The following is a part of the USA Today Sports Weekly Draft Preview
Hasson Reddick, LB, Temple
As a defensive end in college Reddick lived in opponent’s backfields racking up 22 ½ tackles for loss and 10 ½ sacks in 2016. At 6’1 237lbs Reddick wasn’t going to be able to play on the edge and used the Pre-Draft Process to show NFL teams he’s more than capable. In Mobile at the Senior Bowl Reddick looked natural flowing and attacking the ball while at the NFL Combine Reddick put on a show both in time and field drills. His 4.42 40-yard dash shows he can run sideline to sideline while an 11’1” broad jump shows his explosiveness. Reddick went from showing that he can play off the ball to possible being the top linebacker in the draft.
Obi Melifownu, S, UConn
Playing on a bad UConn team that finished the season 3-9 it’s not a surprise that Obi Melifownu was a relatively unknown safety. It wasn’t till the Senior Bowl where he showed that he’s more than a potential dime linebacker and displayed the ability to play back in coverage. At the Combine Melifonwu continued to check all the boxes with a 4.40 40-yard dash along with Combine record broad and vertical leaps. For a 6’4 225lb safety those numbers are rare. With athletic tight ends tearing up the league a player like Melifownu could be seen as a potential solution. With his speed and size some press man coverage teams may see him as a fit at cornerback.
Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State
Despite being named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 registering 10 ½ sacks there was little buzz surrounding Willis. A solid showing at the Senior Bowl got some attention but it wasn’t till a dominating performance at the Combine that really has his stocking soaring. Willis posted better timed measurements in every category than former number one overall pick and current NFL star Jadeveon Clowney. While the tape shows some flaws in Willis ability to bend and hold the point of attack, history tells us that edge defenders who test well at the combine do go on to have success in the NFL. Willis now finds himself solidly in as a top 50 prospects.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
As the college season was coming to a close there was already a buzz building around Patrick Mahomes as a possible day two steal. But with no true consensus top quarterback it is no surprise Mahomes is flying up draft boards and generating first round hype. Being an underclassmen Mahomes was unable to attend the Senior Bowl but utilized the Combine to showcase his elite arm talent impressing NFL executives who were getting their first live viewing. Mahomes is still a work in progress coming from an “Air Raid” scheme while not having much time working from within the pocket. But teams will fall in love with his arm strength, accuracy and ability to make plays.
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) January 28, 2017
Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State
Accumulating 37 ½ career sacks is an impressive enough but for a FCS prospect to get first round consideration there has to be more than just college production. Rivers started his climb at the Senior Bowl not only showing he belonged on the same field as the prospects from major conferences. At the Combine Rivers momentum continued as he finished in the top 5 in four different workouts putting numbers to the speed and explosiveness seen on game tape. Pass rushers are always in demand and with Rivers performance during the season and in the Pre-Draft process it will be hard to see teams pass Rivers in the first round.
David Njoku, TE, Miami
Being a redshirt sophomore it would hard pressed to find many people who knew about David Njoku before the season started. During the season Njoku kept making spectacular plays averaging 16.2 yards per catch and eight touchdowns. With plenty of hype surrounding his Combine performance Njoku’s stocking was soaring into the first round. In Indianapolis Njoku didn’t have a record setting performance that was expected but he tested well enough solidify himself as an elite tight and a top 20 pick.
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) February 10, 2017
Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah
In his only year of major college football Garrett Bolles used impressive lateral agility and quickness to dominant defenders in both pass protection and run blocking. The buzz around Bolles continued as he arrived at the Combine expecting to put up eye popping numbers for an offensive lineman. Bolles didn’t disappoint finishing first or second in four timed events while showcasing his effortless agility and athleticism on the field drills. Off the filed Bolles showed maturity and growth from his former troubles putting teams at ease. While there are still some concerns about his age, the performance it is the clear top tackle prospect and a sure fire first rounder.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
On the field there is no question of Dalvin Cook speed and explosion as he was able to reeling off long runs on a consistent basis. So it was a surprise in Indianapolis when Cook struggled with his time drills. Running a 4.53 40-yard dash wasn’t awful but a 7.27 3-cone drill was the third worse of any running back at the combine. Cook’s overall athletic score was also only in the 9th percentile of NFL running backs according to 3 Sigma Athlete. His college tape will help but with a poor performance along with some off the field concerns it may cause teams to pass on Cook in the first round.
Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
All through the process Sidney Jones has been checking the boxes to become a first round cornerback and a likely top twenty selection. Jones was well on his way to checking another box at his Pro Day when he suffered a freak rupture of his Achilles tendon. The injury all but puts Jones out for his entire rookie year and sets himself up for a grueling rehab. Instead of being a first round pick Jones is likely going to be waiting till the third or fourth rounds before a team is willing to use a pick and wait on him to return.
Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
As the 2016 season concluded Jalen Tabor was a two-year starter with 9 career interceptions utilizing quick feet to shadow receivers off the line. He was considered to be a top cornerback in the draft and a potential first round pick. A poor performance on the field at the Combine raises questions as he ran a 4.62 40-yard dash and finish below positional averages in the broad jump and vertical leap. Testing numbers are significant for cornerbacks who are often asked to be faster than the receivers they are covering. Tabor’s tape is still high quality but these poor timed numbers may exclude him from being considered by teams that run prominently man coverage.
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) February 24, 2017
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Similar to Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith the Michigan tight end was a highly sot after prospect who suffered a terrible knee injury during a rather meaningless bowl game. The good news for Butt is he only tore his ACL and didn’t suffer the nerve damage that Jaylon Smith had. Butt will go through medical rechecks in early April allowing teams to see how his knee is coming. If the knee shows good progress that will be a positive for Butt, however he’s gone from a likely 2nd round option to an early Day 3 pick.
Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
Talent has never been the question for McDowell as he has all the physical attributes of a top five selection. At 6’6 295lbs McDowell has good speed and quickness showing the ability to be a dominant pass rusher either in the interior or off the edge. What has teams concerned is his inconsistencies. McDowell can take over a game in spurts but his 7½ career sacks shows that he disappears too often. Add in concerns about his work ethic, attitude and why he left the team for his final three games it can scare teams off from investing a first round pick in him. The talent is there it’s just up to a team to feel they have the organization to allow him to thrive.
Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
Talent and production have always been a part of Williams career at Alabama with twenty career sacks as a pass rushing specialist. Using speed and power Williams is able to fly past offensive tackles and get to the quarterback. In Indianapolis Williams wasn’t expected to set records but running a 4.68 40-yard dash was slow for a pass rusher his size while a below average 3-cone time doesn’t quell concerns about his ability to bend the edge. With red flags surrounding failed drug tests and a gun charge are enough to scare teams off and drop Williams to at least the 2nd round.
DeDe Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
Speed kills in the NFL and DeDe Westbrook displayed that for Oklahoma in 2016 as the top deep threat in college football averaging 19.1 yards per catch and 17 touchdowns. While those numbers are impressive it’s been all downhill since. Reports of domestic violence came out shortly after the season are a cause for concerns. As for the Pre-Draft Process, Westbrook pulled out of the Senior Bowl late and then chose not to work out the Combine. Additional reports of Westbrook being untruthful in team meetings has caused a few teams to take him of their draft board entirely.