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2021 Senior Bowl Prospects to Watch: Defense

(image credit: Glenn Beil - USA Today Sports)

Written by: Joseph Yun

The offseason draft circuit’s most prestigious event starts this week in Mobile. It’s even more important for the over one hundred prospects this year as the annual Scouting Combine has been greatly affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Senior Bowl provides an outlet for these prospects to show off their talent in front of all 32 front offices across the league in one place. Which defensive stars will boost or see their stock fall in the greatest on-field interview setting one can think of? Who will step up seeing their former brethren and opponents on the college gridiron lay it all on the line for a professional contract trying to stop the likes of Patrick Mahomes and the GOAT?



Quincy Roche Miami

Janarius Robinson Florida State

- Roche had a standout season for Miami after a star turn at Temple before that. It’s no surprise that he got an invite to Mobile. Robinson on the other hand was somewhat of a surprise given his lack of production for an anemic Florida State defense. He was at times productive, others off the radar given the turmoil of the program. He does make for a good story however as he has played through a bunch of hardships off the field. Roche has a chance to be selected on Day 2 with a good week. Robinson needs a great week to sneak in on Day 3.


Marvin Wilson Florida State

Carlos Basham, Jr Wake Forest

Chauncey Golston Iowa

Malik Herring Georgia

Marlon Tuipulotu USC

- A couple of high profile names for the interior defensive line group as the Senior Bowl has listed Golston and Basham as DL instead of the EDGE position. Herring was a low key asset for the Dawgs defense over the years. Watch for Tuipulotu to pop off the screen once the pads come on. Wilson is a force to deal with when healthy. He came back for a senior season that was derailed by poor coaching and injury despite having an early Day 2 grade after his junior year. He will need to boost that sagging stock with a good week as he’s currently projected as a late Day 2 selection after a rough 2020. It will be interesting to see which guys flip flop between EDGE and IDL in this group during the practice sessions. Basham might sneak his way into Day 2 consideration with a monster week after a stellar career at Wake Forest.


Jabril Cox LSU

Monty Rice Georgia

KJ Britt Auburn

- A monstrously loaded linebacker group awaits the running backs and tight ends belonging to the American team. Cox had a great year for the Bayou Bengals after transferring in from perennial FCS dynasty North Dakota State. He has played himself into Day 2 contention and could see himself selected in the second round with a good week in Mobile. Rice was the leading light for the Dawgs defense that saw some personnel turnover but he thrived as an inside linebacker. He was projected very high coming into the season and didn’t hurt his stock one bit. Britt played pretty, all things considered, namely Auburn’s offensive woes that kept the defense on edge. He’s underrated and could sneak into the third round with a solid week. Paddy Fisher (Northwestern) and Charles Snowden (Virginia) are under the radar guys to look for as well.


Robert Rochell Central Arkansas

Hamsah Nasrildeen Florida State

Aaron Robinson UCF

Ifeatu Melifonwu Syracuse

Richie Grant UCF

Jacoby Stevens LSU

- The DB group is absolutely loaded to the gills with talent all over the place. So much so that DJ Daniel and Mark Webb (Georgia teammates) aren’t even listed here. Bryan Mills (NCC) could have a good week as a small school standout that usually pops in Mobile. Jacoby Stevens didn’t get a lot of press but he’s #good. Rochell has been the draft community darling for months now so let’s hope he can follow up a lost season that parlays into a really good fourth-round grade. Nasrildeen was slated to be the ACC’s S2 before ultimately losing most of the year due to a knee injury suffered in late 2019. When healthy, he’s a great cover safety that can wallop people. He did make a brief cameo in 2020 to show that he was healthy enough to garner an invite. Look for him to show out and prove all the Day 2 hype. The UCF pair are good ones. Andre Cisco got all the hype coming out of Syracuse but Melifonwu delivered the goods for the Orange. If the last name sounds familiar, it is. Ifeatu is the younger brother of former UCONN DB Obi. Watch for the younger sibling to go off this week and cement himself into a third-round selection at the latest.



Shaka Toney Penn State

- The heir to YGM’s pass-rushing throne at State College flashed a bit during the Big Ten’s abbreviated return to college football. It says something that he was invited over the other much more hyped PSU pass rusher Jayson Oweh. The weigh-in portion will be critical for him as he weighs in at a svelte 240 pounds listed. Toney will be a guy to watch for sure much like his receiver “brother” Kadarius.


Jonathan Cooper Ohio State

Levi Onwuzurike Washington

Osa Odighizuwa UCLA

Patrick Jones II Pittsburgh

Rashad Weaver Pittsburgh

Adetokunbo Ogundeji Notre Dame

Daelin Hayes Notre Dame

Tarron Jackson Coastal Carolina

Ta’Quon Graham Texas

- I really feel bad for the OL that has to block these talented dudes on the line. It will be interesting to see who does what during the practices as most of this list are EDGE guys by trade. OO had a great season in multiple fronts for the Bruins in their short season. He’s a versatile athlete that can play on the perimeter and inside. Levi O opted out so this week will be important for him that rust isn’t real. He’s a bit undersized for a 4-3 tackle so the weigh-ins are doubly important. Hayes was part of a dynamic trio with JOK for the great Irish defense alongside Ogundeji who flashed some. Patrick Jones II was the best pass rusher in the ACC but teammate Rashad Weaver wasn’t far behind. Jones II looks like a Day 2 lock at this point. Cooper was, of course, the “next” star pass rusher from the Ohio State factory. He’s the headliner in a very loaded star group. We could see a lot of these dudes gone by the third round at the latest if all goes well.


Hamilcar Rashed Oregon State

Baron Browning Ohio State

Tuf Borland Ohio State

Chazz Surratt North Carolina

- A talented linebacker group headlined by Surratt who will feature for the first time in a while with brother Sage. Surratt has really risen up the boards the past couple of seasons at linebacker after converting from quarterback. His plays show the QB in him with the coverage reading ability. Rashed was primarily an EDGE for the Beavers so his inclusion at linebacker isn’t too surprising given his athletic ability. Borland had a rough game in the national championship so he’ll look to rebound in Mobile. Browning is an interesting case study for a Day 3 possibly sneaking into Day 2 pick.


Thomas Graham, Jr Oregon

Ambry Thomas Michigan

Camryn Bynum Cal

Rodarius Williams Oklahoma State

Darren Hall San Diego State

Keith Taylor Washington

Damar Hamlin Pittsburgh

- Some Pac-12 love with three all-star caliber defensive backs patrolling the back end. TG4 was among the litany of opt-outs for the Ducks and it showed a bit as Oregon’s defense struggled. Bynum might be the best corner on the west coast that isn’t named Elijah Molden (who was invited but is missing from the party). Thomas needs a great week to recover some stock after opting out. Williams had a standout season at corner for the Cowboys and earned the invite fair and square. He’s a lot better than former teammate AJ Green was and will likely have a better week in Mobile too. Taylor was known as the “other” guy at Washington but his versatility to play everywhere will help his cause to get drafted. Hall might be the next name to watch from SDSU. He needs a good week to get into the Day 3 proceedings. Hamlin is among the many Pitt Panthers from Pat Narduzzi’s defense to grace the Senior Bowl fields with good reason. He’s very fundamentally sound and won’t be beat often. A nice mix of corners and safeties make up the National DB room.



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