The 2018 Senior Bowl is underway down in Mobile, AL as scouts from all 32 teams are on hand to watch practices and interview prospects at night. More than 100 seniors will showcase their talents including a pair of potential first-round quarterbacks in Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Wyoming's Josh Allen.
"Training is what it is, working hard to test well," said Mayfield after the North team's first practice. "But this is what I was meant to do, is throw a ball and be out here and be around the guys and lead."
Mayfield measured in at 6'0" 3/8 with 9.5 inch hands. He became Oklahoma's sixth Heisman Trophy winner after completing 70.5% of his passes last season for 4,627 yards with 43 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also ran for 311 yards and added five scores on the ground.
"Bigger arm than I anticipated and when he extends plays, it's to throw the football and not necessarily run it," said NFL Network's Mike Mayock before Mayfield took the field. "The other challenge for him this week though is answering some questions about his emotional maturity. Is he the face of a franchise? If you are going to take a quarterback in the first round, you have to be the face of a franchise. I think the meetings at night are going to be really important for him."
The prolific passer, who ranks second in school annals with 12,292 passing yards and 20 career 300-yard passing games, has made a couple of decisions along the way including pleading guilty for public intoxication and making obscene gestures during a game last season versus Kansas.
"Football is everything," Mayfield told reporters. "It's led me to be a better man, it's challenged me to face adversity, learn what I'm all about. It's brought me some of my best friends and brought my family closer together, realizing that you have to keep your inner circle tight."
Mayfield will be tight with Allen this week because they are two of the four signal callers on the North roster. After throwing for 3,203 yards and 28 touchdowns his sophomore season, Allen was limited to just 1,812 yards and 16 touchdowns his junior campaign. Despite lowering his interception total from 15 to six, Allen completed 56% of his throws his final two seasons.
"I've been working on that. Obviously 56% is not anywhere close to where it needs to be," Allen told reporters. "You can go look at the tape and I say I've made a lot of strides."
Blessed with a big arm, Allen measured in at 6'4" 7/8 and 237 pounds with a hand size of 10 1/8 inches. He was asked about the possibility of playing for a New York team as the Jets have the No. 6 overall selection and the Giants own the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
"I've never been to New York. I understand the media is a little crazier there than most places. I'm there to play football," he said. "If I'm fortunate enough to be in that city, I'm there to play football first. There is a lot of pressure that comes with being an NFL quarterback wherever you're at and I'm ready to tackle any situation that is in front of me."
While prospects will battle for a leg up this week, a defensive player without a hand made a strong first impression. Linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who lost his left hand at age four due to a rare condition before birth, appeared in 38 games at Central Florida while racking up 17 sacks and 30 tackles for loss.
"I thought he was absolutely excellent," said NFL Network's Charles Davis. "He's a linebacker that will benefit from a good, strong defensive line to keep him uncovered. But he showed some very nice pass rush, getting to the quarterback, ability to dip, bend, get around the edge and get to the passer. Shaquem Griffin is a guy who runs and make plays. I know he only has one hand, but don't overlook this guy."
Another guy not to overlook is Marcus Davenport. A freakish athlete, the edge rusher set University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) records for sacks (22) and tackles for loss (38). He could make himself a household name by the end of the week. And while the quarterbacks will continue to steal the headlines, there are a ton of future pros on the field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny, who is coming off a season when he churned out 2,248 yards on the ground and ended the season with five straight games with at least 200 rush yards, is hoping to make an impactful first impression.
"I'm definitely a one-cut guy. I like getting north and south," he said. "There's really no point of going east and west."