2020 Senior Bowl Preview: Defensive Front 7
*Senior Bowl rosters subject to change. Preview updated based on rosters as of 1/18
Senior Bowl Previews: QBs and Skill Guys | Offensive Linemen | Defensive Front 7 | Secondary
EDGE: Zack Baun, Terrell Lewis, Joshua Uche, Darrell Taylor, Jason Strowbridge, Alton Robinson, Trevon Hill, Bradlee Anae, D.J. Wonnum, Kenny Willekes, Jonathan Greenard, Marlon Davidson, Carter Coughlin, Jabari Zuniga, Trevis Gipson, Anfernee Jennings
-The talent in this group is so impressive and deep that you can expect NFL scouts to be glued to this group in drills. Of the 16 players listed above, 12 of them have top 4 round grades for me, with many in the 2nd-3rd round range.
It’s worth noting that Baun and Jennings are listed as linebackers on the roster, and you can make a case that Strowbridge is a better fit in the DL group as a potential 5 Tech. Regardless all of these players are primarily going to be evaluated on their ability to get after the quarterback.
The top player is debatable right now, but most would probably put Lewis there for his upside. Lewis had just 6 sacks this past season (2 fewer than teammate Jennings), but he’s got the explosiveness and pure edge ability you want. While he still needs to work on consistency and his technique, his ability to disrupt plays is impressive.
Baun is an interesting guy as he had 12.5 sacks this past year and lived in opponents backfields. Unfortunately he’s undersized to be a true full-time EDGE player. Baun will likely need to show well in coverage drills and vs the run as teams need to figure out where he can fit on their roster. The pass rush ability though alone should make him a top 3 round selection.
Florida teammates Greenard and Zuniga are two interesting guys to watch. Zuniga had a good junior campaign, but only managed 6 games this year (still producing 3 sacks and 7 TFL). He’s got the skill set to be a good EDGE player, and could use this week to show he’s healthy. Greenard had 7 sacks with Louisville in 2017, but sat out last year as he transferred to Florida. He exploded this year with 9.5 sacks and 15.5 TFL. With a strong week he could make a push for the first round.
Though there are a lot of other players you could highlight, one interesting guy to watch is Kenny Willekes from Michigan State. He’s been a 3 year starter for the Spartans and has amassed 26 sacks and 51 TFL in that time. That is extremely impressive and has good percentage of his production versus ranked teams including some of the top teams from the Big 10. Willekes is a high motor guy, but lacks elite speed or power so it’s tough to figure out his upside at the next level. He’s definitely got a role, but he could be a rotational rusher or a full time starter. This week it will be interesting to see how he does versus some of the better tackles down in Mobile.
DT: Larrell Murchison, Javon Kinlaw, Benito Jones, Neville Gallimore, Leki Fotu, Raekwon Davis, Darrion Daniels, Josiah Coatney, Robert Windsor, DaVon Hamilton
– This is a really strong group with 4-5 guys who should go in the top 3 rounds of the draft. The star though is South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw who is a first round talent and could make a push to be a top 10 pick.
Kinlaw had a really good senior campaign with six sacks and 35 tackles. He’s got good length and decent strength, but his calling card is his quickness. His first step is devastating and can give opposing offensive linemen nightmares when he shoots the gap. He has the speed to chase down ball carriers from behind and run down quarterbacks. If he dominates as expected he should be the 2nd interior defensive lineman off the board in the draft.
After Kinlaw you can make a case for any of Gallimore, Davis, Fotu or Murchison as the next best of the group. Gallimore and Davis probably have the most upside among these four, but all should be considered future starters. Gallimore and Davis are likely 2nd round targets, and guys who will likely start as rookies.
Davis especially could use a big week down in Mobile. Davis has been a three year starter for the Crimson Tide. After recording 8.5 sacks as a Sophomore in 2017, he was expected to be a 1st round talent and potential top 10 pick. He regressed since then managing just a combined 2 sacks over the past two years. While some of that is explained with how he was used, his lack of production in the passing game is a concern. He’s still got the quickness you like, and if he puts on a show this week that could help his draft stock.
LB: Evan Weaver, Malik Harrison, T.J. Brunson, Francis Bernard, Logan Wilson, Davion Taylor, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Cameron Brown
– Among the pure linebackers on this roster three names really standout, Davis-Gaither, Harrison and Weaver. All three could be taken in the top 4 rounds, with Davis-Gaither and Harrision potentially pushing into the late 2nd round range.
Davis-Gaither became one of the standouts of the App State defense the past two years recording over 100 tackles each season and adding on 5 sacks this past year. He has sideline-to-sideline speed and is capable of covering backs and tight ends in man coverage. The knock on him is that he’s undersized listed at 215 lbs. If he can report in the low 220’s it could help him if he retains his speed.
Weaver is just a tacking machine. One year after finishing 2nd in the NCAA with 158 tackles, Weaver topped that total this season with 182. Weaver also just isn’t piling up tackles downfield as he has 20 TFL and 7 sacks over the last two years combined. He’s got good size and athletic ability and should be able to develop as a starting off ball linebacker.
Harrison probably has the most upside in the group as he has the size and speed you want in an every down off ball linebacker. He’s been among Ohio State’s leading tacklers the last two seasons and has contributed as a blitzer as well. He is firmly in the conversation for a 3rd round pick currently and with a strong week he could move up to the 2nd round range.