1) The 2022 draft class of quarterbacks is thought to be a thin one in scouting circles, as compared to recent years. Two caveats to that: 1) Underclassman declarations have yet to clarify exactly who will be available, and 2) The recent past has been a tough act to follow — the last four drafts have placed a quarterback as the No. 1 overall pick, and averaged three QBs selected in the top 10. NFL clubs in need of a quarterback will have plenty of talent to scrutinize in Mobile this year, as some of the best have committed to compete. Among them are the aforementioned Howell, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Liberty’s Malik Willis and Nevada’s Carson Strong. Pickett’s profile as a draft prospect exploded during the 2021 season as he led the Panthers to an unexpected ACC title. On the strength of Ridder’s play, along with that of a big cast of five other Senior Bowl-bound Bearcats, Cincinnati became the first Group of Five program to reach the College Football Playoff. Howell was a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, but quickly fell out of the running as the Tar Heels stumbled to a disappointing 6-7 season. Last summer, in scouting Howell’s 2020 campaign, Jeremiah noted some Baker Mayfield-like qualities in the early-graduating junior.
2) Speaking of quarterbacks, another interesting watch for scouts will be Willis, particularly given the level of competition he’ll be facing. He faced two opponents from Power Five conferences this season — Syracuse and Ole Miss — and his pass protection was brutally bad in both games. Syracuse sacked him six times, Ole Miss nine. The Senior Bowl practice week will give him a chance to show his skills against top defenders in drills, and in team periods behind an offensive line that’s commensurate with its competition. Willis is a dangerous dual-threat quarterback; his running style is powerful and often slide-averse — more like Cam Newton than Kyler Murray. Ball-carriers aren’t tackled to the ground during the practice week, however, so Willis won’t have a great chance to show that off until game day.