Josh Boyd proved this week that he's one to watch. (USAT Sports)MOBILE, Ala. -- Yes, there is still a Senior Bowl game to be played on Saturday, but the hay is pretty much in the barn from a personnel perspective when Thursday practices wrap up, and NFL teams have seen how the best senior draft prospects line up against one another in a dizzying array of drills and situations through practice week. Here are the players who really turned our heads on the defensive side of the ball.
Josh Boyd, DT, Mississippi State: Boyd really hit my radar on Wednesday, when I was trying to watch the South team defensive backs, and I couldn't stop watching the kid with jersey number 92 instead. Boyd has violent hands, a nice array of rip and swim tactics, and enough of a bull rush to avoid getting stood up by double teams. He reminds me a bit of Seattle's Brandon Mebane, and there are elements of the great Kevin Williams to what Boyd does, though Boyd is not anywhere near Williams as a pass-rusher. However, any team in need of a true three-tech brawler will like what they see here.
Datone Jones, DT, UCLA: More than five years ago, Jones might have been lost in the shuffle. But when hybrid defenders like Justin Tuck started playing at a Super Bowl MVP level at the best possible times, and defenses overall turned to more versatile concepts, linemen with Jones' size (6-foot-4, 280 pounds) have become far more valuable, especially when they exhibit the power Jones does from the end and tackle positions. He won't blow anyone away with pure speed off the edge, but Jones has the leverage ability and pure fundamentals that will allow him to help any team, in any scheme.
John Jenkins, DT, Georgia: NFL teams would no doubt like to see Jenkins at his ideal playing weight of 335 pounds as opposed to the 359 he clocked in with at the official weigh-in this week, but at 6-foot-4, Jenkins at least has the body length to pull that off. In drills and practices, Jenkins was consistently quick off the ball and knifed through constant double-teams with aplomb. He's even got a little bit of movement ability in space, though he did seem to get winded at times. As a potential multi-gap player in the NFL, I think he has the potential to rise as Memphis' Dontari Poe did in the 2011 NFL draft. Poe went 11th overall to the Kansas City Chiefs when he impressed at the scouting combine and backed it up with some impressive game tape. Jenkins could do the same, but he'll need to get in better shape and have a dynamite combine to cast aside any conditioning concerns.
Alex Okafor, DE, Texas: Okafor's stock was already high based on his 12.5 sacks in the 2012 season, but it pinned when people saw him beat Central Michigan's Eric Fisher in 11-on-11 work this week. While he's not a pure speed guy, Okafor understands leverage, and has an estimable palette of hand and foot moves to bedevil blockers. At 6-foot-4 and 261 pounds, Okafor has the perfect frame to rush outside in the NFL, and he proved this week that he's got the tools to do it, as well.
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington:Read More »from Senior Bowl Risers: The defense