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2022 Senior Bowl Defensive Prospect Preview


Photo Credit: Leah Hogsten - The Salt Lake Tribune


Written By: Ryan Lippert|@Lippert42


As the 2021-22 NFL season is coming close to an end, it is finally time to focus on the next class of incoming talent. It is one of my personal favorite times of the year as scouting season is heating up and all-star games are starting. The biggest of them all, the Reese’s Senior Bowl starts its practice sessions in Mobile on Tuesday and will be once again loaded in talent. While my fellow Blitzalytics scout, Joseph Yun, previewed the offensive prospects to look at this coming week, I am here to give a first glimpse of the defensive prospects in the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl.


American


Defensive Line:

Prospects: Zachary Carter (Florida), John Ridgeway (Arkansas), Neil Farrell Jr. (LSU), Phidarian Mathis (Alabama), Devonte Wyatt (Georgia)


Top Prospect: Devonte Wyatt

Wyatt is one of many names from the 2022 National Champion Georgia defense that will have his name called in the draft. He was overshadowed at times by the dominant season his running mate, Jordan Davis, was having but is a great player himself. Wyatt possesses a very explosive first step off the ball, making him a constant threat in the backfield. Also plays with a very high motor, showing the ability to run down plays from behind. Looks like an early Day 2 selection as of now but could easily sneak his way into the first round.


Sleeper: John Ridgeway

Ridgeway was a key piece of a very solid Arkansas defense this season. He finished his senior year with 39 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two sacks from the defensive tackle position. At 6’6”, 320 pounds, he is a massive defensive tackle that simply overpowers centers and guards in one on one matchups. He does a great job of delivering a punch at the line of scrimmage and holding his ground to find the ball. Once he finds the ball, he is quick to shed the blocker and get to the ball carrier. Ridgeway should hear his name called somewhere towards late Day 2 of the draft but could see his stock rise quickly with a good week in Mobile.


Edge Rushers:

Prospects: DeAngelo Malone (Western Kentucky), Josh Paschal (Kentucky), Michael Clemons (Texas A&M), Amare Barno (Virginia Tech), Jeremiah Moon (Florida), Kingsley Enagbore (South Carolina), Jermaine Johnson II (Florida St), Cameron Thomas (San Diego St)


Top Prospect: Jermaine Johnson II

Johnson was one of the very few bright spots on a disappointing Florida State team this season. After simply getting lost in the rotation at Georgia, the former five-star prospect found a way to shine for the Seminoles. Johnson had an outstanding junior campaign, finishing with 70 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks. He plays with a great amount of energy and keeps fighting to get to the quarterback. Shows a quick first step to lose to shoot the gaps very effectively on stunts. Once he gets in the backfield, Johnson is a very strong finisher and takes very little time bringing down the quarterback or ball carrier. Johnson is a name that I believe we should see go in the mid-late first round but no later than early Day 2.


Sleeper: Cameron Thomas

While I’m listing him as a sleeper, Cameron Thomas is a name that is starting to be mentioned heavily in draft circles and is rising up a lot of boards. The edge rusher had a true breakout season for the Aztecs, finishing with 71 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks on the season. Those stats alone should put him in the discussion but his film jumps out as well. While he has the strength to bullrush, he also shows off some very good pass rush moves. Thomas showed a very productive swim move on many occasions to beat opposing tackles. Once Thomas gets to the passer, he is one of the more powerful finishers you will find in this class. As of now, I see Thomas as an early Day 2 pick in the draft but many mock drafts have him sneaking into the late first round. If he has a solid showing in Mobile, he could very well find himself in that range or even higher.


Linebackers:

Prospects: Damone Clark (LSU), Jojo Domann (Nebraska), Aaron Hansford (Texas A&M), Quay Walker (Georgia), Channing Tindall (Georgia), D’Marco Jackson (Appalachian St)


Top Prospect: Quay Walker

Much like Wyatt, Walker is a very good prospect that sometimes was hidden in the shadows in a star-studded Georgia defense. Even with missing two games, Walker finished the season fourth on the team with 65 total tackles along with 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He was able to show some versatility at Georgia, playing at both the true inside linebacker spot and coming off the edge as a pass rusher. Walker is dangerous as a blitzing linebacker as he does a great job of timing the snap count and bursting through his gap before the offensive linemen can get a chance to react. He also plays with a very high motor and has the speed to run sideline to sideline to make plays.


Sleeper: Jojo Domann

Jojo Domann was a very bright spot in a Nebraska team that struggled, for the most part, this season. Played in a hybrid role in his time as a Cornhusker, playing both linebacker and safety. Finished this season with 71 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks, and two interceptions. Is a very explosive defender, getting into the backfield with a sense of urgency and finishing with a great amount of force. Can do it all as a linebacker as he can play in the box, come off the edge as a pass rusher, and is very reliable in coverage as well. These traits will get him on the field in the league, especially as a dime backer type of player. Domann should be a name that comes off the board at some point during Day 2 of the draft.


Cornerbacks:

Prospects: Roger McCreary (Auburn), Alontae Taylor (Tennessee), Akayleb Evans (Missouri), Cam Taylor-Britt (Nebraska), Tariq Woolen (UTSA), Mario Goodrich (Clemson), Josh Thompson (Texas), Zyon McCollum (Sam Houston St)


Top Prospect: Roger McCreary

Of all the prospects that I watched during the college football season, McCreary has become one of my favorites on the defensive side of the ball. He emerged this season as the top player in a loaded Auburn secondary. McCreary was a lockdown corner this year, finishing with 14 pass deflections and two interceptions with one returned for a touchdown. He also had 49 tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. He isn’t the biggest corner but makes up for it with speed and quickness to stick with top receivers in man coverage. Also has great anticipation to break on passes and the ball skills to make plays on the ball once it gets there. I have him as a top-five corner in a very loaded class at the position and is very worthy of being picked somewhere in the late first round. A strong showing at the Senior Bowl could stamp his place in that discussion.


Sleeper: Alontae Taylor

Although he played for a rival as a Kentucky fan, Alontae Taylor has been a fun player to evaluate. He was a huge piece for Tennessee’s defense this year, finishing with six pass deflections, two interceptions, and one returned for a touchdown. Also had 60 tackles and one tackle for loss. Although his size wouldn’t show it, he is a very physical corner that isn’t afraid to come down and support against the run. Also does a great job of breaking on the ball and has the speed to do damage in the open field after picking off a pass. As of now, Taylor should go somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft and be a very serviceable rotational and special teams player but just like everyone else, he has plenty of time to rise.

Safeties:

Prospects: Yusuf Corker (Kentucky), Leon O’Neal (Texas A&M), Tycen Anderson (Toledo), Tariq Carpenter (Georgia Tech)


Top Prospect: Yusuf Corker

Corker is a prospect that I’ve had the pleasure of watching a lot of as a Kentucky Wildcat. Was a very big part of a solid Kentucky defense the past three years. Is a true strong/box safety, finishing with 82 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a sack this season along with eight pass deflections. While he could show some improvements in coverage, especially from a ball skills standpoint, he is a force against the run, showing an eagerness to come down in support, and is a solid tackler. Projects best as a depth/special teams player that will likely be drafted on Day 3.


Sleeper: Tycen Anderson

Anderson is a player that I haven’t had the privilege of seeing a ton so I am anxious to see him in person in Mobile. He plays his best in the box as a safety/linebacker hybrid as he is a bigger safety. Finished his senior year with 44 tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack, along with two pass deflections. Has a lot of versatility, playing as a true safety, in the box, and even off the edge at times. Does a solid job of reading the play and coming downhill to support the run. I want to see more of what he can do in coverage this week before I give a full analysis of him. I’ve seen him receive some high praises in draft discussions and has been mentioned as a late Day 2 to early Day 3 pick.


National

Defensive Line:

Prospects: Perrion Winfrey (Oklahoma), Travis Jones (Connecticut), Logan Hall (Houston), Haskell Garrett (Ohio St), Otito Ogbonnia (UCLA), Eric Johnson (Missouri St - no official roster)


Top Prospect: Perrion Winfrey

Winfrey headlined a very impressive Oklahoma front seven this season. The 6’4”, 292-pound defensive tackle finished the year with 23 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks in 11 games. He moves extremely well for his size, showing an explosive first step when shooting the gaps. Also plays with a very high motor and keeps fighting with a variety of moves to get off blocks and get to the ball. Once he gets to the ball, he is a sure tackle and does it with force. He is projected anywhere between the late first to the middle of Day 2 of the draft and can do a lot for his draft stock this week.


Sleeper: Travis Jones

Jones is a name that has been making the rounds on Draft Twitter since the beginning of the season. He has been the lone standout on a very mediocre Connecticut football team. Jones finished the 2021 season with his best stats yet with 48 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. He is a bigger defensive tackle measuring in at 6’5”, 333 pounds. Uses his size to overpower offensive linemen with his bullrush, demanding a ton of double teams. Also does a great job of stacking and shedding blockers in his pursuit of the ball carrier. Should be taken somewhere late Day 2-early Day 3 of the draft but this week is the perfect opportunity for him to impress against some high-caliber talent.


Edge Rushers:

Prospects: Myjai Sanders (Cincinnati), Boye Mafe (Minnesota), Arnold Ebiketie (Penn St), Dominique Robinson (Miami of Ohio), Esezi Otomewo (Minnesota), Tyreke Smith (Ohio St), Isaiah Thomas (Oklahoma)


Top Prospect: Myjai Sanders

Sanders was a key piece of one of the best defenses in college football in Cincinnati this year. He finished his final season with 41 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and five pass deflections. Sanders is a thinner edge rusher but uses his speed and quickness to his advantage. Shows an impressive arsenal of pass rush moves to beat offensive tackles. Also uses his speed to shoot the gaps on stunts before offensive linemen can react. I have him as an early Day 2 prospect but he could easily sneak into the first round if he impresses in the draft process.


Sleeper: Dominique Robinson

Robinson is another smaller school prospect that I haven’t gotten to see much. Started off his career as a wide receiver but moved to the defensive side of the ball for his last two seasons. Finished his final season with 28 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. Has some athleticism to him as a pass rusher that will definitely help him at the next level. However, I am wanting to see him against some top-tier talent in Mobile to see how he fares. A good showing this coming week will do wonders for his draft stock.


Linebackers:

Prospects: Devin Lloyd (Utah), Mike Rose (Iowa St), Chad Muma (Wyoming), Darrian Beavers (Cincinnati), Jesse Luketa (Penn St), Brian Asamoah II (Oklahoma), Troy Anderson (Montana St), Kyron Johnson (Kansas), Sterling Weatherford (Miami of Ohio)


Top Prospect: Devin Lloyd

Devin Lloyd is definitely one of my favorite prospects in this entire draft class. Not only is he the best linebacker in the Senior Bowl but I have him as LB1 in the draft. Lloyd was the unquestionable leader of a very good Utah defense this season, finishing with 111 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, seven tacks, and four interceptions with two returned for touchdowns. He does a great job of reading his keys, using his speed to explode through his gap before the offensive linemen have a chance. Has the speed to run all over the field to make plays and is a very sure tackler. Also has the athletic ability to drop into coverage along with the speed to run with receivers in man coverage. Lloyd will be a first-year starter in the NFL and deserves to be a top 20 pick in the draft.


Sleeper: Chad Muma

Muma is another example of a player that I list as a sleeper but has been starting to make some noise in draft circles. He was a tackling machine this year, finishing with 142 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and three interceptions with two returned for a touchdown. Is a missile out of his stance, using his explosive speed to shoot through the gaps. Also has great athletic ability, showing off the solid leaping ability to deflect and intercept passes. Is very reliable in coverage with great anticipation and ball skills. Could be a Day 2 steal in the draft that can find a starting role right away. If he dominates in Mobile, he could be a very interesting name to watch even in some first-round discussions.


Cornerbacks:

Prospects: Coby Bryant (Cincinnati), Tariq Castro-Fields (Penn St), Joshua Williams (Fayetteville St), Damarri Mathis (Pittsburgh), Jaylen Watson (Washington St), Gregory Junior (Ouachita Baptist)


Top Prospect: Coby Bryant

Bryant was one half of the best cornerback duo in college football this season alongside Sauce Gardner. He finished the year with 11 pass deflections with two interceptions and one returned for a touchdown. Bryant also had 44 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss on the season. This performance earned him the Jim Thorpe award for the best college defensive back. He is an athletic corner that is very good in man coverage with the speed and quick hips to run with outside receivers. Bryant also has very good anticipation when breaking on passes and the ball skills to make plays. He projects as a likely Day 2 pick that should be a solid rotational piece that could turn into a starter.


Sleeper: Joshua Williams

Williams is a Division II prospect that is looking to make a name for himself in Mobile. He is a big, athletic corner with tremendous big play ability. Williams has the speed to break on the ball with a sense of urgency and take the pass the other way to the end zone. His size and length will be a problem in man coverage against a lot of receivers. If he can have a good showing against some of these bigger-name receivers in Mobile, he will shoot up the draft board of a lot of teams.


Safeties:

Prospects: Jalen Pitre (Baylor), JT Woods (Baylor), Kerby Joseph (Illinois)


Top Prospect: Jalen Pitre

Jalen Pitre is one of the more intriguing defensive back prospects that I’ve gotten to watch in this class. Was productive in all phases of his game this season, finishing with 75 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, and seven pass deflections. He is a very hard-hitting safety, coming down on receivers and ball carriers with a sense of urgency and a ton of force. Has great versatility as he can shoot the gaps against the run, come off the edge as a pass rusher, and play in coverage. Will be at his best as a box safety but could be moved around as a nickel in some situations as well. Will be a likely Day 2 pick in the draft that will be used on a rotational basis and on special teams as a rookie.


Sleeper: Kerby Joseph

Joseph was one of few bright spots on a bottom-tier Illinois team. He had a very productive final season, finishing with 57 tackles, one tackle for loss, and a sack, along with five interceptions and two pass deflections. Shows a center fielder mentality as he sits in the deep part of the field and flows to the ball with great anticipation. Has the speed to move all over the secondary to make plays on the ball in the deep passing game. Could be anywhere between a late Day 2- Day 3 pick and can help his draft stock a ton this week.















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