2015 draft evals: Defensive players 51-100

Evaluations of the top 150 defensive prospects for the 2015 draft, players 51-100.

This is the second of the two-part defensive power poll conducted by our staff at The NFL Draft Report before the 2014 season. This poll features the defensive third-year sophomores, juniors and seniors that are eligible for the 2015 draft. Players are rated at the primary position they are projected to play at the professional level, with their ability to play an alternate position listed next to their names.

Because of the differences in defensive schemes used by teams in the National Football League, a handful of players have been rated accordingly at different positions, as they are viewed based on their ability to play within those positional assignments.

Some of the more notable players that fall into this category are Clemson’s Vic Beasley (defensive end and outside linebacker); Alabama’s Landon Collins (strong and free safety); Texas Christian’s Devonte Fields (outside linebacker and defensive end) and Washington’s Shaq Thompson (strong safety and outside linebacker). Florida State tailback Karlos Williams, rated on the offensive power poll, is also placed on the defensive chart as a strong safety.

Below is the second part of defense in our “Power Ratings Poll.” To follow the PRO category (scouting grade used to evaluate the player’s pro projection only) and RND category (preliminary projection of what round the player might be selected), please refer to our ratings code chart below.

51SHANNON, Franklin (WB) OklahomaMLB rJr06:01.1 2384.69 63-4
The former 205-pound safety recruit took over middle linebacker chores as a sophomore, recording 92 tackles with seven tackles for losses in 2013. While he remains with the team, he is under investigation for an alleged sexual assault that could impact his ability to play in 2014. He did not play in the opener. Shannon is quick to react to keys and is not the type who will get out of control and outrun plays. He makes good field adjustments and flows to the play well and makes proper calls. He makes proper reads when attacking over the center and shows good urgency to close on the ball. He takes good angles when closing and is more than capable of seeing the counter plays. He has good lower body power to drive back the runner’s body lean and while he lacks great bulk to hold up vs. combo blocks, he is very slippery in attempts to escape.
52JOHNSON, Isaiah KansasSS rJr06:00.5 2104.57 63
The former Iowa Western product was heading to South Alabama before he was offered a late scholarship from Kansas, going on to earn All-Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year honors in 2013. In his first season with the Jayhawks, he placed second in the league with five interceptions while adding 73 tackles. Johnson has loose hips and good change-of-direction agility. He is quicker than he is fast, as he doesn’t show that sudden burst to explode into the backfield, but runs with a normal stride and builds to top speed nicely. He might give up too much cushion at times when playing deep in the secondary, but has the quickness to close laterally and vs. plays in front of him. He has natural hands, above-average leaping ability and good timing to compete for jump balls. He can look the pass in over his outside shoulder and his timing lets him get to the pass at its high point. He runs and adjusts to the ball in the air and has the size to match up well vs. tight ends and the larger receivers.
53PULLARD, Hayes (SB) Southern California MLBrSr 06:00.7234 4.645.9 3-4
The three-year starter ranks 11th in Pac-12 Conference history with 282 tackles, posting 94 hits in his first season at middle linebacker in 2013. The former weak-side ‘backer has a compact but thick frame with a good bubble, thick and muscular thighs and calves, along with a V-shaped torso. He has a good feel for blocking schemes and makes sudden reads off the snap to keep the ball in sight. He is a ferocious tackler inside the box (rated the hardest-hitting tackler in the Pac-12) than along the perimeter (change-of-direction issues used to prevent him from making some of those plays, but he showed much better hip flexibility his junior year). He breaks down and fits well when tackling in front of him and the thing you see on film is his ability to hit the ball-carrier with a good thud. Even with average change-of-direction skills, his depth on his pass drops are the result of taking a good angle. He is quick transitioning from the draw read and gets good depth when handling play action.
54JONES, Taiwan (SB/MB) Michigan State OLBSr 06:03.0252 4.765.9 3
The former tailback and wildcat quarterback has played a variety of roles in the Spartans’ linebacker unit, but is a much better fit attacking from the edge as a strong-side backer, even though 3-4 schemes prefer him to play inside. His 67 tackles in 2013 almost matched the combined total from his first two seasons (70), and he has developed impressive power, growing from a 210-pound recruit to his present weight. He shows good top-end speed for a player his size, as he is quick to close on plays in front of him. He runs with a normal stride and plays with good urgency closing on the ball, but does not have the ideal plant-and-drive action to recover when he outruns the play. He is aggressive working through traffic and has the ability to control his man while adjusting and reacting off the initial block. When he stays low in his pads, he is explosive delivering his hit, but he has to maintain that pad level or he will get positioned.
55FLOWERS, Trey (OB) ArkansasDE Sr06:03.4 2674.84 5.93-4
Flowers was one of the few bright spots on defense the last two years, combining for 94 tackles, 11 sacks and 27.5 stops for loss, placing fourth in the SEC with 13.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in 2013. He may lack the ideal height and bulk teams look for in a defensive end, but if possibly moved to linebacker in a 3-4 alignment, he has the physical hands and stout frame to split double teams. He demonstrates good lower-body flexibility. He is able to redirect with no wasted motion and demonstrates proper knee bend and balance to be effective as a bull rusher. He lacks blazing speed, but is slippery getting through trash and has the straight-line burst to surprise a lethargic offensive tackle. He generates a quick first step to gain penetration and the agility and balance to pressure the pocket. He is relentless in pursuit and has that first step that allows him to greatly affect pass protection coverage.
56WRIGHT, Gabriel AuburnDT Sr06:03.0 2834.98 5.93-4
Wright’s frame appears to have maxed-out (was 285 as a recruit), but he is a versatile athlete who could fit as a defensive tackle/"three"-technique in a 4-3 defense and could also fit well at the end spot in a 3-4 scheme. His 31 tackles and 8.5 tackles for losses in 2013 matched his figures from his combined first two seasons. He shows some stiffness in his hips, but has decent balance and adequate quickness and agility to pursue. One thing the coaches cite about him is his intensity, as he is a good competitor with the strength and improved hand technique to make plays at the line of scrimmage. While not explosive, he is a quick-twitch athlete who can gain advantage vs. single blocks coming off the snap. He has enough lateral-slide to get out and pursue plays on the corner and showed the ability to get an edge on a blocker to gain gap penetration. When he gets into the backfield, he has adequate change-of-direction agility to close on the quarterback.
57SHELTON, Danny (DT) Washington NGSr 06:01.1327 5.165.9 3-4
Statistically, Shelton fails to excite, as he’s made just 113 tackles in three seasons, including 59 as a junior. He lacks the pass-rushing abilities of the elite defensive tackles and is considered more of a two-down, zero or one-technique in the NFL, which would be an ideal place for him. Still, for a player of his size, he shows a good first step off the snap. He can gain advantage and shows suddenness getting to the gaps. He is quick with his feet to get a good push into the blocker, but needs to do a better job protecting his legs. He is a strong inside run defender who can make plays up and down the line of scrimmage, but lacks the long speed to chase in space. He is often matched against double teams and, when this happens, he can hold ground at the point of attack, but without great hand shed ability, he can be locked up and stall out. When working one-on-one, he will flash the ability to stack and he generates a strong anchor to maintain position. He is very hard to block coming off the ball and even if the blocker gets into his body, he is not the type the offensive guards can hold for long. He has success working underneath to get a piece of the blocker’s pads and is effective stacking and controlling in one-on-one situations.
58McKINNEY, Benardrick (DE) Mississippi State OLBrJr 06:04.5245 4.625.9 3-4
McKinney was a big and physical, dual-threat quarterback with a live arm and good productivity coming out of high school. He could throw on the run and improvise out of the pocket, but with his good blend of size and athleticism, along with his height, large frame and impressive straight-line speed, outside linebacker became the position his coaches chose for him. He made a rapid transition, ranking eighth in the SEC with 102 tackles as a freshman, adding 70 hits with seven tackles for losses last season. He’s manned the middle position, but most scouts feel that his quickness and lateral agility are better suited for rush end or strong-side outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme at the next level, thanks to his quickness and lateral agility. He shows explosive acceleration coming off the snap and above-average hand-eye coordination. He has the ability to pursue plays along the sidelines, showing balance and quickness to make plays on the move. He has above-average change-of-direction agility and when he is focused, flashes the lateral speed needed to make plays from the backside.
59CLARK, Frank MichiganDE Sr06:01.4 2764.76 5.93-4
In Clark's first two years at Michigan, he added more than 60 pounds without losing any speed, but he was suspended from the team early in 2012 after pleading guilty to felony second-degree home invasion for an alleged theft of a MacBook Air computer. He delivered 12.5 tackles for losses that included five sacks among his 43 tackles in 2013. He has good quickness and agility, also showing the balance and adequate change-of-direction skills to work his way down the line. He is a tenacious weak-side end who plays with a high motor and with good intensity. He is a little bit stiff when redirecting, but does a good job of staying on his feet. He has an above-average burst off the edge and shows acceleration when working in space. He fights pressure and uses his hands well to disengage and transfer on the block. When he stays low in his pads, he can get his hands on the blocker and can keep the linemen off his body with his hand extension. When he gets high in his stance, he gets stymied at the line, as he is learning to execute rip moves to get off the block quicker (lacks pass rush move refinement).
60COLLINS, Jalen (FS) Louisiana State CBrJr 06:01.5195 4.525.9 3-4
It will be “make or break” for Collins in 2014. Hands-down the best athlete in the LSU secondary, he failed to grab a starting job last year and, while he excelled as a tackler on special teams (12 tackles in 2013), he had just 10 more stops on defense. As a freshman, he had delivered 30 hits with eight pass break-ups. He has good timed speed and the agility to sharply change direction. He keeps his feet on the move and uses his quickness to stay on the receiver’s hip and mirror his assignment throughout the route. Even though he does not stay in his backpedal too long, he has good balance coming out of transition. His straight-line speed does not always translate on the field, as he does not show suddenness or burst to close coming up from the deep zone, though. He does a good job of shadowing the receiver in the short area and can trail on deep routes due to his functional acceleration, but appears to be a slot corner or potential free safety candidate at the next level.
61WHITEHEAD, Jermaine Auburn (CB) FSrJr 05:11.1196 4.545.9 4
The prep tailback found a home in the defensive backfield once he joined the Tigers, first as a reserve cornerback before manning strong safety the last two seasons. Since joining the first unit, he made 151 tackles with two pass thefts and 11 pass break-ups. He is not fast enough to handle receivers one-on-one during deep routes, but shows good foot quickness and closes on plays in front of him with urgency. He won’t bite on pump fakes or play action and is quick to recognize the plays as they develop. He needs to be more explosive closing on the ball, but has shown marked improvement in attempts to stick his hand into the action and break up the. He is quick to see the ball in flight, timing his leaps properly, but will sometimes get lost trying to work through trash in run force. He has the eyes and route awareness skills to knock the receiver off the pattern, but must continue to work on using those hands aggressively.
62STRIKER, Eric (WB) OklahomaOLB Jr06:00.1 2194.73 5.93-4
Striker is built more like a strong safety, but is a bit stiff in the hips and not quick enough to be a potential candidate to switch to that spot in the NFL. He came into his own as a sophomore, as he is regarded as one of the hardest hitters in college, backing up that boast with 6.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for losses and 50 tackles at weak-side ‘backer in 2013. The undersized linebacker might have limited experience as a true back-end safety and high-point defender but has plenty of eye-popping production in the box. Because he is a quick reader, he can use his speed and change of direction to avoid blocks and knife through or duck under the block. He has impressive range to the perimeter and passes blockers to get to the ball. His explosion through backside pursuit lets him get through the trash, as he shows instincts tracking the ball. He is an aggressive wrap-up tackler who is effective at making low leg hits when working in space. He plays under control, but will strike with force on contact. He shows good ability to make the tackle from his angle or when coming from behind. He does have some trouble in plays coming right at him due to size issues, but will hold on and stalemate the runner until help arrives.
63KENDRICKS, Eric-Nathan UCLA (WB) MLBrSr 06:00.1232 4.675.8 3-4
The third member of his family to play in the Pac-10/12, his father, Marv, starred at UCLA and in the CFL and his older brother, Mychal, was a linebacker at California and starts for Philadelphia. He’s recorded 331 tackles with 14.5 tackles for losses and returned two of three fumble recoveries for touchdowns in 28 starts, but limped into fall camp having missed the end of 2013 due to right ankle surgery. He lacks height, but is a thick, shorter, compact linebacker who explodes through contact and is a real violent striker. He finds the ball quickly vs. the run and has the range to make plays in pursuit. Size issues occur when he tries to stack and shed and he is just a two-down performer, as he lacks a great feel in zone. However, as a thumper inside with the potential to get into the backfield as a blitzer, he should get plenty of looks from 3-4 teams in need of a versatile, high motor weak-side inside ‘backer.
64BROWN, Malcom (DT) TexasNG Jr06:02.5 3055.24 5.83-4
The most tenacious defender in the Big 12, Brown has an incredibly low pad level that constantly gets him under the bigger blockers to push his opponent back into the pocket. The nose tackle enjoyed a banner first season as a starter, making 10 of his 66 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He also batted down four passes at the line. His lower-body strength is excellent and, despite his wide frame, he has low body fat (big-boned). He is slightly undersized to play in a two-gap system, but has more than enough strength, low center of gravity, long arms and redirection ability to be very effective at the nose. His sudden burst off the ball allows him to generate the upfield quickness needed to penetrate and make impact tackles in the backfield. He generally delivers a punishing blow in tight quarters, with no leakage working inside. Earlier in his career, he would get a little out of control and miss tackles in space, but he has rectified that problem by playing with better discipline. He can flatten and go, making him the type that always needs to be accounted for in the backfield.
65DIGGS, Quandre (FS) TexasCB Sr05:09.5 2004.48 5.83-4
The former prep running back, quarterback and cornerback possess a special blend of speed, quickness, smooth hips and ideal change-of-direction skills. In 36 starting assignments at strong-side corner, he’s picked off eight passes, deflected 38 others and made nine of his 156 tackles for losses. While a bit height challenged vs. the bigger receivers, Diggs is such a hard hitter that he could fill in as a slot corner or eventually shift to free safety at the next level. He has good speed for man coverage assignments at cornerback, but shows the quickness needed to close on plays in front of him for a potential move to free safety. He lacks great backpedal technique and appears to have some hip stiffness, but somehow manages to change direction effectively. He needs to sharpen his angles a bit, but shows good urgency and forward charge to close on the ball. He is very physical when making the tackle and shows good intensity getting to the rush lanes. He has enough change-of-direction agility to cover along the sidelines and shows above average hand usage and extension to attack the ball in the air and reach around the receiver to deflect the pass.
66SMITH, Terrance (MB) Florida State OLBrJr 06:02.4228 4.745.8 4
The middle linebacker will likely switch to weak-side outside ‘backer at the next level. The son of former Clemson receiver standout Terry Smith, the youngster had 59 tackles while splitting time with Christian Jones last season. He has only adequate size, but possesses a frame with the potential to get bigger. He displays good playing speed, strength and overall athletic ability for the position. The thing you see on film is his above-average coordination through his burst. He has enough lateral movement to flow to the ball down the line, and his timed speed is evident by his range, showing the ability to run sideline to sideline. When he uses his arms and hands to stave off blockers trying get into chest, he can get through trash while reading the scheme. When he fails to bring his hands or short arms, he will get walled off.
67GAINES JR, Charles Louisville CBrJr 05:10.6176 4.485.8 4
A sleek receiver recruit when he joined the Cardinals, Gaines had just 11 catches after two seasons. He shifted to the boundary cornerback position, starting the final 10 games in 2013 and leading the team with five interceptions while breaking up seven other throws. Gaines’ big issue is that he has poor-to-adequate muscle development and a frame that needs to carry at least another 10 pounds of bulk. He does a nice job of opening his hips to plant and drive out of his breaks. He might not be the most explosive attacking the ball, but he is good at recognizing the action in front of him. Gaines plays with good instincts and will generally gain good position to make the play, but needs to produce more than the 22 tackles he delivered in 2013. He is becoming much better at using his timing and hands to break up the pass and looks more comfortable using his side pedal, where you can see that his knee bend and body control are more natural.
68KIKAHA, Hau'Oli Washington DErSr 06:02.4256 4.825.8 4
With a new name and healed knees, Kikaha became a force again for the Huskies in 2013. He recently changed his last name from Jamora, and has overcome two ligament tears in his left knee to earn a spot on UW’s defensive line. As a junior, he was in on 70 tackles and 15.5 tackles for losses, as the left end’s 13.0 sacks ranked 13th in the nation. He might lack bulk, but he is proportionately built in his upper body, with good hand size and strength to shed blocks vs. bigger offensive linemen. He is effective bending down the line and shows no hesitation when laying out to make plays on the move. He shows good dip and body lean coming off the edge and has the flexibility and sudden burst to leave the bigger offensive tackles grabbing at air while he arrives “home” with a big sack on the passer. His feet and hands are generally active in pursuit, as he has the flexibility to flatten, demonstrating shake and counter ability, along with the shoulder dip that makes it difficult for a blocker to telegraph his moves.
69MAYE, Marcus FloridaSS rSo05:11.1 2064.58 5.84
A raw talent who is still making the transition to strong safety after playing as a receiver in high school, Maye has drawn comparisons to the Vikings’ Jamarca Sanford, as he has a well-built frame with solid muscle tone throughout. He displays adequate change-of-direction agility, needing to do a better job of opening his hips, but compensates for a lack of a second gear by taking proper angles to the ball when working in space. He is not the type that will get overaggressive, but does hit with authority. He breaks on the ball well and gets a good jump from the hash, but even though he gets a good jump on the play due to his ability to anticipate and diagnose the patterns, he lacks natural hands for the interception.
70ODIGHIZUWA, Owamagbe UCLA (RE) DErSr 06:03.2268 4.795.7
Two separate hip surgeries kept Odighizuwa on the sideline for the 2013 season, but he appears fully recovered and ready to reclaim his weak-side end job. Before the injuries, he had 75 tackles with 13.0 tackles for losses for his career. He used the time away from the field to add over 30 pounds of bulk and muscle to his frame. He coils up into his stance well and, for his size, he has an above-average first step, but he is a linear rusher who doesn't quite possess the closing speed to threaten the edge consistently and struggles to drop his pad level around the corner. He does a nice job at times extending his arms, creating pop, but isn't the type of laterally gifted athlete to quickly shed and explode up the field. However, he has the ability to change directions, as looks natural on tight end stunts coming inside, extending his arms, being violent and working through the play.
71JOHNSON, Alexander “AJ” Tennessee MLBSr 06:02.0244 4.795.7 3-4
Johnson surprised quite a few scouts when he elected to return to school for his senior season. In just three seasons, he piled up 324 tackles, fifth in SEC history, with 21.5 tackles for losses, and is coming off back-to-back 100-plus tackle seasons (138 in 2012 and 106 in 2013). While he lacks ideal foot speed, Johnson is the type of athlete that plays quicker than the stopwatch indicates. He shows good flexibility and explosion coming off the snap and ease of movement when working laterally. He has sharp change-of-direction agility and enough functional strength to stack and control. He plays on his feet with good ward-off and shed ability. He is also very powerful when engaging blockers, using his hand swipes with force to shed blocks and create separation. He’s a player that puts every ounce of effort and strength behind his frame to plug the gaps. He is quick to locate the ball working inside and will hold his ground firmly at the point of attack to make negative yardage tackles. He also does a nice job of adjusting his feet to cover backs in the flats.
72DOSS, Lorenzo TulaneCB Jr05:10.5 1684.52 5.74
I expect Doss to make a huge jump on our power poll by the end of the year. He’s flown under the radar for too long and, even though he ranks second in Conference USA history with 274 yards gained on 11 interceptions (two returned for scores), he has yet to get the national attention he deserves. He might have been overlooked due to his slight frame, but he reminds our scouts of Brent Grimes, as he is a tough, durable athlete who plays much bigger than his size indicates. He shows good open-field acceleration and range, keeping his feet when changing direction. He builds to top speed quickly, but compensates for a lack of blazing speed by exploding out of his pedal with no wasted steps. He is an instinctive player who can easily read his keys and make the plays. He is not the most physical tackler (78 in 25 games) and will sometimes get bounced around when working through trash, but he shows a good competitive nature. He prefers to go low and “ankle bite” when making tackles, but can occasionally “bring the wood” and has the awareness skills to also strip the ball out of the receiver’s hands.
73HAROLD, Eli (RE) VirginiaOLB Jr06:03.6 2354.73 5.74
The former prep receiver continued to play out of position as a 230-pound left defensive end in two seasons for the Cavaliers, but he registered 8.5 sacks, 15.0 stops for loss and 51 tackles as a sophomore. He’s added some bulk this offseason, but not enough to remain in the trenches at the next level. As a potential outside linebacker, he shows explosive, raw upside as a speed edge rusher and could also be a good candidate as a 3-4 strong-side pass rusher. His frame capacity lacks the capacity to add the 20 pounds of bulk needed to play on the line, but as a ‘backer, he can dominate in his backside pursuit due to his determination and quickness coming off the edge. He is a collision-type tackler with the ability to break down and fit in space, and surprises the blocker with his sudden burst off the snap. He has the ability to change direction immediately closing on the quarterback and demonstrates good knee bend and stays low in his pads to work down the line fluidly.
74HOWARD, Tracy MiamiCB Jr05:10.5 1844.49 5.74
Howard split right cornerback duties with Antonio Crawford, returning one of five interceptions for a score while posting 35 tackles in 2013. His frame lacks any more room for additional growth and he is just an adequate performer in run support, as he can get downhill and take good angles, but tends to get bounced around too much when asked to step up and fill the rush lanes. Where he excels is when competing for the ball in a crowd, as he has excellent recovery quickness. He reads and reacts to the plays instinctively, showing the quickness to maintain position on the receivers in deep routes. He is smooth turning out of his backpedal and has a sharp initial burst to get a good jump on the ball. He times the pass well, displaying the ability to compete for the ball at its high point. His five thefts in 2013 show that Howard is a natural pass interceptor who reaches and picks off the ball with consistent ease.
75MAULDIN, Lorenzo (OB) Louisville DESr 06:03.2243 4.735.7 4
Mauldin is an undersized pass rusher who could be a candidate for strong-side outside linebacker duties at the next level. He was limited at midseason with a right leg injury in 2013, and had a scary Moped accident in 2012, but still recorded 40 tackles with 9.5 sacks, 12.0 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles last year. Mauldin's surgery, on the glenoid labrum in his shoulder, is not expected to impact his playing status for the 2014 season, but it did hold him out of the Cardinals' 2014 spring practice. At 243 pounds, the left end lacks ideal size and is close to maximum growth potential on his frame. However, he has good lower-body muscle definition to generate a strong base and a big bubble. He is a disruptive force in the backfield, thanks to his consistency and ability to explode past blockers when he stays low in his pads and comes off the snap with good urgency. He has good instincts and awareness to locate the ball and knows where the quarterback is. He flows to the ball well in backside pursuit and has the sustained speed to attack ball-carriers along the perimeter.
76HARRIS, Anthony (FS) VirginiaSS Sr06:00.5 1884.57 5.74-5
A dual-threat quarterback recruit, Harris moved into the starting lineup at free safety during his sophomore year before taking over strong safety chores as a 185-pound junior. Despite his frame, he is a physical tackler who is capable of being able to matchup as a press corner in sub packages. He is aggressive and quick to attack the line of scrimmage, having recorded 167 tackles during his last two campaigns. He can cut away from penetration and make defenders miss in the hole, as 59 of his stops came in run force. He ranks second in school annals with eight pass thefts in 2013. He is a physical tackler with a knack for being in position to deliver the crunching hit. He lacks the bulk you look for in a safety playing inside the box, but excels when given a free lane in backside pursuit, as he has the burst to close. He can locate the ball working through trash and has the speed to stay tight on the receiver in long routes.
77WASHINGTON, Adolphus Ohio State DTJr 06:02.6295 4.935.7 4
A groin injury limited Washington’s lateral range and he only started five times last season, managing just four tackles for losses among his 36 hits, but the staff feels that the under-tackle is ready to emerge in 2014. He’s been compared to Kyle Williams (Buffalo), as he has the same field vision, intelligence, aggressiveness and sheer determination. He delivers bone-jarring hand swipes that make offensive linemen feel as if they just went fifteen rounds in a boxing ring. He is alert to blocking schemes and works hard to get off the ball and split the gap. He has good upper-body strength, hitting his opponent with a thud and is a one-gap type with good straight-line charge to collapse the pocket. He does not have the speed to give chase, but executes effective rip, swim and spin moves to get penetration and is relentless in his pursuit.
78BONNER, Detrick Virginia Tech FSrSr 05:11.7195 4.575.7 4-5
After playing at “whip” linebacker and cornerback, Bonner has recorded 108 tackles with 17 pass deflections in two seasons as Tech’s starting free safety. He is a smart, instinctive player who is rarely caught out of position, and has the quickness and burst to close on the ball, showing the loose hips needed to turn and run coming out of transition. He is most effective when playing deep in centerfield, as he is alert to blocking schemes and does a good job of keeping plays in front of him. He has the foot speed to handle slot receivers in man coverage and, based on 22 passes defended for his three-year career, he does a good job of attacking the ball in the air, possessing the natural hands, leaping ability and timing to get to the pass at its high point. He has the range and lateral moves to string plays out and is effective at shutting down the cutback lanes.
79MADDY, Luther Virginia Tech DTSr 06:00.1291 55.7 4
The Tech system requires its interior linemen to occupy multiple blockers while its edge rushers and linebackers string out the plays. Maddy has only 209 tackles in 29 starts, but 22 came behind the line of scrimmage. He is height challenged, but is compactly built with long arms, thick lower-body frame, good acceleration and quickness. He has enough initial burst to gain advantage off the snap and is light on his feet to get into the gaps and disrupt plays in the backfield. He can sit and read-or- react to the plays on the move, showing the lateral range and valid foot speed to string plays wide. He chases from sideline to sideline and has the raw power to stack and control, when he keeps his pad level low. He is quite strong at locking up the ball-carrier when meeting them head on and throws a lot of motion at blockers, getting a decent push to collapse the pocket.
80VAUGHTERS, James Stanford OLBSr 06:02.0254 4.735.7 4
Perhaps the 2014 season will be Vaughters’ “coming out” party, as he’s managed just 74 tackles in three seasons. Once hailed as a player that Stanford had planned to build their defense around, he has yet to display that he is a one-man wrecking crew who creates the havoc that he showed in high school. He has the size, athleticism, playing strength and speed to be a dominant player at the next level, as he shows excellent flexibility, quickness and balance, along with doing a good job getting the early read on run plays to and away (six sacks and 11 tackles for losses). He is a better downhill player vs. the inside run, showing the upper-body strength to take on and defeat blockers, but needs to show better consistency in avoiding and beating blockers with quickness, as he’s shown in practices he is capable of working through and over traffic with great pursuit habits.
81ORCHARD, Nathaniel UtahDE Sr06:02.4 2554.76 5.64-5
Orchard recently changed his last name from Fakahafua but, by either name, whether at linebacker, defensive end or on special teams, the Utes senior has excelled, delivering 17.0 of his 97 tackles for losses during his last two campaigns. He joined Utah as a 190-pound recruit, but will line up as a 255-pound left end in 2014. While he lacks ideal 4-3 scheme defensive line size, he shows the range and pursuit quickness to chase down ball-carriers turning the corner, demonstrating good balance and body control working through trash. He has the strength and good use of hands to get a push off the bigger linemen in attempts to slip through blocks, as he generates a quick arm-over move to escape. He can be sudden in his burst to gain advantage, consistently beating his man with his explosive initial step and change-of-direction agility to get wide and make plays along the perimeter. He is also very effective using club moves when combating combo blocks.
82DEPRIEST, Trey (SB) AlabamaMLB Sr06:00.4 2584.82 5.64-5
DePriest’s arrival as the Tide’s middle linebacker forced former All-SEC starter Nico Johnson to the bench in 2012. The Springfield, Ohio, product has rewarded Nick Saban with a combined 124 tackles and 11.5 tackles for losses. He had a rough start to the 2013 season, as he first underwent foot surgery to repair a fracture in spring drills and was later suspended for a team rules violation in fall camp. He has a little upper-body stiffness but is very quick to read keys and diagnose plays while displaying very good instincts. While listed in the middle, he lines up in a variety of alignments and can either play at the line of scrimmage or stand up at the corner as an edge rusher in pass blitzing mode. He has very good quickness and excels at pursuing laterally, providing great support off the edge. He is also quick to the outside with the ability to work through traffic.
83COOPER, Xavier Washington State DTrJr 06:03.5303 5.075.6 4-5
Playing the “bandit” end position in the Cougars’ 3-4 alignment, Cooper will likely play tackle at the next level. He delivered 13.5 tackles for losses and five sacks among 50 tackles in 2013. He did not begin playing football until well into his high school career, but has good upper-body development with a wide back, broad shoulders, long reach and large hands. He also has a strong hand punch and gets good extension to control blockers in one-on-one situations (rarely struggles vs. double teams). He uses his hand punch and arm extension well to defeat reach blocks and shed and can be disruptive at the point of attack when he keeps his pad level down and drives hard with his legs to generate good explosion off the ball.
84TARTT, Jaquiski SamfordFS Sr06:01.3 2234.55 5.65
One of only two small-college players (Eric Williams of Indiana-Pennsylvania is the other) to make the top 100 on our preseason power poll, Tartt has cornerback-like speed and acceleration packaged into a hard-hitting linebacker’s body. He began playing football in high school after his late grandfather urged the prep basketball player to try the gridiron. The Buchanon Award finalist (top defender in the FCS), Tartt took over free safety chores in 2012 and has made 192 tackles with five interceptions and 19 pass deflections in two seasons. He has a defined, angular frame with the growth potential to add more bulk without any decrease in his impressive quickness. His ability to take proper angles allows him to close on the ball and string plays wide in run support. He will not be fooled by the quarterback’s pump action or fakes, and his outstanding range lets him cover lots of ground, even when playing deep in centerfield. He has the vision to make plays with his back to the ball, doing a nice job of looking the pass in over his shoulders. He also has excellent zone awareness and ability to quickly see the route develop.
85DEVALL, Denzel AlabamaOLB Jr06:01.6 2504.74 5.64-5
After playing the “Jack” position (hybrid rush end/outside linebacker), Devall is expected to replace departed C.J. Mosley at weak-side ‘backer in 2014, but will have to “amp up” his production after making just 22 tackles and three sacks last season and being limited by a left knee injury in 2012. Still, he shows promise, as Devall has a good burst off the ball and shows the ability to keep his pads down and be active with his hands when taking on blockers. He moves well laterally and shows urgency working down the line of scrimmage and staying square when filling holes in run support. He takes good angles to close and, as a pass rusher, he can generate power and create pressure with a bull rush.
86MITCHELL, Malcolm (WR) GeorgiaCB rSr06:00.4 1924.49 5.64-5
In the Li’l Abner comic strip by cartoonist Al Capp, Joe Btfsplk was a character who was well-meaning but was the world's worst jinx. Mitchell can certainly relate, as he’s been hammered by the “injury jinx” the last two years. He moved from cornerback to receiver in 2011 and, in two seasons, caught 85 passes for 1,237 yards and eight scores. But he pines for his days on defense. He suffered a right knee ACL tear in the 2013 season opener and missed the rest of the schedule. He then re-injured his knee during March 2014 camp and enters fall drills still looking to recover. On defense, Mitchell has shown that he recognizes what's coming quickly and has the speed to get to the spot to make a play. As a cornerback, he has the hitting power and aggressive nature needed to neutralize bigger receivers on play-action and underneath routes. He is quick to react and recover on double moves and catches up instantly to receivers running quick outs or square-ins.
87MONROE, Darryl Washington State MLBrJr 06:01.1235 4.765.6 4-5
The defensive captain and two-time all-Pac 12 Conference choice had 94 tackles in 2013 after debuting with 80 tackles in 2012. Those figures prove that Monroe has a nose for the ball, especially on run plays (eight tackles for losses, causing two fumbles in 2013). He reads the quarterback's eyes in coverage, and is quick to get to the ball in the air. He’s not easily fooled by misdirection and has the speed to recover after a false step. Against the run, he can go sideline-to-sideline and down the field to chase the ball from the middle. Despite being undersized playing inside, he will take on linemen and disengage from blocks to make the play. He’s quick enough to avoid some blocks, but he does need defensive linemen to tie up blockers and keep him free to be effective. In pass coverage, he is able to drop quickly to the first-down marker and find a receiver, even after play-action In zone coverage, he shows good ball awareness and is always on the nearest receiver.
88WILLIAMS, Eric Indiana (PA) SSSr 06:02.2217 4.595.6 5
The second small-college player to crack the top 100 segment of our preseason power poll (Samford’s Jaquiski Tarrt is rated at #84), Williams hopes to capture the attention of pro scouts after he sort of fell off the radar after his dismissal from Pittsburgh (was in a drug den when a SWAT team raided it in April 2013), where he was scheduled to move to strong safety after playing two years as an outside linebacker for the Panthers. He made 48 tackles and picked off six passes during his first year at Indiana in 2013. He has outstanding size for a safety and some teams could look to bulk him up for a possible move back to weak-side linebacker, as his frame is still developing and he has room for at least another 15 pounds without the additional weight affecting his overall quickness. His assignment is to lend support, rather than stay one-on-one with the receiver, but he does have the loose hips and quickness needed to cover tight ends, slot receivers and backs in the short-to-intermediate area.
89NICKERSON Jr., Hardy California (OB) MLBrSo 06:00.5230 4.675.6 5
Much like his father, former Tampa Bay linebacker Hardy Nickerson Sr., the youngster is a hard-hitting tackler who has a great feel for play action and misdirection. One of the few bright spots during a dismal 2013 campaign, he made 64 tackles with five tackles for losses. He attended eight different schools from kindergarten through his senior year of high school due to his father’s NFL career. Ambidextrous, he plays sports and throws with his right hand, but writes with his left. He reacts aggressively to the run and is quick to the hole, as he has the burst upfield to take advantage of gaps and close for impressive tackles on outside runs. He takes on the fullback with a violent pop and uses strong hands to disengage quickly on the isolation.
90RICHARDS, Jordan (CB) StanfordSS Sr05:10.4 2054.57 5.65
Versatile and quick enough to play either safety position or be utilized as a slot cornerback, Richards repeated his 68-tackle, three-interception 2012 performance again in 2013, earning league honorable mention both times. He has an athletic build with adequate height. He is fluid and smooth dropping back in pass coverage and shows impressive short-area burst and make-up acceleration. He can turn and run vertically with just about any receiver he faces and is extremely quick in his backpedal. He has an explosive closing burst and can make up a lot of ground when the ball is in the air, demonstrating very quick feet and good lateral-movement skills. He plants and drives on the ball coming forward with no wasted motion and his ability to stop and start on a dime is impressive. He has good leaping ability and will challenge for the jump ball.
91TAVAI, John Robert “J.R.” Southern California OLBSr 06:02.0248 4.795.6 5
The former prep running back showed flashes while playing defensive end and tackle earlier in his USC career, but emerged in 2013 when he shifted to strong-side outside linebacker. He made 56 tackles with 3.5 sacks among his eight tackles for losses. While he lacks elite timed speed, Tavai is quick to close when a lane to the quarterback or ball-carrier opens. He is quick to recognize misdirection and stays at home to contain the edge. In run defense, he was pushed around at plays directed at him when he played defensive end, but as a linebacker, he showed enough leverage and length to disengage from tight ends and fullbacks to give chase when the ball-carrier bounced outside. He is not exceptionally fluid or quick, but has just enough speed and change-of-direction agility to stay with running backs and tight ends in the flat.
92DAVISON, Tyeler (DT) Fresno State NGSr 06:01.4301 5.165.5 4-5
It is never going to be a glamour position – playing nose guard – but the role of taking on multiple blockers seems to suit Davison nicely. In two years as a starter, he’s collected 14.5 tackles for losses, five sacks and 84 tackles. With just three major colleges offering him a scholarship, he proved to be a find for the Bulldogs. He has very good strength to slip off blocks for the drag-down tackle as the ball-carrier is slipping by, showing enough flexibility to break down in space. He generates good explosiveness if given a clear lane, delivering a strong bull rush to push the guard deep into the pocket. He still needs to improve his use of hands to disengage from blocks, as he relies on his quickness and strength, but too rarely is able to get off blocks once properly engaged. Still, he recognizes the cut block and sprawls quickly to protect his knees.
93HEENEY, Benjamin KansasMLB Sr06:00.3 2284.8 5.55
As a 190-pound recruit, Heeney was expected to be a Wildcats receiver, but a growth spurt and 30 pounds later, he’s emerged as a Big 12 force in the middle of the field, recording 87 tackles, 11.5 tackles for losses and three interceptions as a junior and another 11.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage among 112 hits in 2012. While not an explosive tackler, he does a very good job dragging ball-carriers to the ground using his length. He needs to sink his hips instead of tackling shoulder pads and must improve his angles to the ball against quicker runners, but he has a knack for exploding into running lane and can smother underneath throws in zone coverage. He is smart enough not to get sucked in by play-action, and is fast enough to recover from a false step, as he has the straight-line speed to hustle downfield and chase to the sideline. He attacks and slides by fullbacks coming out of the hole, knifing through gaps when attacking stretch plays.
94CHICKILLO, Anthony (RE/OB) MiamiDE Sr06:03.4 2704.81 5.55
The third-generation Hurricane has had a solid, yet unspectacular career, making 129 tackles with 12.5 sacks in three seasons and 39 games, including 46 stops and 7.5 hits for losses as a junior, but more was expected when this coveted recruit joined the program. Chickillo has good strength and improving use of hands to stack and control the offensive tackle, but he struggles with leverage, at times, especially as he tires. Too often, he stands up rather than move forward as the game goes on, negating his power. He has very good hand and arm strength to drag down ball-carriers as they attempt to run past him, along with a good initial burst off the snap. He flashes a quick first step to cross the tackle's face and good flexibility to get under the pass blocker's reach to get the advantage. He also displays an impressive spin move back inside to compliment his speed rush, along with capably using his long arms and leg drive for the bull rush.
95JOHNSON, Isaiah Georgia Tech FSrSr 06:00.7211 4.575.5
The suspect Tech defense can ill-afford to play without Johnson in 2014, but he enters fall camp as a question mark after undergoing December 2012 knee surgery to repair an ACL issue. Having grown from a 170-pound freshman, he’s proven to be their most reliable “last line” of defense, making 87 tackles in 2012 and 78 more with three pass thefts as a freshman before missing the entire 2013 schedule to recover. When healthy, Johnson demonstrated good balance and sufficiently loose hips to change direction and accelerate quickly out of his breaks. He excels at locating the ball and has good body control to make the leaping interception. He makes proper body adjustments in the air and times his leap well, showing good ball skills and the vision, agility and straight-line speed to generate yards after the interception. He might get high in his backpedal, but gains good depth on his drop. He is susceptible to allowing the receiver to get too close before he turns with him, at times, allowing for small openings and must do a better job of locating receivers in his zone. He does close downhill quickly and is a reliable open-field tackler, trusting his own athleticism to make the play in isolated coverage.
96JOHNSON, Marques Brigham Young DTSr 06:01.0308 5.235.5 5
An Ian Williams (49ers) type that won’t make flashy plays but is close to being mistake-free in his game plan, Johnson was not on any recruiters’ radar coming out of high school, but after making 14.5 tackles for losses at El Camino College, he was the prize in BYU’s recruiting class. He had only 31 tackles in 2013, but after playing mostly in run-contain situations, the Cougars’ staff is planning on stunting him often in 2014. The senior has more than enough strength to slow and even pull down runners with one arm as he remains engaged with the blocker. He brings his weight with him as a hitter, resulting in some big collisions and provides enough pop that he doesn't have to wrap up to knock down most running backs. He possesses good vision to locate the ball and can redirect surprisingly well at his size. He hustles laterally and downfield to make the tackle from behind and relies on very good power as a bull rusher to collapse the pocket. He uses a swim move effectively, but he does lack the burst and lateral agility to be a consistent factor in the pass rush. He does work hard, but has only phone booth quickness and requires an open lane to close. Still, he is an alert defender that gets his hands up in the passing lanes.
97GOLSON, Senquez Mississippi CBSr 05:09.0185 4.435.5 5
Golson started 10 games in 2013, recording 41 tackles with two pass thefts while making the transition to the gridiron from the baseball diamond. Selected in the eighth round of the 2011 MLB Draft by Boston with the 262nd overall pick as a center fielder, he played both sports at Ole Miss in 2012 before concentrating on football last season. He is known to be a great competitor at cornerback who shows good lockdown cover skills and can play on an island. He has excellent playing speed and shows loose hips turning and running stride-for-stride with faster receivers, as opponents generally find it very difficult to create separation on him, thanks to Golson’s recovery quickness and direct angles out of his breaks.
98THOMAS, Cameron Western Kentucky CBSr 06:00.2195 4.535.5 5
Sun Belt coaches were unanimous when asked at the recent preseason convention who the best defensive back they faced last year was – Cameron Thomas was the quick answer. The two-year starter at right corner picked off five passes and had 10 deflections to go with 41 tackles, limiting his coverage assignment to 10 catches on 61 passes targeted into his area (16.39%).
He has become such a reliable drag-down tackler that he is also used as a Cover-2 linebacker, at times. He has good strength and long arms for the wrap-up stop and hits like a hammer, consistently driving through ball-carriers when coming up to support vs. the run. He has the big, strong hands needed to excel in press coverage and provides a stout initial pop, along with good flexibility to turn and run with receivers. He shows confidence in his strong, active hands to keep the receiver close throughout the early route and, while he has the flexibility and quick feet to mirror receivers, he is savvy enough to know how to cheat back to the ball.
99BROTHERS, Kentrell (IB) MissouriOLB rJr06:00.4 2404.73 5.55
March 2014 surgery to repair shoulder issues will be the main issue when Brothers arrives back for fall camp, as the Tigers sorely need the junior to help fill the leadership void after graduation stripped the defense after 2013. What is amazing is the fact that he played the entire ’13 campaign not realizing he had a torn labrum, yet, he still had three interceptions and 70 tackles while being the only Tigers linebacker to start every game. At a shade over 6-feet, Brothers might be a better fit inside in a 3-4 alignment, but he is a reliable open-field tackler who breaks down well in space and makes secure stops. He brings his hips and explodes through the ball-carrier, providing a much more forceful hit than his size would indicate. He wraps up securely and reads keys quickly, making many of his plays at or near the line of scrimmage by beating blockers to the action with rare acceleration and straight-line speed for the position. He relies on instincts and agility to avoid blocks to make the play on runs right at him and has the speed and good vision to avoid the trash and secure with explosive tackling.
100JARRETT, Kyshoen (FS) Virginia Tech SSSr 05:10.4188 4.575.5 5-6
Jarrett was one of two juniors expected to bolt school that decided to return in 2014. He’s never been seen as a star on the Tech defense but that is largely due to how he is a reliable, consistent player that does his job very well. The three-year starter has quietly compiled 171 tackles with the first unit, including 71 last season. Playing the “rover” position, he greatly improved his pass coverage abilities, matching up nicely with his established run-support skills. He diagnoses the play and accelerates quickly to the ball, showing little wasted motion. He also understands his role as the last line of defense and takes good angles to limit the damage. He is a good zone defender and is quick to recognize holes in the zone and react accordingly. He will sneak a peek back at the quarterback and break on the ball quickly, as he has the straight-line speed and agility to change direction necessary in being a true centerfielder in three-deep coverage and the range for two-deep.


NOTE: To understand the position codes, DE indicates defensive end; RE is for rush ends/3-4 pass rushers; DT indicates defensive tackle; NG indicates nose guard; MB is for a 4-3 middle linebacker; IB indicates 3-4 inside linebacker; OB indicates outside linebacker; WB indicates 3-4 weak-side ‘backer; SB indicates 3-4 strong-side ‘backer; CB indicates cornerback; FS indicates free safety; SS indicates strong safety.

NOTE: rSr/rJr indicates player redshirted/graduating class…# indicates major injury that could impact draft grade…CL indicates college class… HT indicates height of the player…WT indicates weight…40 indicates 40-yard dash time…225 indicates repetitions in the 225-pound bench press…VJ indicates vertical jump…BJ indicates broad jump…SH indicates 20-yard shuttle…3C indicates three-cone drill…PRO-indicates The NFL Draft Report’s projected pro potential grade (see chart below)…RND indicates the round we project the player to be selected.

Immediate starter...Should have a major impact to the success of the franchise, barring injury...Possesses superior critical factors...Plays with consistency and without abnormal extra effort...Rare talent.
7.6-8.0Star Quality Eventual starter...Should make a significant contribution in his first year...Possesses above average critical factors...Has the talent and skills to start...Will contribute to upgrading the team...Can play without abnormal effort, but has some inconsistency in his play that will improve with refinement and development...Has no real weakness.
7.0-7.5Impact Player Possesses at least average to above average critical factors in all areas...Will contribute immediately, whether as a starter or a valuable reserve...Will move into the starting lineup with seasoning...Above average player who needs to refine certain areas.
6.5-6.9Eventual Starter Could move into the starting lineup within three years...Has average critical factors in all areas...Needs further development, but has the ability to contribute.
6.0-6.4Potential Starter Could force himself into the starting lineup with improved perform- ances...Will make a team...Has average critical factors in most areas, but at least one with less than average quality that he will have a hard time overcoming...Probable draft choice.
5.5-5.9Roster Player Has the ability to serve as a key reserve and possible future starter... Possesses average critical factors, but more than several areas are less than average...Plays with normal extra effort.
5.0-5.4Project Has the skills to play pro ball with proper tutoring...May make a team based on need...Possesses no real strong critical factors and is probably below average in several areas that the player will have a hard time overcoming...Possible draft choice, but only if that team is caught short on talent available at that position.
4.6-4.9Develop- mental Could make a team with an impressive showing in training camp... Not strong in most critical factors...Deficient in more than one area that he will not be able to overcome...At least average in the factor of competitiveness...May not make a team due to his limitations.
4.1-4.5Camp Player Has redeeming qualities that could allow him to play in the pros with improved performances...Deficient in more than one critical factor... Might make a team, but will always be the player that squad will look to replace.
3.5-4.0Reject Might make a team, but has glaring deficiencies in several critical factors...Below average competitor whose athletic skills will allow him to enter training camp, but has a difficult time in trying to make a team.

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