Senior Bowl Risers -- Defense

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

Tony Pauline and Chris Tripodi look at the players from the defensive side of the ball who really stood out during Senior Bowl practice, and you might be surprised. The players who were the biggest risers from Mobile are not household names

Defensive Line

Winner -- Justin Jones/North Carolina State: Jones entered the Senior Bowl graded as a potential mid-round choice but leaves Mobile with a chance to break into the draft’s second day. He was a one-man show as a five-technique defensive end, displaying great quickness, explosion and technique each day in practice. His ability to get leverage on opponents coupled with his leg drive made him impossible to stop. He came to play every day and ran roughshod over opponents during the final practice. Just about everyone had Jones rated lower than teammate B.J. Hill entering Senior Bowl week, but opinions have since flipped.

Honorable Mention -- Da'Shawn Hand/Alabama

Linebacker

Winner -- Darius Leonard/South Carolina State: This one is open to interpretation, as it all depends on the type of linebacker you want: pass rusher or space defender? Leonard grew on me during the week, as he showed continual progress and was terrific in coverage. Unlike most college linebackers who faceguard most of the time, Leonard displayed defensive back-level ball skills. He easily ran with opposing tight ends or running backs both laterally and down the field, tracked the ball in the air and made good, clean pass breakups.

Honorable Mention -- Marquis Haynes/Mississippi

Defensive back

Winner -- Taron Johnson/Weber State: Johnson isn’t getting the hype of some of the other corners leaving Mobile, and while several others helped themselves during the week, Johnson consistently impressed each day of practice. He showed the change-of-direction skills to stay with opponents out of route breaks along with the instincts and closing speed to make plays on the ball. He did a nice job staying connected to receivers throughout their patterns and snatched the ball nicely out of the air away from his frame. His size (5-foot-11, 189 pounds) may limit him to nickel duty at the next level, but an early Day 3 selection isn’t out of reach for the previously unheralded corner.

Honorable Mention -- Siran Neal/Jacksonville State