While the focus on the Senior Bowl typically revolves around offensive players, but the other side of the ball is just as important.
This week there was plenty of defensive players who made names for themselves in Mobile, AL. This article will highlight some of the players who have moved themselves higher up draft boards, both from the NFL side, and the IDP.
Marcus Davenport, EDGE, University of Texas-San Antonio: Davenport came into the week with some buzz. Checking in at 6-foot-6 and 259 pounds, he is actually quite athletic for a man that size. As a pass rusher, he is raw though. During practice on Tuesday and Wednesday Davenport struggled, getting knocked down repeatedly. However, he found his bearings on Thursday and started flashing the potential everyone was talking about.
During the game, Davenport registered two sacks and was in the backfield all the time during his reps. He did twist an ankle in the second half, but returned and had another couple of pressures.
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Nick DeLuca, LB, North Dakota State: I’ll be honest. I was in love with DeLuca last year. I had him as my LB2 coming into the year. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said DeLuca had a solid week of practice, but nothing I read had him with an outstanding effort. Even during Saturday’s game, in which I was actively looking for him, I couldn’t find him until the second half and even then he only recorded a couple of tackles.
Fred Warner, LB, BYU: He was a player I hadn’t heard much about coming into the week, but Warner really opened some eyes. Warner’s calling card coming into the week was as a coverage linebacker, but he proved himself to be a sure tackler and was all over the field Saturday. Warner checks in at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds. He won’t be a first-round pick, but I could easily see him coming off the board on Day 2 and wouldn’t be scared to pick him up in an IDP draft as a mid-round selection.
Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF: By now you’ve heard the story of Griffin, who plays linebacker while missing his left hand. Griffin was put through the ringer in terms of questions of if he could play in the league. Then, during practice this week the offense ran everything to that side, trying to see how he handled it against top competition. He did just fine. His drawback will be his physical size (6-foot, 223 pounds). Some teams will see him more as a nickel safety, but even NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he will make an NFL roster as at least a special team player.
Personally, I want to see him make a squad. Griffin is someone whose draft capital will tell you what NFL teams think about him. If he goes in Round 3, that is a positive and I would draft him in an IDP league. If he’s taken in Rounds 6 or 7 or is an undrafted free agent, then I would be leery of picking him.
Kyle Fitts, DE, Utah: Another dark horse player that raised his profile at the Senior Bowl. He showed good technique all week and came alive during the game on Saturday, being a disruptive force that was always in the backfield.
Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State: The whole point of the Senior Bowl is a showcase for small-school players to prove they can hang with dudes from bigger schools. Leonard did exactly that, recording a game-high 14 tackles Saturday.
Poona Ford, DT, Texas: You remember a few years back when a player from Pitt lit the Senior Bowl on fire? His name was Aaron Donald. Now, Poona Ford doesn’t have the ceiling that Donald did, if you are looking for a poor man’s version, this is your guy. Ford weighed in at 6-foot, 305 pounds. While traditional NFL scouts are hung up on bigger defensive tackles, the college game keeps producing players that are more Poona’s size. As long as he can get an upfield push, he has a place in today’s NFL.
Kemoko Turay, OLB, Rutgers: There were several scouts down in Mobile that were enamored with Turay. While he has elite dip and bend, I feel that he’s a bit of a one-trick pony. He did record a sack in Saturday’s game. However, much like his in-season tape, Turay struggles in the run game, making him just a situational pass rusher at the NFL level. If you in a big-play league, he carries some value. If not, you may want to look elsewhere for a draft selection.