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2017 Senior Bowl NFL Draft prospects: Team South defense

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We highlight and profile the 2017 NFL draft-eligible prospects on Team South's defensive side of the ball from the Senior Bowl.

The 2017 Senior Bowl practice week continues, and thus far we have looked at the Team South offensive prospects and the Team North defensive prospects. Today, we continue to focus on the Senior Bowl, and the South Team, this time highlighting prospects on the Defensive side of the ball. Like with the other articles, today’s will focus on prospects who could potential fit with the 49ers.

The San Francisco 49ers have needs across the board on both sides of the ball, and it is safe to assume that team scouts and the front office will be paying close attention to prospects at all positions on the field. While the Senior Bowl game is the highlight of the week, it’s the practices leading up to the game where you can really get some good looks at the prospects. For those of you who would like to truly get the full experience and get your money’s worth, the NFL Network will be airing Senior Bowl practices for four hours a day leading up to the game!

Here are some defensive prospects from the South Team to keep an eye on. I have provided links that will take you to the prospect’s highlight videos. If there are other defensive prospects from the South Team that you are looking forward to watching in the Senior Bowl, please share in the comments below!

Ben Boulware, ILB, Clemson

Measurements: 6’0, 235lbs. 40 Time: 4.74
2016 Stats: 15 starts, 116 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 interception, 3 forced fumbles.

Was a 2 year starter at Clemson, and was the captain of a defense that went to 2 straight national championship games, twice against Alabama, and winning the later of the two. Has good range and moves well east to west. Made his presence known in the opposing team’s backfield. He is a team-first player, and has tremendous leadership skills. There has been concerns about his frame, as he is considered undersized for an inside linebacker. However, he makes up, playing with toughness and a relentless style of play. While Clemson plays in a 4-3 base, many experts are saying that Boulware might develop best in a 3-4 defense at the next level.

Draft Projection: 4th Round

Duke Riley, ILB, LSU

Measurements: 6’1”, 231 lbs. 40 Time: 4.56
2016 Stats: 93 Tackles, 9.0 tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks

Like Ben Boulware, Riley isn't the biggest linebacker in this year’s draft. However, he is a playmaker on the field. Has excellent vision, and is quick on the ball. Has straight-line speed when rushing the quarterback, and moves well laterally from east to west. Has played linebacker in a 3-4 defense during his time at LSU. He is at his best against the run, disrupting and breaking up many ground attacks. His pass coverage is improving but is still a work in progress. Because of his size, questions about his long-term durability will be discussed amongst teams. He is also a proven leader, and plays a tough and physical brand of football. He had big shoes to fill, following Deion Jones’s departure last season, and certainly exceeded expectations. Riley is a late day 2 early day 3 selection.

Draft Projection: 3rd-4th Round

Alex Anzalone, ILB, Florida

Measurements: 6’3”, 241 lbs. 40 Time: 4.70
2016 Stats: 40 Tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, and 2.5 sacks.

An inside linebacker who makes his presence known in the backfield. Plays well in pass coverage, and while he is not the fastest linebacker, he does have the ability of rushing the quarterback, especially in many of the gator’s blitz packages. Utilizes his hands well against blocks. My biggest concern with Anzalone is his injury history, including a broken arm sustained this season. His durability is certainly a question mark. If the 49ers are looking to invest a day 3 pick at the position, Anzalone is worth taking a look at.

Draft Projection: 5th Round

Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama

Measurements: 6’2”, 255lbs. 40 Time: 4.78
2016 Stats: 54 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, 8 sacks, 1 interception, 3 forced fumbles

While many 49ers fans may be paying attention to a certain inside linebacker on the Tide, fans should certainly get to know Ryan Anderson. If the 49ers decide not to invest their 1st or 2nd round pick on a pass rusher, then Anderson can be great option. Like many of his teammates, Anderson plays a tough, physical style of football. Has an impressive jump off the line, to go along with his quick hands against blockers. Anderson played in a 3-4 at Alabama and will best develop in a 3-4 on the edge against the run as well as rushing the passer. He is on my list of prospects with the arrow pointing up. For now I would grade him as a day 2 selection.

Draft Projection: 2nd-3rd Round

Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston

Measurements: 6’3”, 244 lbs. 40 Time: 4.57
2016 Stats: 40 Tackles, 10.5 Tackles for a loss, 9 QB hurries, 7.5 sacks

Houston runs a hybrid, flexible 3-4 defensive base, and Bowser was quite effective wherever he lined up on the field. A disruptive runner, who has quick hands against blockers, rushing the passer. Has a quick jump off the line, and a high-powered motor that gives him the agility he needs to get in the opponent’s backfield. He missed 5 games this season due to a fractured orbital bone. His pass coverage ability has only improved over the years, and is a positive contributor against the run. As the 49ers continue to add more talent and depth at outside linebacker and the pass rush, Bowser is someone to consider as a day 3 selection. He is a developmental prospect, but has a ton of athleticism and upside. I believe the arrow is only pointing up for Bowser.

Draft Projection: 4th-5th Round

Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane

Measurements: 6’1”, 305 lbs. 40 Time: 5.22
2016 Stats: 67 Tackles, 5.5 Sacks, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 1 forced fumble.

A defensive tackle, with high durability, and 3 down potential. Some of Smart’s best traits are his hands, his ability to create pressure on the quarterback, and his run-stopping abilities. The 49ers need all the help they can get stopping the run, and Smart is another intriguing prospect to watch this week in Mobile. Smart can read plays, and change direction when needed. He can play both 3 technique and nose tackle. Very enticing to watch, especially when he has 1-on-1 matchup’s.

Draft Projection: 4th Round

Montravius Adams, DT (3-4 Nose Tackle, 5-Technique Defensive End or 4-3 Tackle), Auburn

Measurements: 6’3”, 308 lbs. 40 Time: 5.15
2016 Stats: 39 Tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception.

There is a lot to like about the senior defensive tackle out of Auburn. Whether the 49ers switch to a 4-3 or remain a 3-4, Adams can be a valuable asset on the line. In a 3-4, Adams would play the five technique defensive end or nose tackle…a position the 49ers are looking to improve upon. In a 4-3 he could play tackle. Adams is as disruptive as they come against the run. Has great sense for following the ball. Played some of his best football against top competition, and had one of his career games this season in the opener against Clemson. Adams does have speed off the line, and because of his size, he can give blockers all sorts of trouble trying to contain him. His quick hands allow him to beat blockers, especially on pass rushing attempts. One concern that should be noted is that he struggles to remain low, below the pad level, due to his size. He will need to continue this development at the next level. Another concern is if the 49ers see him as a nose tackle, he will need to add some weight to what is listed. What I have heard is that he is very coachable, and a dedicated worker and teammate.

Draft Projection: 4th-5th Round

Tanoh Kpassagnon , DE, Villanova

Measurements: 6’7”, 290lbs. 40 Time: 4.72
2016 Stats: 45 tackles, 21.5 for a loss, 11 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Considered to be one of the best 3-4, 5-technique defensive ends in the upcoming NFL Draft. Has a great, physical build, with long arms and hands. Game in and game out he showed how disruptive he was against the run. Has a high motor, and uses his burst off the line to make his presence known in the backfield. He is still raw, and learning how to utilize his hands. However, as his continues to develop and put everything together, his size and speed will continue to serve him well at the next level.

Draft Projection: 3rd Round

Justin Evans, Safety, Texas A &M

Measurements: 6’1, 200 lbs. 40 Time:
2016 Stats: 85 Tackles, 6 passes broken up, 4 interceptions

Evans will be a projected strong safety at the next level. Positive qualities about Evans is his quickness, and his ability to follow the football. Evans can cover a lot of the field as he is asked to cover both the deep ball and plays along the line of scrimmage. He hits with authority and purpose. Evans is somewhat undersized for the position, and at times he struggles to bring the runner down. While the safety position doesn’t seem to be as concerning as other positions the team may very well invest a draft pick with Eric Reid’s concussion history and Tart still developing.

Draft Projection: 3rd Round

Tre’Davious White, LSU, CB

Measurements: 5’11”, 191 lbs. 40 Time: 4.53
2016 Stats: 35 Tackles, 14 passes broken up, 2 interceptions.

The Louisiana native, former 5 star recruit, and number 2 overall cornerback in the country made the most of his career at LSU. White has great ball skills, quick feet, and plays well in one-to-one coverage. Where he will need to improve is his tackling ability. Has solid leadership skills, and was awarded the number 18 for his senior season at LSU which is traditionally given to a player who possesses great leadership traits. Another plus is his ability to play on special teams as a kick and punt returner. White will need to continue developing his tackling, as he tends to avoid them when he can. His speed, and ability to make a play for the ball make him one of the more intriguing corners in the draft.

Draft Projection: 2nd Round

Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee

Measurements: 5’11”, 186 lbs, 40 Time: 4.51
*2016 Stats: 8 Tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 interception, Only played in 3 games

Unfortunately Sutton’s 2016 season was short-lived due to a broken ankle. That’s the bad news. However, there really is a lot to like about Sutton’s game. He is a physical, tough defender, who tackles very well in the open field. During his sophomore and junior seasons he had a combined 19 passes broken up, and made it very difficult for both the receiver and the quarterback to connect on passes. In addition to his physical play, Sutton also has the speed and agility to hang with the faster receivers in the league. At 5’11” his size is a little concerning against some of the bigger, more physical receivers, but again his physical play will make up for it. Back pedals well, and is fluid in the hips. Has the ability to play in both man and zone coverages. Can also play on special teams as a punt returner. Teams will monitor his ankle, however if he has a clean bill of health and performs well in the events leading up to the draft, I expect him to go on day 2.

*Only played in 3 games due to a broken ankle injury.

Draft Projection: 3rd Round

Here is a list of some other notable Defensive Prospects on the South Team:

Marquez White, CB, Florida State: 6’0”, 184 lbs.

Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A &M: 6’5”, 265 lbs.

Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama: 6’3”, 312 lbs.

Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson: 6’4”, 312 lbs.

Harvey Langi, ILB, BYU, 6’2”, 252 lbs.

Jonathan Ford, Safety, Auburn, 5’11”, 200 lbs.