The 2016 Reese's Senior Bowl kicks off at 1:30 p.m. CT on Saturday and will be broadcast on NFL Network. It will showcase more than 100 of the best NFL Draft prospects in the country who have been competing against one another in practices all week down in Mobile, Alabama.
It's one of the most important weeks of the year for these players who are trying to live out their dreams of making an NFL roster, and Saturday's game will be the last time they put on the pads before the NFL Draft later this spring.
The Kansas City Chiefs have selected a player who competed in the Senior Bowl in each of the three drafts under general manager John Dorsey, including two of his three first-round picks—Eric Fisher (2013) and Dee Ford (2014).
As fans get set to watch the game on Saturday, here's a Q&A with Bleacher Report's lead NFL Draft writer Matt Miller as to which senior prospects stood out this week.
Matt, we spoke before the Senior Bowl and you told me the amount of talent along the defensive line was going got be one of the top stories here. Seems like everybody we've been talking to has been talking about the D-line. Who has stood out to you?
"Austin Johnson from Penn State has really just been a monster. And I think what's interesting about him is that he has the body of a nose tackle, but he's able to get some push and actually get after the quarterback, which is kind of becoming the trend now. You don't just want a 2-down space [eater]. He's been very good.
"Vernon Butler from Louisiana Tech—to be 330 pounds and move like he does, he was breaking out spin moves today at that size—really impressive. Jihad Ward from Illinois, before the injury, I thought he looked very good as a 5-technique. Again, a 300 pound guy, who looks like he's about 270.
"Matt Ioannidis from Temple had a good week. We can just keep going. Sheldon Day had a good week. All of the D-linemen on the North roster looked really good."
Who has really surprised you that you might have to go back and watch some more tape of after their performance this week?
"I think that Braxton Miller, you have to go back and look and say, he was not used great, so where is the production going got be? He has flashed so hard down here. He is one of the most impressive guys that I've seen.
"Kenneth Dixon from Louisiana Tech, the running back, is somebody I want to go home and watch a little more of because he's been very impressive to me. Obviously I knew who he was but haven't done the full tape study.
"Jason Spriggs, the tackle from Indiana, is a really interesting guy. I thought at times he didn't play like a power player on tape, but here he's been pretty impressive. You know, heavier hands. Offensive tackles can make a lot of money here as you know. So it could be a good opportunity for him."
Obviously, it's really early in the draft process and there's a lot of work to be done, but when you look at the end of the first round—Chiefs are at No. 28, who are some of the guys that could be available around then that are down here who impressed you?
"Noah Spence from Eastern Kentucky maybe will be there. He's made himself a lot of money this week. So he can be pushed up the board a little bit, but he's absolutely been a player. And like we were talking, along the D-line, Austin Johnson, Vernon Butler. Those guys, that's where I'd expect them to start to come play. Darian Thompson, the free safety from Boise State. I had him as a top-40 guy coming in to here, but I wouldn't be shocked if he's a late first-round player."
And one of the local guys I have to ask you about because I've heard a lot of positive things about him was K-State's Cody Whitehair, I know you've watched him. What have you seen from him out here?
"Cody has lived up to expectations. He's just a really good player and it shows here. The great thing is the technique, the leverage, the hand placement. He checks all those boxes. Knew he was going to be most comfortable at guard, and he's definitely lived up to all the hype that you've heard for the last two years. He's just one of the best players here. That's the easiest way to put it."
Who are some of the corners particular guys on the outside that can play press coverage that impressed you down here?
"Harlan Miller from Southeastern Louisiana has impressed me. He's a feisty guy, but he will play press coverage. He uses his hands well. Good length, and just good press technique. So he's definitely stood out. He's a player who's a top-100 guy and can definitely push himself into round 3 after a good week here."