2014 Senior Bowl: Defensive Preview, Rankings, and Predictions

Kyle Van Noy BYU

Kyle Van Noy was an under the radar linebacker prospect… not anymore. (USA Today Sports Images)

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:

Defensive Tackles

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.

Defensive Ends

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.

Outside Linebackers

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.

Inside Linebacker

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.

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27 Responses to “2014 Senior Bowl: Defensive Preview, Rankings, and Predictions”

  1. SSKDKDLDL says:

    You need to know where your football teams stands, if you’re ready to bank like 2007, 2011, 2012. What took this team to the SB two years ago ? A great offense. Who was on that offense ? Welker, gone, but replaced, Gronk still here, Hernandez gone. That’s the key, that’s an all pro ball player that is gone. You need that all pro player. How ? Draft a TE logically, but in the top rounds ? No, you don’t need it, you already drafted two WRs last year, you don’t need to draft a TE high. Get him in the fourth, get the guy from Rutgers. Get a player like Boldin, on a one year, around $5M-$6M, he gives you what you need for one year. In the draft,, trade down, get bigger, stronger, faster in the front seven, that’s what matters. It will only cost you less than $4 M for this year. Re-sign Edellman and Talib. It will make tighten up your cap, but it’s worth it. Bar none injuries they will win the Super Bowl, they will win.

  2. J H TARBORO says:

    Based on watching the Senior Bowl practice and watching practices from the NFLPA and Shriners, in all honesty the top 100 should definitely be re evaluated. Small schools,small players have absolutely showed up, the distinction that a player from the SEC is superior to a ACC, PAC 10, C-USA etc. is crazy. They may have stronger competition as a whole, but i think some of rankings of the individual players are all wrong. Anybody who witnessed the other games last week, will tell you that some of the rankings are way off. It’s still really early and i can’t wait to see this Senior Bowl.

  3. J H TARBORO says:

    At the Senior Bowl watch out for WR Robert Herron Wyoming, he’s going to suprise some of the bigger names at WR.

  4. J H TARBORO says:

    Sleeper TE Jordan Najvar 6’6″260 Baylor raised his stock in this weekends bowl,wasn’t a pass catching TE at Baylor, but has soft hands,great blocker,and extremely athletic.

  5. bmp1113 says:

    i like the DaQuan Jones pick for the pats. I think hes the most likely pick at dt right now and can help the d. Plus the fact that he played for o’brien.

    • steve earle says:

      DeQuan would be a great pick and I have him on my short list even though some don’t think a DT will be taken early by Bill. I could see him going Mid 2nd to late 3rd even though I wouldn’t wait to long if I were King.

  6. PSW says:

    I know this page is a defensive discussion, but I think the biggest need for the team is to double dip at TE and replace Gronk and Hernandez. I hate to say it but with all these injuries Gronk may be finished, we need to restore TE as an offensive weapon. With 4 young rookie recievers I think drafting a wide out is unnecessary lets try to develop these guys another year before we start writing them off. Other than the TE’s the draft focus should be on the defense; at least one tackle, and unfortunately another try at corner and safety, and don’t be in such a hurry to dump Riddly and Mallet their trade value probably isn’t high enough to make it worth while, might as well keep them

    • steve earle says:

      Several of us here agree that if ASJ, CJF, come down to us ( if Bill trades down for another 2nd and 3rd) he should jump at the chance to get that TE where the value allows. I don’t think gronk is done but clearly he’s injury prone. To have him around for even part of a season is better then not. As double dipping there are half dozen later round TE’s that I’d like but remember we also need to reenforce the Def Backfield (CB & SS) and the O-line (C & G). That’s a lot of Double dipping but could happen.

  7. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    Nice job Mike thanks enjoy your insite. I’m thinking LB Skov fits what the Patriots are interested in, but of this group Van Noy looks like a playmaker, always around the ball, good coverage skills. However he would need to be drafted mid second, or he’s gone.
    As far as CB I like Fuller, but in this group McGill mid-third round, Dontane Johnson 6’2″ 190 is a sleeper I have watched at N.C.State, 6th round maybe.
    Dez Southland is a S I have on my Patriot draft board late, 6th-7th round. 6’1″ 210 reminds me of McCourty.

    • jim r says:

      Russell couple of mid/late round prospects I watched at the east/west shrine game. Philip Gaines cb-Rice, Ricardo Allen CB – Purdue Tre Boston S UNC Hakeem Smith S Louisville and Eathan Westerbrooks DE West texas state. any thoughts on these guys.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        Both S Trey Boston and DE Eathan Westerbrook showed up big time in the NFLPA Bowl,also DT Khyri Thornton 6’3″ 300 Southern Miss. Showed great power and leverage, had the most violent hands on swim moves and was clearly the most talented DL at the game.

    • steve earle says:

      Hey Russell, did you see Desir from Linwood (I think it was) in the NFLBowl? I watched some of that game and thought he looked good. Your thoughts?

      • J H TARBORO says:

        Pierre Desir looked really good at NFLPA Bowl, also playing in the Senior Bowl

        • steve earle says:

          Yes I saw that JH. Level of talent there is better so we’ll get a better idea of how he should be rated but as of now, I’m impressed. Can’t have to many good CB’s in the draft.

    • steve earle says:

      Russell I keep coming back in my mind to Skov, whom you like very much, and what bothers me about taking him with a 2nd would be this. Projecting our starting LBs (barring injurys) next year will be Mayo, Hightower, and Collins so which one of these guys comes off the field so Skov plays? Would the upgrade be so great as to justify a 2nd round pick?

  8. J H TARBORO says:

    Mike Loyko, the breakdown of your list makes lots of sense, the Senior Bowl will be just like some of the bowls witnessed today, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and East vs West Shrine game. The bigger names suffered and small schools prevailed. In 2 weeks the draft rankings might look radically different from data from all of the scouting bowls and Senior Bowl.

  9. Alex says:

    I think I might like Hageman a little more than you – projects to 3-4 end, but I think he can move inside as well – he looked good doing it at Minnesota. I agree that a lot of his stock is based on his physicals, though I do think he improved a lot from 2012 to 2013. He still needs to string those positive plays together. I’m warming on Daquan Jones – his Michigan game was impressive. The Telvin Smith connection is something I hadn’t thought of – I like him, but the last time I paid attention to him I was still leaning towards a Spikes return. Now, w/ that looking just about impossible, Smith is an interesting possibility. I’m a fan

  10. Henry Carmen says:

    I actually see Van Noy as a star in the league. Don’t know why, because I am not always impressed by his play. But he just consistently comes up big when his team needs him too. Playmaker in my eyes. He could not work out, but just my two cents. And I think we see where the patriots are going in building their team, adding versatile players in the secondary and mega athletic players in the front seven. And in my book Dont’a Hightower counts as mega athletic, seeing that he is about 270 pounds and playing linebacker in a 4-3. I think Christian Jones fits the mold so I agree with you on that. Not sure about Chris Smith though, he seems like one of those guys that is productive in college but just does not work out in the pros. Never really seemed like an impact guy on tape.

    • acm says:

      I don’t know about Van Noy being a star in the league but think he would be a solid player. If the Pats are looking for another rangy LB, I ‘d say that C. Jones and Attaochu would fit the bill better as they are likely to last at least a round and more than Van Noy and come at a cheaper price tag (somewhere in the 3rd, I think). My guess would be that the Pats would see strengthening the interior of the OL and TE (and even CB if they lose Talib) a higher priority than LB.

      There was another LB in the Wagner mold that I liked – Denzel Perryman – but he did well to go back for his senior year. Maybe he could be an option in the 2015 draft.

      Regarding DE, I think it also comes as a lower priority. In the middle rounds – 4th and later – I like Will Clarke, Aaron Lynch and Ben Gardner for the Pats.
      I am neutral towards C. Smith but think he may well require a higher pick anyway.

      • acm says:

        another potential option for a rangy LB I forgot to mention is Yawin Smallwood. He fits more the mold of a 4-3 ILB than C. Jones or Attouchu as a potential replacement for Spikes, imo.

      • Henry Carmen says:

        Christian Jones is great and has a lot of potential but has no awareness at all. Jamie Collins like versatility though. Third or 4th rounder for me.

        • steve earle says:

          That’s the conclusion I came to about Christian, thanks for conferming what I thought.

        • acm says:

          agree on jones being a work in progress but so was Collins too coming out of college. Either way, my top two options for NFL-ready LBs in this draft, with Perryman going back, are Smallwood (for an ILB) and Attouchu. The latter is very similar to Collins in his versatility and also expect him to last longer in the draft than either Van Noy or C. Jones. He should fit in nicely as a 4-3 or 3-4 OLB in the NFL as he can be both speed rush and drop in coverage.

      • steve earle says:

        Did you see Larry Webster DE Bloomberg the other day acm? Kid looks to have talend but is raw as can be. A late developmental pick or udfa?

    • Alex says:

      I thought Chris Smith’s description reminded me too much of another former Arkansas DE, and SEC sack leader. One Jake Bequette, who I think we can safely say has not panned out.

  11. Stephen J says:

    Thanks Mike another great read.

    Out of all the Most likely to be a Patriot on both Offense and Defense who is your top 5 choices

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