The Senior Bowl has turned into a mix of seniors with real, high-caliber NFL talent, and seniors who are there because the fifth, sixth, and seventh choices didn't want to get hurt before the combine. Let's take a look at who's the real deal, and who's just a pity invite.
Blake Sims, Alabama
Age 23, 6'0", 208 lbs.
Sims has had one of the more non-traditional paths to not just the Senior Bowl, but the quarterback position in general. A four-star athlete out of high school, Sims played as a backup quarterback and running back for his first three years at Bama, before getting his first career start at QB this season. One thing you can say about most to any player from the Tide is that they have no shortage of experience against (future) NFL talent. Sims led the team to wins over some of the best in college football, and played well to boot. But of course, so has every Alabama quarterback since Brodie Croyle, and it hasn't really fared well for any of them in the NFL. What sets Sims apart from that pack, however, is his athleticism, something not seen from a Saban quarterback in a while. It'll be up to the scouts and the media to decide how Sims will be perceived come draft time, but regardless of what the log line says, do not underestimate the young man from Gainesville, Georgia, especially on a national stage. Yes, there's also a Gainesville in Georgia. Read a map!
Bryce Petty, Baylor
Age 23, 6'3", 230 lbs.
Your grandfather took one look at Bryce Petty, and his old, cracked willy got as hard as it ever will again. Ol' Prototype Petty was the battery behind Baylor's insanely high-powered, yet balanced offense that was first in the nation, averaging 48 points, 365 passing yards, and 215 rushing yards per game. Yes, Baylor played a relatively easy schedule, especially compared to the one Sims and Alabama had to face, but consistency matters, even if it is constantly destroying inferior opponents. If there's one reason to wipe the drool from your grandfather's mouth (aside from the stroke preventing him from taking care of himself), it's that Petty had two cracked bones in his spine at the beginning of this season, and played the majority of the year in a heavy-duty back brace. Now, the particular injury Petty has heals on its own, but there's no telling how playing football and taking hits affected the timeline for Bryce getting back to 100%. The Senior Bowl will provide Petty with an opportunity to show what he can do outside of the Art Briles high-powered offense, and prove he's healthy prior to combine time.
Shane Carden, East Carolina
Age 23, 6'2", 221 lbs
Sugar Shane! It's always hard to judge quarterbacks on average teams when they're relied on to be the sole provider of offense for the team. It's doubly hard to judge that quarterback when they've broken most of the passing records at their school. Carden has been at the helm of an East Carolina team clearly on the rise for nearly three years, and has continued to improve year-to-year. The major question is whether or not he's talented enough to eventually develop into an NFL starting quarterback... or if any NFL team would even bother. At this stage, Carden has 6th round pick written all over him, and needs a strong Senior Bowl to, at the very least, make himself stand out from the rest of the pack. Of course, Ryan Lindley and Austin Davis are out here winning games in the NFL, so what do I know?
Garrett Grayson, Colorado State
Age 23, 6'2", 220 lbs
Grayson has a lot in common with Carden: surprisingly mobile, hyper-accurate, and debatably the sole reason his team has been on the rise over the past two seasons. Grayson, however, suffers in the "strength of schedule" department, as his Colorado State team racked up 10 wins... in the Mountain West... and got obliterated by Utah in their bowl game, 45-10... where he threw zero touchdowns. Hoo boy.