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2020 Senior Bowl, Day 1: Javon Kinlaw shines; a DE for Patriots?

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  • By Chase Goodbread and Lance Zierlein NFL.com
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MOBILE, Ala. -- With Reese's Senior Bowl practices getting underway on Tuesday, 100-plus prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft are in the midst of a crucial job interview. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein and Chase Goodbread provide a look at standouts from Day 1, as well as notes from the player media day held on Tuesday.

Tune in for one-hour 2020 Senior Bowl Practice recap shows Tuesday, Jan. 21-Thursday, Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network and watch the Senior Bowl game live on NFL Network as well as the NFL and Network apps at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 25.

Five stars from Day 1 of Senior Bowl practice

Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina. Kinlaw was ruining people during Tuesday's practice. His length and size were just too much for the competition, and he played with a lot of momentum. He projects as a first-round pick. The question is, how early will he be picked in the opening stanza? He measured 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds with an 84-inch wingspan on Tuesday morning, so just walking across the stage at the weigh-in pushed him up the board. This guy has some rare physical traits. If he convinces teams he can rush the passer during the pre-draft process, he can push himself toward the first half of Round 1.

Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic. No one could guard Bryant out here. When I watched his tape from the 2019 season opener against Ohio State (6 catches for 79 yards), it was easy to see that he can play against high-level talent. He did the same thing at practice on Tuesday. In one-on-one matchups, he dominated. He can split out wide, play him from the slot, in-line or at H-back. I think he's going to keep making himself money and lock in as a top-40 pick.

Jason Strowbridge, DE, North Carolina. All I could think of standing next to Bill Belichick on the sideline on Tuesday while watching Strowbridge was Deatrich Wise. The former Tar Heel looks like a Patriots pass rusher. Wise went to the Pats in the fourth round in 2017. A lot of times you'll see guys with traits who are kind of raw go in that round, and Strowbridge might fit that mold. He's tough. He's physical. And he helped himself on Tuesday. His North team is being coached this week by the Lions' Matt Patricia, Belichick's former D-coordinator. So who knows? Maybe Detroit and New England will both be targeting him come April.

Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin. I knew coming into this week, based on my tape study, that Baun can dip and rip and get around the corner. I wanted to see him use counters this week, and on Tuesday, he had a spin counter that was fantastic. He played on the line and off the ball during practice, showing his versatility. I expected him to have a good week and I think he's off to a really good start.

Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty. Gandy-Golden had some moments on the Ladd-Peebles Stadium field today. He showed he belonged. That's the one thing you want to see right off the bat with a small-school guy like him. You could tell that he was not intimidated by the big stage. I was really impressed by the way he blocked, too.

-- Lance Zierlein

MEDIA DAY: What we learned from Zac Taylor, Justin Herbert and more

Bengals coach understanding of Burrow's absence. As much as the Cincinnati Bengals might have liked to spend a week coaching former LSU QB Joe Burrow at the Senior Bowl, coach Zac Taylor wasn't at all put off by Burrow's decision to pass on an invitation. The length of LSU's run to win a College Football Playoff national championship, Taylor noted, made his absence unsurprising. LSU went 15-0 and knocked off Clemson for the title just eight days ago.

"I certainly understand -- I mean, the guy just played an NFL season. There is still plenty of time to get to know all the players in the draft before April rolls around," Taylor said on Tuesday at the Senior Bowl's media day event. "... To go undefeated, win the national championship, be the leader he is, that stuff is really impressive. He certainly has a lot of great traits, things you get excited about as a coach. (We're) still going through the evaluation process with him, just like all the quarterbacks here."

The Bengals hold the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, and Burrow's demolition of LSU opponents in leading the NCAA's top-ranked offense (568 yards per game) has generated heavy speculation that Cincinnati could make him the top selection. Taylor addressed a report that the Bengals have no intention of trading the selection by saying that no decisions have been made.

Herbert takes on leadership questions. Oregon's Justin Herbert is using the Senior Bowl week as an opportunity to flip the perception that he's overly quiet and, therefore, not what some NFL clubs might look for in a face-of-franchise quarterback. It's a label he doesn't accept.

"I think people are worried about leadership and me being a pretty quiet guy," Herbert said. "I would say I'm not too quiet, and unfortunately, I'll talk your ear off. ... I think early in my career I was a pretty quiet guy. I was shy, but as the years went on, I kind of stepped out of my comfort zone. I forced myself to be uncomfortable and kind of found myself and where I fit in the offense."

Herbert is the top prospect in Mobile this week, according to Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy. The Cincinnati Bengals will coach Herbert on the South squad, giving head coach Zac Taylor and his staff an up-close look at Herbert's assertiveness not only on the field, but in team meetings as well. Taylor extolled that advantage Monday, saying it's a perspective other NFL clubs can't get just from Senior Bowl interviews.

Hurts on Hurts. What does Jalen Hurts offer NFL clubs that Joe Burrow doesn't? The South squad quarterback wasn't going there when asked to compare himself with the former LSU star who is widely expected to be the first QB selected in the draft.

"I don't want to get into comparisons or things like that. That's kind of like the kiss of death," Hurts said. "I think I try and be the best version of myself. ... Keep your head down and go to work -- everybody has an opinion, and rightfully so, but I control what I can control. My effort, my mindset, my mental approach to handle my business."

Truth is, the two aren't much alike as prospects. Burrow stands 6-foot-4 and is more of a pure passer, although he proved to be dangerous as a runner in 2019 as well. Hurts measured at 6-foot-1 at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday and brings a resume as a rusher like no other quarterback in Mobile this week. He ran for 1,298 yards at OU last year and has over 3,000 for his college career, with a strong lower body that translates for both power and speed. According to an AFC scout, accuracy and ball placement are the traits Hurts needs to show most in Senior Bowl practices.

Loving Mahomes. Former Utah State QB Jordan Love said Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is his favorite quarterback to watch in the NFL today, and relishes comparisons between himself and the new AFC champion QB, as you might expect from any prospect mentioned with a reigning NFL MVP.

"Both (of us) have strong arms. He obviously can make some ridiculous throws, off-schedule (throws) and stuff like that," Love said. "It's something I've seen and tried out with my game, being able to make throws like that. I hope to be on the same platform as him."

One area where the two don't compare at all is hand size. Mahomes' measured at 9 1/4 inches at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, considered acceptable but on the small side by NFL scouts who value larger hands in quarterbacks for ball security reasons. Love had the biggest hands of any quarterback at the Senior Bowl, measuring 10 5/8 inches.

Love struggled last season in throwing an FBS-high 17 interceptions in a season of adjustments, as he lost most of his key targets from a prolific 2018 season and played under a new coaching staff in 2019. Love said he forced the ball downfield too often last year in certain situations, and believes it will be crucial for him this week to show scouts he can make smarter decisions and read the field effectively.

Kinlaw likes Panthers. The aforementioned Javon Kinlaw got a strong vibe from the Carolina Panthers after meeting with new coach Matt Rhule and other club staffers on Sunday evening.

"I know they like me, for sure. A whole lot," said the former South Carolina defensive tackle. "They have some free agency guys (on the defensive line), so I definitely feel like I could go in there and make something happen."

Nagy called Kinlaw likely the second-best draft prospect in Mobile this week, behind Herbert.

Dugger staying at safety? Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger said he was initially told by Nagy to be prepared to be asked to participate in some linebacker drills this week, but is beginning to wonder if it will happen.

"I haven't heard any more about it, so right now it looks like I'll just be at safety," he said.

At a shade under 6-foot-1 and 217 pounds, Dugger was massive for a Division-II safety and is considered one of the top D-II players in Mobile this week. His size and power as a tackler have led some scouts to consider him more of a hybrid linebacker who could play effectively in coverage against running backs and tight ends on passing downs.

Extra points. Auburn OT Prince Tega Wanogho is one of several players who were withheld from the game following their physical examinations upon arrival. Wanogho said fluid in his knee caused some swelling and forced him to sit out the week, but he intends remain in Mobile to interview with clubs and attend South team meetings. ... Alabama DL Raekwon Davis was a late withdrawal from the Senior Bowl due to an ankle injury.

-- Chase Goodbread

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