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Savage: All 19 DLs should be drafted

Executive Director Phil Savage spent 20 years in the National Football League as a coach, scout, player personnel director and general manager. Prior to the Combine, he will evaluate the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice sessions, position-by-position, for both the North and South squads.

Here is his analysis of the defensive linemen based on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday practices with some help from our partner, Pro Football Focus.

“Front Four”: All-Senior Bowl Team

With 19 total linemen between the two squads, this 2016 class is loaded with legitimate NFL talent and the expectation is that every one of them will be drafted in April.

DT       #98 Sheldon Rankins/Louisville (SOUTH)           6015/304      32 3/4" Arm | 9 3/8” Hand
Sheldon elevated his draft status with a tremendous showing in Mobile. He demonstrated every feature needed to be a top-notch interior tackle at the next level with his ability to play at the point-of-attack, his agility to chase when a run goes away from him and his overall quickness and strength in rushing the passer.
1-on-1 Pass Rush:     Wins: 10         Losses: 2
Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: This two-year starter accumulated 111 total tackles, 26.5 tackles-for-loss and 14 sacks during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

DT       #92 Adolphus Washington/Ohio State (NORTH)
6035/297      34” Arm | 9 1/2" Hand

After being suspended for the Buckeyes’ Fiesta Bowl game, it was imperative for Adolphus to rebound at the RSB and he did. He took the most pass rush reps of any defender (23 according to PFF) and flashed impressive body quickness and strength in his individual confrontations. Plus, with his size and arm length, he is scheme versatile for the 43 or 34 fronts.
1-on-1 Pass Rush:     Wins:  12       Losses: 11
Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces:  Adolphus was Ohio’s Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year, when as a senior at Cincinnati’s Taft High School, he averaged 23.1 points and 14.3 rebounds per game. 

DE       #97 Noah Spence/Eastern Kentucky (SOUTH)
6025/254      32” Arm | 10 3/4" Hand
After being ruled ineligible by the Big Ten for multiple failed drug tests, Noah transferred to EKU, graduated in December as a 4th year junior and arrived in Mobile with a ton to prove on and off the field. He performed extremely well as an edge pass rusher, both to the outside and with his counter moves back inside. He will be worked out extensively as a 34 outside linebacker this spring as well. Noah carried himself with a very positive demeanor at the RSB and appears to be repairing his reputation in the right way.
1-on-1 Pass Rush:       Wins: 7           Losses: 1
Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: After winning the Alabama Power Practice Award for defensive linemen, according to PFF, he racked up a sack and had 6 quarterback hurries in 43 total game snaps on Saturday.

DE       #95 Carl Nassib/Penn State (NORTH)                 6066/273      34 1/2" Arm | 10 3/8” Hand
This former walk-on has emerged as one of the top defensive ends in the entire draft because of his instinctive ability to feel blocks and rush the passer. He is not particularly explosive or sudden, but he understands leverage and uses his length to advantage against almost every opponent. For someone standing 6’7, Carl has an unusual skill in keeping a forward lean, while staying low and slippery.
1-on-1 Pass Rush:      Wins:  11       Losses: 4
Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: According to PFF, Carl was the most successful pass rusher with 13 wins in 15 total reps (93%) during the practices. As a senior in 2015, he totaled 46 tackles, 19.5 for loss, 15.5 sacks and forced 6 fumbles to earn the Hendricks and Lombardi Awards.

Potential “Starter” Upside: Top 50 Draft Picks

DT       #93 Vernon Butler/Louisiana Tech (NORTH)      6037/325      34 1/8” Arm | 9 3/4" Hand
Very few outside the NFL scouting community knew of Vernon before the RSB. After his performance in Mobile, he is being touted as a potential 1st round selection in late April. He is a giant-sized athlete who has initial and lateral quickness. He has a very high ceiling that virtually every DL coach in the league will believe they can help him reach.
1-on-1 Pass Rush:     Wins:  6          Losses: 9
Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: According to PFF, Vernon had a sack and two QB hurries in 29 snaps, which was their 2nd highest grade for a defensive lineman in the game.

DT       #90 Jarran Reed/Alabama (SOUTH)                    6032/311      32” Arm | 10 3/4" Hand
Jarran was part of the Crimson Tide’s dominant defensive line, so it was important for him to stand out individually at the RSB. It’s easy to see his natural-born size and strength, and with only two years of major college football under his belt, he has lots of room to grow as a technician and player. At this point, he relies more on his power, so there are times when he gets stuck as a pass rusher, however with further refinement, Jarran can end up as a three-down defender in the NFL.
1-on-1 Pass Rush:     Wins: 7           Losses: 13
Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: Jarran opened the 2015 season with five consecutive games of 5 tackles or more. In the actual Senior Bowl game, he distinguished himself as a certain 1st rounder when, according to PFF, he registered 3 tackles, batted a pass and had 3 QB hurries in 41 total reps. 

DE       #17 Jihad Ward/Illinois (NORTH)                        6051/296      33 5/8” Arm | 9 3/8” Hand
Jihad has the versatility of playing as a “big” left end in the 43 or as a “5-technique” in the 3-4, with the skillset to kick inside as a potential Sub pass rusher on 3rd downs. He flashes major league tools and only needs to tie his hands, feet and hips together in order to max out his talent.
1-on-1 Pass Rush:       Wins:  6          Losses: 6
Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: Jihad spent two seasons at Globe Tech in New York City before signing with Illinois, where he was named honorable mention All-Big Ten for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

DT       #91 Sheldon Day/Notre Dame (NORTH)              6006/286      32 7/8” Arm | 9 3/8” Hand
A classic “3-technique” DT, Sheldon will likely land with a team that runs a 43 defense because of his quickness as an up-field penetrator. He does have some disruptiveness to his game, but can get walled off and controlled at the point-of-attack, at times.
1-on-1 Pass Rush:     Wins: 3           Losses: 10
Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: In 41 reps on Saturday, PFF credited Sheldon with 2 tackles, a sack and a QB hurry, which resulted in him being their highest-graded DL for the RSB game.

Showed More Than Expected: Value Picks with Talent

DT       #90 Matt Ioannidis/Temple (NORTH)                 6036/303      32 5/8” Arm | 9 7/8” Hand
Matt is going to find a place in the NFL because of his size, one-move suddenness and overall motor. He has some lower body stiffness as an athlete, but he is very active with his hands, and once he clears an opponent, he can accelerate into the backfield. This two and a-half year starter is an ideal rotational defensive lineman that will give a team quality reps every time he is on the field.
1-on-1 Pass Rush:     Wins:  8          Losses: 13
Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: Matt was part of a trio of Temple players (LB Tyler Matakevich and CB Tavon Young) who received invitations to the RSB, marking the first time in school history that three Owls were in the game.

DT       #93 Javon Hargrave/South Carolina State (SOUTH)                6015/3111          31" Arm | 9 1/8" Hand
A late addition to the South roster, Javon arrived after a strong showing at the East-West Shrine Game. He is another 43 candidate as a vertical penetrator with quick hands and feet. In a single practice on Thursday, he displayed more than enough skill to show he belonged in Mobile.
1-on-1 Pass Rush:      Wins:  4          Losses: 5
Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: In the game itself, Javon received the 3rd highest DL grade from PFF when he registered a sack and a QB hurry in 33 total snaps.

DT       #94 D.J. Reader/Clemson (SOUTH)                      6030/340      32 5/8” Arm | 9” Hand
With the evolving style of play being utilized in college and pro football, the need for the behemoth interior defensive lineman has dissipated to a degree, however, this prospect grabbed some attention because of the way he handled his body and rushed the passer. After missing the first six games of the 2015 season, D.J. returned to see action in the final nine contests of Clemson’s historic run to the national championship game.
1-on-1 Pass Rush:     Wins: 11         Losses: 7
Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: At Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC, D.J. lettered four times each in football, basketball and baseball.