2016 Senior Bowl Practice Recap – Defense

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports /

The most prestigious college all-star game took place this Saturday (2:30 EST, NFL Network) in Mobile, Alabama. It is a platform for the college seniors from big schools to boost their draft stock and for small school players to prove they can produce against FBS talent. The game is more of a formality after a week of practice where teams are evaluating players’ performance in drills and interviewing players of interest.

The Senior Bowl provides the opportunity for NFL coaches and scouts to meet potential draft prospects face to face and see how they perform in NFL-caliber drills and scrimmages. Every year there are a handful of prospects who boost their draft stock a round or two and some whose stock plummets do to bad performance, effort level, or interviews.

After re-watching all of the Senior Bowl coverage this week, there were way too many impressive defensive players to list. The collection of defensive linemen in Mobile is the best one I’ve ever seen. There are 10-12 defensive linemen with a potential first round grade, which made things pretty tough on the offensive line all week.

I’ve listed the twelve players I thought helped their draft stock the most this week in Mobile, but mentioned the other players who just missed making the cut. Also check out my breakdown of offensive and special teams prospects who helped their draft stock this week.

Senior Bowl – Stock Up (Defense)

1.) DL Sheldon Rankins, Louisville – Only practiced for a few days before suffering a minor injury, but Rankins dominated in his brief appearance. He consistently over powered whoever was put in front of him and made multiple o-linemen look helpless in 1-1 drills. Rankins also showed an impressive burst off the line of scrimmage and surprisingly polished rush moves. He’s a little shorter than ideal for a DE (6’2) and a little light for the interior (305 pounds), but Rankins proved that he could be disruptive at either position and locked up a 1st round grade.

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports /

2.) DL Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech – If there were any questions about Butler’s ability to play against top FBS talent, he answered them this week. Butler dominated in 1-1 drills, making linemen from bigger schools look slow and weak. His elite burst off the line, exceptionally long arms, size (6’4 | 323), and power were too much for just one blocker to handle. Butler was a day two pick on most draft boards coming into the week, but he’s in the first round mix for sure now.

3.) DL Adolphus Washington, Ohio St – Was a nightmare for offensive linemen all week, flashing burst off the line, good hand play, and the ability to finish. Washington showed off a few different pass rush moves and spent most of the week chasing QBs and embarrassing o-linemen. It’s a crowded defensive line class this year, but Washington stood out and solidified a first round grade.

The rest of the d-linemen who stood out this week: DT Matt Ioannidis, Temple; DL Sheldon Day, Notre Dame; DT Austin Johnson, DE Jihad Ward, Illinois; DE Carl Nassib, Penn St, DT Jarron Reed, Alabama