Pass rushers, Defensive tackles, Linebackers
There is a lot of buzz around Shaquil Barrett, but he finds himself outside of my top ten for the event. I really like that he displays hip flexibility to bend, but many times that is his only move, leading to no ground gained. If that bend was coupled with quickness or hand/arm use to create more separation. There is not much of a difference between many 3-4 and 4-3 looks in today’s NFL, and some teams transition between the two, but I’ve noticed that Barrett has more impact coming from a two point stance.
Colorado edge rusher Chidera Uzo-Diribe is physically impressive, but he needs to sustain flashes. I am sure I sound like a broken record, but many college pass rushers consistently win with one move. So that angle, line, or technique is used over and over again. That won’t work in the NFL (even though the offensive tackle play can be fairly poor). Hand use is so crucial to NFL success.
Syracuse DT Jay Bromley had plenty of production this season (10 sacks), but I did not see the talent to match it. He frequently was stuck at the line of scrimmage when contacted by a face up offensive lineman. There were flashes of firing through gaps and getting upfield disruption.
I was extremely impressed with Phillip Gaines during prep work. The press corner consistently found contact at the line of scrimmage and slowed his opposition. He then was able to stay in their hip pocket and mirror routes. As you will see, I have other CBs ranked over him, but Gaines was fun to watch. Be sure to note how he is lining up in coverage drills, since he seemed to be far more successful in press situations.
San Jose State’s Bene Benwikere has experience in the slot in both man and zone situations. He suffered a pretty significant head injury this year, but he generated a good bit of buzz this offseason.
Arizona State’s Alden Darby reminded me a bit of Duke Ihenacho, in terms of his aggressive angles in space and on the edge. That aggression can get defensive backs in trouble, but if harnessed it is ideal.
Top 10 Heading Into the Week
1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois - Jimmy G is still a candidate for the sixth quarterback spot in the Senior Bowl. There’s a lot to like in his game, namely mobility and a quick trigger. he was in complete command of a four or five wide offense and loved to drift around or out of the pocket. He is not afraid to hit receivers at each level of the field. Everyone will be watching Garoppolo’s footwork from center and anticipation throws this week.
2. CB E.J. Gaines, Missouri - I was surprised to not see Gaines in the Senior Bowl. He has length and fluidity to stick with receivers in man coverage and the awareness to be patient and recognize patterns in zone. There are plenty of one on one drills during the week, and Gaines faces the weaker receiver crop during practice.
3. CB Pierre Desir, Linwood - Talk about length, Desir is listed at 6’2/206. We will see if that holds up, but Desir certainly looks big on the field. That is exactly what the NFL needs, corners that can match receivers at the catch point. He displayed sound movement and agility to jump routes or mirror receivers. I would not be surprised if Desir ends up being a top-75 selection.
4. WR Jeremy Gallon, Michigan - I have consistently compared Gallon’s game to Golden Tate, but the Wolverine receiver does not have quite as much explosion to his game. Gallon does work back to his quarterback and is not afraid to leave his feet and attack the ball at the catch point.
5. WR Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina - Hazel was a nice surprise when preparing for the event. He has a great frame for the position, 6’3/190, but looked fluid and comfortable hands catching at multiple levels of the field. I expect Hazel to have a great week, and potentially be the first receiver selected in the group.
6. DT Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech - For such a massive defensive tackle, 6’2/357, Ellis gets great push up front. In fact, he could improve his anchor against double teams with a wider base and lower pad level. It would be no surprise if Ellis outperforms his peers in individual pass rushing drills. He finds contact through his hands and extends with powerful leg drive.
7. DE Will Clarke, West Virginia - Time will tell if I mis-evaluated Devin Taylor, but I think Will Clarke could be better. He certainly displays more on-field fluidity and bend. Clarke stands at 6’7/273 pounds, and I will be focusing on his hand use this week.
8. S Sean Parker, Washington - The safety class is a bit cluttered behind Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Lamarcus Joyner. Parker is not quite on their level, but I find him reliable and impressive on each exposure. Hopefully he is matched on against tight ends on occasion this week.
9. WR TJ Jones, Notre Dame - Jones is one of the best route runners in the class, especially among seniors. I was impressed by his improvement after the catch this season.
10. Furman G Dakota Dozier - Dozier is moving from tackle to guard, and I am looking forward to the transition. When he was in tight spaces, Dozer showed a composed nastiness and power to sustain and drive blocks. He then struggled out on an island. He will not have to do that as often at guard.