For the first time in nearly six months, this past weekend lacked a meaningful college or professional football game. Well, the weekend was meaningless in terms of standings, however, not meaningless to NFL executives, whom all have started preparing for the draft with just around 100 days before the Browns go on the clock.
While the NFL Pro Bowl was more entertaining and competitive than in previous years, the Senior Bowl the night before had the attention of the entire NFL community. In the annual game played between the countries top seniors, NFL executives got to see a unique perspective on each player and how they performed against the best of the best.
What is also unique about the Senior Bowl is it is more than just a game, literally, not just figuratively. The Senior Bowl is a week-long endeavor where scouts and top NFL executives get to see the participants practice, speak to the media and even get a chance to meet the players.
Although the East-West Shrine game the week before was the first unofficial draft prep kickoff, the Senior Bowl is by far the most valued college all-star game in the eyes of the NFL community.
Broncos general manager John Elway and company were on site for the week in Mobile, Alabama to take in all of the action between some of the best in this year’s draft. Here are five players that could have risen on the Denver Broncos draft board.
ILB Haason Reddick — Temple
Potentially the most impressive player during the week, Reddick jumped out above the rest because of his ability to do everything asked of him. After starting his college career in the secondary, he was moved to defensive end in Temple’s 4-3 scheme. Then, with no experience in college, he was moved to inside linebacker during the Senior Bowl and did nothing but impress.
At 6-foot-2, 237 pounds, the only criticism of Reddick is his slightly undersized body, however,` he has the body frame to continue to add size. His versatility in being able to stop the run and cover tight ends and running backs would address the two problems on the Broncos defensive immediately.
The biggest problem for Denver is how quickly he is moving up draft boards. If the Broncos want him, they may have to grab him in the first round. While he may be available in the second, that is no sure thing after the impressive week he had.
S Obi Melifonwu — Connecticut
The Broncos “No Fly Zone” secondary is already stacked with talent, so why would they potentially be looking at adding another member in the draft? The reason is because Melifonwu would fill their only weakness: the ability to cover tight ends. At 6-foot-4, 219 pounds, Melifonwu has by far the best size of any of the top safeties in the draft, and he knows how to use it.
While Denver would have to grab him in the second or third round, Melifonwu would immediately give an additional boost to the best pass defense in the NFL. At Connecticut, and at the Senior Bowl, he showed that he is dominant in zone and man coverage and can be used all over the field: from a single high safety, to the slot and at the line of scrimmage against the run.
Even though it’s not a position of need, Elway has proved that doesn’t matter, even with high draft picks, i.e. Shane Ray and Bradley Roby.
DE Tanoh Kpassagnon — Villanova
At the start of the week, during weigh-ins — where the players are weighed shirtless in front of NFL personnel — Kpassagnon’s figure made the room gasp, according to reports. His 6-foot-7, 280-pound frame with four percent body fat was the talk of Mobile during the week. Need to know more? If so, Kpassagnon proved at the Senior Bowl that he knows how to put that size to use on the football field.
Viewed as an incredible athlete, Kpassagnon uses his size and speed to effectively rush the passer as well as stop the run. With the Broncos, he would add weight and be an anchor on the defensive line opposite Derek Wolfe. Even though he is best suited at first to get to the quarterback, he has the skills to develop into an above average run stuffer, which is Denver’s biggest weakness on the defensive side of the ball.
DT Jaleel Johnson — Iowa
In a draft where few defensive tackles have stood out from the rest of the pack, Johnson made a strong push to do just that during the week. Continuously during practice, offensive lineman were not able to block him due to his ability to use both power and finesse. Along with his ability to shed blockers, Johnson solidified his ability to stuff the run, which is what would peak Denver’s interest.
At 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, Johnson was clocked running 18.5 and 19 MPH during the week, far faster than the rest of the defensive line group and even faster than some position players. Slated to be a second to third round pick, Johnson’s only downside is he is a little undersized at 310 pounds, however, he has the body frame to add more weight at the next level.
WR Zay Jones — East Carolina
In a 16-15 game won by the South, not many offensive players stood out, which is unfortunate for the Broncos since it is their biggest area of need. However, Jones, one of the most productive wide receivers in college football history, showed that he could play with elite talent. Even in defeat, Jones stuck out, catching six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown, as well as drawing high praise from Dowell Loggains, the Chicago Bears offensive coordinator who coached the North team.
At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Jones isn’t necessarily a physical specimen, but his versatility quickly makes up for that. His ability to play all over the field would give Denver’s offense another threat as an outside receiver, slot receiver and potentially even running back. Jones could potentially return kicks and punts as well. Slated to be a third to fourth round pick, the Broncos could add a reliable, dynamic playmaker on the offensive side of the ball in the middle of the draft.