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KABOOM! MAGAZINE.COM 2015 NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: DEFENSIVE STARS & LATE ROUND SLEEPERS

KABOOM! MAGAZINE.COM 2015 NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: DEFENSIVE STARS & LATE ROUND SLEEPERS
The top college football players will get their 1st taste of NFL stardom when their NFL journeys begin at the 2015 NFL Draft. Some of Saturday’s favorite heroes are already being compared to NFL stars like Calvin Johnson, Richard Sherman, Andrew Luck, Marshawn Lynch, and Patrick Peterson. Kaboom! Magazine.com will give you an inside look focusing on the top 5 players from every position explaining why each player will thrive or fail in the NFL. It’s the most anticipated events of 2015 NFL season; some players will be able to handle the pressure and live up to expectations, while others will fold like a house of cards. The 2015 NFL Draft…where all their NFL dreams begin! Today, we focus on this year defensive playmakers, along with numerous late round sleepers that will help your team win the super bowl this fall. JJ Watt Defensive Stars: Defense wins championships and it all starts with this year’s corp of defensive stars. img24697851 Leonard Williams, USC: Leonard Williams is a rare athlete for a 6’5”, 302-pounder, and he brings a true positional and scheme versatility to the defensive line. He played left and right defensive end in USC’s 3-4 defense but is quick and agile enough to be best used as a 3-technique pass-rusher in a 4-3 defense. He’ll knife and rip away, showing a hard swim move and the power to push through traffic. As a pass-rusher, he’s refined, showing speed and power moves with a good spin move and bull rush mixed in. Denzel Perryman, Miami: A powerful hitter with knock-you-out power when he comes downhill, Denzel Perryman loves to lay the wood. He looks like he walked out of the 1990s and should be playing alongside Levon Kirkland. Perryman is a stout, tough, instinctive linebacker against the run, and he’ll take out his frustration on a blocker in traffic. Shane Ray, Missouri: He’s a compact, twitchy, fiery defender with top-tier power for a 245-pound frame and rare explosive skills in his first step. He shows good flexibility in his hips and shoulders and uses both well together to slip, slide and go around blockers. Ray plays with a high motor and doesn’t give up when locked up by a blocker, showing a strong rip move to get free and restart. He comes in with good technique and is very well-coached. Ray has the agility and football IQ to play in space early on in his career. Marcus Peters, Washington: Marcus Peters looks like a pro, moves like a pro and plays like a pro. He’s going to be an impact player early as a pro. He’s fluid and compensates for a lack of elite speed with great technique in his hip turns and in his timing. Peters rarely lets himself get out of position when waiting on underneath routes or when working in phase. He’s physical enough to jam and stun receivers at the line of scrimmage and has the length to break up passes in the air. Eddie Goldman, Florida State A monster of a defensive tackle at 6’4” and 336 pounds, Eddie Goldman has the body of a nose tackle and the agility of a 3-technique. As a run defender, he’s stout and can collapse the offensive line consistently. He’s a very aggressive, high-motor player with the hands to swat away blockers or get positioning to push into the backfield on run plays. He’s a natural bull-rusher with the big, strong lower body to bulldoze the pocket. Ideally, Goldman is a nose tackle on a team that lets him get upfield and attack rather than hold contain. Arik Armstead, Oregon: A naturally gifted athlete with lateral movement and upper-level agility, Arik Armstead defies what a 6’7”, 292-pound person should look like on film. He has a quick first step and follows it up with a smooth, well-timed swim move to get over and under blockers. Armstead uses his length well to create separation and has the quick-twitch speed to bend and explode past blockers. He’s athletic enough that some scouts we spoke with believed he could become a top-10 player as a left tackle. hi-res-b58349c080032ce5d789c08ab2ab7ca8_crop_north Eric Kendricks, UCLA: The best inside linebacker prospect in this draft, Eric Kendricks is athletic enough to be considered an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense too. Kendrick’s footwork is very impressive, and you won’t see false or timid steps against the run. He’s a smart, fast-thinking linebacker with the football IQ to diagnose and attack. Few linebackers can match the production Kendricks put on tape at UCLA. Add in his character and leadership traits, and he looks like a safe pick. Dante Fowler Jr., Florida: Dante Fowler Jr. is a powerful, aggressive, explosive edge player with a nonstop motor and top-tier athleticism. His burst for a 260-plus-pound player is uncommonly good, and he takes pride in being a finisher on the field. Fowler plays clean football, but he’s a fighter until the whistle and looks to attack the offense. Florida moved him around throughout his career, so he’s scheme-versatile and comfortable playing with his hand up or down. Trae Waynes, Michigan State: A fast, long cornerback with NFL size and long speed, Trae Waynes has turned heads during the draft process. He has the size to be a press coverage cornerback and is a mentally tough prospect with a high ceiling. His 4.31 40 time will impress, and it’s backed up by his ability on film to handle deep routes and run in phase. He’s able to recover if he stumbles or guesses underneath and has elite reset ability. Alvin Dupree, Kentucky: Alvin “Bud” Dupree is an athletic freak. At 6’4″, 269 pounds, he turned in a blazing 4.56 time in the 40-yard dash and added a 42-inch vertical jump and 138-inch broad jump. He has top-tier play power and doesn’t shy away from contact on the field. Dupree is a hard hitter and closes in on the ball with speed, looking for a big hit and showing an eye for the ball. Dupree is more potential than production, but his ceiling is very high. Vic Beasley, Clemson: Vic Beasley has been productive and consistent as a star defender for the Clemson Tigers. He brings exceptional speed (4.53 40-yard dash) and a hulked-up physique to the table after gaining 13 pounds in pre-combine training. Beasley is one of the smarter edge-rushers in the class, showing the ability to use his hands, head, feet, hips and shoulders to get past blockers. Beasley’s size and speed make him a candidate to play standing up in the NFL, something he did often at Clemson. Shaq Thompson, Washington: You won’t find many players with Shaq Thompson’s versatility. He lined up at running back, linebacker and safety for Washington and produced at each spot. Some evaluators feel his best long-term position may be at running back. Thompson shows top-level quickness in space and is fast enough to run down ball-carriers all over the field. He projects as a three-down linebacker and a star nickel linebacker. hi-res-b662202e2a4dc9bd3a81f0ac81498a74_crop_north Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State: A surprising athlete at 6’4″ and 246 pounds, Benardrick McKinney can line up at inside ‘backer or as a rusher off the edge and make an impact. He’s a scheme-versatile player in that way and performed position drills as both a linebacker and defensive end at his pro day. McKinney is a thick, powerful, explosive player with the speed to run down ball-carriers or rush the quarterback. Malcom Brown, Texas: Malcom Brown was one of the most improved players in college football in 2014, which made his decision to leave Texas early for the NFL draft an understandable one. He has a thick, powerful, 6’2”, 319-pound frame with surprising flexibility in his lower body. He’s able to bend his knees and roll his hips to drive through blockers. Brown has power and speed, and he’s able to use them independently or together to get into the backfield. Bryce Callahan, Rice: Bryce Callahan has sleeper potential. He’s active, with good feet and good hips to mirror and run with receivers on various routes. Callahan was the star of the Rice pro day with a 4.32 in the 40-yard dash and a 43 ½-inch vertical jump. That shows up on the field too, where Callahan has the speed to carry receivers down the field. Richard Gregory, Nebraska: Randy Gregory is an elite athlete for his size (6’5″, 235 lbs), showing exceptional movement skills, flexibility and quickness in the open field. A former JUCO player, Gregory played at Nebraska for just two seasons and didn’t really find his true position, leaving him with huge upside. He has a massive wingspan (34-inch arms) and uses that length well to fight off blockers. He has a plan when pass-rushing and is an explosive, twitchy player with quick, strong hands. Danny Shelton, Washington: Danny Shelton is a monster of a man at 6’2” and 339 pounds. He’s the ideal nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme and is the type of two-gapping anchor you can build a defense around. He dominated at the Senior Bowl by simply sitting down and keeping the center-guard combination from getting upfield push. As a pass-rusher, he does have some scoot and burst off the line, and he’ll use his power to walk the center back. Shelton played a high number of snaps, so there aren’t concerns about his usage or ability to handle high reps. NFL: Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys Late Round Sleepers: Richard Sherman, Terrell Davis, Tony Romo, and Tom Brady have proven that a championship player can come at any point of the draft. Here are some of this year’s late rounders with championship potential. Brandon Ivory, Alabama: The anchor in the middle of the Alabama defense, Brandon Ivory has the thick, squatty, explosive frame needed to handle double-teams. He shows a good initial burst off the snap and can get into a center’s way and drive him back off the ball. In the run game, he does more than occupy lanes and can be a one-gap penetrator. Anthony Harris, Virginia: Harris (6’1″, 183 lbs) knows the position as well as anyone and was a three-year starter to boot. He has great ability in both zone and man coverage. He’s also flexible enough to click and close and bring down ball-carriers before they do too much damage. He’s good at taking on and shedding blocks and can blitz a little as well. Brandon Bridge, South Alabama: Bridge has a cannon of an arm. That phrase gets thrown around a lot, but Bridge is an uber-blessed athlete who has floundered at the lower levels of football and has never had anything near NFL-caliber coaching. hi-res-90fe873953454d0e25e469923884026b_crop_north Curtis Grant, Ohio State: A late add to the Senior Bowl, Curtis Grant stood out in limited practice time as an athletic inside linebacker. He’s tough and will get aggressive in the box. When on the field, Grant can play as a pass-rusher, run-stuffer or coverage linebacker. Travis Raciti, San Jose State: Travis Raciti is built for the 3-4 defense at 6’5” and 285 pounds. Playing in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense in college, Raciti is experienced in multiple fronts and positions—and he’s athletic enough to even consider standing up as a linebacker in a 3-4 defense. hi-res-feb8c1e8110a379036eca25475dbc255_crop_north Nick Marshall, Auburn: A quarterback at Auburn, Nick Marshall’s best chance to make the NFL is at cornerback, so he made the move there during Senior Bowl practices. Marshall showed good promise throughout the week as he improved his technique. He’s a natural athlete with a smooth backpedal and the hips to turn and run. He’s surprisingly confident and aggressive engaging ball-carriers after spending the last three seasons playing quarterback. Tyeler Davison, Fresno State: One of the strongest defensive tackles in the 2015 class, Tyeler Davison passes the eyeball test in a big way. Davison shows advanced hand usage and will fight for positioning in tight spaces, and he uses his long arms and huge hands to get positioning. Davison works well through double-teams and has the quickness and strength to perform a countermove against blockers. Terrence Magee, LSU: Magee is a fine runner, but he’s best defined by the fact that he can run routes as well as some tight ends and receivers, catch the ball naturally and pass block with the best at his position. Steven Nelson, Oregon State: Steven Nelson left his mark on the Senior Bowl, where he stood out all week and in the game. Nelson has a compact, short frame that’s backed up by a physical swagger on the field. A former JUCO player, Nelson is an ideal zone coverage cornerback with physical tendencies. Hayes Pullard, USC: An NFL linebacker on the hoof with an impressive Senior Bowl week, Hayes Pullard moves better than his combine numbers indicate. He’s a smart attacker when it comes to angles and has the power to clean house when engaging a ball-carrier. He has good vision and knows how to sort through trash to find the ball. He looked better in Mobile moving in coverage than he did on film and has nice upside there. Jake Kumerow, Wisconsin-Whitewater: In short, this is a tall (6’5″, 205 lbs), lanky receiver with a wide catch radius. He knows how to block among the best in the class, and he’s had a parabolic improvement over the past couple of seasons. There’s room to grow, and if he cashes in on that, he could be a big-time threat. Agree with our predictions? Let your opinion be heard right now by leaving us a comment on Kaboom! Magazine.com