— By Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com —
MOBILE, Ala. — The theme of Wednesday’s North Practice? Progress.
That improvement (in play and confidence) is what NFL teams are hoping to see each day at practice.
When it was Josh Allen’s turn in the quarterback rotation, every set of eyeballs at Ladd Peebles Stadium was focused on No. 17.
While he had a better overall performance than he did Tuesday, Allen still struggled to find consistency.
An issue with Allen on film (and in Tuesday’s practice) is his reliance on velocity, delivering mostly fastballs and few change-ups. But on deep throws on Wednesday’s practice, he showed the loft and touch required to drop the ball into the hands of the receiver.
Colorado State wide receiver Michael Gallup, who was lined up 1-on-1 vs. Weber State cornerback Taron Johnson, was able to stack and leverage the defender on the corner route, and Allen delivered a perfect throw toward the back pylon that Gallup finished.
The former Wyoming quarterback had a few impressive downfield shots and has been the best deep passer in Mobile.
While there were several positives, Allen also had his struggles, sailing passes on seam and out patterns. He has a tough time finding his rhythm from drop-back to release, which greatly affects his ball placement to every level of the field, which also shows on tape.
While he showed progress on Wednesday, Allen needs to find better consistency on Thursday.
–The best quarterback at the North practice was Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. He had his share of off-target throws as well, but once he settled in, he delivered accurate strikes. As expected, there is a noticeable drop in velocity from Allen to Mayfield, but the former Sooner completed more passes at practice due to his timing and anticipation, throwing the ball to spots where the receiver could make a realistic play on the ball.
–UTEP offensive guard Will Hernandez is one of the nastiest players in Mobile this week, and that is meant in the best way possible. During team and individual drills, he enjoyed blocking through the whistle and showed extreme focus while defeating the defender. Hernandez was so physically dominant that on multiple occasions, he made his opponents visibly frustrated because they were stonewalled no matter what they tried against Hernandez. The former UTEP blocker entered the week as the draft’s No. 2 guard prospect (behind Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson) and he will leave Mobile the same way, but he helped himself and deserves first-round consideration.
Hernandez loves to block through the echo of the whistle – he is causing visible frustration with this DT group. #76 is just a mean dude. And I love it.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 24, 2018
–Fort Hays State defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd has had a dominant two days of practice. His point-of-attack power and agile lower body were evident on Wednesday — and when he used both in unison, only Will Hernandez could keep him corralled. Unfortunately, he sustained a broken hand toward the end of the practice and is done for the week. But Shepherd raised his profile in Mobile and was the best defensive lineman on the North squad through two practices.
–Rutgers pass rusher Kemoko Turay is somewhat of a one-trick pony, but when that trick is speed off the edge, it helps compensate for his other deficiencies. Turay showed off that initial burst and arc speed, routinely beating his blocker during 1-on-1 drills. At 6-4 and 252 pounds, he lacks ideal size and point-of-attack strength to hold up vs. the run, but his edge speed is what could get him drafted on Day Two.
–Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton isn’t going to wow anyone with his size or speed, but he consistently gets open and catches the ball — and those happen to be the two most important qualities when scouting the wide receiver position. Cornerbacks had a tough time staying attached to him, especially from the slot in team drills. Throws in his direction weren’t always on point, but he had no trouble scooping the ball off his shoelaces or finishing on the ground.
–Similar to Hamilton, Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli won’t test overly well and looked like an ordinary athlete during practice. However, he has vacuum hands to stab-and-secure the football, even with defenders draped on his back. With his lack of top-tier physical traits, Fumagalli might not be a top-five tight end in this class, but his ball skills and route-running suggest he has a long NFL career ahead of him.
–The offensive tackle play on the North squad was very up-and-down, but Pitt offensive tackle Brian O’Neill had more ups than downs, showing off his lateral athleticism to handle edge speed. He is battling Oregon’s Tyrell Crosby for the distinction as top offensive tackle at the Senior Bowl, and through two practices, O’Neill gets the edge.
–New Mexico State wide receiver Jaleel Scott also had an up-and-down practice, which have illustrated his strengths and weaknesses as a NFL prospect. He has long-striding speed to blow by defensive backs, using his huge catch radius to pluck the ball away from his body. However, his route-running and ability to finish in contested situations were an issue during practice. For a 6-5 receiver who towers over defensive backs, Scott needs to develop his play strength and concentration to win those battles.