CLEVELAND, Ohio — The real meat of Senior Bowl week is over. Practices wrapped up on Thursday and, while the game will take place Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on NFL Network, the real work happens during the week leading up to the game.
The NFL Combine at the end of this month will bring in a whole new group of prospects to water things down and put a little less shine on some of the names coming out of this week who feel like stars, but there’s something to be said about standing out at the Senior Bowl.
Cooper Kupp did it. Tre’davious White made plays the year he was there.
So pay attention to strong Senior Bowl performances. The value might mostly land on Day 2 or 3, but that’s where the Browns need to make their money the next two years.
Jayden Reed, WR, Michigan State, 5-10, 191
Reed isn’t big but he’s fast and could be the type of small, shifty receiver head coach Kevin Stefanski has liked to feature in the slot. The bottom line is the Browns need receivers and they need speed, especially because anything they get out of Anthony Schwartz at this point is a bonus.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler wrote, “Reed consistently gave cornerbacks trouble with his ability to separate. His top-end speed is awesome, but even more impressive were the different ways he created separation: subtle hesitation, body fakes and a skilled throttle to tempo corners off his route path. For a leaner receiver, his hand strength is outstanding and allows him to be a dependable finisher.”
ESPN’s Louis Riddick listed him as one of his top Senior Bowl performers and Pro Football Focus’ Marcus Mosher called him the best receiver at the event.
Reed can return punts, too, which is an area where the Browns could use a boost, especially if they move on from Jakeem Grant Sr.
Will McDonald IV, Iowa State, 6-3, 241
McDonald’s 35-inch arms would have matched the top number at the combine last year among edge rushers and his 82 3/8-inch wingspan would have ranked fourth. Those are similar numbers to Alex Wright, the Browns’ third-round pick last year, but McDonald is slightly shorter and weighs less.
“McDonald has been the best pure rusher here,” wrote NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, “with his combination of speed and the ability to bend at the top of his rush. There’s no doubt he has the top spin move of anyone at the Senior Bowl. I think he’s a lock to be a top-50 pick.”
ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler wrote he “talked to several scouts in Mobile who expect him to test very well in Indianapolis in a month. McDonald plays with a lot of explosion, though a chief concern is his thinner frame.”
McDonald could test his way out of the Browns’ range, but if he’s there in the 40s, the Browns might have a tough choice to make.
Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin, 6-3, 312
The obligatory defensive tackle mention, Benton, like Reed, came off as one of the darlings of this week’s practices.
Brugler wrote, “several offensive linemen mentioned (Benton) as the hardest guy to block all week. A nose tackle in college, Benton’s point-of-attack power is clear on tape, and scouts believed there was pass-rush potential there, too. Benton showed exactly that during one-on-ones, with impressive quickness and body control for his size.”
If he makes it to Day 2, he’s not making it long on Day 2, but the Browns might consider themselves lucky if he’s still there.