While the conclusions drawn are imperfect by nature, they do start to shape the narratives that will form throughout the NFL Draft process.
This year has some bigger names than in years past. Although Michael Penix Jr. decided to sit the game in Mobile, Alabama out and Bo Nix elected to be limited for the game, former No. 1 QB recruit Spencer Rattler and Notre Dame transfer Sam Hartman both got solid reps throughout. In addition, the week of practice began to set some players above the fold.
Here’s a look at the winners and losers of the Senior Bowl, and what it could mean for their draft stock moving forward.
Senior Bowl 2024 winners
Spencer Rattler, QB, South Carolina
Rattler had a roller coaster of a college career. He started at Oklahoma at a time when then-head coach Lincoln Riley was churning out Heisman Trophy quarterbacks, but he never truly got off the ground. He was supplanted by Caleb Williams and eventually transferred to South Carolina, where he played the rest of his career.
Rattler had an outstanding week at the Senior Bowl that continued during the actual game. He opened the scoring with a beautiful high-point 29-yard touchdown pass to Georgia’s Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, and during 7-on-7s he threw a perfect back-shoulder pass for a TD.
While he isn’t breaking into the Williams-Maye tier any time soon, Rattler is definitely making a case that he is more than the mid-to-late round QB he’s frequently being mocked as.
Jarvis Brownlee Jr., CB, Louisville
There’s an argument no one has made a better case for himself this week than Jarvis Brownlee Jr.
The Louisville cornerback impressed in both practice and live game action, running routes for receivers and notching an interception when the quarterback threw inside of a wide receiver.
While that can be written off as a defensive back just taking advantage of a bad throw, it was the culmination of a great week for Brownlee. Even Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner took notice of Brownlee, praising his ability to remain focused in one-on-ones during the week.
Brownlee could rocket up boards if he continues his performance. His teammate Quincey Riley was graded higher than him by many coming into this year’s process. If he continues to impress, Brownlee could find himself not only being drafted but going in the middle rounds.
Christian Haynes, G, Connecticut
What better way is there to get noticed in today’s landscape than to go viral?
Connecticut guard Christian Haynes was the cause of the highlight of the week, when he got LSU DT Jordan Jefferson to rip his helmet off and toss it after a rep.
Haynes won multiple reps and continued to play well in the Senior Bowl itself. While he struggled a bit at center, the hope is that teams can see it simply means he’s a G rather than a C. All-in-all, he only helped his stock. Just don’t expect to see him at wide receiver any time soon.
Emani Bailey, RB, TCU
Emani Bailey suffered from being buried under Kendre Miller on the depth chart, but he has made the most of his opportunities.
Bailey’s numbers may not be anything to write home about, but he served as the bellcow for the American team during its opening series and was able to help navigate the team down the field. He also impressed in both the running and passing game, and an RB who can catch the ball is always invaluable.
Bailey doesn’t enter with the hype of some of the running back in years’ past. But running backs can do a lot for themselves during the draft process, and he could elevate himself to a high-mid-round pick rather than a low one.
Among defensive tackles, T’Vondre Sweat also impressed for Texas, though he didn’t help his stock so much as stabilize it as a relatively known quantity.
Senior Bowl 2024 losers
Sam Hartman, QB, Notre Dame
Already carrying stigma due to being the oldest player in Mobile at 24 (25 in July), Hartman struggled during his QB reps.
He made a nice throw in the first half when one of his receivers ran an incorrect route and he adjusted, but all-in-all, his interception to Brownlee superseded an earlier miss to a wide open Theo Johnson.
While Hartman still was able to do well on timing plays in short and intermediate routes, his struggles on deep balls continue to be a red flag for the QB.
Tez Walker, WR, North Carolina
As a wide receiver, the No. 1 thing you have to prove is that you can make a catch in game action.
Walker had a pass put on him from Box Nix that bounced off his hands and fell to the turf during the game. Though he clearly has deep threat speed, these are the catches scouts need to see receiving prospects make.
Walker also had a curl route run for him by Cam Hart that elevated Hart in a lot of discussions. The last thing players want to be is the other side of highlights during this week. Walker had some really nice moments. But he needs to find consistency. A team still will likely take a chance on him in the high mid rounds.
Kalen King, CB, Penn State
King had a down season in 2023, but he’s seen as a high-upside player because of an outstanding 2022.
King, however, was on the wrong side of numerous highlights during the week, including at the hands of the aforementioned Walker.
Again, he showed flashes and made a few very impressive plays over the course of the week. But numerous receivers got the better of him throughout the week, and he’ll need a strong NFL Draft Combine to recover.
Ultimately, this is just the first leg of a long and winding road to April. But the 2023 Senior Bowl kicked off momentum for names like Will McDonald IV, Tyjae Spears, JuJu Brents, and Keion White (who, to be fair, were all strong players in their own right coming in). There’s something to be said for putting your best foot forward. Now it will be on the players who started strong to keep that momentum and players who struggled to turn it around.