2017 Shrine Preview: The Defense

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

Practices for the 2017 Shrine Game get underway tomorrow in St Petersburg, Florida and as in year’s past we’ll have it covered all week.  Here’s a breakdown on some of the better stories and prospects we’ll be watching on defense.

Defensive Line

South Carolina’s Darius English was not graded by scouts entering the season; then he went on to finish with 60 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and nine sacks as a senior. He’s a tall, angular pass rusher with good speed and agility off the edge. How he holds up against run blocking is another story. English must show he can hold the point, especially in one-on-one drills, and not get annihilated by blocks. Smart money says he’ll get the job done.

Jeremiah Ledbetter of Arkansas was another senior scouts ignored entering the year despite solid film in 2015. The Week 7 Riser is a playmaker constantly around the action. Questions about measurables and his true NFL position (defensive end, three-technique tackle?) must be answered next week.

Unlike the aforementioned front-line defenders, Jason Carr of West Georgia was graded by scouts and comes with next-level computer numbers (6-foot-5, 300lbs).  The problem is Carr doesn’t play to them on every snap or put the pedal to the metal. Interviews and, more importantly, a non-stop attitude during practice are critical for Carr.

Linebackers

In my opinion, San Diego State’s Calvin Munson never received the credit he deserved. He’s tough, instinctive and shows a complete game on film. A Week 6 Riser, we’ll be looking to see how Munson does in coverage against some of the bigger and more athletic tight ends he’ll face during the three days of practice.

Jimmie Gilbert of Colorado will be closely inspected starting with Monday morning’s weigh-ins. During the January 3rd Draft Buzz, I reported Gilbert played around 211 pounds last season, too light for an NFL linebacker. If he’s added weight, as we expect, the next thing to watch is any reduced quickness or speed in his game. Gilbert was a terrific college pass rusher (14.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks) but scouts wonder how he projects to the next level.

Defensive Backs

Jalen Myrick has flashed dominance throughout his career but has shown little in the way of consistency. The Golden Gopher shuts down opponents but just as easily blows assignments. He’s one of the higher-rated cornerbacks at the Shrine Game and must play like one at every practice.

UCLA’s Fabian Moreau has drawn a variety of opinions the past two years. Some teams rate him as a second-day pick while others feel he’s of the late-round variety.  At the top of his game Moreau shows starting ability for the next level.

Channing Stribling was an afterthought from scouts entering the season, which was disturbing.  He’s a tall, lanky corner who was a mainstay in the Michigan Wolverines secondary the past two seasons. Scouts question his speed and that’s a legitimate concern in my opinion.  We’ll see how he holds up in one-on-one drills starting Monday.

Speed is also a question mark for Damarius Travis. The Minnesota safety is constantly around the ball, but I’ll be interested in seeing how much range he has in center field as well as how Travis does in one-on-one cover drills.

One player who received an invitation to the Shrine Game but won’t be participating is Treyvon Hester of Toledo.

A prospect I’ve continually compared to nine year NFL veteran Ahtyba Rubin, Hester injured a labrum in his shoulder late last October and missed two regular season games.  He participated in Toledo’s final two contests then underwent surgery to repair the injury during the first half of December, prior to the team’s bowl game against Appalachian State.

Hester expects to workout for NFL teams in early April and likely won’t participate in any workouts during the combine.   Assuming he’s healthy Hester is one of the more intriguing defensive line prospects available in next April’s draft.  While we presently grade him as a 5th rounder, Hester ranks as one of the best nose tackle prospects on boards around the league.

Note: Starting Monday, Tony Pauline and Colin Littlefield will be reporting daily from Shrine practices. Real-time reports will be available on twitter @DraftAnalyst1 and @TonyPauline, Q&A’s after practice will happen @DraftAnalyst1 and daily practice breakdowns on every player can be found here at DraftAnalyst.com as well as News & Notes every evening. We hope you’ll join us!