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Luke McCaffrey turns heads at Senior Bowl

Rice wide receiver Luke McCaffrey runs with the football during the 2024 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., in preparation for the NFL Draft. Courtesy Rice Football

By Andersen Pickard     2/13/24 11:06pm

Junior wide receiver Luke McCaffrey represented Rice football and boosted his draft stock during the 2024 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

McCaffrey started turning heads as soon as drills began on Feb. 1. Reporters and critics at the event praised the wide receiver for a variety of plays, including his touchdown catch on a pass from potential first-round quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and a nifty play over the middle in which he created separation against potential first-round cornerback Quinyon Mitchell.

McCaffrey also showed off his versatility throughout the week, setting blocks for teammates and operating as a returner on special teams. Rice Football head coach Mike Bloomgren previously told the Thresher that McCaffrey’s willingness to set blocks was one of his most underrated skills.

“I think his consistency and the way that he became a great teammate, great blocker down the field, just was always straining to finish,” Bloomgren said last month. “He loved doing those things without the ball that make you an all-around great football player.”

The week of Senior Bowl festivities concluded with a televised game on NFL Network. After several wide receivers opted out of the Senior Bowl, McCaffrey found himself with increased opportunities to showcase his skills on the national stage. He caught two passes for 28 yards, including a highlight-reel play over the middle in which he made a one-handed catch and picked up the first down.

In the aftermath of McCaffrey’s big week, national media outlets started to label him as one of the event’s biggest surprises, making him an appealing candidate for all 32 NFL teams ahead of April’s draft.

“It’s reasonable to believe he’s risen higher on the draft boards since he turned so many heads at the Senior Bowl,” Crissy Froyd of The Sporting News wrote.

“Not many receivers were given great chances to thrive, but Rice [wide receiver] Luke McCaffrey had two nice catches,” Eric Edholm, a lead draft writer at NFL.com, wrote. “He also added a 20-yard punt return, showing the added value he can bring to an NFL team.”

But McCaffrey’s strong impression is more than just fuel for internet jargon. The latest mock drafts, which are expert-produced projections of when a prospect will be selected, have started to look in favor of the wide receiver. According to the NFL Mock Draft Database, McCaffrey’s average ranking has increased 35 spots since the start of the Senior Bowl, from 165 to 130. 

The large jump in ranking now has McCaffrey projected as a late-fourth-round pick. In fact, Aaron Leming of Bear Report compiled a mock draft in which McCaffrey was selected 123rd overall, in the fourth round, by the Chicago Bears. Leming compared McCaffrey to Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua, who earned Second Team All-Pro honors as a rookie this year. 

“[McCaffrey is] good with contested catches and possesses a quality catch radius,” Leming wrote. “Playing quarterback should help his understanding of route concepts and how to set up defensive backs.”

McCaffrey recently told the Thresher that he plans to spend the next couple of weeks working out in Florida as he prepares for a variety of showcase events, including the NFL’s Scouting Combine and his Pro Day at Rice.

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