At the 2024 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Al., Mizzou football had four representatives, far more than in recent years.
The Tigers originally had six accepted invites, but Ennis Rakestraw Jr. had to pull out right before the week kicked off, as he’s still recovering from core muscle surgery that’s kept him out of action for a while. Ty’Ron Hopper also did not participate; the reason for his non-participation was unknown, but when I asked Darius Robinson about it on Wednesday, he calmly said “Hop’s ok”.
In front of NFL personnel and amidst a sea of future professional talent, the four Tigers looked to bring the “something to prove” mentality they’d possessed all season down to Alabama. Here’s how the week went for each Mizzou Tiger.
Heading into the Senior Bowl, the hype around Robinson was the most palpable of any Mizzou player. Outsiders were eager to see the converted defensive tackle show off the elite power and motor that propelled him to an excellent 2023 season.
And from day one, he did exactly that and then some. He wasn’t just arguably the best defensive player throughout the week; he was arguably the best player period, as he was named Overall Practice Player of Week by a panel of NFL scouts and front office executives that were present in Mobile.
Viewers who hadn’t seen Robinson with their own eyes were immediately impressed. The most common word I heard when people were talking about Robinson was “power”, which every offensive lineman Robinson faced felt a lot of all week from number six in black. All week long, he was swimming like an Olympian and ripping like a paper shredder. He dusted Oklahoma standout offensive tackle Tyler Guyton and even his own teammate, Javon Foster.
Sometimes, he didn’t even need a move to win a rep; he would simply bullrush the lineman and get to the “quarterback” (one of the coaches) through sheer force.
Here is every one-on-one rep for Missouri DL Darius Robinson during the Senior Bowl: pic.twitter.com/R9G6THuE6b— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) February 2, 2024
ow, I will cut the offensive lineman a little bit of slack. In one-on-one drills, they have no help on the inside like they might in an actual game. However, being able to block one-on-one is essential to success at any level of football. Robinson made trying to do that a lot harder than most of the other defensive linemen in Mobile.
Now, it wasn’t just the fact that Robinson got a lot of attention; it was who he was getting attention from. Dane Brugler, The Athletic’s main NFL Draft analyst, made numerous Twitter posts about Robinson throughout the week. Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl, also publicly raved about Robinson. Robinson was also the center of tweets from multiple ESPN football analysts, The Draft Network, PFF and many more, all of whom glowed about the senior.
“It’s always been something to prove,” Robinson said at media day on Wednesday. “I’m a Mizzou man…I keep saying I got more work to do because it’s not done yet.”
The Senior Bowl is a huge opportunity for guys like Robinson who previously had a non-Round 1 grade to push their stock closer to the first round. According to nflmockdraftdatabase.com, Robinson’s average mock position was 101st last Saturday, which is in the third round. As of Saturday, that average has skyrocketed to 60th overall. Some mock drafts even have him as high as the back end of the first round. While I’m unsure that he’ll go that high, Robinson certainly took advantage of the opportunity he was given
Speaking of players who impressed from Day 1…
Like offensive lineman blocking defensive lineman, playing defensive back in the Senior Bowl is a little different than normal. For DBs, a large chunk of film NFL decision-makers are extrapolating from seeing them without any defensive help to lean on. There are no safeties over the top or linebackers patrolling the middle of the field. It’s just the defensive back and the wide receiver with the whole field at the latter’s disposal.
However, there are plenty of in-game reps that see receiver and defensive back by themselves, with the DB needing to make a play should the ball come their way. Like Robinson, Abrams-Draine was making plays early and catching the attention of outsiders who hadn’t seen him in-person.
One of Abrams-Draine’s strongest strengths is his nose for the ball. Like a baseball outfielder, his eyes guide the rest of his body toward the ball almost seamlessly. This rep from the first day of practice showed exactly that, as he put the clamps on Texas A&M’s Ainias Smith (who had a really good week) right off the line.
Or take this rep against SEMO wide receiver Ryan Flournoy. Abrams-Draine sticks with him the entire way and bats away a good pass.
It’s been a good week for Missouri CB Kris Abrams-Draine. He’s had guys absolutely strapped. pic.twitter.com/bjKcSi5xfC— Nick Harris (@NickHarrisDC) January 31, 2024
Even on reps where the receiver he was guarding caught the ball, they were all either great throws, great catches or both. On Wednesday, Abrams-Draine had two consecutive reps where the receiver caught a beautifully thrown fade toward the right pylons. However, both times saw Abrams-Draine right there in man coverage; there just wasn’t much he could’ve done to prevent a pass completion.
In a week that usually sees defensive backs get toasted left and right, Abrams-Draine never got beat badly. The Mobile native also helped himself nicely at the Senior Bowl.
Schrader’s story was certainly well-known to many heading into the Senior Bowl. However, there weren’t nearly as many that’d watched him extensively, especially because Schrader is currently considered a Day 3 prospect at best.
While he didn’t put on a show like Robinson did, he showed off everything that made him great at both Truman State and Mizzou: his trademark jump cuts, relentless leg drive and elite agility.
“My quickness, my ability to hit to open a hole and explode through it is something I’ve heard that kinda jumps off tables when they watch my game,” Schrader said at media day on Wednesday.
His highlight of the week came on Wednesday, when he broke Miami (FL) linebacker/safety James Williams’ ankles during a one-on-one passing rep. When you turn your defender into Antonio Daniels circa 2006, you know you’ve done something good.
Oh my, Cody Schrader pic.twitter.com/EOUmidNAwh— The Unwritten Rule (@BleavUnwritten) January 31, 2024
Schrader was also Mizzou’s top statistical performer in the actual game, which Schrader’s team won 16-7. Amidst a clunky game that saw neither offense able to get into rhythm (which is understandable, as most of the guys had never played with each other before), Schrader led all receivers with 54 receiving yards.
Foster had a relatively up and down week, as his reps were definitely a mixed bag of results. He got beaten badly by Darius Robinson, but he didn’t seem too beaten up about it.
“It’s honestly just a blessing that we are both in the position to be here and compete,” Foster said of him and Robinson. “I’m happy for my guy.”
While he struggled a bit on the third day of practice, Foster had plenty of positive reps as well. He was able to show off stellar versatility and physicality throughout the week, with a few seeing him turning into a legitimate stonewall.
Missouri OT Javon Foster's 1-on-1 reps pic.twitter.com/TinEcIdrQf— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) January 30, 2024
“I’m just trying to show off how physical I am,” Foster told me at media day on Wednesday. “There’s just so many different things I can do. I’m very versatile and can play both tackles. I’m just trying to put myself in the best position.”