Welcome to Senior Bowl week! The Senior Bowl is the premier event of the offseason draft circuit. All 32 teams will have representatives in Mobile, AL. In this post, I’ll be breaking down the defensive prospects to keep an eye on throughout the proceedings from both the North and South teams. Here we go! If you missed the post on offensive prospects to watch, you can find them here
1. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo 6’0 240 DE/OLB RS Senior Oklahoma
- OO has been a pleasant surprise this year for the Sooners. He’s developed into one of the best pass rushers in college football. Every game that I’ve seen of him, he’s made plays. Very good first step. Football IQ is a plus. He has been a high riser up the boards. He had a solid outing in the Rose Bowl against Georgia. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the 25th pick on him if I were the Titans.
2. Tyquan Lewis 6’3 265 DE RS Senior Ohio State
- Lewis has seemingly been in the program for forever now. Experienced in pretty much everything an offense can throw at him. A guy who doesn’t mind doing the dirty work for the team. Athleticism is above average. Projects as a 3-4 defensive end. He would fit as a 4-3 scheme as well. Football IQ is a plus. He has the potential to be one of the better defensive end prospects to come out of Columbus when it’s all said and done.
3. Harrison Phillips 6’3 295 DT RS Junior Stanford
- Phillips is the latest out of the defensive line factory from Palo Alto. He’s a disruptive force in the run game. Has been flying up the boards this year. A handful to deal with on the interior for opposing linemen. Recent projections have him going as early as the first round. He possesses a non stop motor. Phillips is eligible as a redshirt junior due to the fact that he has graduated from Stanford. Undersized for a 3-4, fits as DT in a 4-3. Could be argued that he is the best defensive tackle in Mobile.
4. Mike McCray II 6’4 248 LB RS Senior Michigan
- The leader of a depleted but still talented Wolverines defense that has been a chore to play against. A Big Ten legacy as father played for the rival Buckeyes. An above average athlete and fundamental tackler. He’s rarely out of position on most plays. Very good day three prospect. A Don Brown product aka very well schooled in the art of defense. He needs to prove that he can stay on the field for three downs, however.
5. Chad Thomas 6’6 275 DE Senior Miami
- He’s a quick twitch athlete with a bit of power in his game. He really didn’t get going until his junior season due to the talent above him. Has posted 10 sacks combined his last two years. Reports are that he had a standout week at the Shrine Game and subsequently got a call up to the Senior Bowl.
6. Duke Dawson 5’11 208 CB Senior Florida
- Dawson is new defensive general for the Gators after waiting his turn behind NFL talent. Really needs the draft process to go well as medicals have been a concern throughout the 2017 season for him. 2017 was a solid albeit an injury filled one. He’s a solid day three prospect.
7. Marcus Allen 6’1 207 S Senior Penn State
- Allen is one of the more underrated safety prospects in the class. He’s the leader of the Penn State defense. A sound tackler. Tackling machine with 313 total tackles so far. A great athlete with plus instincts. Ball skills are above average. He will need to show some kind of pass coverage ability in one on ones as he’s isn’t the best athlete out there.
8. Justin Jones 6’2 312 DT Senior North Carolina State
- Jones is a solid defensive tackle prospect in that he’s hard to move. He needs work in the pass rush department as I’ve seen him just dance with the blocker instead of going up field and make plays. He’s adept at play pursuit. Frequently gets caught up in the wash. Work ethic is there for a DL coach to mine. The unsung hero of the monster Wolfpack defensive line. Probably needs to lose weight.
9. B.J. Hill 6’4 315 DT Senior North Carolina State
- Jones’ buddy BJ Hill is equally a good prospect in his own right. He’s well developed fundamentally. Run defense is on point. A big body 4-3 tackle that can play the part of a 3-4 nose tackle if need be. Not the best athlete but he maintains gap discipline very well, which allows him to be in the picture. Hands are a plus. Won’t wow anyone but is consistently good at his job.
10. Christian Campbell 6’1 194 CB Senior Penn State
- Campbell was a revelation for the PSU defense in 2017 during his one year of starting. He’s an excellent sound tackler in run defense. Ball skills are a plus. Has the size at corner most scouts look for. Doesn’t get beat deep often. Above average athlete.
1. Quin Blanding 6’1 210 S Senior Virginia
- Blanding has been quietly one of the better safety prospects for a number of years now. He has pretty good coverage ability and ball skills. Primarily a free safety for the Hoos. Run defense and tackling ability are pluses. Holds the school record for tackles with a whopping 476 to go along with ten interceptions. A rare five star recruit that signed with Virginia instead other power schools recruiting that region. All-ACC first team. Second Cavalier to hold All-ACC team honors all four years. He should be a Day 2 pick if he does well in Mobile.
2. Poona Ford 5’11 303 DT Senior Texas
- Ford is a monster to deal with despite his less than ideal measurements. 5’11 is a little on the short side for defensive tackles but it is manageable. Motor is constantly running. It can be argued that he is the third best defensive tackle in the entire class. He’s that good. Ford, by all accounts, had a great week of Shrine practice. He got the call up to Mobile before the week was out. That’s impressive.
3. Micah Kiser 6’1 240 ILB RS Senior Virginia
- Kiser is one of the best inside linebackers in this class. He’s a throwback to the older generation of linebackers with big frames. Kiser has really come on during his senior season, improving an already plus level of instincts and football IQ. Production is very good as he has 397 tackles and 19 sacks in his career. It will be interesting to see how he does in one on ones against running backs.
4. Marcus Davenport 6’7 245 DE Senior UTSA
- Davenport has sky rocketed up the draft boards after an impressive 2017 season with the Road Runners. He’s not all athlete, no production either. A big physical freak with long arms that can get after it. Pass rush arsenal is among the best in the nation. Just pops off the screen. He has posted a whopping 185 tackles (which is impressive for an end) and 21.5 sacks. Watch for him to have a big week in Mobile.
5. Da’Shawn Hand 6’4 288 DE Senior Alabama
- Hand has had an eventful 2017 to say the least. In August, he was charged with a DUI after being found asleep at the wheel at a traffic light. Then he was injured for most of the season due to knee and ankle issues. When healthy, he’s a talented disruptor in the run game. Very stout at the point of attack. Teams will question him about the off field stuff. Needs a big week to prove that he’s over the injury.
6. Shaquem Griffin 6’1 223 LB RS Senior UCF
- Griffin is the twin brother of former Knight and current Seahawk DB Shaquill. He’s a true defensive general that led the stingy Golden Knights defense to unseen heights. A person of great character that refused to quit even with an amputated hand since childhood. He had a medical condition as a child that caused a lot of pain in his hand so the decision was made to amputate the hand to lessen the pain. He’s a fearless player that does not shirk anything due to disability. It will be interesting to see how he fares. I sincerely hope that he gets drafted by some team.
7. Tray Matthews 6’0 209 S RS Senior Auburn
- Matthews has had an interesting career arc. He originally signed with Georgia but was dismissed from the program for multiple violations of team rules so he transferred to Auburn. Has kept a low profile ever since arriving on the Plains. Limited to strong safety at the next level due to a lack of athleticism to play free safety. Teams will question him harshly over significant off field issues.
8. Levi Wallace 5’11 185 CB RS Senior Alabama
- Wallace is a breakout star that barely got any press due to the star power of his secondary mates. Teams targeted him a bunch and he went blow for blow with receivers without drop off. Shut down corner that tackles very well for his position. He needs some more experience as a starter but the tools are there to mold. It can be argued that he is the best corner on either roster.
9. Kameron Kelly 6’2 200 CB Senior San Diego State
- Kelly is the latest defensive back from the Aztecs that could blow up in Mobile. He’s a big physical corner that converted from safety for his senior season. He’s a tremendous athlete very good ball skills. Was a receiver during his freshman season. Production is a plus as he put up 164 tackles in just three years to go along with nine picks. Look for him to fly up the boards.
Bonus prospects to watch
1. Uchenna Nwosu 6’2 240 OLB USC (South)
2. Kylie Fitts 6’4 260 DE Utah (South)
3. Kyzir White 6’2 218 S West Virginia (North)
4. Jalyn Holmes 6’5 270 DE Ohio State (North)
5. Darius Phillips 5’10 190 CB Western Michigan (North)