The 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl is less than two months away, but before players shift their focus to the Feb. 5 all-star game in Mobile, Ala., they have one more chance to compete with their college teammates in a bowl game over the next few weeks.
Below you’ll find the top 10 Senior Bowl prospects — all but one of which has already accepted an invite to the game — who have the opportunity to play in a non-College Football Playoff bowl game. I will have a similar post for the Senior Bowl prospects participating in the College Football Playoff in a couple weeks (semifinal games to be held on Dec. 31). The players listed below are in the conversation to be selected in the first round of next spring’s draft (April 28-30 in Las Vegas). Depending on which underclassmen throw their hat into the ring, I expect anywhere from 8 to 12 seniors to be picked in Round 1.
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, who would have been the top-ranked player on this list, announced Thursday night that he was opting out of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Some of the players listed here might also choose not to play in their bowl game as they head into the draft evaluation process, but none of them have announced an opt out as of 11 a.m. ET on Dec. 17.
Players who have already accepted Senior Bowl invites are denoted with an asterisk.
NOTE: Prospects are listed in ascending order. Heights and weights are via school measurements.
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10) Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan (6-foot-7, 305 pounds)*
Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl vs. Boise State
Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET | Arizona Stadium (Tucson, Ariz.) | Barstoolsports.com
This native of Austria caught my eye over the summer because of his size, athleticism and willingness to finish his blocks. Raimann began his career with the Chippewas as a tight end but moved to left tackle in the spring of 2020. Boise State has some hard-working pass rushers that will challenge the big man’s functional strength and agility to cut off the corner. He must, therefore, effectively use his hands in pass protection and get push in the run game to help his chance of becoming the third Central Michigan first-round offensive tackle since 2007 (Joe Staley, 28th overall, 2007, 49ers; Eric Fisher, first overall, 2013, Chiefs).
9) Logan Hall, DL, Houston (6-6, 275)*
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl vs. Auburn
Dec. 28, 12 p.m. ET | Protective Stadium (Birmingham, Ala.) | ESPN
Hall has played inside for most of the 2021 season, using his length to push back interior linemen and winning with a quick arm-over move to knife into the backfield. He hasn’t taken on a stout group like the one Auburn will present in this game, however. If he can stand up to the Tigers’ double teams and win one-on-ones, it will certainly help his chances of being an early pick. Hall played standing up and from the five-technique more frequently earlier in his career — seeing success there in this game and during Senior Bowl practices will aid his cause even more.
8) Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota (6-9, 380)*
Guaranteed Rate Bowl vs. West Virginia
Dec. 28, 10:15 p.m. ET | Chase Field (Phoenix, Ariz.) | ESPN
West Virginia has only averaged about two sacks per game this season, and it will be tough to make hay against Faalele in this matchup. The native Australian engulfs most defenders at the point of attack but also moves well in the Gophers’ run scheme. He hasn’t faced elite pass rushers this year, so scouts want to see him handle good edge quickness and inside pass-rush moves. If the Mountaineers can’t challenge him, then perhaps teammate and potential top-100 pick Boye Mafe will do so during Senior Bowl practices.
7) Damone Clark, LB, LSU (6-3, 240)*
TaxAct Texas Bowl vs. Kansas State
Jan. 4, 9 p.m. ET | NRG Stadium (Houston, Texas) | ESPN
Clark ranks among the nation’s leaders in tackles, but he’ll need to use all his speed and experience to track down Kansas State’s talented sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn. Given the league’s need for speed, intelligence and aggressiveness at linebacker, defensive coordinators will appreciate Clark’s skill set in the middle of their lineup. Tigers guard Ed Ingram will be looking to impress general managers with his strength and nimble footwork against the Wildcats, as well as in Mobile, to earn a Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) call.
6) Darrian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky (6-5, 345)*
Vrbo Citrus Bowl vs. Iowa
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET | Camping World Stadium (Orlando, Fla.) | ABC
The Wildcats have three potential top-100 picks in Kinnard, center Luke Fortner and defensive end Josh Paschal. Kinnard is a mauler who could shift to guard at the next level or stick at tackle for a power-scheme franchise valuing his thick build and mobility. Scouts might not love his overall technique, but an offensive line coach will want his toughness on his team. Any matchups between Kinnard and Iowa defensive end Zach VanValkenburg — a potential top-100 prospect himself — will be worth watching.
5) Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (6-1, 188)
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Capital One Venture X vs. Utah
Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET | Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.) | ESPN
A Rose Bowl matchup against the Utes is a great opportunity for Olave and fellow top-100 prospect DT Haskell Garrett to complete their careers with the Buckeyes. Olave’s smooth routes and fine footwork on the sideline have caught scouts’ eyes for four years. He’s had more drops than in previous years, however, so a strong outing against Utah’s talented secondary should be beneficial to his draft evaluation.
4) Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State (5-11, 184)*
Outback Bowl vs. Arkansas
Jan. 1, 12 p.m. ET | Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Fla.) | ESPN2
Dotson and teammates Jaquan Brisker (safety), Arnold Ebiketie (edge rusher) and Tariq Castro-Fields (cornerback) have all accepted Senior Bowl invites as likely top-100 draft picks. The team’s last game was in the snow against Michigan State, which made things difficult on the Nittany Lions’ defenders, but Dotson still excelled, catching eight passes for 137 yards and scoring twice in the slippery conditions. His physicality on the line and downfield will be challenged by physical Arkansas corners in the Outback Bowl.
3) Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College (6-3, 316)*
Military Bowl Presented by Peraton vs. East Carolina
Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m. ET | Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (Annapolis, Md.) | ESPN
Johnson and fellow potential top-100 pick Alec Lindstrom take on an East Carolina team ranked in the lower half of the FBS in rushing defense. That’s not a good sign for the Pirates, whose defensive tackles will have to deal with Johnson moving them off the line and stoning their pass-rush moves. The former Davidson College lineman had no problem adjusting to the ACC whether playing left tackle or guard over the past three years, not only forcing big defenders off the ball but attacking linebackers and safeties in space. He’s among the top five O-linemen in the draft class.
2) Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (6-1, 225)*
LendingTree Bowl vs. Eastern Michigan
Dec. 18, 5:45 p.m. ET | Hancock Whitney Stadium (Mobile, Ala.) | ESPN
Despite possessing excellent physical traits and the fortitude to lead his offense even when facing a deficit, Willis does have some things to prove in this bowl game. He’s thrown 12 interceptions over his last seven games, so scouts would like to see him take better care of the ball. Willis has dealt with constant pressure as defenses overrun his offensive line, but he’s also forced throws that had little hope for success. Eastern Michigan has just seven interceptions this season, so if the Flames protect Willis, he can fire passes to all parts of the field — or escape the pocket and use his strong and elusive running style. He would gain momentum heading into the Senior Bowl with a strong performance.
1) Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah (6-3, 235)*
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Capital One Venture X vs. Ohio State
Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET | Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.) | ESPN
Lloyd really has nothing to prove in the Utes’ game against Ohio State, as far as NFL scouts are concerned. Sure, evaluators would appreciate seeing him cover Buckeyes tight end Jeremy Ruckert down the seam and smother runs between the tackles and throws in the flat. Lloyd could also show teams his burgeoning pass-rush skills, using power and speed to win on the edge against the Buckeyes’ strong tackles. These are all attributes he’s shown on film over the past couple of seasons, however, so playing will basically be a sign to scouts that he wanted to compete against one of the country’s best teams on a big stage.
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