2017 Senior Bowl EDGE Preview

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Declined invitations from Tim Williams, Jonathan Allen, Takkarist McKinley, Taco Charlton and DeMarcus Walker have severely dampened the enthusiasm for what could have been on of the best edge groups the Senior Bowl has ever seen. While the absence of those five and Carl Lawson, who didn’t graduate on time to make the Senior Bowl as a redshirt junior, have certainly been heavy blows for the event to absorb, there are still several edge defenders to get excited about in Mobile this year. I’ve written about some of them as recently as Tuesday, so for those players I’ll simply provide a brief overview and link back to my more extensive piece on their skill sets and NFL projections.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Dawuane Smoot – Senior – Illinois – 6-3 – 255 – 22

Analysis: My top-rated edge in Mobile, Smoot has a good first step, enough quickness and bend to win the edge and counter moves to get back inside when he’s stymied at the top of the arc. His game is well-rounded, but not very flashy, so an eye-catching display at the Senior Bowl could help ensure Smoot is a high second day pick. Here’s what I wrote about him in my recent edge defender rankings (#14).

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Ryan Anderson – RS Senior – Alabama – 6-2 – 253 – 23

Analysis: Anderson comes with size, length and athleticism questions, but he’s a fairly refined pass rusher with good hands and mental processing to counter when necessary. He’ll be many analysts’ top edge defender in Mobile, but not mine. Here’s what I wrote about him in my recent edge defender rankings (#11).

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Jordan Willis – Senior – Kansas State – 6-4 – 250 – 22

Analysis: Willis isn’t gonna blow anyone away as an athlete, but he’ll make up for his lack of blend with some of the best technique in the class. He doesn’t have as big a range of impact as many of the other edges in this class, but he could be a reliable starter for a long time in the NFL. Here’s what I wrote about him in my recent edge defender rankings (#17).

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Haason Reddick – RS Senior – Temple – 6-0 – 230 – 23

Analysis: Reddick is listed as an inside linebacker on the Senior Bowl roster, so we’ll likely get to see the smaller edge rusher line up all over the field. Reddick has played a lot of different position at Temple since coming to campus as a cornerback, including off-ball linebacker, where he’ll likely see plenty of time this week. His quickness and bend off the edge are fun, but I’m not sure he’s big enough to hold up there on a full-time basis. Here’s what I wrote about him in my recent edge defender rankings (#18).

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Daeshon Hall – Senior – Texas A&M – 6-5 – 260 – 22

Analysis: Hall is a power rusher, with the length and powerful-looking frame you want in a defensive end. If he weighs in closer to 280, I think some teams could see him as a 5 technique. I don’t think there’s a high ceiling here, but Hall can definitely help himself with a strong showing in Mobile. Here’s what I wrote about him in my recent edge defender rankings (#20).

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Vince Biegel – RS Senior – Wisconsin – 6-4 – 245 – 23

Analysis: Biegel’s energy and charisma will probably stand out all week (as his former teammate Joe Schobert told me he would last year in Mobile), but can the Wisconsin outside linebacker be as effective in one-on-ones as a pass rusher? There are flashes of ability to string moves together and finish, but too often Biegel is like a bull in a china shop who needs to throttle down a bit and refine his approach. Here’s what I wrote about him in my recent edge defender rankings (#22).

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Carroll Phillips – Senior – Illinois – 6-3 – 240 – 25

Analysis: Phillips is undersized, old and lacks production, so he desperately needs a strong week to move up from being a late day three pick. Phillips isn’t a poor athlete, but he’s raw as a pass rusher, and doesn’t set up rushes or win with his hands like non-elite athletes need to do. Here’s what I wrote about him in my recent edge defender rankings (#23).

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Derek Rivers – Senior – Youngstown State – 6-4 – 255 – N/A

Analysis: Rivers will probably weigh in a little lower than his listed size, but few edge defenders in the class are more technical and consistent in their hand placement and ability to win leverage and lock out in the run game. The same principles make Rivers a dangerous speed-to-power rusher off the edge, especially when combined with the threat of his quickness up the arc. He was asked to tackle-read a lot as a Penguin, but made the most of his ball reads with 37.5 sacks in 49 games. In an NFL system that will ask him to tee off more often, Rivers best football could be ahead of him.

What he needs to prove: Rivers tape was terrific against West Virginia, but showing he can still stand out amidst top-tier competition is still critical. He assumed a lot of stances at YSU, so it’ll be interesting to see where he’s most comfortable working from and how explosive he can be out of 2 point, 3 point and 4-point stances. I want to see him work to half-man relationships against offensive tackles with greater quickness and efficiency than he did in college.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Tanoh Kpassagnon – RS Senior – Villanova – 6-6 – 285 – 23

Analysis: I’ve come around on Kpassagnon (Pass-an-yo) a little bit, but he’s definitely a project edge rusher with an explosive first step and the toned-up, long frame that scouts salivate over. Kpassagnon is very raw from a mental processing standpoint, and he doesn’t set up his rushes well or counter, but he’s an explosive, straight line rusher who could win if he gets his hands right. Long arm attacks could be a key for Kpassagnon, who will need to make up for his lack of bend around the edge with bull rushes and power moves at the next level.

What he needs to prove: The Pitt Panthers were by far the toughest opponent Kpassagnon faced during his career at Villanova, so proving that level of competition won’t bury him will be key. The lanky edge defender plays with his hair on fire, but needs to prove he can get off blocks and that strength and leverage won’t be an issue in the run game.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Tyus Bowser – Senior – Houston – 6-2 – 240 – 22

Analysis: Bowser is heavy-handed and a solid athlete, but his mental processing and football awareness are among the worst in this group. Bowser is a face-in-the-fan type of edge defender, playing the standup defensive end role in Houston’s 4-3 front with ferocity and aggressiveness. Unfortunately he’s very unrefined as a pass rusher, and gets killed in the run game by failing to recognize and address blocks appropriately. There’s some talent in Bowser, but the best thing he did in college was dropping into coverage. Maybe he’ll convert to off-ball linebacker?

What he needs to prove: In the games I’ve watched Bowser actually rarely rushed the quarterback, instead zone dropping from his standup position and showing the ability to play in space. That’s all fine, but if Bowser is an edge, he’s getting drafted (or not) based on his ability to rush the passer. There are flashes of the right traits with Bowser, but there’s a great deal of unknown to his game because of his unique role at Houston. His performance in one-on-ones in Mobile could go a long way toward selling teams on his upside as a pass rusher.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Josh Carraway – RS Senior – TCU – 6-3 – 250 – N/A

Analysis: Carraway played a very reactive, versatile role at TCU, which makes him tough to evaluate as a pass rusher. The tape shows lots of tackle reads and some off-ball work, but there are flashes when Carraway is allowed to take off and rush the passer. I’m very intrigued to see him in Mobile, as he’ll need a strong week there and at the combine to ensure he’ll be a day three pick.

What he needs to prove: How complete is he as a pass rusher? That’s the largely unknown aspect of Carraway’s skill set, despite the flashes of quick feet and flexibility. One-on-ones are slanted toward defensive players anyway, and Carraway needs a strong showing to prove that he can physically and technically defeat top-tier opponents as a pass rusher.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Keionta Davis – RS Senior – Chattanooga – 6-3 – 270 – 23

Analysis: I’m still working on securing more Chattanooga tape, but based on a few 2015 viewings of Davis, he needs a strong week to help ensure he gets drafted. He won’t blow up the combine in Indianapolis or show out athletically in Mobile, but the defensive end can work his hands efficiently and has a nasty rip move to win the edge. His ability to win with power moves and technique against better competition this week could ultimately seal his fate.

What he needs to prove: I thought Davis was a poor run defender for his size and strength, getting put on the ground at times even by FCS competition. He needs to maintain gap integrity and proper depth to the line of scrimmage this week, showing teams that he not only understands run game assignments, but that he can execute them with better arm extension and pad level at the point of attack.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Tarell Basham – Senior – Ohio – 6-4 – 262 – 23

Analysis: Basham has a well-built frame and an explosive first step, but he doesn’t do much with either at this time. I think he has the ability to convert speed-to-power really well, as a heavy handed guy who has some quality burst, but he’s pretty upright and will probably always struggle to bend and flatten the edge at a high rate. How well he does against top-tier competition will critical as well, but Basham’s production in the MAC over four years has been consistently solid.

What he needs to prove: I think a lot of teams will like Basham as a potential sub-package interior rusher who can beat guards and centers with a quick first step and active hands, so perhaps he’ll get some reps in that role. To me it’s easy to project Basham as a day three selection to a 4-3 team because he has a solid all-around game, but it’s harder to find reasons to get excited about him being anything more than a depth or rotational player at the next level. If he can find one move or trait to hang his hat on and really stand out, that’ll help him immensely in a class loaded with edge rushers.

Follow Jon on Twitter @LedyardNFLDraft. Check out more of his work here, including his preliminary 2017 NFL Draft EDGE rankings, and his ongoing work on Contextualizing NFL Sack Production.

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