Josh Norris

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Senior Bowl Review: Defense

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The purpose of Senior Bowl week is to supplement completed area-scout evaluations in practice and interviews. No evaluations are based on a single week’s performance, but certain prospects did help (or potentially hurt) their status and will force evaluators to take a second look at their live game action. I will breakdown each position below and rank participating performers accordingly. Please note, this is not strictly based on how these prospects did this week, instead it is based on their complete evaluation up to this point.

For comparison, here is how I ranked the attendees prior to this week. Here is the offensive side of the Senior Bowl.

Heights are listed with the first digit being feet, the next two digit as inches, and the final digit is eighths of an inch. Example: 6021 equals 6 feet, 2 inches, and 1/8ths of an inch.


Defensive Linemen

1. Ezekiel Ansah (6052/274), BYU - The inexperienced end certainly wasn’t productive in practice, appearing as though he was thinking rather than reacting. You aren’t getting a natural edge rusher with Ansah, so don’t expect JPP. Instead, the BYU product’s best role may be to grow into the five-technique end role in a three man front. Once in space, his closing speed is the best in the draft. Ansah just has to learn how to create that space and shed blocks. His strength on first contact and run defense is already good.

2. Datone Jones (6041/280), UCLA - During practice, Jones looked like the player we had hoped Ansah would show up as. He won with quickness inside or strength on first contact as an edge rusher. Because he wins from multiple places, Jones has earned the versatile label, but he needs to stop hand fighting at the line of scrimmage as much.

3. Alex Okafor (6045/261), Texas - Okafor is a confusing player. He doesn't necessarily turn it on or off, but his success is very inconsistent. It all depends on if Okafor wins with his hands on first contact. We have seen the Longhorn shed with force or press the pocket with extension just as often as Okafor sits and the line of scrimmage hand fighting in the grasp.

4. Sylvester Williams (6026/313), UNC - I love everything about Williams off the snap: his quick first step, active and strong hands, but he never seems to finish the play. It is perplexing at times, seeing a prospect to all the work and be so close to beating his man, and then just falter. I project Williams as a three technique tackle that can disrupt, but he still needs to take the next step.

5. Kawann Short (6032/308), Purdue - The super talented player had a great week of practice, showing off athletic footwork to counter and enough hand strength to shed. But where has that been week in and week out? I understand evaluators consistently question defensive linemen’s aggressiveness, motor, and fatigue, but it needs to be brought up when discussing Short. He has the skills.

6. Brandon Williams (6017/341), Missouri Southern - Ah, an interior defensive lineman with a motor. Williams occasionally won off the snap, but he did his best work by gaining leverage under the opposition’s pads and leg driving. That counter effectiveness is an added bonus on top of a solid anchor.

Rush Linebackers

1. Chase Thomas (6031/241), Stanford - Each year, prospects with excellent athletic upside draw a lot of attention and praise. That is not Thomas. The Stanford Cardinal is a technique driven player that makes the most of his natural gifts. Thomas sheds from blockers better than most prospects in this draft. The question is if that translates to the NFL. He certainly looked a step slow in coverage all week, something I will need to go back and check on.

2. Sean Porter (6013/231), Texas A&M - As a rush linebacker, Porter was great in 2011, showing plenty of bend around the edge to disrupt the backfield. As a linebacker behind a four man front, Porter lacks the burst or speed to close from the backside, so his best shot may be on the strong side. I still like Porter’s pass rushing skills despite is less than ideal size, but he seems destined for a third day selection.

3. Ty Powell (6023/245), Harding - Admittedly, I need to do more work on Powell, but his ability to hold the edge or quickly crash the line. He does not shy away from contact and flashed technique to keep separation.

(John Simon dropped out of the event)

Non-rush Linebackers

1. Khaseem Greene (6004/236), Rutgers - Greene reminds me a bit of Zach Brown last season, although he offers more aggressiveness when lining up tackles and deliver on contact. The biggest issue is his lack of hand use when working from the backside, specifically on blockers. If locked into man to man coverage, Greene shows plenty of mobility in all parts of the field.

2. Zaviar Gooden (6014/233), Missouri - The Missouri Tiger didn’t show the same tight hips I saw from him in college. Instead Gooden looked like a rangy weakside linebacker that handled quick moves from ball carriers when closing in on the tackle. It is an area I will go back and do more research on.

3. Sio Moore (6006/240), UConn - A late add and Shrine Game call up, Moore can likely play either the weak or strong side of the formation. He has the closing burst and sideline speed to chase while offering the strength and pass rush skills at the point of attack.

4. Kevin Reddick (6014/246), UNC - Reddick is an adequate player that flashes spot starter talent. There is nothing wrong with that, and I expect him to be selected in the early parts of the third day.

5. Vince Williams (6004/247), FSU - There might not have been a better inside linebacker on the field all week. Williams was physical when filling the lane, scraping off second level blocks, and showed decent range to not get beat to the corner.

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Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris

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