Senior Bowl practices have concluded in Mobile, with players now earning a day of rest before they clash against one another in front of the national television lights on Saturday afternoon.
However, with every light comes a shadow; while a good performance in a singular moment can be good for getting your name out there, it’s the work done in the shadows which ultimately matters over the long-term for the draft prospects who hope to hear their names called come April.
For the Mid-American Conference, two of their best pass-rushers, Central Michigan’s Thomas Incoom and Bowling Green’s Karl Brooks, are the sole representation for the league, and they certainly feel it.
“Coming from the MAC, I’m an underdog, trying to prove to everybody that I’m part of the top of the defensive guys in this draft class,” Incoom told the Detroit News’ Nolan Bianchi on Tuesday evening. ““It’s pride. I’m just representing everybody, not just myself. (I’m) putting MAC schools on the board.”
So far, both of the prospects have done the league well, with Brooks and Incoom earning starting reps in teams drills from Day 1, revealing their versatility and potential early enough for the National Team staff to trust them with such responsibility.
We take a deep look at the film and measurables to understand where they stand after the conclusion of the practice sessions:
Thomas Incoom, EDGE, Central Michigan
- Height: six-foot-two
- Weight: 265 lbs.
- Hands: 9 and one-eighth inches
- Arms: 33 inches
- Wingspan: 79 and five-eighth inches
Thomas Incoom was a dominant force in the MAC as a rare D-II to FBS jump prospect, putting up gaudy numbers in just two seasons in Mt. Pleasant. He earned first-team all-MAC honors in his lone full season as a starter, mirroring his quick ascendance at Valdosta State, where he went from rotation place to full-time starter with first-team Gulf South Conference honors.
His size and speed at the EDGE position makes him an intriguing pro prospect, and his work so far in the Senior Bowl practices has proven his on-field work isn’t an illusion.
Incoom has impressed scouts with his high motor and excellent bend at his size profile, and especially excelled in team settings, notching several pressures and simulated sacks over all three days of practice.
On this rep against Jaelyn Duncan, Incoom rightly reads the tight end motion, makes great use of his hands to dispatch his assignment, then runs unabated to the quarterback, something which other EDGE prospects have struggled with so far.
Incoom made great use of his hands once again on this rep against North Carolina interior offensive lineman Asim Richards, this time from a four-point position on the inside of the line. His burst on the snap allows him to get good placement on the assignment, bend his man, then maintain his momentum to pick up the sack despite being held.
It wasn’t the first time Incoom got the best of Richards either; in this one-on-one drill, Incoom catches Richards flat-footed and pushes him at least five yards backwards into the endzone and then some.
Even reps where he’s kept relatively in check have been impressive for Incoom. Here, BYU’s Blake Freeland actually anticipates Incoom and pushes him away from the play, but Incoom is able to recover and re-gain leverage with his hands, cutting inside before spinning out of Freeland’s grasp for a simulated pressure.
Blake Freeland vs Thomas Incoom pic.twitter.com/YiRK2RL1CB— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) January 31, 2023
On this rep agaisnt Jaelyn Duncan (who he got for a sack the next day), Incoom shows off his motor, as he’s met at the line and pushed away, but still puts forth the effort to utilize a pull move to continue the simulated pursuit.
Scouts so far vary on where he could go in the NFL Draft, given the combination of competition level concerns and the age factor, but at current, most draftniks project Incoom to go between the third and fourth rounds, which would put him in the area of a Top 100 prospect.
His unique athletic profile, combined with his performance at the Senior Bowl, could propel him into the second round.
Karl Brooks, IDL/EDGE, Bowling Green
- Height: six-foot-three
- Weight: 303 lbs.
- Hands: 9 inches
- Arms: 32 and one-quarter inches
- Wingspan: 77 and three-fourth inches
Karl Brooks was an excellent five-year contributor for the Falcons in his time in Bowling Green, who only grew better as he got more reps. The question coming into the Senior Bowl was whether or not he was taking advantage of a weak schedule; he was the fifth-best player in the NCAA at getting pressures, but also played in a notoriously-down MAC East division.
Most questions people likely had were answered and then some this week where it concerns Brooks as a pro prospect; if there can truly be a winner at the Senior Bowl, Karl Brooks might be that guy for the National Team defense.
With potential first-round prospects such as Georgia Tech’s Keion White and Army’s Andre Carter II in the DL room for the National Team, Brooks’ emergence has been a revelation.
Brooks has not only excelled in three days of practices in Mobile, he has dominated, taking on projected Day 1 and early Day 2 prospects on equal ground and earning himself lots of reps— and eyes— both on the inside and the edge positions.
Let’s start with the back-to-back plays in team scrimmages which got him on the map.
Brooks is lined up on the nose against Michigan center Olusegun Oluwatimi. Before the snap, Brooks hops up and points his body to Oluwatimi’s left, anticipating the line’s movement to the right. Oluwatimi indeed tips right, and Brooks takes advantage, bullrushing through the new gap and leaving Oluwatimi to helplessly throw his hand out to stop him. Brooks then had clear run to nearly bowl over the quarterback before he can make his reads to get credit for a sack.
On the very next play, Brooks lines up between Oluwatimi and North Dakota State guard Cody Mauch pre-snap. This time, Brooks picks up Mauch off the snap, and quickly gets around to Mauch’s left with a speed move, leaving the Bison guard to look behind him as Brooks snatched up Texas running back Roschon Johnson behind the line of scrimmage.
Brooks’ one-on-one work was also revelatory, giving Oluwatimi and Mauch fits in individual drills, while UNC IOL Amir Richards also went through the ringer trying to defend Brooks in nine-on-sevens.
Here, Brooks hounds Oluwatimi by attempting to figure out his snap cadence, then shoots shows off excellent foot placement and burst in getting to the sides of his assignment to collapse the pocket.
Agaisnt Cody Mauch, a projected Top 50 pick, Brooks shined, running through a clear hold in order to maintain pressure on the first clip, then showing off a bull rush/spin combo to confound Mauch and continue pushing him backwards in the second clip.
In the nine-on-seven, Brooks lines up between Richards (67) and Jaelyn Duncan (71) pre-snap, then picks up Richards with a thump move using leverage, bending to force Richards into holding him before extending his arm out to contact Roschon Johnson at the line of scrimmage and slow him up.
Brooks came into the Senior Bowl as a potential early Day 3 pick, with some concerns about his arm length and age, but his performance this week could potentially elevate him into the mid-to-late Day 2 conversation, especially with the tape he put on against higher-rated prospects.