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Senior Bowl Recap: The No-Name Safety To Know


MOBILE, Ala. – With the amount we talk about 3-cones and 40 times, it's easy to forget how much you can learn from just watching guys play live football.

Sadly, this is the only part of the draft process that involves live football, so we'll have to make due with tape the rest of the way. But it's safe to say we are seeing some guys make strong impressions here at the Senior Bowl.

Here's a handful of thoughts and observations from Day 2 of practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

1. There is definitely some defensive tackle talent on hand in Mobile. We've covered Javon Kinlaw already, and we'll continue to talk about him as the draft cycle goes along.

But Wednesday's North Team practice showed off two new names to know – Oklahoma's Neville Gallimore and North Carolina's Jason Strowbridge.

You might already be familiar with Gallmore. He plays right up the road from Dallas, and he's been pegged as a guy who should go on Day 2 or possibly even Day 1. He definitely looked the part in this practice, as he was able to bully his way past guys with an impressive combination of pure power and pass rush moves.

Strowbridge was more of a surprise to me. He wasn't on my radar heading into this week, but he stood out on Wednesday. Throughout the morning, I kept asking myself if I was noticing him because he was wearing the vibrant bright blue of the Carolina Tar Heels, or because he was playing that well.

His threads might have been slick, but it was the latter. Strowbridge showed power, quickness and an ability to move around blockers – rather than just through them. The Lions coaching staff at one point had him run stunts with Jordan Uche, my pet cat from Tuesday, and it was basically unfair. The guy won the vast majority of his reps and did it a variety of ways.

None of this is to say Kinlaw isn't good. But he's not alone out here.

2. I'm late to the party, but let me officially climb aboard the Kyle Dugger Hype Train. This is just a hunch, but I'm guessing he'll be one of the most talked about players coming out of this week.

We previewed Dugger on last week's episode of "The Draft Show," and I had literally never heard of his school, Lenoir-Rhyne University. Here's a crash course: their mascot is the Bears, they're located in North Carolina and they play in Division II. They also look to have produced one of the best safeties in this draft class.

That doesn't seem to be an exaggeration. With Cal's Ashytn Davis sitting out of practice, Dugger has been the star of the safety class at the Senior Bowl. He looks fantastic in coverage, and he has looked extremely confident matching wits with the likes of Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts. In one-on-one drills, he undercut Vanderbilt tight end Jordan Pinkney for a really nifty interception. Oh, and did I mention he worked on punt returns at the outset of practice? The guy returned six punts for touchdowns during his college career.

For a Division II guy, it's pretty damn impressive. Switch the helmet decals, and no one here would have trouble believing he went to Alabama or Ohio State. Dugger probably won't be the first safety drafted, but I've talked to multiple people who think he's a top 50 pick. Judging from practice, I think I agree.

3. That prompts another question, though. From what we know about the Cowboys' draft tendencies, would they take a chance on a small school prospect like Dugger? Their history under Will McClay suggests not.

Instead, they tend to prefer guys from big-name programs who have performed under the bright lights before. The vast majority of their headline draft picks hail from the SEC, the Big Ten and the Big 12. Yes, they have occasionally found talent from places like Boise State, Western Kentucky and Central Michigan – but those are still Division I programs.

The Cowboys haven't drafted and FCS player since 2013, when they took B.W. Webb in the fourth round. They haven't drafted a Division II player since 2010, when they found Akwasi Owusu-Ansah out of Indiana (PA).

None of this means he isn't draftable. McClay and Co. will surely do their due diligence. But as good as Dugger might be, I'm not sure I'd bet on them breaking this trend.

4. It's impossible to ignore wide receivers during these practices. As hard as you might try, it's so easy to get drawn in by the footwork and the ball skills.

Speaking of footwork – hello, K.J. Hill. Coming from a bigtime program like Ohio State, I'm very familiar with his work, as he was the Buckeyes' No. 2 receiver en route to a 13-1 season.

What I didn't know was how shockingly smooth he is. The guy can make cuts and change direction like it's nothing, and he made several defensive backs look silly on Wednesday. It's hard to explain, but he makes changing direction look positively effortless. Combine that with his experience playing in the slot, and it's easy to see why I'm intrigued.

Hill's game doesn't necessarily remind me of Terry McLaurin, but it's hard to forget how the fellow Buckeye shot up the draft boards with a strong week in Mobile last year. Hill has been just as impressive, and it's a reminder of just how loaded this receiver class is.