At this point, many understand what the usefulness of the Reese’s Senior Bowl is; it’s a chance for prospects to increase their draft stock. Really, it’s a reward for college graduates who were very successful and decorated football players at the university level that the NFL is interested in. Former Louisville wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick had the opportunity this week, and he certainly made the most of it.
The game itself on Saturday afternoon can be helpful for the prospects. While the practices can be more of an indicator of who is separating themselves, a performance like the one Fitzpatrick had on Saturday certainly is a positive development for him.
Fitzpatrick’s role on Saturday was enough to win him offensive player of the game as he showed out for his National team where he got to showcase his strengths in front of coaches and NFL decision makers.
What Fitzpatrick showed the NFL
He really came out and showed that he was capable of working in the short areas of the field despite being a bigger receiver at 6’2″. He didn’t get the opportunity to work much of the intermediate game at Louisville, but he certainly showed he is more than capable of that type of work during the practice week and at the game.
Here is just one play from the game that shows development in ways he can manipulate his route to get defensive backs off balance.
You can see how Fitzpatrick staggers his release and utilizes head fakes and uses his body to force the corner into losing his leverage. That led to an easy reception for him over the middle of the field.
Another impressive play that Fitzpatrick had came shortly after. This time, it was a play that Louisville fans have become accustomed to with him.
While he does not gain the separation he would have necessarily liked on the play, Fitzpatrick has no problems tracking and plucking the ball over the corner’s helmet. The defensive back remained in phase with Fitzpatrick throughout the course of the vertical/fade route that he runs. It doesn’t matter for the former Cardinal who finds the football much better than the corner does and makes a big-time play that had Twitter buzzing.
While those kinds of positive plays are very important for Fitzpatrick, you also have to be honest with yourself and understand that not every rep in practice or the game for him will be perfect throughout the week. Here is one that is explained well as it pertains to what Fitzpatrick could have done better:
Fitzpatrick simply needed to do a better job of tracking the ball on this play. Typically, you do not find that to be an issue of his. But it certainly was not a good rep for him on this specific play.
In other areas, Fitzpatrick did have a couple of drops in the game. But that seems like more of an outlier than what will be the norm for him at the next level.
What does this all mean for his draft stock?
I believe that Fitzpatrick’s performance all but confirms that he will be selected at some point in the 2021 NFL Draft. The testing results will be very important as always. But it’s easy to envision that he runs a very solid 40-yard dash time and removes any shadow of a doubt that he has any athletic limitations at his size.
There were certainly other receivers throughout the course of the practice week that showed better than he did like Florida’s Kadarius Toney and Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge. But he certainly proved he belonged at the very least. There are plenty of guys who come to the Senior Bowl every year and just look incredibly out of place or can’t keep up with so many NFL-caliber players.
Right now, Fitzpatrick is still likely to be a day three pick in the NFL Draft. There are enough receivers that will have more film and upside to offer to a team which will likely lead to others being drafted over Fitzpatrick. But he really took advantage of this week and his NFL dreams will almost surely come true in late April.
A beloved figure for the fanbase offers the best goodbye
There were plenty of shining moments for Fitzpatrick in his career; a circus catch against Florida State, a huge performance in one of his final games against Boston College, and greeting all of his teammates on senior day as he exited Cardinal Stadium. That’s just to name a few.
Finally, Fitzpatrick put the Louisville helmet on for the last time with a slightly different uniform. The redshirt senior gave his all to the program and then put on a show for Louisville faithful one final time on Saturday.
When he’s selected in April, every Louisville fan will let out a smile because Dez’s is just too contagious. We’ll all find out soon enough where his destination is and when it will happen in the draft. For now, Fitzpatrick is a decorated alumni that has shown the best face of a program that has been on the downswing. for multiple years.
The Senior Bowl is one step as a prospect and a player. But one front office will fall in love with Dez – the person.