UMass receiver Andy Isabella may not fit the bill of a prototypical WR, but he’s making some waves at the Senior Bowl and has his sights set on the NFL Draft.
MOBILE, Ala. – The most productive receiver bakes cookies, a small-school tackle spilled on his embarrassing nickname and Missouri quarterback Drew Lock isn’t fazed by the high expectations Baker Mayfield and others have established in their first years in the NFL.
There’s a lot to unpack from Senior Bowl practices this week in Mobile. Here are five things we learned ahead of Saturday’s game (NFL Network, 2:30 ET):
Quarterbacks who were, weren’t at Senior Bowl
Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins is the quarterback front-runner in this spring’s draft, with Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray intriguing teams as a late-first-to-second-round prospect. Neither player was eligible for the Senior Bowl. Among quarterbacks who did attend, many analysts graded Duke’s Daniel Jones highest despite two practice interceptions. West Virginia’s Will Grier, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and Missouri’s Drew Lock also made strides. Lock impressed with his scheme understanding after a four-year college career featuring 12,193 yards passing and 99 touchdowns. He’s not short on confidence, either. Lock said he knows the 2018 quarterback class with players like Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Lamar Jackson set a high bar for rookies.
“They lived up to their hype,” Lock said Wednesday. “They’re playing good football, starting on big NFL teams. There’s no reason I don’t think this quarterback class could do the same thing.”
The quarterback who just kept growing
Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson wasn’t as polished as Senior Bowl comrades. But the tallest quarterback in Mobile at 6-7 completed a series of successful deep throws at Tuesday’s 7-on-7 drills and another end-zone connection Thursday to South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel. Jackson sprouted rapidly in high school, from a 5-9 freshman to a 6-1 sophomore, 6-3 junior and then 6-5 senior.
“I used to go to bed and pray every night because 5-foot-9 wasn’t going to cut it,” said Jackson, whose mom and dad are 5-8 and 6-0, respectively. “Then I got 6-7. I guess God gave me a little bit more than I asked for.”
And a receiver you won’t want to sleep on
Standing 11 inches shorter than Jackson are receivers Andy Isabella (Massachusetts) and Penny Hart (Georgia State). No matter. Isabella eluded coverage in one-on-ones with polished routes despite a small catch radius. The 5-8 prospect’s 1,698 receiving yards led all FBS players by more than 200 yards.
“Isabella has got something,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said from Mobile. “He is quick.”
Isabella said he looks to emulate Golden Tate and Wes Welker on the field and points to his 303-yard output in a 62-59 overtime win over Liberty as his best game this season. Isabella celebrated big wins like the Liberty game by baking chocolate chip and M&M cookies for his training staff.
“I was super bored in college at UMass one night and was like ‘screw it,’” Isabella told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday. “(The training staff) does a lot for us. Then they wanted it every week and I was like, ‘Crap, I got to make cookies every week?”
Will Isabella bake cookies for whichever team drafts NFL teams with cookies to draft him?
“They’d probably think I’m a weirdo,” Isabella laughed.
Line-of-scrimmage battles coming soon
A talented class of 2019 defensive linemen projects to dominate first-round selections. NFL Network’s mock draft Friday pegged defensive linemen sweeping the top four selections, starting with Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa and followed by Kentucky edge Josh Allen, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and Michigan edge Rashan Gary. Clemson standouts Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence aren’t far behind.
Can this year’s offensive linemen keep up? Mid-round tackle prospects Dalton Risner (Kansas State) and Tytus Howard (Alabama State) were among Senior Bowl attendees looking to show they can.
“I haven’t given up a sack since 2016, my sophomore year – over 2 1/2 years of football,” Risner said. “I protect my quarterback. I’m not perfect, I have a lot to work on but I take a lot of pride in protecting my QB.”
Howard also understands what’s at stake in protection after playing quarterback through high school, including one 16-carry, 315-rushing yard performance, he said. He’s since bulked up from a 6-3, 215 high school quarterback to a 6-5, 322-pound college lineman. Hometown friends and family changed his nickname.
“I hate to tell y’all my nickname – back home everyone called me ‘weenie,’” said Howard, who was expecting more than 200 supporters from hometown Monroeville, Ala. to drive the 88 miles for the Senior Bowl. “(Now) when people see me they’re like, ‘Damn, can’t call you ‘weenie’ no more. You’re not small no more.’”
An FCS DB on the rise
Delaware defensive back Nasir Adderley made waves Wednesday when he intercepted Daniel Jones in the flat. Adderley prided himself on versatility after starting at outside cornerback, free safety and nickel during his college career in addition to the value he places on special teams.
“I want to be someone who’s willing to do whatever coach needs,” Adderley said, “and able to do whatever coach asks.”
Why does a player with his talent end up without an FBS offer? Adderley said his academic eligibility was at risk in junior year so schools wouldn’t offer him. Once he tightened up and made honor roll his senior year of high school, Wake Forest and Syracuse came calling. Adderley had already committed to Delaware. By 2018, he put up 87 tackles, intercepted four balls, broke up seven passes, and both forced and recovered a fumble. He was the only player in the country with over 160 tackles and nine interceptions the last two seasons.
Adderley’s goal now: Be the next Earl Thomas.