MOBILE, Ala. — The eyes typically lock in on the quarterbacks on the first day of practice at the Senior Bowl. And there were plenty of them to watch on Tuesday as the North and South teams took the field for their initial workouts.
But one quarterback in particular stood a little taller, threw more crisply and accurately, and just looked the part of an NFL signal-caller a bit more than the prospects he shared the field with on Tuesday.
And that is the whole point of Justin Herbert being in Mobile to begin with. The Oregon star could have declined an invitation to focus on the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine and Oregon’s Pro Day. Plenty of other top prospects have done that over the years.
Instead, Herbert jumped at the chance to compete in this setting and potentially separate himself from the handful of other college quarterbacks vying to claim the No. 2 spot behind LSU’s Joe Burrow, the prohibitive favorite to be picked by the Cincinnati Bengals at the top of the draft.
Herbert generally falls in 10 to 18 range in the various mock drafts being rolled out recently, but a good showing during the evaluation process could push him much higher. And after studying the draft trajectory of some recent college quarterbacks whose chose to compete in the Senior Bowl, that is a path Herbert wanted to follow.
“If you look at the past couple years, you’ve got Carson Wentz, Daniel Jones, Baker Mayfield, these are guys who were exceptional college quarterbacks and guys who have had a lot of success at the next level,” Herbert said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to play football and go compete, and I’m honored to be here.”
After just one day, it seems to be a wise decision. Herbert was dazzling on Tuesday while showing off a natural, powerful throwing arm that delivered accurate throws all over the field.
Day One standouts
Notre Dame safety Jalen Elliott wanted to show NFL teams he could be an asset in man coverage, and he took a step in that direction with a solid showing in one-on-one and team drills against opposing receivers. Elliott knocked down at least three passes in one-on-one coverage and showed no hesitation accepting the challenge.
“I think it’s tremendously important because I think sometimes that’s a part of the game DB’s are knocked for” Elliott said. “And in the league I want to be in, there’s going to be fast-moving guys that make plays on the offensive side of the ball. So people that can cover and be versatile are guys who are going to get on the field.”
Kyle Duller, an intriguing defensive prospect from Division II Lenoir Rhyne, also stood out on as a tenacious second-level pass defender but also big and tough enough to play run support closer to the line of scrimmage. In spite of his small-school status, Duller looked perfectly natural among some of the top bigger-school prospects. The 6-2, 220-pounder projects as a safety, but he has the frame to play linebacker depending on the personnel package.