The North roster features the defensive prospects with a lot riding on this week, especially on the defensive line and linebacking corps. The Senior Bowl usually doesn't merit too much weight on the scouting process, but for a handful of players, it could say a lot about where their drafted.
Does Michael Buchanan deserve to be a 1st round pick? Is Khaseem Greene just too small to be a 1st round linebacker? Just how raw is Margus Hunt? How high does Phillip Thomas's rise go as a prospect? Those questions and more from the North defense.
1. Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois
One of the most physically talented defensive players in the country, the long armed, fluid, and powerful defensive end could remind of Chandler Jones before him as a player who flashed, but wasn’t consistent, on film, and had enough intrigue to be a 1st round pick. After a lackluster 2012 season, he’ll have a lot to prove this week, but he has the extension leg drive strength, the athleticism to rush inside and out, and the length to be a force in the run game as well. This week could help determine if he’s closer to a 1st round pick or a 3rd round pick during practices.
2. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
A former junior world champion as a thrower in track and field, Hunt has just four years of football playing experience under his belt and an enormous amount of upside. And while Hunt’s 82 inch wingspan and near 6’8, 280 pound frame are both rarities at the defensive end position, it’s the movement skills that he combines with such a frame that make him an intriguing and exciting draft prospect. Explosive off the line but extremely raw with his hands initially, Hunt flashes the ability to run the arc with speed, press an outside rush and redirect to the inside, or work an arm-over swim move. At the senior bowl, Hunt’s lack of refined hand placement could be exposed, so he’ll need to keep his pad height down this week, protect his midsection with short, sudden rush moves, and maximize his length advantage at the point of attack by consistently locking out.
3. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Profiled as a 5-star, blue chip Texas recruit, Alex Okafor was never truly able to develop into the consistently dominant edge rusher that many believed he could be. While physical tools are present, as are developed hand techniques, Okafor still only appeared to produce in flashes and spurts. First off, Okafor needs to show he can stay healthy throughout the course of this coming week –as an ankle injury sapped his explosiveness late in 2012. Also important to watch will be whether or not Okafor is allowed to play from a standup position at all, as he seems to be comfortable rushing from a two-point stance.
4. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
5. Datone Jones, DE/DT, UCLA
6. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
7. Jordan Hill, DT, Penn State
8. Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern
1. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
One of the most fun linebackers to watch in college this year, the former safety (from two years ago) has developed into one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country. With the sink and bend ability to dip into coverage, the aggressiveness and explosiveness to attack the backfield, and the range and instincts to make plays in the run and pass game, Greene is a 1st rounder on film, regardless of his (smaller) size. He needs to measure in around 5’11, 6’0, show he can efficiently play coverage well all week, and get off blocks on the interior to solidify that late 1st round grade.
2. Arthur Brown, Kansas State
Highly active and productive, showcasing plus speed and instincts on a per snap basis, Arthur Brown is the linebacker to watch during senior bowl practices. Quick to read and react to run flow, Brown’s elite quickness and closing speed enable him to beat the ball carrier to the hole, penetrate gaps and make tackles for loss appear routine. Brown has improved his overall hand use and strength in engaging blockers this season, but overall coverage instincts remain a work in progress; being a potential weak side linebacker conversion, Brown needs a solid weak of extended coverage in Mobile, AL to secure a top two round pick.
3. Kevin Reddick, North CarolinaOne of the more consistent leaders on this North Carolina defense, Reddick has flashed good short area quickness and closing burst on the interior, two things we’ll expect to see this week in practice. As an in the box linebacker with effective stack and shed ability as well as blitzing experience, Reddick already has those skill sets in his arsenal. However, he’ll need to be consistent all week in pass coverage and show range as a linebacker to get into the firm Top 100 area discussion.
4. John Simon, Ohio State
5. Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers
6. Trevardo Williams, UConn
1. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, UConn
Very physical throughout the receivers route tree, he has the ability to lock on and engage as both a press cornerback, where he still needs some polish but is more than adequate in that respect, along with meeting with receivers in off-coverage, turning and running in good position. He times his transitions very well, knowing when to break and staying in a balanced base and in position to consistently make a break on the ball. He also releases well from blocks downfield and rarely gets locked up downfield from blockers. He could show a bit more aggressiveness in run support, and stay more consistently lower in his transitions along with not over-extending this week. However, if he can stay healthy, his length, physicality, and natural man coverage abilities should make him an early round pick that teams would be excited to develop.
2. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
At 5-11, Poyer is build well through his upper and lower half and possesses the necessary play strength to win against more physical receivers. He plays to his timed speed, showing the ability to stay step for step with faster receivers downfield. He has outstandingly quick feet and change of direction ability that allow him to break on a dime and jump routes out of their breaks. He's a very confident player who has more than held his own against top competition in the Pac 12. While they it occasionally get him into trouble, Poyer plays very aggressive and is not afraid to take risks. He plays with great anticipation and shows excellent concentration to make tough interceptions. He should be one of the more impressive defensive backs this week on either roster.
3. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Trufant is an excellent athlete with an ideal skill set for a cover corner. He has long arms and at 6 feet, good height to compete with taller receivers. He displays quick feet and hips quickly snap in changing direction and in turn and run. He doesn't take false steps when redirecting or in his click and close. He has very good burst to the football and shows make up speed to recover downfield. However, Trufant has a wiry frame and subpar play strength. He has the athleticism to stay in his guy's hip pocket in man, but when it comes to competing for the ball against bigger receivers, he can be out-physicalled. Perhaps the biggest knock on Trufant is his tackling ability, which he’ll get a chance to impress/struggle with this week.
4. Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State
Thomas has exceptional ball skills and awareness. Thomas an above average tackler when coming down into the box to help on running plays. In the secondary, Thomas is able to cover from sideline to sideline and reads the quarterback very well in pass plays. After coming off an injury in 2011, he’s been fantastic this season, and the Senior Bowl could vault/solidify his 2nd round grade for many teams.
5. Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
Bringing an explosive, edgy element to the safety position, Cyprien has the skill set to start as either a free or strong safety at the NFL level. Quick-twitched and balanced enough to stick in the back hip of slot receivers in man coverage, and rangy enough to roam the back half as a centerfielder, Cyprien possesses the movement skills NFL evaluators search for in safety prospects. Versus the run, Cyprien also can be a fun safety to watch, as he transitions very well moving forward, takes proper angles to the ball carrier and explodes through tackles with force.
6. Will Davis, CB, Utah State
7. Dwayne Gratz, CB, UConn
8. TJ McDonald, S, USC
9. Jamar Taylor, S, Boise State
10. Duke Williams, S, Nevada