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2024 NFL Draft: Top 20 Senior Bowl prospects as college football approaches midseason

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. leads the FBS with 399.8 passing yards per game heading into Saturday's matchup against Oregon. (AP Photo / Lindsey Wasson)
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. leads the FBS with 399.8 passing yards per game heading into Saturday's matchup against Oregon. (AP Photo / Lindsey Wasson)

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 rank my top 20 players from that list and provide 30 other 2024 NFL Draft hopefuls who could crack the rankings when I update this list at the end of the season.

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.

20) Tommy Eichenberg, LB, Ohio State (6-2, 239)

Eichenberg is an intelligent leader who always seems to be around the ball. He quarterbacked the Buckeyes' defense in their marquee matchup at Notre Dame last month, making calls, aligning defensive linemen and moving from sideline to sideline to make plays. He perfectly timed his downhill movement on a run blitz early on (as he did on a zone blitz in the second quarter). He hit his spot dropping in zone coverage, carried receivers across the field and looked for backs going out into routes. The brother of Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg, Tommy shed run blockers, though his average size allowed offensive tackles to subdue him at times. I expect Eichenberg to start on Sundays for a long time.

19) Johnny Wilson, WR/TE, Florida State (6-7, 237)

Wilson scored twice in the first quarter of Florida State's win over Virginia Tech on Saturday, first going low (despite being listed at 6-foot-7) to grab a Jordan Travis pass and later gaining position with a double move that became a corner route. He caught two other passes before leaving the game with an injury. The good news is head coach Mike Norvell told reporters he's hopeful Wilson will be able to return this week. Wilson needs to play stronger at the catch point against better cornerbacks, as he lost some contested catches against Clemson and had two drops against LSU, per PFF. But he flashes the hands to make tough grabs away from his frame and has also given effort as a blocker downfield this season. Wilson should be coveted by NFL teams looking for a hybrid receiver/tight end.

18) Nazir Stackhouse, DT, Georgia (6-3, 320)

Like his predecessor, Jordan Davis, Stackhouse's main contribution on defense is maintaining the line of scrimmage. He clogged up the middle against Auburn, swallowing ball-carriers between the tackles. His power and quickness to shoot a gap is excellent for a player listed at 6-3, 320 pounds. He flashes the foot quickness to disrupt plays when lined up on the tackle. Stackhouse might not rack up big production (nine tackles, two for loss, in six games this season) but don't be surprised if you hear his name more often in the second half of the season.

17) Beaux Limmer, C, Arkansas (6-5, 307)

Limmer is in the mix for the Rimington Trophy as the nation's best center. He anchors against leverage in the pivot despite being a taller player for the position. Limmer is effective in space on screens and neutralizes second-level targets, as he showed on an early second-half touchdown run against BYU last month. Even if a D-lineman gets the advantage off the snap, Limmer possesses the flexibility and determination to stay with the block. His versatility was on display last week against Ole Miss, with coaches switching the senior to left guard. He looked fine as a pass and run blocker at that spot, but the lineup experiment lasted only one half. The three-year starter at right guard seemed more comfortable back in the middle. 

16) T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State (6-2, 200)

Tampa has already made some big plays in his senior campaign, including sealing an Iowa State win over Oklahoma State by undercutting a pass in trail technique from the slot with less than 90 seconds remaining in the contest. He was credited with a pass breakup a week later against Oklahoma after getting turned around on a double move but fighting to get back into the play before the receiver could snare the touchdown catch. He uses his strength well against the run, pushing away smaller receivers attempting to block and wrapping up ball-carriers in the open field. Tampa gave up his first touchdown of the year against TCU last weekend, losing his man in a scramble drill, but also stopped a deep ball in the Cyclones' 27-14 victory.

15) Graham Barton, OL, Duke (6-5, 314)

Duke missed Barton's presence in its loss to Notre Dame last month, as the left tackle suffered an upper-body injury against UConn the previous week. In the team's season-opening win against Clemson, however, he was fluid, stout and patient in pass protection, bending to anchor while showing strength in bringing talented Tigers edge rushers to the turf on multiple occasions. His mobility in the open field and ability to find the correct blocking angle make him a strength in the run game, as well. Barton might ultimately be seen as a better fit at center, where he stepped in to start as a true freshman in 2020, but I think he would succeed outside if given the chance.

14) DJ James, CB, Auburn (6-1, 164)

James has not disappointed since arriving at Auburn from Oregon prior to last season. He jumped a corner route for an interception against Cal last month. James stopped a run on a blitz from the slot a few weeks later against Georgia and had a nice play versus Bulldogs WR Ladd McConkey, making up ground on a corner route while playing with inside leverage. He missed on two fourth-quarter tackle attempts against UGA, however, one versus McConkey on a quick pass and one where he bounced off tight end Brock Bowers on the game-winning score. He's a physical player, though, and I think teams will live with the occasional missed tackle if he does his job as a cover man outside. James faces a big test this weekend, taking on a hot LSU offense that features receivers Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. 

13) Princely Umanmielen, Edge, Florida (6-5, 255)

Umanmielen is tied with for the team lead with two sacks over the first six games. He has an impressive get-off when in pass-rush mode, but his overall athleticism is what should really excite scouts. He disrupted quarterback Joe Milton III regularly by turning the corner and using long-arm/spin moves to reach the backfield in Florida's win over Tennessee last month. Umanmielen stood his ground against the Vols' big offensive line in the run game, too. Coaches also asked him to jump out in the slot for zone coverage versus UT. That's rare for an edge rusher with his size, which speaks to his athleticism. 

T-11) Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington (6-3, 213)

T-11) Bo Nix, QB, Oregon (6-2, 217)

Nix and Penix (both coming off a bye week) will face off on Saturday in Seattle with a chance to get a leg up in the Heisman Trophy race and stake a claim for the title of top senior quarterback prospect. Penix's accuracy on intermediate and deep throws has greatly improved this season. He's throwing darts to a group of NFL-caliber receivers. Oregon is the toughest defense Washington has faced so far, though. The Ducks are tied for eighth in the FBS with 3.6 sacks per game. NFL teams will have to weigh Penix's injury-plagued career at Indiana in their evaluations, but showing strength in the pocket under pressure and making plays on the move will go a long way toward alleviating any concerns. Nix, on the other hand, must show he can make strong throws and good decisions from the pocket against elite competition while staying away from the big mistake. Neither player's final draft grade rides solely on this performance, but general managers and coaches will absolutely want to see how they perform on the big stage.

10) Blake Corum, RB, Michigan (5-8, 213)

Corum is less than a year removed from knee surgery and yet he leads the FBS with 10 rushing touchdowns. It certainly helps to have an offensive line coming off back-to-back Joe Moore Awards (most outstanding OL unit) blocking for you, but it's clear he's gaining more trust in his legs each week. Corum scored three times last month against UNLV, finding holes inside and accelerating into the open field. He found the sideline versus East Carolina in the season opener to show he's regaining his long speed and ditched Bowling Green defenders in the open field on Sept. 16, displaying his agility and vision. Corum only needed to carry the ball nine times in last week's blowout win over Minnesota (69 yards, one TD), allowing him to save some energy for the Big Ten stretch run.

9) Josh Newton, CB, TCU (6-0, 190)

TCU coaches clearly trust Newton to play on an island. His quick feet and straight-line speed help him stick to receivers, forcing quarterbacks to look in another direction. Newton is adept at watching receivers' eyes to help him challenge the catch. He begs offenses to throw quick screens in his direction so he can make a play moving downhill. Also, he's no wallflower in the run game or as a blitzer from the slot, attacking ball-carriers and securely wrapping them up. Newton took advantage of a poor decision by SMU QB Preston Stone last month, undercutting a receiver for an interception at the end of the third quarter. He missed his jam at the line on that play but showed the recovery speed and quick reflexes to make the INT.

8) Cooper Beebe, OG, Kansas State (6-4, 335)

Beebe's powerful, thick frame allows him to move defenders as a run blocker and present a stone wall in pass protection. He has not given up a sack since 2020, per PFF. Beebe generally stayed with his man in a tough test against Missouri last month, but he gave up some penetration at times due to the defenders' quickness. He stepped out to right tackle due to injuries in the first half, though, and either stoned edge rushers or escorted them around the pocket. Beebe was stout in the loss to Oklahoma State last Saturday, as well, and he consistently hit targets in the open field.

7) Bralen Trice, Edge, Washington (6-4, 274)

Trice is a powerful edge defender who wins with a powerful long-arm move and fierce hands. He tests blockers by going under their upfield shoulder to win the edge on one play and then cutting or spinning inside on the next if he senses his man leaning outside. Though he regularly had to fight through chip blocks in the Huskies' last outing (at Arizona), Trice earned his first sack of the year by beating left tackle Jordan Morgan with a bull rush early in the second half against the Wildcats. While he's not the fastest or most flexible edge rusher, he shows nice short-area quickness for a man his size when he sees the ball in his area. The matchup with Oregon this weekend gives him a potential showcase against Ducks star quarterback Bo Nix.

6) Ruke Orhorhoro, DT, Clemson (6-4, 290)

Clemson's deep defensive line rotation limits Orhorhoro's opportunities to fill the stat sheet (11 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and two sacks in six games), but his presence is felt by offensive lines on a consistent basis. He lines up all over the front, using his quickness off the snap to get into the backfield. He holds his ground well against blocks considering his height and somewhat lean frame. Orhorhoro consistently won gaps but could not quite get to the ball to make the big play in the Tigers' season-opening loss to Duke. He made life difficult for quarterbacks when Florida State and Syracuse gave him room inside in matchups last month. He will be a nice fit in a one-gap NFL system where he can get upfield quickly to disrupt the action.

5) Rome Odunze, WR, Washington (6-3, 215)

Odunze is a smooth mover for his size, challenging smaller defenders downfield and over the middle with physicality and surprising quickness. He showed all his attributes against Cal last month, making two Bears miss in close quarters and then gliding behind solid blocking to the end zone for a punt-return TD. Odunze's height and strong hands helped him snare wide and underthrown passes early in that contest. He later scored twice through the air, first turning to grab a pass toward the sideline after he gained inside position. He later found pay dirt after running through one tackle and spinning off another on a middle screen in the red zone. Odunze has done nothing so far this year to relinquish the title of top senior wideout.

4) Laiatu Latu, Edge, UCLA (6-5, 265)

Latu started the season strong, ripping past Coastal Carolina's tackles easily to earn three sacks in the Bruins' win. Though he did not have a sack in last month's loss at Utah, he showed scouts a diverse skill set. Latu stood up on the left and right side of the line, went man-up against guards and tackles from a three-point stance, adeptly dropped into coverage and chased plays from the back side. When inside, he penetrated with quickness and used leverage in the run game. Tackles found blocking him a difficult ask because he played with quick and strong hands and got under their upfield shoulder. Latu also used his hands to disengage from blocks to grab ball-carriers. He recorded his fifth sack of the year in UCLA's win over Washington State last week, confirming his status as a top senior prospect.

3) Jer'Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois (6-2, 295)

Newton has impressed on a lackluster Illinois squad this season, posting 27 tackles, 3.5 for loss, with 2.5 sacks. Newton's best performance came against his top competition, a strong Penn State offensive line. He got into the backfield on several occasions, fighting through guards' shoulders and disengaging to make plays on the ball. Newton's explosiveness paid off near the goal line in the first quarter, as he helped shut down multiple runs and force a field goal. In that game and in many others during his career, he won with quick feet and hands to chase plays from behind and down the line of scrimmage. Newton even blocked a low-trajectory 52-yard field goal attempt by the Nittany Lions in the second quarter. He's going to be an issue for NFL offenses.

2) Jared Verse, Edge, Florida State (6-4, 260)

Verse is not quite on pace to match his production from last season, with 4.5 tackles for loss (2.5 sacks) through five games in 2023, but he is still making a major impact. He displayed his skill set in Florida State's overtime win against ACC rival Clemson last month, posting half a tackle for loss and a pass breakup. Verse uses his hands better than any defender in the college game, chopping the tackle's hands to get into the backfield when in attack mode and winning at the point of attack against the run. He did exactly that at the end of the third quarter against the Tigers, swimming over a tackle to make a stop. Verse's awareness is also a plus; he nearly intercepted a third-down screen pass to his side in the first quarter. That combination of short-area quickness, power and football IQ makes him an elite prospect.

1) Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State (6-6, 319)

Fashanu stays at the top of the list because he's the complete package: intelligent (semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, aka the academic Heisman), tough, long and strong. The team captain is rarely beaten in pass protection, as Illinois found out earlier this season, because of his ability to move laterally, latch on with strong hands and anchor with a wide base. He battled Jer'Zhan Newton and his teammates in the run game, moving his feet and using that length while engaged to stay on blocks. He was called for holding when failing to cut off the inside lane late in the first half and Illini defenders did maintain their ground on some run plays, but NFL teams should know the sky is the limit for Fashanu.

Thirty more to watch

Listed in alphabetical order:

  • Tyler Baron, Edge, Tennessee (6-foot-5, 260 pounds)
  • Trey Benson, RB, Florida State (6-1, 223)
  • Beau Brade, S, Maryland (6-1, 210)
  • Chris Braswell, Edge, Alabama (6-3, 255)
  • Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M (6-3, 230)
  • Malachi Corley, WR, Western Kentucky (5-11, 210)
  • Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU (6-4, 210)
  • Ray Davis, RB, Kentucky (5-10, 216)
  • Tyler Davis, DT, Clemson (6-2, 300)
  • Javon Foster, OT, Missouri (6-5, 319)
  • Cedric Gray, LB, North Carolina (6-2 1/2, 235)
  • Tre Harris, WR, Mississippi (6-2, 205)
  • Christian Haynes, OG, UConn (6-2, 313)
  • Ty'Ron Hopper, LB, Missouri (6-2, 221)
  • Tory Horton, WR, Colorado State (6-2, 190)
  • Adisa Isaac, Edge, Penn State (6-4, 254)
  • Kris Jenkins, DT, Michigan (6-3, 305)
  • KeAndre Lambert-Smith, WR, Penn State (6-1, 185)
  • Xavier Legette, WR, South Carolina (6-3, 227)
  • Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo (6-0, 196)
  • Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona (6-5, 325)
  • Tyler Nubin, S, Minnesota (6-2, 210)
  • Eyabi Okie, Edge, Charlotte (6-5, 244)
  • Patrick Paul, OT, Houston (6-7, 315)
  • Ben Sinnott, TE, Kansas State (6-4, 245)
  • Cade Stover, TE, Ohio State (6-4, 251)
  • T'Vondre Sweat, DT, Texas (6-4, 362)
  • Sedrick Van Pran, C, Georgia (6-4, 310)
  • Payton Wilson, LB, N.C. State (6-4, 238)
  • Zak Zinter, OG, Michigan (6-6, 322)

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