NFL Draft analysts discuss Alabama football's Brian Robinson Jr., Phidarian Mathis at Senior Bowl

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News
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MOBILE — Two of Alabama football's oldest players from the 2021 roster have themselves both primed to be selected in the top half of the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis and running back Brian Robinson Jr. each are participating in the Senior Bowl this week, giving NFL general managers, scouts, coaches and draft analysts a chance to see them up close before the game on Saturday (1:30 p.m., NFL Network). 

"Both are going to be really solid pros," Yahoo Sports draft analyst Eric Edholm told The Tuscaloosa News. 

Plenty remains in the draft process (the NFL combine, pre-draft visits, etc.), but here's what stands out about Mathis and Robinson to a few draft analysts who spent the week here. 

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Brian Robinson Jr. evaluation

Senior Bowl practices aren't the best venue for a running back such as Robinson. Some of his best skills – vision, physicality and ability to make cuts – are limited in individual drills. 

Good thing Robinson has a solid year of tape. 

"I like Brian as a back," Matt Miller, a draft analyst for ESPN/The Draft Scout, told The Tuscaloosa News. "It’s a deep running back class. I think the key for him here is seeing that runaway speed. Seeing his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is so, so huge." 

Miller said teams watch the tape and know a players' ability, so Robinson won't necessarily get knocked for not being the fastest player at the Senior Bowl. 

"Arian Foster wasn’t the fastest running back and he had great vision," Miller said. "He had great contact balance and he was very successful. I think Brian could be a similar player where you’re never going to win the combine but it’s the other stuff. Kind of the intangibles. His vision, his toughness, his consistency, I think those are big keys for him." 

Edholm sees some of the same characteristics in Robinson as former Alabama running back Damien Harris. 

Phidarian Mathis evaluation

From the Texas A&M game on, Mathis only got better and better, if you ask Edholm. 

Mathis was likely going to be a mid-round pick at best. His strong season helped boost that stock. 

"I’m a big fan of Phidarian Mathis," Miller said. 

Jim Nagy, executive director of the Senior Bowl and a draft analyst for ESPN, introduced Mathis before a press conference on Tuesday. He said Mathis moved up this past season as much as anybody in the interior defensive line group. 

"Great technician like all those Bama guys are," Nagy said. "Falls in line with that group. He’s big, he’s long, he’s got prototype size. He’s got upfield explosion. He can really collapse the pocket. When he gets around the quarterback, he can finish. A player we really like." 

Nagy also mentioned Mathis' intangibles, particularly his ability to get his teammates to feed off his energy. 

"That will mean something on draft day aside from his talent," Nagy said. "If he can affect other people on that d-line, that’s a certain position group that if you can get a guy people can feed off, there’s value in that. So that’s going to help Phil come April."

In what round could they be drafted? 

Both Robinson and Mathis boosted their stock over the course of the season. Especially Mathis. 

Miller has a second-round grade on Mathis. Edholm considers him a Day 2 pick (rounds two and three). Edholm considered him a mid- to late-round prospect coming into the year. 

As for Robinson, Edholm and Miller each called him a round three or four pick. 

“If he runs a 4.7 at the combine, that’s obviously going to hurt his stock," Miller said. "You need to be at least as fast as we think you are. If he takes care of business in Indy, I don’t think round 3 is crazy. Round 4, I’d be a little more comfortable with that projection. Definitely has a chance to be a top 120 pick I would think."

Contact Alabama reporter Nick Kelly: Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly. 

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