A few weeks ago, I wrote about five members of the Reese’s Senior Bowl watch list and their perfect first-round fits. I expect about 10 players from the watch list to be picked in the first round based on recent history, however, and we're approaching the time of the college football season where other prospects are throwing their names into the hat as potential Day 1 selections.
Below, I compare seven Senior Bowl prospects who could hear their names called during Round 1 with past first-rounders. While player comparisons can be tricky, it's natural for NFL general managers and coaches to make connections with previous top prospects while evaluating the current group. Players are ranked in ascending order based on my view of their stock.
The 2024 Senior Bowl will be held at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama, on Feb. 3, 2024 and broadcast live on NFL Network (1 p.m. ET).
NOTE: Heights and weights are via school measurements.
7) T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State (6-foot-2, 200 pounds)
Comp: Marlon Humphrey
Iowa State could have a first-round pick for the second straight year after going without one for 50 years (George Amundson in 1973; Will McDonald IV in 2023). Tampa possesses the NFL-caliber frame that intrigued the Ravens when they picked Humphrey 16th overall in 2017. He shares the three-time Pro Bowler's affinity for a physical brand of football, as well, separating the ball from receivers and squaring them up in the open field. Tampa's excellent straight-line speed for his size is evident when tracking down ball-carriers across the field and keeping up with receivers in coverage.
6) Princely Umanmielen, Edge, Florida (6-5, 255)
Comp: Brian Burns
Umanmielen isn't yet a household name, but he has a career-high 5.5 sacks through 10 games. His tall, lean build reminds me of Burns, as do his long strides in the open field and quickness off the ball when in pass-rush mode. He should get stronger as he continues to develop, but he's already adept at using his length for leverage and working through traffic inside to find the ball.
5) Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington (6-3, 213)
Comp: C.J. Stroud
Unlike Stroud, Penix is a southpaw, but they both have the arm strength and tight spiral to throw darts to all parts of the field. Penix, who has been well protected by the UW offensive line, might end up picked on Day 2 if teams are leery of his twice-injured right knee (on which he still wears a brace). Stroud often had a clean pocket at Ohio State, too, but helped himself by displaying his mobility late last season. If a team notices the improvement Penix has recently shown in avoiding rushers in the pocket and making plays off-platform, he could land in Round 1.
4) Bralen Trice, Edge, Washington (6-4, 274)
Comp: Ryan Kerrigan
Trice's power and relentless nature are akin to what Kerrigan displayed at Purdue and in the NFL. Using his big frame to push tackles into the backfield, the Huskie consistently makes quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket. He'll chase plays across the field to get secondary rushes and is a stout run defender who can disengage with strong hands. Some teams might want more bend and pure agility in an early-round edge rusher selection, but like former Washington teammate Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (picked 32nd by Tampa Bay in 2021), Trice could sneak into the first round and become a powerful defender like Kerrigan.
3) Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M (6-3, 230)
Comp: C.J. Mosley
Cooper's versatility to defend the run, blitz and cover makes him the most likely senior off-ball linebacker to earn first-round grades. Like Mosley during his career at Alabama and the past decade in the NFL, Cooper displays the instincts to sniff out plays and speed to attack ball-carriers in the open field. He can track down quarterbacks whether they are in the pocket or escaping pressure, like Mosley did early in his career, racking up a team-high seven sacks in 10 games. He's regularly lined up in the slot, as well, looking natural in man and zone coverage.
2) Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State (6-6, 334)
Comp: Jammal Brown
Fuaga's aggressiveness, large frame and length are quite reminiscent of Brown, a star at Oklahoma and Pro Bowler with the Saints in 2006 and 2008. The 2022 second-team All-Pac-12 selection locks onto defenders in the run game, moving them off the ball with regularity. His excellent overall agility allows him to stay with outside rushes and hit second-level targets in the open field (where he will take them to the ground whenever possible). Fuaga's power and athleticism should entice a team to select him early.
1) Troy Fautanu, OG, Washington (6-4, 317)
Comp: Alijah Vera-Tucker
Fautanu reminds me of Vera-Tucker during his career at USC, showing excellent lateral movement in pass protection and agility as a run blocker. The 2022 second-team All-Pac-12 selection might be a little heavier than Vera-Tucker, who is listed at 308 pounds, but I suspect he'll show the mobility needed to excel in a zone-blocking scheme. Fautanu will likely follow the 2021 first-rounder in moving to left guard on Sundays, where he played significant snaps for the Huskies in one game in both his sophomore and junior seasons.