Senior Defensive Prospects to Watch

Defensive End:

Mitch King, Iowa– At defensive tackle, King doesn’t have the size (6’2”, 282lbs) to hold up in the middle but would be a perfect fit as a 3-4 DE and is versatile enough to move around along a line in a 4-3. KIng had a great senior season and has been one of Iowa’s best players his entire four year career and is a main factor in the Hawkeyes stellar run defense. King was named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. He was also chosen as a first team all-Big Ten player by both the media and coaches, including a unanimous selection by the coaches. King posted 52 tackles, including a team-best 15 ½ for loss this season. Mitch King will most likely be a late round pick but he’s not someone you should overlook.

Zach Potter, Nebraska– Potter hasn’t racked up the big, flashy stats except for one: 5 blocked kicks. That speaks to the athleticism this 6’6” 280lbs DE possesses. Not a pass rusher (8 sacks) but he’s stellar against the run (24 TFL) and has the size and strength to be a base end. He won’t be a star, but he’s the type of role player who makes up the glue of championship teams.

Julius Williams & Cody Brown, Connecticut– Williams and Brown are one of the most dangerous pass rushing duos in the Big East Conference, this season combining for 17 sacks and 27.5 TFL. Neither possesses great size but they have top notch speed and athleticism. Both project to OLB at the next level though Williams could potentially stay on the ground in the right system.

Defensive Tackle:

Alex Magee, Purdue– While not necessarily a sleeper, Magee is not a household name either. He’s not a pass rusher (14 TFL, 6 sacks in career) and is not going to wow you too often. What he does best though is stay in position and hold his ground. At 6’3”, 295lbs Magee can play any position along the line and best projects as a 3-4 DE. His versatility and weight room numbers will get him drafted fairly early but he does have “workout warrior” concerns.

Sammie Lee Hill, Stillman– Stillman is a tiny liberal arts college in the SIAC, not exactly a pipeline to NFL success. Sammie Lee Hill has good chance to climb into the 3rd or 4th round if he has a great off-season and plays great in the 2009 Cactus All-Star Bowl. He is one of the few true space eaters available at 6’4” 328lbs and deceptive quickness for his size. His level of competition is a big question mark.


Jason Phillips, TCU– I have and will continue to spout Phillips name as a sleeper prospect. He has been highly decorated and highly productive for TCU. Phillips has legit 4.5 speed and has been a consistent player. Could potentially play all three LB spots and is equally talented on the blitz as he is dropping into coverage.

Brian Toal, Boston College– Injuries have all but killed Toal’s college career as he missed all over 2007 with a torn labrum and nearly all of 2008 with a broken fibula. When healthy, Toal was one of Boston College’s leaders on defense and flashed the athleticism and strength that might have made him a high pick. A high school tailback, if Toal retains some of his abilities and comes back healthy, a team could get a real steal as Toal’s only chance will come as an undrafted free agent.

Adam Leonard, Hawaii– Solomon Elimimian has garnered most of the attention but Adam Leonard has arguably been Hawaii’s best defender in 2008. While he lacks foot speed, Leonard has great instincts and enough size and shed ability to play MLB. His ball skills didn’t show up in 2009 but for his career he has 5 INT and 13 PBU.

Orion Martin, Virginia Tech– A tweener in every sense of the word, Martin has played DE for the Hokies but is too small for that spot in the pros. Unfortunately he’s hasn’t proven fast enough to fully project as a LB. Regardless, Martin is a true lunch pail player who scraps for everything and is as feisty on the field as they come.


Joe Burnett, Central Florida– A dangerous kick returner and a steady CB, Burnett will not turn heads with his speed but he’s a good on the ball defender who doesn’t give up a lot of big plays. Has 16 INT in his career and will be a great fit for a zone scheme.

Cary Harris, USC– It’s tough to be under the radar playing at USC but Harris has done it mostly because he doesn’t make very many big plays or pick off too many INT. Not to mention the talent around him. Has had a solid 2008 season, earning All-Pac 10 Honorable Mention with 38 tackles, 3 INT and 6 PBU. A late round pick who if given time to develop, could become a dependable nickel back and special teamer.


Chip Vaughn, Wake Forest– A tank playing safety, Vaughn stands 6’1”, 215lbs and has been one of Wake Forests top tacklers over the last two years. 2008 wasn’t as great as 2007 but Vaughn is a force as a hitter and is always around the ball. Was a high school WR so he plays the ball well but is much better as a run defender.


Jake Richardson, Miami (Ohio)- Has a great leg and has been pretty consistent over his career. Has pretty good accuracy and does a great job of seeing that his kicks are not returnable. Doesn’t get enough hang time but could develop into a great punter over time.
Draftdog owner Robert Bryant beat me to a couple of sleeper prospects that I was going to list: Stryker Sulak, Victor Butler and Cody Brown. Great minds think a like I guess. Of those three, I’m most enamored with Sulak and his potential as a rush LB. A very underrated prospect who will, at minimum, be a great special teamer.