What the Senior Bowl means for the NFL draft

PHOTO COURTESY OF USA TODAY SPORTS

Players hope to show off their skills in the Senior Bowl before the NFL draft in April.

Elizabeth Muirhead ’20 | Assistant Sports Editor

This past Saturday, sandwiched in-between the NFL’s conference championship and the Super Bowl, a significant college game took place: the Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl is a North vs. South all-star game for draft prospects. Compared to the NFL’s all-star game, the Pro Bowl, which took place the next day, the stakes are much higher. For these players, their football future is on the line, making it both tense and competitive. It’s one of the last opportunities for players to showcase their skills before the draft in April.

The first half of the game was relatively low-scoring, with the South putting up nine points and the North only three. In particular, Khalen Saunders of Western Illinois University and Deshaun Davis of Auburn University stood out. The strong pool of college defense is good news for NFL teams. This past NFL season has been all about the offense; with the average number of points that a single NFL team scores in a game being 23.3, this is the third-highest scoring season in the history of the league. During the regular season, the Patriots and Rams, who will both compete in the Super Bowl next week, rank 21st and 19th in defense out of 32 teams. The weak defensive performance this season has been redeemed by an effective offense. Another notable NFL team this season was the Chiefs, who led the league in offensive yards but gave up the second-most yards of any team. Despite the poor defensive performance, they still made it to the NFC championship game. Hopefully, the powerful defense coming up the pipeline can help shift the league towards more balanced games.

During the second half of the senior bowl, the game took a more offensive shape, with the North putting up 31 points and the South putting up 12, making the final score 34-24 North. Standouts from the second half include Duke University quarterback Daniel Jones, who threw for 115 yards on 11 attempts and had a rushing touchdown. Safety Nasir Adderley had a nice interception during the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Andy Isabella of UMass had seven receptions for 74 yards, giving him both the most receptions and receiving yards of the game; he also had a beautiful 19-yard touchdown. With his speed and agility, Isabella is an unbelievably skilled and nuanced route runner.

UMass isn’t known for their football program; since 2000, only three players have been drafted, and only two of them ended up playing. I asked Isabella how it feels to be representing UMass in such a high-profile game. He responded: “Awesome! Nobody expects anybody to do anything from UMass, but what I like most is [that] it inspires future UMass players to try to achieve that.” Even though UMass might fly under the radar, Isabella definitely doesn’t. In a game with the best, Isabella still stands out.

The Senior Bowl has provided a nice preview for NFL teams as they work to iron out their draft decisions before April, and curious fans should check out the highlights. Additionally, I advise everybody to keep an eye on Isabella and other Senior Bowl athletes — they just might end up on your NFL team next season.

SportsSophian Smith