2020 NFL Draft: Senior Bowl Standouts – Defense

The Reese’s Senior Bowl wrapped up this weekend with the North all-stars defeating the South all-stars 34-17. Senior Bowl standouts  flashed their potential ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft

The all-star festivities included a week of practices with NFL coaches in front of scouts and front office personnel. 

Here’s a look at 10 standouts on the defensive side of the ball. 

Senior Bowl Standouts: Defensive Line

Javon Kinlaw was perhaps the highest rated defensive prospect at the Senior Bowl. And he did not disappoint in practice. Kinlaw demonstrated his pass-rushing ability and athleticism. In addition, Kinlaw flashed his power and good hand skills. 

An injury in practice on Wednesday prevented Kinlaw from participating in the game. In three seasons at South Carolina, Kinlaw racked up 82 tackles, including 17 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks. He also recorded eight passes defended and forced three fumbles. At 6’5″, 317, he’ll be a load inside and should be the second interior defensive lineman selected. 

Of the players that played, though, Utah’s Bradlee Anae might have stood out the most on the defensive side. The Ute edge piled up three sacks and multiple pressures throughout the game. His hit on Jalen Hurts led to an interception. 

In 2019, Anae registered 13 sacks and earned the Pac-12 Conference’s Morris Trophy, for the Defensive Lineman of the Year. His impressive practice week and performance has likely elevated Anae into the Day 2 range. 

Kenny Willekes of Michigan State and Alton Robinson of Syracuse also were among the Senior Bowl standouts. Both picked up two sacks on the day. 

As a Spartans, Willekes went from being a walk-on to Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. He recorded 228 tackles, including 49 tackles-for-loss and 23.5 sacks. He should go in Day 2 of the NFL Draft.

Robinson showed he was strong around the edge. At Syracuse, Robinson picked up 115 tackles, including 32 tackles-for-loss and 19 sacks. 

UNC’s Jason Strowbridge also impressed during the week. He dominated in position drills and demonstrated his quickness and athleticism. At UNC, he registered 123 tackles, including 22 tackles-for-loss and 10.5 sacks. He’s played his way into the mid-rounds.

Senior Bowl Standouts: Linebackers

Michigan’s Josh Uche played particularly well during Senior Bowl practices. Uche regularly pressured quarterbacks and was explosive in individual drills. He dropped in coverage and rushed the passer.

At 6’1″, 241, he’s an outside linebacker/edge with versatility. In 2019, he recorded 11 tackles-for-loss, 8.5 sacks and 8.0 hurries. He should be selected at some point in Day 2. 

 

Malik Harrison of Ohio State was also among the Senior Bowl standouts. Harrison is a strong, athletic ‘backer with solid ball skills.

He picked off a pass by Jalen Hurts during the Senior Bowl. He sheds blocks well and is a big hitter. In 2019, he piled up 75 tackles, with 16.5 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks. 

Senior Bowl Standouts: Defensive Backs

The all-star wide receivers were hugely talented, but there were still several Senior Bowl standouts in the secondary. 

Notre Dame’s Troy Pride Jr. parleyed an impressive practice week and a near pick-6 to raise his draft stock. Pride flashed physical play in practice despite being known as a zone corner. In two years as a full-time starter, Pride finished with 87 tackles, 16 passes defensed and three interceptions. 

Small schools also had some Senior Bowl standouts. 

Kindle Vildor came to play at the Senior Bowl after recording 94 tackles, 25 passed defensed and nine interceptions at Georgia Southern. The cornerback picked off a Shea Patterson pass in the second quarter, showing good hands and ball skills. 

Kyle Dugger of Lenior-Rhyne University also acclimated to the “better” competition. The Division II safety showed he’s a playmaker. And at 6’1″, 217, he could be a hybrid linebacker/safety. He registered 237 tackles, 36 passes defensed, 10 interceptions, as well as six forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries during his career. 

These Senior Bowl standouts and more now turn their attention to the NFL’s Scouting Combine. The Combine will be held from February 23rd to March 2nd in Indianapolis. 

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