10 non-QBs for the Vikings to consider from the Senior Bowl
Purple Insider Senior Bowl correspondent Terry Horstman looks at some players who shined throughout the week
By Terry Horstman
MOBILE, Al.—The 2024 Senior Bowl has come and gone and there’s only one football game left to play before we can finally close the book on the 2023 season (here’s hoping it’s a much better game than the one we watched today). The festivities in Mobile may be over, but the 2024 NFL Draft takes are just beginning. As the Senior Bowl’s official hashtag declares, #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE, so let’s let the draft discourse flow as everyone heads home from Mobile to watch the Super Bowl and prepare for the Combine (which is incredibly less than four weeks away).
Much has been said about the quarterbacks at this year’s Senior Bowl. I myself said plenty earlier this week when I wrote about Michael Penix Jr and Bo Nix, which you can read HERE. Nix threw five passes in the game today. Penix threw five fewer than that as the Heisman Trophy runner-up was one of many who opted out of the Senior Bowl’s formal occasion. Considering how much has already been shared about the QBs, and that the Vikings have needs literally everywhere, here are ten non-quarterbacks who I think could make a lot of sense for the Vikings at various points in the Draft. Some of them played in the Senior Bowl, some of them opted out, and nine out of ten of them play defense, but all of them left a positive impression.
Prospects are listed in the order of my own subjective hype meter at the exact time of this writing:
Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo
If only one player could be crowned as the official media darling of Senior Bowl practice, it would be Mitchell (which is probably why he didn’t play in the game). Mitchell entered the week in Mobile as a widely-ranked first-round player, and his practices were so strong he is now receiving consideration for the draft’s best corner. He may not have done enough to hear his name called before the pair of Crimson Tide corners in Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry, but he closed the gap at the very least.
A couple of receivers who opted out, Michigan’s Roman Wilson and Florida’s Ricky Pearsall, opted out of the game after killing every DB in practice. Sorry, they did so after killing everybody in practice except Mitchell. Don’t let the small school tag fool you, Mitchell has the size and traits of an NFL corner and at this point he is very much in play at No. 11 overall for the Vikes.
Max Melton, CB, Rutgers
Melton may not have been quite as dominant as Mitchell, but he also played well enough to justify opting out of playing in the game and should see his stock rise considerably after his week in Mobile. Melton (the younger brother of Packers’ WR Bo Melton) is competitive, plays spicy, and measured as one of the fastest DBs in practice per Zebra MotionWorks.
Melton made it a point to the media that he’s already faced some of the best wideouts college football has to offer and has already cut his teeth against the likes of the aforementioned Wilson, as well as Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr (this writer’s No. 1 overall player in the draft). The Vikings could use roughly a thousand more corners so if they address other needs on Day One of the Draft, Melton should be strongly considered on Day Two.
Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA
Latu is possibly the most-mocked player to the Vikings with the No. 11 overall pick at this point in the draft cycle, so no Senior Bowl review could be complete without him. I thought Latu looked pretty good, if not great in practice. He was often matched up in one-on-ones with Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga, who may be the highest draft offensive linemen who was in town this week, and had mixed results.
Even still, Latu has the biggest bag of tricks of all the pass rushers in this draft and is still looking at a pretty high pick in April (he was yet another opt out). A player who once considered medically retiring before transferring from Washington to UCLA, Latu has been tremendous over the last couple seasons but his medicals will command the league’s attention at the Combine in Indy.
Adissa Isaac, EDGE, Penn State
Finally! A player who actually played in the game! What a joy to finally get to a player who not only attended the Senior Bowl, but also played in the Senior Bowl. Isaac didn’t get as much of the spotlight in 2023 as his fellow Nittany Lion pass rusher Chop Robinson, but he still more than earned his ticket to Mobile and had a great week of practice.
Isaac actually gave Fuaga more trouble than Latu did from where I was sitting. Someone is going to draft him on Day Two and will be pretty excited about it when they do.
Darius Robinson, DL, Missouri
Robinson may have enjoyed the most meteoric rise of anyone who made the trip to Mobile and was named ‘Overall Practice Player of the Week’ by a ‘panel of scouts and NFL front office executives’ at the 2024 Senior Bowl Awards.
Robinson didn’t play in the game, but he impressed all the right people. He also offers position flexibility. He’s listed as an interior defensive lineman on the official Senior Bowl roster, but also played a lot of Edge at Mizzou as well. There’s a not-short injury history with Robinson as well, but also a history of playing through those injuries and still piling up plenty of production.
Jarvis Brownlee Jr, CB, Louisville
Brownlee Jr was among the most talked about corners besides Quinyon Mitchell, so it’s a miracle he didn’t opt out of playing. Not only did he play in the Senior Bowl, but he picked off a pass and looked every bit the part of a shutdown corner.
Whether or not opting out of playing in the game after a good week of practice is a good decision versus choosing to play is something NFL GMs will never ever actually give us the answer to. Still, it was nice to see Brownlee, who had arguably as good of a week as any defensive back who didn’t attend the University of Toledo, suit up for the American team and pick off Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman (side note: Hartman did not factor into my QBs article, but should have based on his hair alone, seriously, the flow on that guy is a sight to behold). Brownlee looked awesome in one-on-ones all week and should continue to shoot up draft boards.
Jalyx Hunt, EDGE, Houston Christian
The small school stud of this year’s Senior Bowl, Jalyx Hunt started his career as a safety at Cornell before transferring to Houston Christian University where he evolved into an outside backer and edge rusher. Another one of the fastest defensive players in practice according to Zebra MotionWorks, Hunt is on the rawer side of athletes here in Mobile, but my goodness is he an intriguing ball of clay for Brian Flores to mold into a weapon of pass-rushing destruction.
Hunt got home on a sack in the game and wasn’t afraid to meet the moment at any point during this week. He’s not going to show up to OTAs and be Danielle Hunter immediately, but this is a kid with tools on top of tools and could truly blossom under Flores’s tutelage.
Michael Hall, DL, Ohio State
Every single time I lifted my head up after writing something down or looking at my phone during the three days of practice at Hancock Whitney Stadium at the University of South Alabama, No. 51 was wreaking havoc in the backfield. I swear, every single time a new rep began, Michael Hall was there to ruin it.
I’m not the only one who noticed him either as Hall earned National Team Defensive Lineman Player of the Week honors as voted on by the offensive lineman he was tormenting all week. He’s like a wrecking ball infused with Red Bull.
Braden Fiske, DL, Florida State
Perhaps the most history-making moment of the 75th Anniversary Senior Bowl was when Fiske stepped out onto the field today and became the first player in the game’s history to switch teams on the day of the game.
Due to roster attrition to the National Team’s defensive tackle group, Fiske changed his jersey from gray to orange, hopped in the middle of a defensive line he hadn’t practiced with, played for coaches he hadn’t spoken to, and then played a hell of a football game. At some point you have to reward the players who actually played in the damn thing, and today, Fiske was absolutely everywhere. He tallied four tackles, a half sack, 1.5 tackles-for-loss, and an additional QB hurry for good measure. He absolutely met the moment and balled out in a difficult situation, a skill that could come in handy if he ends up playing professional football in Minnesota.
Not to take anything away from South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler, who looked good, but Fiske was the real MVP [Insert Kevin Durant meme here].
Emani Bailey, RB, TCU
We’ve got an offensive player here! Sorry to deny all the fantasy football obsessed rubes out there of potential options for your ‘Dynasty Rookie Super Drafts,’ or whatever they’re called. You might want to take a look at Horned Frogs RB Emani Bailey, though, because the American team’s game plan today sure did. Bailey garnered 14 touches today and racked up 87 all-purpose yards in a game that was essentially immune to moving the ball forward for a good chunk of time. No other skill position player netted more than 70.
Bailey has a nice set of hands (remember when the Vikings had Dalvin Cook and they actually completed a pass to a running back, that can happen again, Vikings fans!!!), and some good burst. I don’t think he translates to a bellcow at the next level, but he could be a clever little weapon for the right team.
Terry Horstman is a Minneapolis native who podcasts about his alma mater Oregon State on the Belligerent Beavs Podcast and covers the Minnesota Lynx for The Next