounds)
Offensive tackle Cody Mauch from North Dakota State is already widely considered a value option for the first or second day of the draft, so Curtis is my pick among prospects from outside the FBS to make a name for himself in Mobile. His former teammate at Chattanooga, Cole Strange, performed well at the Senior Bowl last year and became a first-round selection of the New England Patriots. McClendon is a different type of prospect, though, using his pure bulk to muscle opponents in the run game. That said, his agility on second-level blocks is good enough for teams relying primarily on the power game to value him as a starter.
9) Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina (6-2, 200)
Junior Cam Smith gets all the headlines in this draft class as the elite CB prospect out of South Carolina, but Rush is no slouch! A tall, long outside corner, this redshirt senior boasts the ball skills to make quarterbacks pay for poor decisions and the physicality to take on any receiver. If Rush can display the foot quickness and recovery speed to handle man-up duties at Hancock Whitney Stadium, NFL teams will consider him a future starter.
8) Daniel Scott, S, California (6-2, 215)
Not a lot of people outside of the Pac-12 Network's viewership saw Scott play for the 4-8 Bears this past season, but he's an all-around defender capable of plugging holes in the run game and covering ground in coverage. Scott has very good recognition skills and is a reliable tackler, as well, which means he can do the thing all teams require from their safeties: preventing explosive plays.
7) Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas (6-2, 222)
Johnson finally escapes the shadow of Bijan Robinson in Mobile. Could two running backs from the same school be selected in the top 100? It's happened in three of the past seven drafts: Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris out of Alabama in 2019; Sony Michel and Nick Chubb out of Georgia in 2018; Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake out of 'Bama in 2016. Johnson will look quick for his size during Senior Bowl practices, cutting hard and getting upfield rapidly. When the game comes, he'll lower his pads and maintain his balance to keep the chains moving -- not unlike 2022 third-round picks Tyrion Davis-Price and Brian Robinson Jr.
6) Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati (6-0, 235)
Pace transferred from Miami (Ohio) to Cincinnati, reuniting with his brother, Deshawn, who had been one of the stars in the Bearcats' 2021 run to the College Football Playoff. Ivan became the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, blowing past offensive linemen with strength and hustle despite lacking ideal height or length for the position. The sideline-to-sideline defender will make an impact on special teams at the next level before pounding ball carriers on defense like Dre Greenlaw does for the San Francisco 49ers.
5) Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green (6-4, 300)
It is almost comical to see a 300-pounder playing with remarkable quickness and hustle from a stand-up position, as Brooks did for the Falcons. Just wait until he takes on guards and centers in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl. His first step and violent hands could convince teams to project him as a starting 3- or 5-technique at the next level.
4) Nick Saldiveri, OL, Old Dominion (6-6, 316)
Saldiveri mostly played right tackle for the Monarchs over the past four years, but he looked just fine when sliding into right guard this past season. Scouts will be asking to move him all over the place in Mobile, possibly even the center position, where he could take full advantage of his intelligence and mobility. While Saldiveri improved his pass-protection skills in 2022 -- showing the natural bend and ability to anchor that might earn him a shot at tackle in the NFL -- playing with leverage and tenacity inside could lead to a top-100 draft slot. Think: Luke Goedeke, the Central Michigan product who was taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round last year.
3) Jaren Hall, QB, BYU (6-1, 205)
Hall left school with eligibility remaining, but he is a mature 24-year-old (having served a two-year Mormon mission before playing with the Cougars) possessing the physical tools to make it in the league. Hall's velocity and tight ball out of the pocket allow him to deliver to his first, second or third read -- but he also shows touch when needed. Hall's a wizard on the move, as well, finding downfield targets or racing for big gains. If his ball placement is on point in Mobile, his name will appear on many "risers" lists after the event.
2) Charlie Jones, WR, Purdue (6-0, 188)
I fully expect Jones to put on a show at the Senior Bowl, much like Cooper Kupp did six years ago when he was coming out of Eastern Washington. The quickness and crispness of Jones' routes, strength of his hands and his elusiveness after the catch will wow those in attendance. He might not have elite speed, but will be a workhorse in the passing game from the slot or outside. Jones should have opportunities during the week to show off his return skills, as well.
1) Keion White, DL, Georgia Tech (6-5, 286)
The last two Georgia Tech players to be picked in the top 100 overall selections: front-seven defenders Adam Gotsis (a second-rounder at No. 63 overall back in 2016) and Jeremiah Attaochu (also a second-rounder at No. 50 overall in 2014). White's next in line. Saldiveri's former teammate at Old Dominion has the combination of size and athleticism to take offensive tackles to task on the field in Mobile, both as a pass rusher and run defender. In one-on-one drills and live action, he'll have a chance to earn fans across the league by proving he has the bend to turn the corner and the agility to spin inside on tackles.