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2024 Senior Bowl Day 1 standouts: WRs Ladd McConkey, Roman Wilson separating from pack

MOBILE, Ala. -- With Reese's Senior Bowl practices getting underway on Tuesday, 100-plus prospects for the 2024 NFL Draft are in the midst of a crucial job interview.'s Lance Zierlein and Eric Edholm provide a look at standouts from Day 1, as well as news and notes from the day's events.

Tune in for live coverage of Senior Bowl practice Wednesday and Thursday beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET on NFL Network and NFL+, and don't miss exclusive coverage Saturday of the Senior Bowl game at 1 p.m. ET on NFL Network and NFL+.

Five stars from Day 1 of Senior Bowl practice

Roman Wilson, WR, Michigan

Wilson is going to be a problem for defenses if he finds the right fit in the draft. While his touchdown production popped in 2023 (12), he never reached 800 yards receiving in a season during his college career due to the run-heavy nature of Michigan's offense. However, he showed off his ability to run away from coverage and make contested catches with strong hands throughout practice on Tuesday. Wilson's talent for creating mismatches and opening throwing windows for his quarterback reminds me of what I saw from Tank Dell at the Senior Bowl last year, and we know Dell thrived once he was paired with C.J. Stroud in Houston.

Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia

If anyone was sleeping on what McConkey is capable of heading into this week at the Senior Bowl, they aren't anymore. The Bulldogs star is a thoughtful route-runner who attacks defenses with a well-defined route plan. On Tuesday, he was able to create separation left and right. His ability to uncover and make the tough catch should continue into Day 2, because he's proven he can do it on a consistent basis.

Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

Your favorite team is in luck if it needs an offensive tackle, because there will be plenty to choose from inside the first 50 picks of this year's draft. Guyton was one of the tackles who had a performance that matched his potential on Tuesday. He has great size (6-foot-7, 328 pounds) and length, and he used both traits to his advantage in shutting down spin moves and bull rushes in one-on-one drills. Guyton is a little light on experience (one season as a full-time starter) but heavy on talent, so Tuesday could mark the beginning of a jump up draft boards.

Chris Braswell, Edge, Alabama

Braswell might send me back to the game tape, as it's possible I was a little low on him after my initial scouting report. While he still has some things to prove as a run defender, he was extremely physical at the point of attack in run drills against offensive linemen and ran Houston's Patrick Paul back into the pocket with a big bull rush early in the rush segment of practice. Alabama edge defenders are always well-schooled, but the aggression from Braswell really stood out.

Laiatu Latu, Edge, UCLA

Spending an afternoon watching Latu's pass-rush film was the highlight of January for me. Some might say I don't have much of a life. Maybe you don't like elite pass-rush talent like I do. Latu showed on tape that he has a variety of go-to moves and counters he can use to beat opponents, and we saw the exact same thing from him at practice on Tuesday. He looked controlled but instinctive throughout his rush reps. He still has some work to do as a run defender, and Latu's biggest hurdle pre-draft will be the medical evaluations, as he did have a serious neck injury during his time at Washington. But Latu is priming his draft slotting by reinforcing what he put on tape for the last two seasons at UCLA.

Five Senior Bowl takeaways from Tuesday

1) Michael Penix Jr.'s arm talent stands out on Day 1.

It's tough for quarterbacks to step in and dominate on the first day of Senior Bowl practice as they acclimate to a new offense and new teammates, and each of the National Team QBs had their share of ups and downs. But of the four, Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. probably did the most to open eyes with some of his throws.

He hit Michigan WR Roman Wilson on a deep crosser to the far side of the field on one of his best throws of the day, delivering it with touch and placement between two defenders.

Penix's arm talent just looked different working next to Oregon's Bo Nix and Notre Dame's Sam Hartman. Penix also looked more comfortable taking snaps from center than the others did through one practice.

But there were at least two plays in full-team sessions where Penix likely held onto the ball too long. He also misfired on a few other passes and didn't finish his day quite as strong as he started.

The week has just begun, and Penix seemed to gain an early edge, but not so much so that the others can't catch up.

2) Experience matters for Oregon QB Bo Nix.

Nix, who left Auburn to star for the Ducks, spoke Tuesday morning about his return to his home state and what he hopes to accomplish at the Senior Bowl as a way to help launch his NFL career.

Nix said he felt his vast experience in college football (61 career starts) has helped him pick up new concepts and different terminology quickly, which can be a huge benefit during Senior Bowl week, when players are tasked with learning an offense in less than a week.

"Five offenses in five years, five different play-callers," Nix said. "So, I've been around the block."

Anyone who watched Nix play for Auburn and Oregon can attest to the differences in what he was asked to do at each place. Nix did have some underthrows as the quarterbacks and receivers started to work together for the first time on Tuesday. There also was clearly an adjustment to working under center, which Nix did very little of in college at either stop. Nix seemed to settle in more as the practice wore on, though. His footwork looked cleaner and his ball placement improved, as he hit USC WR Brennan Rice (son of legendary receiver Jerry Rice) on a nice pump-and-go for a touchdown and closed out the first team period with a good connection to Penn State TE Theo Johnson.

If Nix, who's ranked the No. 23 prospect in the draft by NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, can improve with his comfort level and execution in the days ahead, this can be a good week for him.

3) Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell looks the part.

There's only so much to glean from any prospect on Day 1 of practice at the Senior Bowl, as everyone is acclimating to their surroundings. But Mitchell, No. 19 in Jeremiah’s prospect rankings, did nothing to slow down that talk.

"I know I belong and I'm gonna always try to dominate," Mitchell told me. "So, Round 1, Round 2, whatever it is, I try not to get into all of that. I just want to compete and win whenever I'm out there."

He appeared quite comfortable in man coverage (both off and press) and had several strong reps in the National Team practice Tuesday morning, breaking up an out route to Arizona WR Jacob Cowing and then thwarting a slot fade to Rice WR Luke McCaffrey (younger brother of the Super Bowl-bound Christian McCaffrey).

The 6-foot, 195-pound Mitchell saw a dip in his playmaking this past season for the Rockets, going from five interceptions (and two pick-sixes) in 2022 to only one interception in 2023. But he defended almost as many passes (20 in 2022, 18 in 2023) despite playing one fewer game last season and not being targeted by opponents as much.

Mitchell said he regretted a few would-be INTs slipping through his hands last season, but that the goal this week is to not let that happen.

"Just trying to be close to perfect," he said. "I lost two reps today, and I want to make that better (on Wednesday)."

4) Marshall RB Rasheen Ali shows patience, burst.

In what appears to be an RB class with no clear-cut front-runner, Ali is one of the Senior Bowl backs with a chance to make some noise this week.

The 6-foot, 204-pound Ali had two of the more explosive runs Tuesday during the National Team practice, displaying patience, vision and burst. It's difficult to quantify a lot of the plays in a practice without full contact, but he broke through to the second level on each run.

Ali also flashed his receiving skills a few times in individual work, whipping past Notre Dame linebacker JD Bertrand on a wheel route.

"I want to show I can be versatile, be that three-down back," Ali said.

Ali, who missed a big chunk of the 2022 college season after taking a leave of absence for undisclosed reasons, ran for a combined 2,536 yards and 38 touchdowns in the 2021 and 2023 seasons. He's expected to be a big athletic tester, which also could give him a boost leading up to the draft.

5) Oregon's massive center makes strong early impression.

Of the offensive linemen I watched in the National Team's first session, two stood out: Oregon C Jackson Powers-Johnson and Oregon State's Taliese Fuaga. First of all, they're impossible to miss for sheer size reasons alone -- Fuaga is nearly 6-6 and 332 pounds, with an 81-inch wingspan, and Powers-Johnson is massive for a center at 6-3 and 334 pounds.

But Powers-Johnson was terrific in the early going, stonewalling Clemson's Tyler Davis on a bull rush in one-on-ones, handling Oregon's Brandon Dorlus, his college teammate, easily in full-team work and looking surprisingly fluid for a player whose superpower is bullying D-linemen.

Amazingly, Powers-Johnson only has one full season at center, but he handled those duties well Tuesday, just as he did all season for the Ducks. Some NFL teams could consider him at guard, too. That flexibility could help make him a top-25 pick.

Interestingly, after practice, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin spoke with Powers-Johnson. And yes, center is a need for Pittsburgh. Tomlin famously chatted with Malik Willis a bunch at Senior Bowl practices a couple years ago, only to draft another Senior Bowl QB, Kenny Pickett. But it's not hard to picture Tomlin loving the hulking Ducks center.

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