Inside the Senior Bowl Week 1 scouting notebook: Eight 2024 NFL draft prospects generating buzz

Matt Zenitzby:Matt Zenitz09/06/23

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Each week during the season, On3 catches up with Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy to identify 2024 NFL draft prospects whose draft stock is on the rise.

Here are eight players generating buzz among Nagy and the Senior Bowl staff coming out of Week 1 (listed alphabetically):

UConn OG Christian Haynes

Haynes, who has verified measurements of 6-foot-2 7/8 and 312 pounds, is in his fourth year as a starting guard for UConn. He was an AP All-American last season. The Senior Bowl had a “solid Day 2 grade” on Haynes based off his junior tape and their live look at him last week during the Huskies’ 24-14 Week 1 loss to NC State “only strengthened that conviction,” according to Nagy.

“Loved him on junior tape this summer and glad when live exposure matches up,” Nagy said. “High-end competitor who plays with a mean streak. Looks to finish and bury defenders the way NFL O-line coaches want to see. Snapped the ball during pregame so we do think he has legitimate center flexibility. He’ll help himself at Senior Bowl proving himself in competitive periods at center. … Long-term NFL starter.”

Washington State EDGE Brennan Jackson

Jackson, another four-year starter, tied for fifth in the Pac-12 last season in both tackles for a loss (12) and sacks (six). The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Jackson had two tackles and a pass breakup during Washington State’s win over Colorado State in Week 1.

“Interesting high effort player,” Nagy said. “Has average length for next-level pass rusher but he has legit get-off quickness and had disruptive snaps with both speed and speed-to-power. We spoke with his position coach and he raved about Jackson’s work ethic, passion, and nastiness. Flashed to us last year while scouting Senior Bowl alum and eventual L.A. Chargers third-round linebacker Daiyan Henley . Biggest difference on Saturday from 2022 tape was that he looked noticeably stronger holding up on run-downs. He’ll need to continue to be productive against better offensive linemen than he faced in Week 1 but Jackson and cornerback Chau Smith-Wade both have a chance to end up in Mobile in February.”

South Carolina WR Xavier Legette

Throughout the offseason, South Carolina sources continued to indicate that Legette was set for a breakout season. Based on his Week 1 performance during the Gamecocks’ loss to North Carolina, it’s clear they were right. Legette, who has verified measurements of 6-foot 7/8 and 219 pounds, posted nine catches and had more yards in that one game (178) than he had in any of his previous four seasons at South Carolina. He finished 2022 with 18 catches, 167 yards and three touchdowns.

“Legette was on our 2024 Senior Bowl watch list but we did not expect him to be as good as he was on Saturday night in Charlotte,” Nagy said. “Going into the UNC game, everyone expected Antwane ‘Juice’ Wells to be ‘the guy’ in South Carolina’s passing game but Wells was knocked out of the game in the first half and Legette stepped up in a big way. … Plays even bigger and longer than he measured for NFL scouts last spring. QB Spencer Rattler was under duress all night (sacked eight times) and Legette was his bail-out guy whenever UNC’s defense heated him up with their pressure packages. Consistently won in 50-50 ball situations, showing excellent ball-tracking and high-pointing ability. Also did some good things after the catch with subtle quickness to avoid and aggression to run through contact.

“Averaged 29.4 as South Carolina’s primary kickoff returner last year and has logged tons of snaps on kickoff coverage over his career, which will have special teams coaches fighting for him leading up to next April’s draft.”

Tennessee WR Bru McCoy

McCoy, who transferred to Tennessee from USC last year, ranked second on the Vols last year with 52 catches for 667 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound McCoy had three 100-yard receiving yard games, including 140 yards on seven catches during Tennessee’s win over LSU. The former five-star recruit closed last year with touchdowns in each of the Vols’ final two games, including one in Tennessee’s win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. He had two catches for 21 yards in the Vols’ 49-13 victory over Virginia Saturday.

“Only finished with 2 catches for 21 yards in the game but plenty of good takeaways from pre-game exposure,” Nagy said. “First off, coaches referred to him as an ‘alpha’ when it comes to the leadership he brings to the locker room and the edge he brings to the wide receiver room. Big, smooth athlete who looks like an NFL guy when you get up on him. Can bend and drop his weight better than most bigger receivers his size. Didn’t play on any special teams units on Saturday but with his size and the way staff talks about how tough and competitive he is, he’ll likely be a good special teams player at the next level, which will help separate him from other smaller and not-so-tough receivers in this year’s draft.

“The Senior Bowl has had a good recent track record of Tennessee wideouts coming to Mobile (Juaun Jennings/49ers, Joshua Palmer/Chargers, Velus Jones/Bears) and McCoy will be squarely in mix for a roster spot this year.”

Kansas OL Dominick Puni

Puni, who transferred to Kansas last year after four years at Central Missouri, was a 2022 All-Big 12 honorable mention selection. The 6-foot-4 3/8, 317-pound Puni helped the Jayhawks accumulate 521 yards during a 48-13 win over Missouri State in Week 1, including 245 rushing yards. A Senior Bowl scout shared with Nagy of Puni after the game that he “moves so well for a big fella.”

“Dominated from start to finish, which you expect against FCS opponent,” Nagy said. “Biggest negative off junior tape was overall technique and he was noticeably better with hand use and pass sets, which shows us he’s been putting in the work this offseason. Agile and mobile for a man his size, which is why we think his best NFL position might be center. … Played left tackle on Saturday and was mostly a guard on junior tape, so he’ll be one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the 2024 draft class.”

Florida State QB Jordan Travis

Travis, a 2022 second-team All-ACC selection, opened this season with 342 passing yards, 38 rushing yards and five total touchdowns in a 45-24 victory over No. 5 LSU. His four passing touchdowns were a new career-high for the 6-foot 7/8, 202-pound Travis, who is in his fourth season as FSU’s starting QB. The passing yardage total, meanwhile, was the highest of his career against a ranked opponent.

“Impressed by his ability to overcome rough patches in the first half of LSU game, which he also did a bunch his junior year,” Nagy said. “Made a couple poor decisions under duress in the second quarter ( one resulted in an interception and the other was a dropped INT). Looked keyed up in first half but really settled into the game in the second half. Has a point guard/distributor type of game and that’s perfectly suited for this talent-rich FSU roster. Showed the ability to speed up his release when he needed to. Not afraid to test tight man coverage and trusts his receivers to go make a play for him, which he did consistently (against LSU) with Michigan State transfer Keon Coleman.

“NFL teams will like his sandlot-like ability to escape and extend plays and he made a couple of nice touch throws when flushed to his left last night. LSU probably has most talented front seven that Travis will see this season and they had a really hard time keeping him in the pocket and neutralizing his improvisation ability. If Florida State runs the table during the regular season, which we think they will, then Travis has a great shot at ending up in New York City as a Heisman finalist.”

Washington EDGE Bralen Trice

Trice broke out in his first season as a starter at Washington last year, posting nine sacks and garnering first-team All-Pac 12 recognition. It led to the 6-foot-3 3/8, 270-pound Trice being tabbed as a preseason first-team All-American this summer. He recorded three tackles during the Huskies’ 56-19 win over Boise State Saturday.

“Aligned everywhere from 5-tech to wide 9-tech on Saturday,” Nagy said. “Drew plenty of extra attention from Boise State on passing downs. They knew where he was at all time. Got double and triple-teamed a bunch.

“There will be guys in this year’s EDGE class with higher ceiling tools but Trice is an all-out player who just knows how to rush the passer. Pass rush wins come via skilled hand use, varying up speed and power to keep blockers guessing and simple relentlessness. Teams that like big, physical outside linebackers and base defensive ends like the Patriots and Giants will like Trice.”

Michigan WR Roman Wilson

After posting 25 catches each of the last two years, Wilson looks to be set for a breakthrough 2023, even more so after tallying six catches, 78 yards and a career-high three touchdowns during Michigan’s 30-3 victory over ECU in Week 1. The 5-foot-10 4/8, 187-pound Wilson had eight career receiving touchdowns entering Week 1.

“Wilson was a ‘sleeper’ wide receiver we singled out on a social media post when we put out our 2024 watch list last month and he made us look smart in the season-opener against East Carolina,” Nagy said. “Staffers tell us Wilson is one of the fastest players in the Michigan program and we expect him to run in the 4.3s (in the 40-yard dash) at the Combine next March. Michigan uses him extensively in the slot and his electric speed is hard to handle inside. Different than most quicker-than-fast slots in that he has real speed to threaten safeties vertical.

“Showed good football smarts and chemistry with QB J.J. McCarthy by getting open in ‘scramble drill’ situations on two of his touchdown catches. Staffers tell us Wilson and McCarthy spent a lot of time together this offseason and it showed in Week 1, so we expect Wilson to be his QB’s go-to guy and the Wolverines’ big-play guy all season.”