With the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl now officially in the books that puts an end to the college all-star game portion of the pre-draft process. Having scouted both the North and South team’s practices throughout the week, and graded the game film from Saturday here are the players who stood out the most down in Mobile.
1. Haason Reddick – LB – Temple, as an undersized defensive end Reddick was very productive for the Owls football program. However, in the NFL Reddick is looking at a position switch to either inside or outside linebacker, and the Senior Bowl would be his first time playing these new positions in front out coaches and scouts. Reddick did not disappoint as he was all over the field whether he was lined up as in inside Will-backer in a 3-4 or even further outside as a weak-side LB in a four-man front. Reddick demonstrated an ability to quickly diagnose and locate while also displaying the ability to play off the LOS and in space. In coverage, he was able to quickly break on the ball and got his hands on a couple of pass deflections. While in run defense he was able to shed blockers, and wrap up the ball carrier. With his pass rush ability Reddick gives defensive coordinators the option of rushing him off the edge either by blitzing him or standing him up in a two-point stance. A tough and competitive athlete Reddick should be an instant contributor on special teams as a rookie while he continues his transition to linebacker.
2. Obi Melifonwu – S – UCONN, Melifonwu catches your eye with his size, and length for a defensive back, but what really impressed many was his ability to move and redirect without slowing down while in coverage or planting and attacking downhill in run support. For a safety, his size Melifonwu appears to have the foot quickness and agility to cover tight ends in the slot or taller receivers on the outside (especially in red zone situations). With rumors circulating that Melifonwu expects to run the forty in the high 4.4’s at the combine next month the intrigue surrounding Melifonwu might just be starting to ratchet up.
3. Alex Anzalone – LB – Florida, A highly-touted recruit out of high school Anzalone was one of the better linebackers down in Mobile this week. He was consistently around the football as he displayed good instincts to quickly diagnose and locate the ball. He was solid in his run fits coming downhill and filling the hole with authority. He also possesses good speed and burst able to quickly close in on the ball carrier. Coaches lined him up both inside as well as on the outside demonstrating some of his scheme versatility. The biggest concern surrounding Anzalone revolve around his health. Injuries have taken a big chunk of his playing time away the last couple of seasons, missing four games last season with a broken arm, and 12 games the previous year with a shoulder injury. If he can stay on the field, he looks like he has the skillset to develop into a four-down LB.
4. Tarell Basham – Edge – Ohio, Basham, the 2016 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, showed good quickness off the snap able to engage and get into the offensive lineman instantly. He displayed strong hands as he would knock back lineman when he planted them into their chests. He can convert speed to power and walk back the tackle into the quarterback’s lap. While he was solid with his run defense there were, times were, he gave up the edge and lost containment allowing the ball carrier to breakout for a long run. What teams will need to figure out is whether Basham will need to add more weight and play as a hand in the dirt defensive end or stand him up as an outside LB in a 3-4 defense.
5. Damontae Kazee – CB – San Diego State, Kazee was one of the more aggressive defensive backs in the one-on-one drills, and team sequences during the mid-week practices. He took it to every receiver he went up against being physical with jam at the line, and at the top of their stem as well as downfield. Kazee has very quick feet which allows him to mirror a receiver downfield, while also allowing him to plant and drive forward in his transition. Kazee was able to get his hands on the ball, displaying good awareness and ball skills something he also demonstrated in college where he ended up with 17 career interceptions and 29 passes defensed. With his agility, closing burst, and toughness Kazee projects best inside as a slot corner/nickel back. Throughout the week Kazee displayed good competitiveness and toughness that caught the attention of not only the receivers he was battling but also the scouts and coaches in attendance.
Others who also flashed during the week on defense……Dalvin Tomlinson – DT – Alabama, Isaac Rochell – DE – Notre Dame, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu – DT – USC, Marquez White – CB – Florida State