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Which NFL Draft prospects have the most to gain, lose in 2022 Senior Bowl

We go over who could benefit from a good showing on Saturday and who can’t afford a bad performance.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A major step towards the 2022 NFL Draft will be taken on Saturday with several top prospects gathering at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, AL, for the 2022 Senior Bowl. The game will kick off at 2:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network.

We’re still a few months away from the draft itself and with scouting events like the NFL Combine coming up, the Senior Bowl wouldn’t be described as a make or break event for these prospects. It can, however, set the tone for how they’ll be viewed in the coming months. We’ll take a look at who can potentially help their stock with a good performance and hurt their stock with a subpar performance on Saturday.

Players with the most to gain

  • Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State: Johnson has been described as a wrecking ball in practice this week and has been one of the best prospects overall in Mobile. He was already projected as a first-rounder in this edge rusher-heavy draft class. A solid performance here and he could solidify himself as the No. 3 edge rusher off the board behind Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson.
  • Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky: This has been labeled as one of the weaker quarterback classes in recent years but there is potential for someone to impress enough scouts during the months leading up into the draft. Zappe set FBS records for passing yards and touchdowns this year and by most accounts has had a good week of practice. If he stands out on Saturday, he could be a mid-round pick and potentially sneak into Day 2 territory.
  • Calvin Austin, WR, Memphis: Austin is following in the footsteps of previous Memphis playmakers like Antonio Gibson to take the league by storm and has the chance to showcase himself on Saturday. Despite being 5’7”, Detroit Lions wide receiver coach Antwaan Randle El has described him as one of the smartest wide receivers at the Senior Bowl.
  • Damone Clark, LB, LSU: Clark was a Butkus Award finalist this past season but is somewhat flying under the radar. Not much attention was paid to LSU once its season went off the rails and the college football world gravitated towards eventual Butkus Award winner Nakobe Dean out of Georgia. Slotted firmly behind Dean and Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd on draft boards, Clark has a chance to make a statement on Saturday and beyond.

Players with the most to lose

  • Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh: Naturally, if you’re projected as the top quarterback taken in the draft, there’s always a chance your stock could drop. Pickett skyrocketed up the board with a strong senior year at Pittsburgh, but he’s now being hit with the “small hands” skepticism you see with certain QB’s during the draft process. He’ll most likely be fine but those echoes won’t go away if he has a subpar performance.
  • Malik Willis, QB, Liberty: Willis is being heralded for his potential high ceiling as a QB prospect but still has to impress in front of scouts. He had a mix of highs and lows in practice this week and a less than stellar showing in Mobile won’t do any favors for his case to leapfrog Pickett as the top signal caller in the class.
  • Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn: The Mobile native has been projected as a second-round pick but has been questioned about his size and arm length all week long. He can put those critiques to bed with a nice showing here and if not, they’ll persist heading into the combine.