NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Earlier in the week I previewed the offensive players expected to play in the Senior Bowl next week. Now it’s time to evaluate the defensive players and find out which ones may leave Mobile with their draft stock on the rise.
Even though nearly 30 top Senior prospects decided to turn down or drop out of the Senior Bowl this year, greatly diminishing the talent level, there are still plenty of players that will turn into impact NFL players.
Which defensive players have the most to gain, which player is most likely to be a Patriot, and who are the most overrated prospects in the Senior Bowl? Take a look:
Rankings (based on NFL potential)
1) Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
2) Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
3) DaQuan Jones, Penn State
4) Will Sutton, Arizona State
5) Caruan Reid, Princeton
6) Daniel McCullers, Tennessee
7) DeAndre Coleman, California
8) Shamar Stephen, UConn
9) Justin Ellis, LA Tech
Most to Gain:Daniel McCullers, Tennessee
McCullers is one of the biggest defensive players ever to go through the draft process (6’7″/351 lbs). McCullers is massive, but doesn’t make many plays and isn’t very productive. Most see him as just a big body to plug in the middle of a defensive line to try and clog things up. McCullers has the chance to prove he’s more mobile than he’s shown in games and that he can consistently win one on one battles in tight spaces. McCullers draft stock is still very fluid, but it’s tough to see him going in the first 100-125 picks right now. With a dominant performance in Mobile that could change.
Most to Lose: Will Sutton, Arizona State
Sutton came into the year as a possible first round pick, however after a down season, one in which saw his overall disruptiveness drop off, he’s now looked at as more of a 3rd-4th round prospect. Sutton’s weigh in will be one of the most anticipated in Mobile with NFL Scouts anxious to see just how tall Sutton is and if he improved his body since the end of the season. If Sutton has a down performance next week, it will raise even more questions as to just how good this kid wants to be.
OverratedRa’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Hageman is being a tad overrated in my opinion. His frame, versatility, and athleticism for DL will attract NFL Scouts, but I wish he had more of an impact on the game. He can go long stretches without flashing and with so many underclassmen in this year’s draft I think he has trouble going in the first round. He’s one of the most gifted player in this year’s Senior Bowl and he needs to play like it this week. His consistency will be questioned. Hageman likely moves to 3-4 DE which only adds to his value. I just don’t see a high first round pick.
Underrated: Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
Reid is one of the 2-3 best FBS prospects in this year’s draft. Reid has dominated at Princeton despite dealing with constant double and triple teams. Finishing his Princeton career with 20.5 sacks, 20 of them coming in the last three season. is able to create constant havoc and can track down the QB because he is a flexible for a big man and a much better athlete than the OL he’s matched up against. The fact that many people haven’t seen Reid play against top tier competition will change this week. He is one of my picks for breakout Senior Bowl stars.
Best Performance in Mobile: Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
How could I pick anyone else? Donald was the most disruptive interior DL in the country this season and won just about every defensive award imaginable. Donald’s explosive burst off the ball and strong hands will; let him shine in 1 on 1s. The biggest questions regarding Donald are his size and overall strength. He can answer both of those this week. There’s no question about it; Aaron Donald is one of the primetime attractions left on the Senior Bowl rosters.
Most likely to be a Patriot: DaQuan Jones, Penn State
The Patriots will look to draft a defensive tackle at some point in the draft. DaQuan Jones is a player that fits with the current needs and defensive philosophy. Jones is a big, strong, physical lineman that can overwhelm blockers with his power. He’s big enough to play on the nose and moves good enough to play the 3. Jones was force at times this past year racking up big tackle for loss numbers. I can see Aaron Donald fitting in with the Patriots as well considering he is a similar type of player to Chris Jones. However, with Jones in place, the Patriots need more size and run stuffing power from the defensive tackles.
1) Trent Murphy, Stanford
2) Dee Ford, Auburn (OLB)
3) Marcus Smith, Lousiville
4) Chris Smith, Arkansas
5) Ed Stinson, Alabama
6) Brent Urban, Virginia
7) Kareem Martin, North Carolina
8) James Gayle, Virginia Tech
Most to Gain: Dee Ford, Auburn
Dee Ford but together big time performance after big time performance in the SEC, on top of that he did it against top tier offensive tackles. Ford’s stock has risen steadily since the beginning of the season and a strong week in Mobile can make him a day two lock. Ford is listed as a DE on the Senior Bowl roster, but many teams like him as an OLB with explosive edge rush ability.
Most to Lose: Trent Murphy, Stanford
Many of the mock drafts around the web have Murphy going in the first round, however there are some obvious concerns with his game. Murphy isn’t real fast or sudden and doesn’t bend very well. He may struggle when he gets matched up with superior athletes that can handle his strength and motor. Murphy is a smart player with a relentless effort, but as the draft process goes on I think he gets passed by more athletic rushers. Murphy has to impress this week and prove his lack of athleticism won’t hinder him at the next level.
Overrated: James Gayle, Virginia Tech
I’ve watched a decent amount of Virginia Tech over the last three years and I always come away wanting more from James Gayle. When I watch him I see an effective college pass rusher, but I think his skills are average across the board and will have trouble transitioning his success to the NFL level.
Underrated:Ed Stinson, Alabama
Overshadowed by the bigger names and more productive players at Alabama, I believe Stinson will be a better pro player than college player. He’ll never be an explosive edge rusher, but he is a stronger, effective player at the point of attack and very strong against the run. Stinson projects as a 3-4 end, but has shown he can play 4-3 DE and he is big enough to kick inside at times.
Best Performance in Mobile:Marcus Smith, Louisville
This is a bit of an under the radar pick. Smith isn’t a household name heading into the Senior Bowl, but that will change this week. Smith is a fluid athlete and productive pass rusher. Strong enough to beat Offensive Tackles 1 on 1 when rushing from a 4-3 end position, but is also fluid and athletic enough to drop into coverage from a two point stance. Count on Smith generating a lot of buzz this week.
Most Likely to be a Patriot:Chris Smith, Arkansas
I don’t see any of these players as ideal fits for the Patriots current system.The Patriots need pass rush depth, but I’m not sure it will be one of these players generating it. Murphy is too linear and not flexible enough for their end positions, while most of the others are hybrids or undersized. Smith has been one of the best pass rushers in the SEC the last two seasons and the Patriots value productivity. On top of that Smith gets high marks from coaches and scouts about his character.
1) Telvin Smith, Florida State
2) Kyle Van Noy, BYU
3) Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
4) Michael Sam, Missouri
5) Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
6) Christian Kirksey, Iowa
7) Jordan Tripp, Montana
8) Jonathan Brown, Illinois
Most to Gain: Telvin Smith, Florida State
Telvin Smith is speedy, lightweight 4-3 outside linebacker that should shine in Mobile due his all-around game. Smith can move sideline to sideline to chase the ball and also showed an awareness and ability in coverage. With his movement skills, Smith can defend the flats and drop into his deep zones with ease. He can really help himself just like Bobby Wagner did two years ago. If Smith weighs in closer to 230 and still exhibits his fluid movement skills, he will leave the Senior Bowl a winner.
Most to Gain II: Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
Hubbard was a late addition as a 4th year junior and is one of the most polarizing figures in the entire draft class. Analysts and scouts fall in love with his frame, measurables and potential, but his production hasn’t lived up to the talent. Like his teammate Ed Stinson, Hubbard is a prospect that can be a better pro than college player. Is likely to be an in-demand player throughout the week and can really help himself if he shows better pass rush ability than he did in games.
Underrated: Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
Having watched a lot of ACC football over the last two years, I can tell you Attaochu has been one of the most dominate pass rushers in the entire league, better than many prospects rated ahead of him. If you watched Georgia Tech take on Georgia late in the season, you got to see Attaochu at his finest. Finishing the game with four sacks, he created pressure, made a living blowing up plays, and is always in the opponents backfield.
Best Performance in Mobile: Kyle Van Noy, BYU and Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
Tough to decide between these two. I’ve never been a huge Van Noy guy, but I do think he’s going to have a very good week making plays. We already know that he’s a smart coverage linebacker and diagnoses plays quickly. If Van Noy can show he can be a consistent pass rusher vs. top competition, he will solidify a day two pick. As for Attaochu, his pass rush ability and ability to win off the edge should make him one of the standouts in 1 on 1 drills.
Most Likely to be a Patriot:Kyle Van Noy, BYU
This one is a tough one to decipher. I was leaning towards Telvin Smith, because I believe the Patriot replace Brandon Spikes’ roster spot with a smaller, faster, rangy LB and because the Patriots had legitimate interest in Lavonte David and Demario Davis two years ago, Smith could be a fit. However, I opted to go with Van Noy based on his better size, intangibles, and all around game. I don’t believe Van Noy will do anything elite at the next level, I just think he’ll be steady and average across the board.
1) Chris Borland, Wisconsin
2) Christian Jones, Florida State
3) Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA
4) Lamin Barrow, LSU
Most to Gain: Christian Jones, Florida State
At this point the NFL knows what Chris Borland is all about and it’s unlikely his stock can dramatically improve. Jones on the other hand can move up defensive draft boards and make himself some money. Othe players on FSU get the accolades and credit, but Jones has been a vital, productive cog since his Sophomore season. Jones has the best size of any Senior Bowl linebacker and plays fast for such a big guy. Jones fits most NFL systems as he can play inside and outside in a 4-3. Jones will be one of the weigh in winners, but I’m counting on him improving his stock quite a bit.
Underrated: Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA
Zumwalt definitely has some flaws to his game, he gets taken out of plays too easily at times and gets blocked at the second level. When he gets engaged, it takes too long to fight off blocks. What Zumwalt can do is hit. He lays the lumber with impressive tackling power, providing highlight worthy hits all fall. At the next level Zumwalt projects as a two down run defending backer. He’ll get knocked for his lack of quick-twitch agility and straight line speed, but the kid can play a little.
Best Performance in Mobile: Chris Borland, Wisconsin
If it’s anyone else I’ll be really disappointed. I expect Borland to come in and compete his tail off, giving maximum effort in every drill. I saw the comparison to Zach Thomas the other day, and while those are huge expectations, Borland always finds himself around the ball. He plays the game the right way, has impressive instincts, and should shine in team interviews. He’s my pick for Senior Bowl Defensive MVP.
Most likely to be a Patriot: Christian Jones, Florida State
Based on measurables, height/weight, and versatility Christian Jones fits as well with the Patriots as any other player in Mobile. Jones could add more speed and athleticism to the LB corp, while teaming with Jamie Collins to form a big, fast, fluid LB tandem for years to come. Will it happen, who knows, but he’s a great fit in my opinion.
1) Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
2) Craig Loston, LSU
3) Deone Bucannon, Washington State
4) Terrence Brooks, Florida State
5) Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
6) Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State
7) Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt
8) Jamea Thomas Georgia Tech
Most to Gain: Deone Bucannon, Washington State
Bucannon was hidden away in the northwest, so not many people got to see him play over the years. Bucannon flies around the field, finding the ball, and taking good angles against the run. Bucannon brings good length to the safety position and can play down in the box over the tight end. He’s not the most natural coverage safety, probably because he’s tall and linear, but for teams looking for a safety that can find the ball and tackle in the open field Bucannon is it.
Underrated: Craig Loston, LSU
Another year and another LSU safety prospect projected to be drafted. Very strong build for the position, standing almost 6’1″ and 210 pounds. He can be a vicious run defender and lines up big hits with strong angles and anticipation. While he’s not Eric Reid and he won’t go in the first round, I’m not sure why people are so down on Loston.
Best Performance in Mobile: Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
Probably the most gifted athletes of any of the safeties in Mobile. His speed will show up on the practice field and it’s likely he’ll draw some ohhs and ahhhs in 11 on 11 drills. Once Dixon recognizes a run, he’s able to gear up and explode from his starting position to get to the ball. Coverage is obviously still a work in progress, but with his skill-set, I’m looking for improved downfield positioning during the Senior Bowl.
Most Likely to be a Patriot: Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt
Ultra-productive free safety, put together one of the best defensive seasons in the entire SEC. Ladler is a smart player, that has experience at both Free and Strong Safety. Ladler always finds a way to impact the game, whether it’s by forcing a league high 5 fumbles, intercepting 5 passes, or making stops in the run game. At 6’1″ and over 200 pounds Ladler has the necessary size to match up in coverage with TE at the next level.
Cornerbacks (*The CB roster is jumbled right now. Many listed as corners project as S in the NFL)
1) Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
2) Keith McGill, Utah
3) Marqueston Huff, Wyoming (S)
4) Stanley Jean-Baptist, Nebraska
5) Pierre Desir, Lindenwood
6) Chris Davis, Auburn
7) Jaylen Watkins, Florida
8) LaVelle Westbrooks, Georgia Southern
9) Walt Aikens, Liberty
10) Nevin Lawson, Utah State
11) Dontae Johnson, North Carolina State
12) Dez Southward, Wisconsin (S)
Most to Gain: Desir, Aikens, Lawson, Westbrooks
Three of the four were call-ups from the Shrine Game and all four played FCS or lower division football. As we’ve seen in the past CB have the chance to shine at the Senior Bowl due to the extended 1 on 1 reps. I’ll be watching these four players to see how they distinguish themselves.
Overrated: Chris Davis, Auburn
Davis will be remembered for his FG return for a touchdown in the Iron Bowl and is a very good punt returner, but as a cover corner he leaves a lot to be desired.
Underrated: Marqueston Huff, Wyoming
So many of these cornerbacks are under the radar talents that have either A) played at a smaller level B) will change position in the pros c)played in a school which game them no exposure. Huff fits all the of the above. He’s one of the players I am most excited to see this week. Huff’s overall impact on the field was as good as any DB in the country. Racked up an absurd 127 tackles and 7 pass defensed as a safety. Watching where he plays and how he matches up in 1 on 1 will be fascinating.
Best Performance in Mobile: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma and Keith McGill, Utah
Picking the obvious choice here, just because he has the most experience at CB and he is a very good zone corner. I do think Colvin could be exposed in press man coverage and in that case I think a raw, big, physical CB like McGill will shine. McGill only played CB for one season but impressed scouts enough to earn a Senior Bowl invite, outright.
Most Likely to be a Patriot:Flip a Coin
Before I see how these S/CB hybrids are used and just how these small school kids match up against top tier WR, it’s impossible to say.