Back in August, Reese's Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy and his experienced scouting staff released their watch list for next year’s game, which included 720 prospects from more than 100 college football programs.
Below, I play matchmaker for five 2024 NFL Draft hopefuls from that list, pairing them with teams who could use their services. These five players led my midseason Senior Bowl prospect rankings. Draft selections often feel like they are a product of fate, as a player's talent perfectly meets the needs and scheme of their new employer. General managers give destiny a hand at times via trade to land their future star while others patiently allow fortune to unfold in their favor. Of course, the rest of the season and free agency will shake up the outlook, but for now, here are five perfect team fits.
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.
5) Rome Odunze, WR, Washington (6-3, 215)
Team fit: Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are building their offense around Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, so they might not be able to re-sign veteran receivers Tyler Boyd and/or Tee Higgins this offseason. Odunze would be an excellent foil for Chase because he possesses the all-around skill set to take a role inside or outside in the Bengals' offense. He uses his body to box out smaller defenders on shorter routes but can also put second- and third-level defenders in tough spots running over the middle or down the sideline. Burrow would have to be thrilled if this perfect match came to fruition.
4) Laiatu Latu, Edge, UCLA (6-5, 265)
Team fit: Los Angeles Rams
Third-round pick Byron Young is starting to make plays for the Rams as a rookie, but he needs a partner on the outside. Latu could make the switch between college and pro teams in Los Angeles, and he also switches adeptly from standing up to playing with his hand down. That would fit the Rams' scheme, as they often change fronts to make opposing offensive lines think on their feet. He can overpower or elude tackles as a rush linebacker. Also, he regularly lines up at 5-technique for the Bruins to use his quickness on twists in passing situations. Of course, GM Les Snead probably will need to keep a first-round pick to select Latu, something he hasn't done since moving up to select Jared Goff first overall in 2016.
3) Jer'Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois (6-2, 295)
Team fit: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals' Jonathan Gannon is looking for a difference-maker on the defensive line who can affect games like the star 3-technique he coached at Philadelphia, Fletcher Cox. Newton is explosive and relentless, lining up at various spots up front to prevent offenses from keying on him every snap. Gannon would appreciate Newton's strong hands, which he uses to free himself of blocks. It was no coincidence that Wisconsin mounted a comeback at Illinois after Newton was disqualified for targeting in the fourth quarter of the Badgers' win last weekend. With two first-round picks thanks to its 2023 draft day deal with the Texans, the Arizona-Newton pairing seems like kismet.
2) Jared Verse, Edge, Florida State (6-4, 260)
Team fit: Washington Commanders
The 3-4 Commanders could be a surprise playoff squad or they could be picking inside the top 10, as they've lost to the Bears and Giants but also beat the NFC South-leading Falcons in Atlanta. If they end up selecting early in Round 1, though, Verse should be a target, as both of their former first-round edge rushers, Montez Sweat and Chase Young, are ticketed for free agency. Verse is known for his power rush and relentlessness. He often wins with quick hands whether lined up against guards or tackles. Washington would also appreciate Verse's strength against the run. I feel like the stars could be aligned for this edge rusher's jersey to go from garnet to burgundy.
1) Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State (6-6, 319)
Team fit: Chicago Bears
Unless the Bears and Panthers make giant leaps in the second half of the season, Chicago will possess two very early selections in April because of its 2023 pre-draft trade with Carolina. So, GM Ryan Poles might have two chances to make Fashanu his new left tackle. Pairing Fashanu with 2023 10th overall pick Darnell Wright would create bookends to continue a rebuild of the offensive line. Fashanu will turn just 21 years old in December, and I expect him to grow into an elite player at the next level. His presence would help the Bears' offense operate more efficiently in 2024 and beyond.