Senior Bowl Day 2: Defensive Practice Report – 2017 NFL Draft Prospects


The second day of Senior Bowl practice confirms first impressions and highlights the players who quickly grow comfortable with newer concepts and better competition.

We’re still seeing limited repetitions in non-contact situations but, many players take a day to understand a drill they haven’t seen in college or fully assimilate the alignments and schemes they’ll be asked to play on game day. And while we’re focused on these on-field concepts, players are also asked to navigate a ton of team interviews in various environments and handle media and charity engagements.

For me, then, the second day is more about which players are showing interval improvement than which players are not yet showing NFL-level ability in limited practice time.

I again focused on the front seven today, watching a mix of coverage and pass rush drills in the individual sessions and looking for consistent play in the team sessions. Thankfully, the Cleveland coaches ran a much friendlier practice for observers today than yesterday—though Hue Jackson couldn’t resist running a play or two from his Chaos Formation where his offensive tackles are split out to the numbers with his receivers.

Here are the players who built on yesterday’s strong performance or showed improvement on Day 2:

Haason Reddick | LB | Temple | North

I don’t think Reddick will be a game changer at the next level, but he’ll contribute in all phases. I was most impressed with Reddick’s recovery skills today. After twice losing a half-step in coverage to a running back, Reddick recovered to impact a play and hold receivers to what would have been a short gain. Another repetition saw Reddick slow to align, show a late read step, yet still stack and shed successfully to meet a runner in the hole. Also notable was Reddick’s presence in the pit in one-on-one reps against offensive tackles, where he won both with a mix of edge speed and quick hands. Reddick is still inexperienced but his potential will drive lots of pre-draft buzz.

Tyus Bowser | LB | Houston | South

I wrote yesterday about my favorable first impression of Bowser’s fluid hips and footwork and comfort level as a standup outside linebacker within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Earlier today, Lance Zierlein—a smart and reasoned evaluator for and long-time trusted Houston media talent—tweeted that he heard Bowser may not make it out of the third round of this year’s draft. Bowser continued to show the same positives in today’s workout, though he again showed he’s not going to have the footspeed to keep up with tight ends downfield. Bowser also held his own in the pit.

Tarell Basham | EDGE | Ohio | North

Midway through today’s practice, I tweeted that the North defensive line wasn’t winning many reps against the offensive line. Not long after that tweet, Basham went on a run of strong play. He recognized an overset against his edge rush and executed an untouched spin counter move and followed up with a successful edge to power rush on the next repetition. In the team drills that followed, Basham set the edge effectively against the run on multiple reps. With D.J. Smoot struggling today, Basham is quietly emerging as the North’s most consistent edge talent.

Duke Riley | LB | LSU | South

Yesterday, others had a much more favorable first impression of Riley than I did. I saw some observers suggest Riley belonged between Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones in the pecking order of recent LSU off-ball linebacker prospects. I still think Jones looked better last year than Riley does this year, but I liked Riley’s practice today. He showed improvement in individual drills and drew praise for his footwork and angles in later coverage reps. Riley also impressed me with improvements in stack and shed technique and a more consistent day of meeting the ballcarrier in the hole. Another strong day tomorrow and it’s likely Riley was playing a little slower while learning his Day 1 environment.

Obi Melifonwu | S | Utah | North

I didn’t watch defensive back play today, but I took note that Melifonwu was nowhere to be found during linebacker and safety coverage drills versus backs and tight ends. The North coaching staff had him covering wide receivers one on one. Strikingly, of the two to three reps I caught, Melifonwu—a 6-4, 219 pound safety—was comfortable in a back pedal and didn’t get lost against receivers, including on one double move. The routes he faced weren’t crisp and he won’t project well as a corner, but he did well enough to show potential as a slot defender at times. I’m eager to see what others think of his upside.

Alex Anzalone | LB | Florida | South

Anzalone wasn’t as consistent today, but he drew the attention of the Cleveland coaching staff for improvements he made during coverage drills. After getting lost early with flat feet, Anzalone adjusted and later hung with a running back on a wheel route downfield. That earned praise from multiple coaches. I’m interested in seeing Anzalone’s combine measurements. If he performs well in change of direction testing, there’s a chance he can start and possibly earn an every-down role in the NFL. For now, I’m intrigued, but skeptical.

Tanoh Kpassagnon | EDGE | Villanova | South

I’m still waiting for a breakout practice for the 6-7, 280-pound edge player I’ve heard some compare to Carlos Dunlap. Pad level remains an issue for him on many reps and it’s been difficult for him to flatten his long frame consistently. But Kpassagnon’s first step was much quicker today. That suggests he may have been thinking more than playing yesterday and leaves room for further interval improvement in pit and individual drills tomorrow.

Players I’m hopeful for a rebound Day 3 performance:

Ryan Anderson (looked slow in coverage drills and was shutout in pass rush situations), Jordan Herdman (still looks comfortable playing downhill but his speed isn’t translating in coverage or in the box), D.J. Smoot (dominated by and then tried to jump snap count on individual pass rush reps to get a jump on Taylor Moton more than once).

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