Five players to watch from South

WR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma

-What makes this OU slot-type especially dangerous is that he combines short-area agility and elusiveness in space with legitimate long speed. Saunders exhibits body control and natural hands. He’s proved slippery as a route runner, as it is troubling for defenders to consistently keep hands on him off the snap. The Fresno State transfer has had two quality years at Oklahoma, developing into a decent blocker and definite threat on punt returns – both of which add a level of value to his draft stock. The Senior Bowl practices will give Saunders the opportunity to flash his ability in space when participating in one-on-one drills. He’s among a handful of players with the ability to really grab his opportunity in Mobile and run with it… so to speak.


DT Daniel McCullers, Tennessee

-While there aren’t many physical marvels of McCullers’ stature that succeed at the pro level, there is always a certain level of interest in maximizing the capabilities of such a monstrous individual. He may not wind up being as tall as advertised, but the ex-JUCO standout carries his weight very well, and would benefit from continuing to work his weight (listed 351 lbs.) down a little further. Only a two-down player, but incredible length and bulk. His presence alone can be disruptive to the flow of an offense’s ground game, and his height (listed 6’8″) can affect passing lanes in the short-middle of the field – although the PBU (pass break up) numbers aren’t where they could be. He’s a space-eater that likes to take on blockers rather than penetrate and play in the backfield. I see 3-4 value in his game as a 0-technique, a la Casey Hampton – who attracts blockers and keeps the linebackers clean behind him. Conditioning and balance, as is for most massive-framed linemen, are two areas worth monitoring. However, when kept sharp, McCullers has pocket-collapsing strength. With regards to the Senior Bowl, I’m looking to evaluate his movement skills as they relate to his size, and whether he can dominate in 1-v-1 situations.


DT Will Sutton, Arizona State

-Looking at the other end of the McCullers-spectrum, we have a 1-gapper with excellent prenetration skills in Will Sutton. The two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year had a spectacularly productive junior campaign in which he totaled 23.5 tackles for loss and 13.0 sacks, but production dipped to 13.5 and 4.0 last season. The addition of weight and extra attention from opposing offensive linemen undoubtedly contributed to the lessening of statistical success, but he remained effective. He became more positionally responsible as a senior, choosing to less frequenty go cavalier. Good motor, plays to the whistle. Quick in short, tight areas, and utilizes his natural leverage on bigger blockers. He’s a distinguished player with a pedigree (two-time All-American), and enters the Senior Bowl as a known commodity amongst most collegiate athletes. I’d like to see him play with a chip on his shoulder in practices and lead the way.


OLB Kyle Van Noy, Brigham-Young

-Despite playing as an edge linebacker in BYU’s base 3-4, Van Noy – like Von Miller in 2011 – is better suited to a 4-3 front. He’s an active, high energy defender with surprisingly good coverage skills. Developed a knack for playmaking throughout his collegiate career. Has wheels and can play sideline-to-sideline. Not a natural pass rusher off the edge, as he is susceptible to being swallowed up by bigger blockers. I’m eager to see whether he will be able to win vs. strong, bulkier Senior Bowl blockers. The physical aspects of practice and the game will be closely monitored, as we should all know by now that he can run and make plays.


CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma

-To me, the most impressive aspect of Colvin’s game is his ability to play tight coverage, at roughly 6’0″ 192 lbs., against quicker + slippery receivers. Very comfortable in off-coverage and doesn’t typically get beaten for the big play. Defends passes well despite lacking high-end ball skills. The two-time All-Big 12 selection has a penchant for keeping his assigned target quiet over the course of games. Not overly physical in run defense, but an effective blitzer. Colvin displays good fluidity and it resutls in smoother change of direction skills. When in Mobile, I’d like to see the OU standout continue exhibiting quality anticipation skills when tasked with lining up in off-coverage concepts.

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