Falcons Senior Bowl Spotlight: Defensive Backs

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One of the most beneficial events for aspiring draft-eligible prospects is the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, which lets talented seniors showcase themselves in front of NFL scouts and coaches. The Falcons selected four participants from last year’s Senior Bowl—Richie Grant, Ta’Quon Graham, Ade Ogundeji, and Frank Darby—while also acquiring undrafted free agent Feleipe FranksIt’s no coincidence that nearly half of the Falcons’ nine-man 2021 draft class attended the showcase in Alabama.

Since their introductory press conference, Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have been adamant about wanting accountable, intelligent, and tough players in the building. The prospects invited to the Senior Bowl epitomize those characteristics.

If you missed any previous parts to this series, click the links below:

National Team

Coby Bryant (CB) – Cincinnati

Bryant played opposite Sauce Gardner for the Bearcats, but he isn’t quite the sought-after prospect his teammate is. Bryant possesses good movement skills for his size; he’s able to sink his hips fluidly and follows receivers tightly when they break. Bryant’s ball skills and competitive mentality pair nicely; he possesses the same drive and work ethic as his namesake, the late Kobe Bryant. Coby knows how to play aggressively, but has a short memory following a mistake.

Jalen Pitre (S) – Baylor

Pitre impressed in coverage in Mobile, particularly when matched up with tight ends. Given his moderate 6-foot stature, Pitre is at a significant disadvantage compared to tight ends, so that made his performance all the more impressive. He’s got a nose for the football; when you watch him play, you can tell he’s got great instincts. The former Baylor Bear should be able to contribute in his rookie year if he lands in the right situation.

Joshua Williams (CB) – Fayetteville State

He’s a Division II star who should draw plenty of interest in Mobile. Standing 6′ 3″, Williams is quite a tall corner. The five interceptions and 20 pass deflections he’s accrued over his last two seasons makes him one of the more productive corners in this class.

Tariq Castro-Fields (CB) – Penn State

Four years as a starter at Penn State makes Castro-Fields one of the most experienced corners in this class, amassing 138 tackles during his tenure as a Nittany Lion. He’s got long arms and good top-end speed, but Tariq struggles when changing direction and flipping his hips. There’s a lot to improve in his game, but he could become a reliable starter under the proper guidance.

American Team

Roger McCreary (CB) – Auburn

McCreary is just one of the many starter-caliber corners in this class, but he’s undoubtedly the best at the position in Mobile. He’s a fluid athlete with the ability to flip his hips at a moment’s notice, making him exceptionally sticky in man coverage. He’s shown competence in zone coverage as well, given his great instincts and feel for the game.

Derion Kendrick CB – Georgia

He’s a long corner with soft hands that make him a threat on every 50/50 ball. Kendrick displayed these skills in the College Football Playoff semifinal by intercepting two Michigan passes. Kendrick has impressive quickness and lower-body twitch, allowing him to stay locked onto shifty receivers.

Leon O’Neal Jr. (S) – Texas A&M

Neal has primarily been working in the nickel this week at the Senior Bowl, but I’m not sure that’s where he is best suited to play. He’s got a high motor that shows 100% effort when defending both the run and the pass. He can play center field and underneath coverage, but given his tenacity near the line of scrimmage, I would prefer O’Neal as a hybrid safety player, patrolling at the star position.

Zyon McCollum (CB) – Sam Houston

When I see McCollum, I see the Legion of Boom’s long cornerbacks—Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. At 6’4″, 201 pounds, Zyon is a huge cornerback that I think scouts will eventually fall in love with. Even if he is a small-school prospect, his draft stock seems to be rising immensely.

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