There's a decent amount of talent at the Falcons' position of need in the 2017 Senior Bowl. Defensive end, defensive tackle, guard, and tight end all have some really talented prospects playing in the game today.
Jaleel Johnson from Iowa is my favorite defensive tackle prospect in the 2017 draft class. The way he deciphers and understands blocking schemes while consistently playing with the correct technique is absolutely amazing. His game reminds me a lot of Panthers' defensive tackle Kawann Short. Neither player is an elite athlete, but the attention to detail in their game and ability to consistently create separation is uncanny.
Youngstown State's Derek Rivers is a lighter defensive end prospect, but he stepped right up to the challenge this week in Mobile showing no issue with the heightened level of competition. Dwight Freeney may be moving on into retirement after the Falcons beat the Patriots in Super 51 and Rivers would be an athletic, intriguing mid round option to pair with Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett for the future.
Two smaller school defensive tackles Larry Ogunjobi from Charlotte and Tanzel Smart from Tulane had solid weeks. Neither is going to be a strong run defender in the NFL, but they both had impressive performances in the pass rush one on ones. Expect one of the them to get a sack today in the game.
On the offensive side O.J. Howard from Alabama drew rave reviews from scouts, media, coaches, and analysts at the game. I'm still a bit skeptical of his underutilization and lack of top tier production at Alabama, but there's no doubting he's a physical specimen. If he blows up the combine it looks like he's going to end up being a first round pick and probably gone before the Falcons pick at 32.
Mississippi's Evan Engram was the most impressive tight end to me this week. The comparison I've heard the most with Engram through talking to scouts and other media was Washington's Jordan Reed and I think it works. He's a big, fast tight end that can definitely function as a receiver in the slot. Engram and Hooper would be perfect pairing together and adding another burner on offense can never hurt.
UCLA's Eddie Vanderdoes is a former five star recruit who flew under the radar during his college career due to injury and UCLA's struggles, but he's a highly talented prospect. I hadn't seen much of him before the Senior Bowl practices, but he really impressed me this week in Mobile. He's rock solid at the point of attack and has surprising athleticism for a 325 pound defensive linemen. He has the tendency to spin against the run when he gets caught in some traffic, but I think that's an issue that can be coached out of him. Vanderdoes and Grady Jarrett would be an excellent potential pairing of young, mean, athletic defensive tackles.
Montravius Adams drew rave reviews at the Senior Bowl practices, but he wasn't very impressive to me. No one can doubt his ability to play against runs that are coming right in his direction. Where I still have an issue with him is when he needs to read and react to blocking schemes that force him to move and flow towards the ball down the line of scrimmage. We've seen Ra'Shede Hageman struggle with the same issues that Adams does and it's taken him almost three seasons to show flashes of improvement in that regard. For someone who's getting hyped as a top 40 selection, I still don't see it with.
Free Safety is a bit of a luxury need to me. Ricardo Allen has been just fine this year, even though some fans want to banish him from the face of the planet. However, if the Falcons do decide to look towards the draft for a potential player to compete with Allen, Texas A&M's Justin Evans showed the range and instincts to player over the top in a Cover 3 scheme.
On the offensive line, pay attention to Dan Feeney and Danny Isidora. Feeney was a stud all week in one on one's and team drills. Isidora was a bit sloppy with his mechanics and footwork, but he's athletic and I think he's a moldable player for Atlanta's zone blocking scheme. He has the bully mentality that Dan Quinn is looking for in his football players.
If you're looking for a quick podcast to listen to before the game starts, my good friend Justis Mosqueda and I recorded two Senior Bowl podcasts. One with Optimum Scouting and Sporting News writer Eric Galko and the other with NBC/Rotoworld's Josh Norris. They can be found in the links below.
If you have any questions about the game, feel free to ask me on Twitter at @FourVerts! Rise Up and enjoy the game!