More than 100 NFL hopefuls will arrive in Mobile, Alabama, next week to participate in the Reese's Senior Bowl. NFL Network will have live coverage of Senior Bowl practices beginning at 1 p.m. ET on Jan. 23, and tune in for exclusive coverage of the game on Jan. 27 at 2:30 p.m. ET. Nearly every NFL GM and coach, as well as plenty of scouts, will be in attendance, watching every practice drill and scrimmage. They'll be talking with players whenever possible to get a gauge on their intelligence and personality.
Obviously, Senior Bowl week is important for every player invited to the marquee college football all-star game. But these 10 future pros have the most riding on their week in Mobile. Each of these players is fighting a negative perception -- whether it's based on their level of competition in college or their overall game. The Senior Bowl is really their last shot in a true football atmosphere to change those perceptions.
Editor's note: This post was published before Derrick Nnadi (No. 5), Chukwuma Okorafor (No. 4) and Harold Landry (No. 2) were removed from the Senior Bowl roster.
10. Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska
Lee is seen as a "tools" prospect who didn't put up great numbers during his collegiate career. He started the majority of two seasons at Tulane before transferring to Lincoln, but has struggled with interceptions, throwing 37 during his career against 46 touchdowns. Lee has a pro arm and good mobility, looking the part of a potential starter in the league. He needs to rely less on his arm and more on good decision-making during his time in Mobile, however, for scouts and coaches to convince their general manager that he is worthy of a selection in top 100 picks.
9. Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame
The tight ends invited to the Senior Bowl this year are about as talented as any class in recent memory. Smythe's name has not been mentioned with fellow Senior Bowlers Mike Gesicki (Penn State), Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin), and Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State) as being one of the best at their position, partially because he received few opportunities to catch the ball in the Irish's lackluster passing game. Don't be surprised, however, if he creeps deeper into the draft-world consciousness by snatching passes and showing decent chops as a blocker, as well.
8. Danny Johnson, CB, Southern
Johnson is one of a handful of non-FBS cornerbacks invited to the Senior Bowl. One of them is likely to step up and become a hot name going into the NFL Scouting Combine next month -- Johnson's my pick to make that move. His speed and fantastic ball skills are easy to see, but he's a hard hitter, too. Playing with a physical nature against some of the big, strong receivers in Mobile will force teams to consider him in the mid-to-late second round.
7. Jaleel Scott, WR, New Mexico State
It's tough to get national acclaim when you play in the Sun Belt, but Scott has a chance to make his name more widely known with a big week at the Senior Bowl. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound receiver runs well for his size and is a matchup nightmare against smaller cornerbacks. There are a fair number of big receivers at the Senior Bowl this year, with Marcell Ateman (Oklahoma State), Darren Carrington (Utah), and J'Mon Moore (Missouri) all trying to impress teams searching for a downfield and red-zone threat. Scott needs to show he can shine when he's on the same field with Power Five players.
6. Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State
Ballage presents a strong physical build for a running back, and has pro-caliber speed and agility. He was never the lead back for a sustained period in college, however, averaging fewer than 10 carries a game over his career. He was a factor as a receiver as a junior (44-469, one TD) but did not receive those opportunities this past fall (20-91). Showing an ability to run, catch, and pass-protect during Senior Bowl practices will give him a chance to leapfrog some of the underclassmen that make his an extremely competitive running back class.
5. Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State
Nnadi has been a thorn in the side of offensive lines for some time. His hustle and strength make him a likely NFL starter. His height (listed at 6-foot-1) and length measurables are question marks, though. Can he make scouts forget those numbers and leap into the mid-first round, like Sheldon Rankins did in Mobile a couple of years ago? Nnadi is also jostling for position with Stanford's Harrison Phillips, who'll be competing at the Senior Bowl, as well as underclassmen. He needs a big week of winning one-on-one battles and holding the line of scrimmage.
4. Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
While Okorafor has the physical skill set to be a top-flight tackle, the inconsistency of his game film (especially against better competition) is a concern. There will be some talented tackles in Mobile, including Tyrell Crosby (Oregon), Brian O'Neill (Pittsburgh), and Brandon Parker (North Carolina A&T), among others. Okorafor must move his feet to the whistle as a pass protector and attack defenders in the run game to show scouts he's serious about meeting his potential. Note: Okorafor was removed from the Senior Bowl roster after this post was published.
3. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia
Blanding is an All-American and one of the more prolific tacklers in ACC history with 495 stops. Scouts do question his speed, however, and wonder if he will be able to handle coverage responsibilities at the next level. He'll get a chance to show his agility in drills during Senior Bowl practices, and then he'll have to mirror both big-bodied and quick receivers in scrimmages and the game. If he holds up well in those situations, he'll be a top-50 pick.
2. Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
Landry missed four games during the 2017 season due to injury and failed to come close to matching the awesome production from his All-American junior campaign (16.5 sacks among 22 tackles for loss). Scouts would love to see him healthy during Senior Bowl week, facing top-notch competition and displaying the burst and relentless nature they saw in 2016. In addition to wreaking havoc in the backfield, Landry might be asked to play as an outside linebacker to see how he handles movement in space. Showing explosiveness and scheme-versatility could put him back into the discussion for the top 10 picks.
1. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
A favorite among some NFL scouts and general managers due to his physical attributes and upside, Allen struggled to move the ball through most of his junior season and completed just 56 percent of his passes over his final two seasons at Wyoming. He had a particularly tough time against Power Five competition (career TD-INT ratio of 1-8 in three career games). At the Senior Bowl, teams will want to see if he can be accurate throwing to an all-star group of receivers. If he's able to handle the plays calls and make the throws, in addition to showing off his mobility and superior arm strength, Allen could alleviate concerns about how he'll translate to the next level.