The Reese's Senior Bowl released its watch list of 2024 NFL Draft hopefuls on Wednesday, consisting of 720 prospects from more than 100 college programs.
The watch list is significantly larger than its 2023 counterpart, which featured 485 prospects. One reason for this is that there are many more players eligible for the game, many of whom utilized an extra year of eligibility via an NCAA rule change that was made amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leading the way is Ole Miss, which features 20 players on this year's watch list. Right behind them are Tennessee, with 19 prospects, and Michigan, with 18 players on the preseason list.
Here are three things you need to know about this year's watch list for the annual all-star game, which will be held in Mobile, Alabama, on Feb. 3, 2024, and broadcast live on NFL Network (1 p.m. ET).
NOTE: The watch list does not include many third- or fourth-year juniors who could become eligible to play in the all-star game if they graduate by December 2023, according to the Senior Bowl.
1) Quarterbacks are a deeper group. A total of 48 QBs made this year's watch list. Oregon's Bo Nix and BYU's Kedon Slovis, who are on this year's list, both were invited to the 2023 game before going back to school for this season. (Slovis played at Pitt last season.)
"Yeah, it's a really deep list," said Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy. "There are going to be some hard cuts this year. I would say just based off the last five years, we go into the fall and realistically there are maybe 10 to 15 guys that have a chance (to play in the Senior Bowl) if they play well their senior year.
"This year, that number is probably over 20 -- probably closer to that 20 to 25 range. So numbers-wise, it's definitely up from where it's been. And that's because a lot of these guys return to school. It's kind of the NIL effect."
Topping the list are some experienced prospects, including a few well-traveled ones. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that we'll see several of them face off against each other this fall.
Nix revived his career last season after transferring from Auburn. He could be in the Heisman Trophy mix, along with Pac-12 rival Michael Penix Jr., who has seen his career take off at Washington; they'll square off Oct. 14 in Seattle. If it's anything like last year's classic showdown -- a 37-34 Huskies victory -- this year's game will be must-see TV.
Another two quarterbacks who met last year in a classic -- and who have a rematch in 2023 -- also highlight the Senior Bowl list. Florida State's Jordan Travis and LSU's Jayden Daniels face off on Sept. 3 in Orlando.
Nagy said he expects a convoy of scouts to hit the Travis-Daniels showdown as part of a big swing of games that week.
Other big-name quarterbacks on the list who could thrive this fall include Kentucky's Devin Leary, Notre Dame's Sam Hartman, Arkansas' KJ Jefferson, Tennessee's Joe Milton III, South Carolina's Spencer Rattler, Utah's Cam Rising, Maryland's Taulia Tagovailoa (brother of Tua) and local prospect Carter Bradley from South Alabama, who plays his home games at Hancock Whitney Stadium -- also home of the Senior Bowl game and practices.
2) Transfers help Ole Miss lead the way. Ole Miss features 20 players on the list -- a hearty-looking total, and that's not even considering their pool of underclassman talent. That number tops the 2023 watch-list leader, Alabama, which had 12 prospects.
But keep in mind that this is an expanded list of prospects, at 720 compared to 485 on the 2023 watch list. For context, 26 schools have at least 10 prospects on the Senior Bowl watch list this year.
"It's going to be an interesting year," Nagy said. "We'll have a lot more players to watch."
Ole Miss is an extreme example of what is happening around college football -- widespread use of the transfer portal.
The team added 20-plus new transfers to its roster this offseason, with several on the Senior Bowl watch list. Among the more intriguing players from that group is WR Zakhari Franklin, a possible Day 2 pick who comes over from UTSA.
"I think it has a lot to do with a lot of movement," Nagy said. "You know, they had a lot of extra movement off the roster and onto the roster. So, you know, you just want to want to keep an open mind to those guys -- a lot of them have something to prove, and the coaches down there think a lot of the new crew that are in line to start."
3) Top non-QBs on the list. There's a pretty deep well of talent at many positions, but certain spots stand out a bit above the others. For those teams needing offensive-line talent -- there aren't many that don't -- Mobile could be a hotspot next winter.
"It's a good year to need offensive linemen, especially at tackle," Nagy said. "Every team is looking for the bigger bodies, and this is a really deep tackle group.
"We've got about 40 guys we could bring to the game that I think we have draftable grades on that we feel really good about right now."
Some years, Nagy said, that number might be closer to 25. And it's not just the depth that stands out, either -- there are top-tier talents such as Penn State's Olu Fashanu, Duke's Graham Barton, Arizona's Jordan Morgan and Oklahoma's Tyler Guyton.
And Nagy loves what he's seen from the center group, which is sometimes a tricky position to fill for all-star games.
"It's a really good center class," Nagy said. "I know that's not the sexiest position in the world. But we we've had to manufacture some centers over the last couple of years in terms of -- you know, guys that weren't college centers, guys that were doing it for the first time in Mobile.
"We shouldn't have that issue this year."
Nagy singled out two other really deep positions: defensive tackle and cornerback.
"The interior defensive line class is better than it's been in years," he said. "There are some really good 1- and 3-techniques that are going to be Day 1, Day 2 type of players."
Among the top players in that group: Michigan's Kris Jenkins, Georgia's Nazir Stackhouse, Illinois' Jer'Zhan Newton and Clemson's Ruke Orhorhoro.
Nagy hasn't quite watched all of the corners yet, he said, but he's really intrigued with what he has seen to this point.
"The deeper I get into the corner group, the more I like it," he said. "That's typically a tough position to get high-end guys that go back for their senior years, but this is going to be a pretty stacked group."
Some players to watch at corner include TCU's Josh Newton, Auburn's DJ James, Notre Dame's Cam Hart, Tulane's Jarius Monroe and Louisville's Jarvis Brownlee Jr.
On top of that, there are standouts elsewhere, including Florida State edge rusher Jared Verse, Boston College OG Christian Mahogany and Minnesota S Tyler Nubin.