NFP Prospect Focus: Carl Davis and Danny Shelton

The general feeling in All-Star games is that they can help a prospect's draft stock but aren’t supposed to hurt. Last week, at the Senior Bowl, two interior defensive linemen were helped by their performances. Both Iowa’s Carl Davis and Washington’s Danny Shelton had strong weeks and solidified their standing in the NFL Draft.

Carl Davis – Iowa

Going into Senior Bowl week, Davis was looked at in the scouting community as a very good talent but an inconsistent player. When he was good, he was really good, but there were also times when he didn’t live up to his natural talent and ability. Davis was one of the best defensive linemen on the field every day last week. At 6041 – 321, Davis has outstanding natural size. He has a thick, muscular build with long arms and huge hands (34.5”, 11”).

In the tape I saw from this past season at Iowa, he would flash that natural talent but did not play with top overall consistency. The fifth-year senior and two-year starter finished 2014 with 36 total tackles including 9.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. When you see him in person and watch him move around, you expect much more production. When he is on top of his game, he shows good initial quickness, good instincts and the ability to shed blocks quickly. He has an explosive first step and is able to get penetration and disrupt. While he didn’t get many sacks, he got pressures and is able to both push the pocket and put moves together.

Last week, we saw him at his best. He was difficult to block one on one and was a consistent pass rusher. Despite his size, he showed good play speed and played sideline-to-sideline. In short, he played to his talent level. Davis’ 2014 tape indicated he should be a mid-second to third round pick. His play at the Senior Bowl shows that he easily is a first-round type. The difference in his play will lead to some interesting interview sessions. Scouts and coaches will want to know what they are buying. If he has a strong combine, pro day and does well in interviews I can see Carl get drafted as high as the mid to late first and as low as the mid second round. He has the size, strength, and athleticism to play in both a 3-man and 4-man scheme. That alone helps his cause.

Danny Shelton – Washington

Players like Shelton are easy to write up. You turn on the tape and right away you see the dominating ability, and when you see it every down, it makes scouting easy. Shelton is a fourth-year senior and a three-year starter at nose tackle. While he doesn’t have prototypical size, he is plenty big. At the Senior Bowl, he measured 6016 – 343 with 31 3/4” arms. While his arm length may seem short, you have to remember he is under 6’2 and the shorter arms don’t make as big a difference.

I thought he looked a little heavy at the Senior Bowl and on tape he looks and plays like a guy closer to 330. Still, for such a big man he is explosive and very athletic. He has excellent snap reaction and a very quick first step. Shelton has great strength and power and seldom gets knocked off the line of scrimmage, even when double teamed. He has quick hands and top hand use allowing him to shed blocks quickly.
With his explosiveness and quickness, he consistently gets penetration and is very disruptive in the run game. That shows up in the stats, as he had 16.5 tackles for loss this year.

Shelton is a very instinctive player, who is quick to find the ball and even with his huge girth, makes plays in pursuit. What he does well that is unusual for such a big man, is rush the passer. It’s not often that we see a nose tackle get 9.0 sacks. He does it with his quick hands and ability to use counter moves. He is also a top competitor who goes all out every down. Even though Shelton’s physique says he is a 3-4 nose, I can also see the 4-3 teams being interested. He has the quickness and range to play in a 4-3 front.

Overall, I don’t see Shelton waiting too long to hear his name called on draft day. He could very well be one of the first defensive lineman drafted and should go before the first round is half over. Shelton will come in and start right away and be a top producer as a rookie.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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