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2020 Senior Bowl: Justin Herbert solidifies top-15-pick standing

MOBILE, Ala. -- After a week of practices here in Mobile, 100-plus prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft capped off a crucial job interview in Saturday's Reese's Senior Bowl. Here's a look at standouts from the game, as well as notes from interviews with players and coaches.

Three standouts from the Senior Bowl game

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon. Herbert affirmed his status as the top quarterback at the Senior Bowl with a solid performance. He played three first-quarter series and his day was done, delivering a TD pass on the opening drive on a well-executed screen play to Florida RB Lamical Perine for a 16-yard score. The North team defense obliged Herbert, who started for the South team, with some uncontested completions in the middle of the field, and the South pass protection held up for Herbert better than it did for other South quarterbacks. Still, his sense of timing and anticipation were on point, as he hit moving targets in stride and had the presence to foil an unblocked edge rusher (Michigan's Josh Uche) with a 19-yard run up the middle. Both his velocity and accuracy were apparent in completing 9-of-12 passes for 83 yards.

After the game, Bengals coach Zac Taylor, who coached Herbert's South team, deftly sidestepped a question about whether Herbert's Senior Bowl week merited consideration for the No. 1 pick of the draft. Cincinnati, as you may have heard, holds the first overall selection this year.

"I thought he had a great week," Taylor said. "We've still got a long way to go in making that decision. There are a lot of options on the board, of course."

Taylor said Herbert's playing time -- first quarter only -- was predetermined. Of course, he didn't need to play another snap to show NFL teams that he's more than viable as a first-round talent. He measured 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds at the Tuesday weigh-in and was accurate/efficient throughout the practice week.

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said during the broadcast of the game that Herbert "absolutely" will be a top-15 selection. How high will he go in the top 15? That will be one of the big questions throughout the pre-draft process.

Bradlee Anae, edge rusher, Utah. Anae would not be blocked. After getting in on back-to-back sacks of QB Jalen Hurts in the second quarter, Anae followed that later in the quarter by beating Oregon offensive tackle Calvin Throckmorton with an inside move and hammering Hurts just as he released a downfield pass. The hit affected the throw, causing it to flutter for an easy interception by Ohio State LB Malik Harrison.

"He did a great job," said Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia, who coached Anae's victorious North squad. "He's really improved. We've gone over a lot of things with him from a pass rush standpoint, from a technique standpoint, and he tried to take all that (to the game). He's got a great gift, a great ability to rush the edge."

Anae picked up another sack in the second half, beating Texas Tech OT Terence Steele to take down Colorado QB Steven Montez.

"He was the first one off the ball every snap for that Utah front," Jeremiah said during the broadcast. "... You see guys who can get off, but can't finish. He finishes, and he did it all week."

Joshua Kelley, RB, UCLA. Kelley was a force for the North squad and got an unusually high workload for any Senior Bowl running back. He made the most of his 15 carries with 105 yards and broke rushes of 18 and 29 yards in the first half.

"One of the things I thought was really great about him, he's just consistent," Patricia said. "He was the same person every single day. When you're the same, we can improve on it. We can learn, we can compete and we can get better."

Jeremiah mentioned during Saturday's broadcast that Kelley was outstanding in interviews with NFL clubs throughout the week, as well.

ODDS AND ENDS: Pass rushers put on a show

Sacks all around. Anae wasn't the lone beneficiary of what was a brutally tough day for the South squad's offensive tackles. Michigan State's Kenny Willekes and Syracuse's Alton Robinson recorded two sacks each for the North, as well.

South coach Zac Taylor acknowledged pass protection was a major issue for his team.

"That's where the game got away from us in the third quarter -- up front," Taylor said.

Family affair. The Senior Bowl was a homecoming of sorts for former Florida RB Lamical Perine of the South squad. Perine grew up in Mobile, played at nearby Theodore High, and played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the site of the game, several times at the high school level. He said more than 40 members of his family and friends were in attendance to watch him perform -- he didn't disappoint, earning South Player of the Game honors with 42 yards on seven carries and two catches for 17 yards and a touchdown.

"Just having those guys out there -- Gator fans, Theodore Bobcats fans, people cheering my name," he said. "When I scored that touchdown, I could hear them screaming for me."

Quotable. "First-round draft pick -- he's a QB1 for anybody." -- Perine on his Senior Bowl teammate, QB Justin Herbert.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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