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Scouting The Senior Bowl 2016: Pass Rushers


OLB/DE Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky6-foot-3, 261 pounds; Draft projection = Rounds one or two
*It became almost laughable every time Spence lined up in Senior Bowl drills. The South team simply didn't have an answer for him.
*Spence looks to be the most explosive edge rusher in Mobile, and is considered first-round talent. But he could fall to the second round if teams are scared off by his past. The Big 10 banned Spence after he failed two tests for the drug Ecstasy while at Ohio State. He transferred to Eastern Kentucky in 2015 to rebuild his image, and he hasn't failed another test since. Despite seeing consistent double and even triple teams, Spence put up 22.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 63 tackles (31 solo), 15 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries last season. He has tremendous upside as a pass rusher, using speed, violent hands, power and counter moves to beat blockers. Spence played defensive end for the Colonels, but was more of a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker at Ohio State. He believes could play either at the NFL level.

DE Bronson Kaufusi, BYU*6-foot-7, 281 pounds, Draft projections = Rounds two or three
*You almost feel bad for Kaufusi's opponents. Dubbed a "modern-day Goliath" by an opposing coach, Kaufusi possesses giant size, surprising athleticism and long arms to keep blockers at bay. He was recruited to BYU as a tight end in 2010, but after his two-year Mormon mission in New Zealand, Kaufusi transitioned to defensive end as a freshman in 2012 (he also played on BYU's basketball team that year). The conversion went smoothly with his father being the longtime defensive line coach at BYU. Kaufusi racked up 26.5 sacks in four years, including 11.0 as a senior, as the Cougars used him all along the defensive line to rush the passer. He comes from the five-, three-, or one-technique or way outside, which is reminiscent of how the Houston Texans use Pro Bowler J.J. Watt, who Kaufusi studies and models his game after. Pro Football Focus ranked Kaufusi second in pass-rush grades in 2015, with only Oregon's DeForest Buckner ahead of him. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley, who is coaching the South team, has been impressed with Kaufusi's study habits in team meetings and his competitive nature on the field. 

DE Carl Nassib, Penn State
6-foot-7, 272 pounds; Draft projection = Round two or three
Nassib had never started before in his life – not in high school and not in college. As a senior at Penn State, he finally got that chance and suddenly became the nation's leader in sacks with 15.5. It makes scouts wonder whether Nassib, a walk-on who added 60 pounds to his frame, is a "one-year wonder" or a legitimate NFL pass rusher. Nassib has had standout moments during Senior Bowl practices, including blowing by Stanford offensive tackle Kyle Murphy (a projected third-round pick) in one-on-one drills. Critics knock him for being tight and stiff, and lacking in balance and pass-rush moves outside of his straight-line speed. As a result, he ends up on the ground often when blockers knock him. So while he lacks some traits you'd like to see in pass rushers, he's got production that can't be overlooked and is measuring up well against some of the nation's top senior offensive linemen.

DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor6-foot-8, 269 pounds; Draft projection = Round threeOakman was named the Most Outstanding Player from the South team after notching two sacks and forcing a fumble in limited time during the Senior Bowl game Saturday. Even though it was four years ago, Oakman spent the week answering questions about being dismissed from Penn State in 2012 by then-Head Coach Bill O'Brian after an incident in which he reportedly grabbed the wrist of a store clerk. Oakman transferred to Baylor, and ultimately put up a BU-record 17.5 sacks, which included an 11-sack junior season, and largely stayed out of trouble. Physically, Oakman* *has the look of an NFL athlete, but is still trying to put it all together and become more consistent.

OLB Eric Striker, Oklahoma5-foot-11, 228 pounds; Draft projection = Round four
*Perhaps the biggest problem for Striker at the Senior Bowl is out of his control. He
made *news at the weigh-in on Day 1, coming in undersized from the prototypal edge rusher in the NFL. The Ravens' Elvis Dumervil was also doubted for his 5-foot-11 frame and has clearly succeeded in the NFL, but he also currently weighs almost 30 pounds more than Striker. Some see Striker moving to safety, but he wants to remain an edge rusher. He totaled 22.5 sacks during three seasons, so he has the production, and he is known for his emotional nature and energetic style as he plays.

DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville6-foot-2, 304 pounds; Draft projection = Rounds one or two
*Teams don't simply rush the passer from the outside with defensive ends and outside linebackers. They also need to make a push from the inside, and Rankins is quickly making a name for himself as an interior pass rusher, notching eight sacks as a senior. It's just another skillset he has to go along with his already solid reputation as a run-stuffer. The 300-pounder is versatile enough that he even played at defensive end due to injuries last season. Rankins has been outstanding at the Senior Bowl, completely dominating in one-on-one drills with moves so quick that offensive linemen end up on the ground. In full squad drills, he knifed through gaps to get into the backfield. Rankins was coming down to Mobile as perhaps a top-32 prospect, and he has done nothing but solidify
* **his draft stock. Rankins has been compared to LA Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who beat C.J. Mosley for Rookie of the Year honors and broke Justin Forsett's arm last season.

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