The more intriguing and athletic defensive roster of the two, the South Defense features a handful of talented athletes that are hoping to utilize the Senior Bowl to continue to rise in the draft process in the minds of NFL scouts.
We'll see if Ezekial Ansah can rise to a Top 10 pick, if Jamie Collins can become a Top 50 player, if small school CBs Robert Alford and BW Webb can become Top 64 players, and much more.
1. Ezekial Ansah, DE, BYU
Ansah is as raw as you will see since he only started football in 2010. Ansah has great speed off the edge out of a two-point stance and three-point stance. Ansah has demonstrated the ability to get off blocks by opposing offensive lineman with ease. Ansah’s athleticism enables him to chase down ball carriers and quarterbacks from the backside with great closing speed. It’ll be a big week for Ansah, as he could go from under-developed athletic freak to potential Top 10 pick with an impressive showing.
2. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Aside from having the massive build to play nose tackle in a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive scheme, John Jenkins uniquely brings movement skills and lateral agility to the position. Issues with leverage and hand placement off the snap leave Jenkins’ midsection exposed to punishment, so I’ll be looking to see if Jenkins can consistently land his hands inside on the blocker’s chest plate and win that initial hand battle with the opposing blocker.
3. Lavar Edwards, DE, LSU
Possessing size and speed at 6’4, 258 pounds and understanding how to combine the two for effective pocket collapsing measures, Lavar Edwards rose from being a relatively unknown draft prospect to a potential 2nd or 3rd round pick in 2013. At the senior bowl, Edwards will need to show better dip and bend to the outside, along with more fluidity as a rusher when given a two-way go.
4. Everett Dawkins, DT, Florida State
5. Montori Hughes, DT, Tennessee-Martin
6. Mallicah Goodman, DE, Clemson
7. Corey Grissom, DT, South Florida
8. Cornelius Washington, DE, Georgia
1. Jamie Collins, Southern Miss
A fantastic and unique athlete, many scouts will be reminded of Collins’s upside and versatility this week after he was trapped on one of the worst teams in college football this year. The former defensive back turned linebacker turned pass rusher, Collins has shown promise at each level of the defense yet still raw enough to wow with upside and able to be groomed at the next level. With more of a rusher focused career (since becoming a LB/DL), it’ll be interesting to see if he’s inept at the linebacker position. If he shows signs of polish or instant start-ability, Collins could be a very fast “riser” for NFL teams.
2. Sean Porter, Texas A&M
Slowly adapting to a 4-3 scheme in his senior season, Sean Porter will thankfully be given 3-4 outside linebacker reps this week –a position he’s much more comfortable playing. Long, lean and explosive, Porter possesses obvious athleticism and bend as a pass rusher, but needs to trust his vision and instincts when reading the action. Capable of extending and separating from the blocker with his length, Porter will need to show he still brings a pass rushing skill set to the next level; additionally, we’ll be looking for improvements in his game as a weak side linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
3. Zaviar Gooden, Missouri
A run and chase linebacker, Zaviar Gooden has closing speed and explosiveness in spades while lacking consistent instincts versus the run. Physically Gooden should be one of the more impressive bodies to look at, but don’t let that fool you; he’s more focused on speed and burst than utilizing his strength in getting around opposing blockers. Being a weakside linebacker, Gooden pedals and transitions like a defensive back, and I’m expecting him to perform well on passing downs. Regarding Gooden’s instincts as a run defender, I’ve yet to find any consistency in his run fits, as he chooses a gap and accelerates through without much of a plan. Straight-lined as an athlete and a bit rigid when forced to adjust his path, Gooden needs to show me more control and consistency in his run fits, along with more willingness to take on and defeat potential blockers.
4. Chase Thomas, Stanford
A key factor in how Stanford beat Oregon, Thomas may be a bit position-less for his NFL future as of now, but he’s shown the ability to set the edge as an outside rusher, the hand strength to drive and contain in run support, and has shown 4-3 linebacker coverage in the curl/flat area. The biggest well he’ll need to impress this week is his ability when playing close to the line of scrimmage and his range as a linebacker. Also, watch for him to flash and show development if the practices begin to utilize zone read-type plays, as he’s experienced in attacking those designed plays.
5. Nico Johnson, Alabama
6. Vince Williams, Florida State
1. Shawn Williams, S, Georgia
There are two things that Shawn Williams is not afraid of doing: take vocal leadership and ownership of the defense; and hit you in the mouth. Calling out his teammates in the middle of the season, Williams’ words and subsequent play helped rejuvenate what was an underachieving defensive unit. Williams has the movement skills to man cover the slot or work in zone, but excels versus the run, as he’s able to stack and shed blockers due to his point of attack strength. This week in Mobile, I’ll be looking to see if Williams is limited to a role closer to the line of scrimmage, or if he can be counted upon in deep coverage from a free safety alignment.
2. BW Webb, CB, William & Mary
Despite not being targeted all that often this season, thanks to his already feared reputation, Webb still impressed in his senior campaign, and should be able to do so again this week. He breaks down as a tackler very well and efficiently. He shows great hip fluidity to get to his deep third in Cover 3 quickly as well as travelling cross field in man coverage. He does a great job of timing his jumps/breaks on the ball, and attacks the play on time and at the highest point. While he wasn’t tested this year, which was a bit frustrating for him as well as from an evaluation standpoint, he’ll certainly be tested this week against the best receivers of this class.
3. Sanders Commings, CB, Georgia
At his best when mirroring off the line, Sanders Comings brings plus size and strength to cornerback position without sacrificing movement skills. Commings’ foot speed and fluid transitions enable him to remain attached without heavy hand checking, which signals natural coverage skills and serves as a huge plus to his scouting report. I’m expecting a big week from Commings, and hopefully he can utilize his length and strength to direct his opponent’s route running.
4. Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana
A trendy “sleeper” defensive back at this point in the process, Alford shows the upside with fluid hips and press coverage ability that impressed on film. His ability to win in press coverage (albeit against FCS receivers), his aggressiveness upfield in the run game, and his use of hands to fight downfield could mean an easy transition to the NFL press-coverage game. However, he needs much better footwork after his initial break, he’s a bit over-aggressive in the run game (with poor angles), and may not have ample recovery speed to the physical cornerback he tries to be against better receivers this week.
5. Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State
6. Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia
7. Robert Lester, S, Alabama
8. JJ Wilcox, S, Georgia Southern
9. Marc Anthony, CB, California