NFL Draft: Standout defensive players from the 2017 Senior Bowl
By Dan Dahlke
Ralph’s Standout Defensive Linemen
Montravius Adams, Auburn: The 21-year-old SEC enforcer put in solid week of practice, but truly shined during Saturday’s competition, as evidenced by his quickness to shoot through an inside gap and get a hand on Hunt in the first quarter.
In the third quarter, Adams had a role in causing some disruption on a play that saw Beathard cough up the ball with Tyus Bowser coming off the edge.
The former Auburn Tiger went by center Kyle Fuller thanks to his superior quickness off the snap.
Adams showcased outstanding short-area acceleration in dropping his hips and meeting 220-pound straight-line runner De’Veon Smith head-on for the tackle.
The senior’s combination of quick hands, strong lower body and burst make him an intriguing prospect that has first-round talent.
Although he’s listed at 308-pounds, you would never know that with his natural agility to sidestep blockers, chase down plays and penetrate the opposing backfield.
While he played 4-3 nose tackle in college, his physical tools and style of play suggest that he is more of a one-gap defensive tackle than a 3-4 two-gapper.
Another plus with Adams is his durability considering that he ranks second all-time among Auburn Tigers in games played with 52. In addition, he finished his college career with 26 consecutive starts.
The only concerns with Adams are his occasional struggles with leverage and some bouts of overall laziness and/or fatigue when his jump off the ball isn’t as quick as it can be.
Carlos Watkins, Clemson: You won’t find many interior linemen that can match the power and versatility of the 305-pound Watkins, who registered 8.5 sacks for the ACC powerhouse Clemson Tigers.
In many ways, Watkins is still a ball of clay that’s needs to be molded and refined given his penchant for exposing his legs and opening up his chest to blockers that may not have his strength, but can beat him with technique.
The 23-year-old took well to coaching provided by NFL personnel on hand in Mobile and turned in a strong performance on Saturday by consistently staying low and firing off the ball, as he did on a first-quarter 2nd-and-2 run by Hunt.
Watkins knocked his man back with a stunning jolt which offered the ball carrier nowhere to run to on a play that lost four yards.
The defensive tackle later used his bull rush to force Peterman to step up into the pocket and throw.
Watkins’ raw power and agility to come around the edge on stunts are tools that can help him wreak havoc on an offense.
But for this to happen, he’ll need to continue building up his lower body and sharpen up his technique in terms of hand placement, leverage and his get-off.
The redshirt senior ideally projects as 4-3 defensive tackle that could sneak into the group of prospects selected in Day 2.
Jaleel Johnson, Iowa: The 6-foot-2, 310 pounds had his moments during Senior Bowl week and won most of his battles with quickness. The Big-Ten trenchman is, in fact, very fleet of foot for a man of his dimensions and was able to consistently get around his opponents.
During the game, Johnson applied some inside heat on Webb and really stood out on a pass play in which the former Hawkeye put himself in position to wrestle down the opposing quarterback, who was looking to escape the rush by scrambling upfield.
The Brooklyn, NY native excels as a one-gap penetrator that can get his man to turn sideways in pass-blocking situations especially when he initiates contact by aggressively putting his hands on the player in front of him.
Once he gains momentum, he can obliterate blockers with his powerful leg drive.
His issues are exposed when Johnson plays the run, as he tends to get hung up on blocks. This happens when the offensive lineman turns into the aggressor by getting his hands on the defender first.
When this happens, Johnson can totally disappear from games. There were some games during the 2016 season when the three-year starter looked like he was going through the motions.
Was this due to laziness or did his bouts of lackluster play happen as a result of him getting discouraged against certain opponents?
Was he maybe saving himself for the NFL?
It’s hard to say, but Johnson certainly isn’t the first or the last defensive lineman accused of taking plays off.
JJ is probably well aware of the fact that he needs to get stronger in the upper body, as well as being more consistent with his hand usage.
But an athlete with his movement skills and balance has the kind of upside NFL teams covet. Look for Johnson to go somewhere in the middle rounds.
Dan’s Standout Defensive Linemen
Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA: The 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive tackle was disruptive at the line of scrimmage throughout the week. Vanderdoes continually won against his man and showed good power and quickness in both team periods and one-on-one drills.
In the Senior Bowl game, Vanderdoes continued his strong performance with three strong run strops and several other plays where he shed his man and forced the run in another direction.
Vanderdoes has a surprising explosive first step, and he has the size and strength to anchor the middle of the defensive line.
He does need to be more disciplined in holding the point of attack instead of always looking to make he play, but regardless, he has the skillset to be a good defensive lineman in the NFL.
Chris Wormley, Michigan: Wormley was the top-rated defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. His combination of size (6-5, 297) and athleticism make him a special talent.
Despite having a nondescript Senior Bowl performance, Wormley really stood out in practice throughout the week. He was only the defensive lineman who beat top guard Dan Feeney in one-on-one drills.
Wormley has the size, length, and upfield explosive ability to be a tremendous five-technique defensive end in the NFL. He’s stout against the run and can two-gap, as well as generate a pass rush on third downs.
Because of all the top-end talent that was on Michigan’s defense this past season, Wormley often gets overlooked when it comes to draft hype. However, the versatile defensive lineman should go in the first two rounds this spring.