One mantra echoed by every NFL organization is that, “You can never have enough pass-rushers!” It’s one of the most valuable assets of any successful franchise. While most draftniks are familiar with the top edge rushers from the Power Five conferences, here’s a look at some of the under the radar pass-rush prospects who don’t play at your traditional powerhouse football programs.
- Marcus Davenport (6060/245), DE, UTSA, Sr. – When NFL scouts close their eyes at night and envision their ideal pass-rushing bookend, images of Davenport begin to appear. Blessed with rare size, length and strength, this is a rare athlete who carries a pre-snap presence before the snap which makes quarterbacks take notice. He can win with speed or explosiveness, in addition to being able to generate tremendous push—he possesses very active hands. Davenport has proven to be a defensive playmaker during his Roadrunners career and generated three forced fumbles, recovered another and had four pass deflections this past season. He likes to start from a two-point stance but he could be used effectively in a variety of ways at the next level and there are some shades of Mario Williams to his game, which puts him in the mix for first round consideration. Look for his name to ascend up mock drafts as we inch closer to April. Next: Senior Bowl, Jan. 27, 2:30pm ET, NFLN.
- Joe Ostman (6030/255), DE, Central Michigan, Sr. – Noted for his leadership and workout warrior mentality, Ostman has been a highly productive college player, registering 31 tackles for loss, including 19 sacks over the past two seasons, primarily utilizing his strength to win in the trenches. However, he has gone nearly most of an entire game without attempting a single legitimate pass rush move—he possesses poor hand combat and tries to win with power on every play. Occasionally he’ll split through the line and he’ll accumulate some big plays but otherwise, his has hand repertoire is limited, which could hinder his ability to play defensive end at the next level. The intangibles department and lunch bucket work ethic is where Ostman is going to win evaluators over, who was also named a team captain. In terms of moving to outside backer, he doesn’t appear to have the speed to make a smooth transition and has limited experience dropping back in pass coverage. He had one scholarship offer coming out of high school, so he has made the most of his opportunity—he has also spent five seasons playing for the Chippewas, making him a bit of an older prospect. His best position at the next level might be at fullback. Next: East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 20, NFLN, 3:07pm ET.
- Da’Sean Downey (6036/235), OLB, UMass, Sr. – A lengthy, athletic, hybrid pass-rusher, Downey possesses a lean frame, which is reminiscent of Dion Jordan, to go along with the quickness and instincts to play multiple positions. He has lined up at both defensive end and linebacker, while roaming both sides of the field and keeping opposing offenses guessing prior to the snap. He takes good angles in pursuit, has done an adequate job of shedding blocks and demonstrated strong wrap-up tackling fundamentals. Nearly every NFL team has passed through Amherst to get a look-see at Downey—surprisingly, he has not yet been invited to any postseason all-star events that we know of. Next: TBD
- Te’von Coney (6000/240), OLB, Notre Dame, Jr. – One of the most improved players in college football from a year ago, Coney has been featured in a linebacker rotation, which has seen him line up at three different backer positions—MIKE, WILL and BUCK. He has reinvented himself with refined flexibility, demonstrating the ability to bend around the edge and dip underneath, making him a more lethal pass-rusher this year, while demonstrating the sideline-to-sideline ability to track down ball carriers. Coney has also handled his pass coverage assignments and has been a standout on special teams for the Fighting Irish. He was named defensive team MVP this season with 99 tackles, 11 for a loss and three sacks and while he has started just a dozen games in his career, Coney has applied for feedback from the NFL Advisory Board. Next: Underclassmen deadline, Jan. 15.
- Jonathan Petersen (6004/240), DE, San Diego, Sr. – Nobody has been more productive over the past four years than Petersen, who finished with a FCS record 43.5 career sacks. After starting the past four seasons at defensive end, he’ll be making the transition to linebacker at the next level due to his lack of height. For a player who relies on his brute strength and hand combat to win the leverage battle, it could be a difficult adjustment, as he’ll be asked to rely more upon his speed and instincts. However, his high motor and leadership (team captain) are the type of x-factor intangibles that coaches love. Petersen currently projects as a day three prospect. Next: NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Jan. 20, FS1, 4:15pm ET.
- Darius Jackson (6020/240), DE, Jacksonville State, Sr. – An undersized, thick-framed player who possesses an explosive first step and is in the backfield so frequently, he ought to be paying rent. Jackson utilizes his quickness and strong hand jab to work around opposing tackles. He demonstrates the ability to handle the chip blocks and his hand combat continues to improve. Jackson is used to starting from a two-point stance and does drop back in coverage on occasion, so if he is asked to convert to outside linebacker at the next level it won’t be foreign to him. He finished his Gamecocks career with 283 career tackles, including 40 tackles for loss and 27.5 sacks and could have had eve more if he didn’t get too anxious to make the sack. Jackson let a few easy sacks slip through his hands due to, too much momentum. He needs to get a better grasp for his body control but this is also a product of having a high motor, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The two-time OVC Defensive Player of The Year is a fiery player who is constantly hyping up teammates and the fact that he is a distant relative to Bo Jackson can only bode well for his draft stock. You can expect to hear Jackson’s name called early on day three of the NFL Draft. Next: NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Jan. 20, FS1, 4:15pm ET
(Pic Courtesy: San Antonio-Express News)