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2021 Senior Bowl: 8 players the Jaguars should be watching

Who should the Jaguars be looking at in the Senior Bowl?

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

For the Jacksonville Jaguars and new head coach Urban Meyer, the 2021 NFL Draft is a huge step in the process of rebuilding a lost franchise. With 12 draft picks in tow, the Jaguars will have to maximize every opportunity to scout and see players, especially with the 2021 NFL Combine being canceled due to COVID-19 implications.

Jacksonville, like the rest of the teams in the NFL, will turn now to the Senior Bowl to get looks at some of the top tier prospects in the upcoming draft. Although the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers will be coaching the two teams, scouts from across the NFL will have the opportunity to meet with the prospects. Here are players from both teams Jaguars fans should be looking out for in this year’s Senior Bowl:

American Team

Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State

Despite Florida State’s subpar record over the past two years, the program still has a plethora of top-tier draft prospects. Nasirildeen is one of those players. In 2019, he led the Seminoles with 101 tackles and added on two interceptions and three forced fumbles.

Nasirildeen is a fantastic tackler who uses his range and 6’4, 215 pound frame to be a chess piece on the field. If he can remain healthy (he suffered a leg injury in 2019 that kept him out of all but two games this year) and improve on his ball skills, Nasirildeen could be a versatile piece to add to the Jaguars defense.

Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse

While his backfield partner Andre Cisco gets most of the attention, Melifonwu is a stellar defensive back in his own right. He’s a new mold of corner, standing at 6’3, and his length and improving ball skills (six pass breakups and one interception in 2020) translate well to the NFL.

At Syracuse, he excelled in off coverage, and has a quick trigger to make tackles in the flat. He could also play safety, but I think he would be best as an outside cornerback in a zone defense. The Jaguars sorely need an infusion of talent in their defensive backs room, and Melifonwu would give them a rangy outside cornerback piece to work with.

Alex Leatherwood and Deonte Brown, OL, Alabama

Okay, this one feels like cheating because I’m grouping the two national title champion linemen together, but I’m doing it anyway. If you look up the phrase “bad intentions” in the dictionary, you would find an image of these two on the offensive line.

Alex Leatherwood is a massive 6’6, 310 pound lineman who has experience playing at both guard and tackle for the Crimson Tide. Despite his size, he has a quick first step in pass protection and is agile enough to execute stretch plays away from his side of the ball.

Deonte Brown is a massive human being who shouldn’t be able to move as well as he does at guard. He’s extremely effective as a puller and was one of the key cogs to a dominant offense for Alabama.

The Jaguars offensive line play improved as a whole this year, but with Cam Robinson entering free agency, the Jaguars could let him walk and look to replace the Alabama product with another Crimson Tide tackle.

Kadarious Toney, WR, Florida

This list wouldn’t be complete without a Gator on here, would it? Kadarious Toney must have eaten the Gum Gum Fruit from One Piece, because he’s like rubber when he has the ball in open space. His contact balance is superb for someone who’s 5’11, 190 pounds, and every time he touches the ball, there’s a chance he takes it to the house. He’s also massively improved in the route running and catching area.

Urban Meyer loves speed at wide receiver, and if you examine the depth charts of the two teams in the Super Bowl, there’s no reason why loading up in the perimeter is a negative. Adding Toney to a room with DJ Chark, LaViska Shenault, Collin Johnson and (maybe) Keelan Cole would give whoever is the Jaguars’ next quarterback (I’m 99.999999999% sure it’s Trevor Lawrence) a plethora of options.

National Team

Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State

Radunz is an intriguing prospect, who has all the tools to be a quality starting blindside protector. He’s a very good athlete for his position, and uses that athleticism to stonewall defenders on the edge. Level of competition is obviously a huge question for him, so the Senior Bowl is his shot to compete against higher competition.

Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina

Michael Carter was part of a two headed monster running backs room at UNC. Carter ran for 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns, while adding two receiving touchdowns. Carter is very explosive and is dynamic with the ball in his hands. Carter displays good vision between the tackles, but you prefer to get him in space where he can create and make people miss.

The Jaguars could use a change of pace back, just to take some of the workload off of rookie wunderkind James Robinson.

Shaka Toney, EDGE, Penn State

If there’s any guy who needs the Senior Bowl to improve his draft stock, it’s Shaka Toney. In a 2020 season that saw Penn State only win four games, Toney had five sacks and only 31 total tackles. Despite that, Toney shows explosion on the first step, and adequate hand placement on pass rush moves. He also has good bend, dipping around the corner and flipping his hips to get to the quarterback.

Where he needs to improve is against the run. He too often gets washed down and blown up at the point of attack, and could possibly need to add more weight to play with his hand in the dirt. Jacksonville needs depth at EDGE, especially with Dawuane Smoot entering free agency. Toney could be a later round addition for the Jaguars, and a tool for new defensive coordinator Joe Cullen to work with.

The Senior Bowl will be played on Saturday January 30 at the University of South Alabama’s stadium in Mobile, Alabama. The game will be broadcast on NFL Network.