Previewing the Senior Bowl: The Defense

There is no easier way for a defensive player to improve his draft stock then with a great week of practice at the Senior Bowl. Take last year for instance; Kevin Williams and Marcus Trufant were two players that moved up 20 slots in the first round after their brilliant performances in Mobile. Can any of this year's defensive talent match that?

Defensive Line

The defensive line is the position usually affected the most, in a positive way, from good performances during Senior Bowl week. Cornelius Griffen, Bryan Thomas and Marcus Stroud all earned millions after a strong showing in Mobile. Who could be the biggest beneficiaries this year?

More than five years ago an LSU-alum, Anthony McFarland, blew into the middle part of round one after his Senior Bowl week and another Tiger has the chance to do the same starting Monday. Defensive tackle Chad Lavalais was the anchor of a dominant LSU line that helped pave the road to a share of the national title. Lavalais turned in a tremendous senior campaign in 2003 and now the topper could come here in Mobile. Should he continue to display dominance in Mobile, like McFarland now staring with the Tampa Bay Bucs, Lavalais move into round one.

Pass rushers are always high on the list of scouts who come to Mobile, and a pair of names they will be watching are Pittsburgh's Claude Harriott and Nathaniel Adibi of Virginia Tech. Both were rated very high coming into the 2003 season yet each disappointed with sub-par senior campaigns and have watched their stock fall. A solid showing next week will have Harriott and Adibi back in the good graces of NFL teams.


April's draft is going to offer great talent at the linebacker position and as one would expect, most of that talent will be showcased at the Senior Bowl. Auburn's Karlos Dansby will state his case in Mobile to be the first linebacker selected in the draft while teammate Dontarrius Thomas is hoping to move into the first frame. Florida State's Michael Boulware wants to prove his light frame can handle the pounding given at the hands of some of the nation's best blockers and that he too is worthy of first round consideration. Teddy Lehman of Oklahoma could be the nation's most underrated linebacker and hopes to step out of the shadows in Mobile to be handed the respect he rightly deserves; respect that will translate into a top 40 selection next April. Finally, whether or not both Miami Hurricane linebackers will show up is still a mystery yet D.J. Williams and Jon Vilma would each benefit from a good week of practice and improve their draft ranking.

Defensive Backs

The position took a mild hit when South Carolina's Dunta Robinson decided not to participate but there will still be plenty of talent on the field. Florida's Keiwan Ratliff earned the reputation as one of the nation's top ball hawking cornerbacks with record setting interception numbers in 2003. Now the question remains; does he have the speed for the next level and can he play in a variety of NFL defensive systems. A good week in Mobile could push Ratliff into the first frame.

The Senior Bowl usually features several top small school cornerbacks and this year offers both quality and quantity. A trio of cover men rarely seen by the masses will be on hand in Mobile. Joey Thomas of Montana State, Keith Smith of McNeese State and Tusculum's Ricardo Colclough are considered terrific athlete's who dominate on a lower level of competition. Yet, how they do against the big-boys is a relative unknown….until Monday that is!

Beginning on Sunday the SilverStarDigest & TFY Draft Preview will offer the most extensive coverage of the Senior Bowl found anywhere; on the Internet, in the newspapers or on radio.

We will offer premium subscribers breaking news as it happens on the field as well as immediate results from Monday morning's weigh-in, daily practice reports from the 100+ players taking part in Mobile, team reports on what NFL franchises are doing at the Senior Bowl and nightly news on the rumors and word swirling in the wind at the NFL's biggest and most important week of scouting. So make sure you are on-line and not left out!

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