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2020 Senior Bowl: Recapping Day 1 of practices

This year’s Senior Bowl is officially underway, so let’s break down what happened in the first day of practices.

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - LSU v Oklahoma Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Herbert shines, Hurts starts off slow

The 2020 Senior Bowl features a handful of high-profile quarterbacks, and the group produced a mixed bag of results in the first day.

The star of the show was Oregon’s Justin Herbert, who helped his case as the best quarterback selected to play in Mobile. He was consistent throughout the day, throwing with pinpoint accuracy and good velocity despite windy conditions. A continuation of this level of play could see him rise as high as a top-10 pick, even with Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa also in the class.

Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, on the other hand, did not do much to help his draft stock on Day 1. His touch seemed out of whack, and while part of that can be attributed to the weather and his throwing to new receivers, he struggled to lead his targets and consistently deliver accurate balls. Seen as a Day 2 pick by most analysts, Hurts could fall as far as early Day 3 if he fails to keep up with the upper echelon of quarterback prospects in this class.

The third premier quarterback prospect is Jordan Love from Utah State, who provided a mixed bag of results in his first day. He showed off impressive arm strength and made a handful of really good throws, but his ball placement was inconsistent throughout the afternoon. He could end up being a first-round pick due to his upside, but working on his consistency would really boost his stock even more.

Several wide receivers catch fire early

Though this year’s Senior Bowl wide receiver class was thought to be relatively weak heading into today’s practice, the group showcased plenty of intriguing prospects on both the North and South squads.

Among those from the North team to do well were Ohio State’s KJ Hill and SMU’s James Proche. Hill’s athleticism was obvious to those who watched his tape heading into practice, but his dominance was still fun to watch. He showcased great footwork, burst coming out of his breaks and an overall explosiveness to his routes that made him a nightmare to cover.

Proche had 204 catches, 2,424 yards and 27 touchdowns in his final two collegiate seasons, but he still has been under the radar in some draft circles prior to this point. That should change now, as he showcased impressive fluidity and sharpness in his routes. He could see a rise similar to that of Hill’s former teammate Terry McLaurin last year, as the SMU weapon shares a similar skill set to the Washington wideout.

The South team also had some players stand out at wide receiver, particularly Van Jefferson from Florida and Collin Johnson from Texas. The 6-foot-6, 221-pound Johnson has been known as a big, physical receiver, but he also showcased some solid route-running abilities and very good athleticism for his size. In a class that doesn’t have a lot of massive, big-bodied wideouts, he could be a target for a team looking for a red zone mismatch.

Jefferson, the son of Jets wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, showed plenty of route-running savvy in his workouts on Tuesday. He looked sharp in his cuts, sinking his hips and changing direction easily and moving fluidly. An underrated player to this point, he could see his stock rising as practices continue.

Dane Jackson locks down the competition

The wide receivers put on a show on Tuesday, but many of them struggled when put up against Pittsburgh cornerback Dane Jackson.

The 6-foot, 180-pound Jackson did a great job of shutting down receivers in 1-on-1 drills, showcasing fluid hips and good route recognition on a lot of his reps. And, despite his relatively skinny frame, he was physical in man coverage, fighting through contact and aggressively attacking the ball in tight windows. Currently projected by most as a mid-to-late Day 3 prospect, he could boost his stock if he continues to play at this level.

Other standouts at cornerback include Oklahoma State’s A.J. Green and UCLA’s Darnay Holmes, both of whom bringing physicality and swagger to workouts through the day.

Javon Kinlaw lives up to the hype

As one of the most highly-touted Senior Bowl prospects heading into the week, South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw had a lot on the line if he didn’t live up to expectations. So far, he appears to be living up to them and then some.

In addition to his heartwarming interview prior to the Day 1 workouts, Kinlaw made a strong case to be the best player at the Senior Bowl this year. He looked like a first-round talent on Tuesday, blending active hands, impressive athletic ability and brute force to dominate the opposition in pass-rushing 1-on-1 drills. Already seen as a Round 1 prospect, the 6-foot-5, 315-pound specimen could make himself even more money if he continues to play the way he did in the first day of practice.

Fellow top defensive line prospect, Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore, also looked explosive and powerful in drills today. He physically overwhelmed numerous offensive linemen and staked his claim as a potential riser from the fringe first/second-round prospect he currently is projected as. North Carolina’s Jason Strowbridge also showed some promise, winning from several different alignments and showcasing flexibility and tenacity in drills.

Be sure to follow along with my Twitter account for more updates and thoughts throughout Senior Bowl week, as well as our own EJ Snyder, who is in Mobile attending practices for the week.