Tuesday marks the beginning of the Senior Bowl practices down in Mobile, Alabama. Who are the most intriguing players to watch? I'll break it down – 10 on offense, 10 on defense. In this piece, I'll focus on the defensive side of the football, position by position.
EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
An explosive edge rusher at 6-foot-5, 262 pounds, Johnson looks as good as any pass rusher in the draft when he steps on the field. A fluid athlete with a scary first step, loose hips, and violent hands, he showed the ability to be a productive pass rusher in his lone year as a starter in 2021. What took him so long to get on the field? Johnson began his career at junior college (where he was a background presence in a recent season of "Last Chance U" on Netflix) before transferring to Georgia. Stuck in a logjam in that defensive line room, Johnson made the decision to transfer for his final season and was one of the top defenders in the ACC as a senior.
EDGE Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina
Unlike Johnson, Enagbare won't wow you with any one physical trait, but he'll impress you with his well-rounded game as a pass rusher. Equal parts run defender and quarterback hunter, Enagbare led the team in sacks each of the past two seasons on campus. At 6-4, 260 pounds, he's got a motor that never stops, the ability to string multiple moves together when attacking offensive linemen, and the athleticism to win the corner in pursuit of the passer.
DL Logan Hall, Houston
Last year, Houston saw one of their defensive linemen, Payton Turner, sneak into the first round. Hall will be aiming for the same target. Like Turner, Hall has a hulking frame at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, and the Cougars made good use of that build by lining him up everywhere along the defensive front. Wherever he ends up, Hall is a powerful battering ram with the tools to develop into a monster up front for his future NFL team.
DT Haskell Garrett, Ohio State
One of the best pure 3-technique defensive tackles in the class, Garrett is a good athlete with light feet and the first step to make him an instant interior disruptor in the NFL. He can stand to hold up a bit better against double teams in the run game at 6-foot-2, 300 pounds, but the fifth-year senior has really violent hands that allow him to control blocks and disrupt the action in both phases of the game.
LB Chad Muma, Wyoming
This is a strong group of linebackers in Mobile, and Muma is one of the top players in the group. At 6-3, 242 pounds, the former high school safety has standout athleticism with the ability to patrol from sideline to sideline while chasing the football. A stat-sheet stuffer who put up huge numbers for the Cowboys over the course of his career, Muma sees things very quickly and is a reliable tackler. His skill set allows him to contribute against the run, in coverage, and as a blitzer. Plus, he plays hard through the echo of the whistle.
LB Damone Clark, LSU
A teammate of Eagles linebacker JaCoby Stevens with the Tigers, Clark took a huge jump in 2021, when he began to see things much faster early on in plays. Clark is one of the freakiest athletes in the draft, an easy mover with explosive traits downhill and sideline to sideline. A good blitzer who was extremely productive across the board as a senior, Clark also donned the sacred No. 18 jersey for the Bayou Bengals this fall, a nod to his leadership and off-field character in the locker room.
LB Channing Tindall, Georgia
Tindall has as many starts as I do at the college level, as he was stuck behind a handful of great talents in that Georgia defense, but he is an extremely gifted linebacker with traits that will have evaluators going ga-ga. Rumored to have 4.4 speed at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Tindall was a consistent role player for the past two seasons in Athens, where he covered a ton of ground in the run game, was a terrorizing blitzer inside, and played like a heat-seeking missile whenever he was on the field. There's no debate that he has the chance to be a much more productive NFL player than he was in college.
CB Roger McCreary, Auburn
McCreary has the chance to be the highest player drafted at the event as one of the top corners in the SEC this year. A "check the box" type at the position, McCreary can play man and zone, line up in press and off, find the ball, defend the run, and matches routes at a high level. His size (listed 6-0, 190 pounds) is just average, but he will be in good shape if that's the biggest knock against him. McCreary went toe-to-toe with all of the top pass catchers in the SEC the last couple of years and he came out on the other side better for it.
CB Coby Bryant, Cincinnati
You could argue that Bryant (who was named after the Lakers legend) boosted his stock as much as anyone in 2021 after going back for a fifth year. Bryant was invited to the Shrine Bowl a year ago and was regarded as a potential safety at the next level before going back and winning the Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in college football this fall. He's got size, instincts, ball skills, and the "it" factor to be a tempo-setter in the locker room. At 6-1, 198 pounds, Bryant's versatile skill set will serve him well at the next level.
S Jalen Pitre, Baylor
Pitre is a hybrid player who had an outstanding 2021 campaign for Baylor. A safety on the roster page who played essentially as a "big nickel" in the slot, some may view the 6-feet, 197-pound defender as a future linebacker in the pros. But no matter where you play him, he's a rolling ball of razor blades in the open field. A violent tackler, aggressive blitzer, and instinctive player in every facet, Pitre is going to be a fun player to follow as teams all try to decide what to do with his tools in the NFL.