Falcons Senior Bowl Spotlight: Defensive Linemen

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One of the most beneficial events for aspiring draft-eligible prospects is the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, 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, please click the links below:

National Team

Travis Jones – Connecticut

At 6’4″, 326 pounds, Jones is a massive human. He isn’t the most sought-after two-gapper who dominates against the run like Jordan Davis, but he should provoke a lot of interest outside the first round. He has the strength to anchor at the point of attack, and also shone as a pass rusher.

Haskell Garrett – Ohio State

Garrett has the potential to be an outstanding player, but his effort level isn’t where it needs to be on an every-down basis. He isn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest prospect at his position; however, Garrett is experienced and has shown an ability to clog some rushing lanes.

Perrion Winfrey – Oklahoma

Winfrey has solid power when he initiates with blockers, boasting an impressive bull rush and the speed to execute power moves. As a run defender, Winfrey exhibits moments of dominance because of his ability to penetrate offensive lines. He’s a reliable tackler, both while engaged and in space. Some have compared Winfrey to Fletcher Cox, but he’s got a long way to go to attain Cox’s first-class status.

Otito Ogbonnia – UCLA

Ogbonnia operates best in 0-technique or 1-technique as part of an odd-man front, but he’s probably not ready to start right away. At times he’s got an impressive anchor to be an effective run defender, but occasionally Ogbonnia gets moved off his spot too easily in two-gap situations. As a pass rusher, he’s pretty ineffective. Though his run defense presents a high upside, it’ll take a lot of refining to maximize his skill set.

American Team

Phidarian Mathis – Alabama

He put together an impressive campaign at Alabama, where he was used in multiple alignments. With his length and power, he does a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage. Dean Pees would be able to move Mathis around, and employ him as a versatile weapon on the defensive front.

John Ridgeway – Arkansas

Ridgeway only played one year in the SEC, but he impressed during his time with the Razorbacks. He is a tall nose tackle that wins with power, but he has shown flashes of being a decent pass rusher. The upside will certainly intrigue NFL evaluators.

Zachary Carter – Florida

Carter is a bit undersized compared to the rest of these prospects, but he’s played both as an edge rusher and along the interior for the Gators. He has a wide array of pass rush moves and occasionally can move bigger offensive linemen at the point of attack.

Devonte Wyatt – Georgia

Wyatt is a fan of the Falcons and has already worked out with Grady Jarrett; here is my analysis from that piece:

Devonte gets up the field very quickly with his impressive first step, but his size and strength also enable him to clog running lanes with the lower body flexibility to maintain gap integrity. Obviously, he isn’t as effective as his UGA teammate Jordan Davis handling repeated double teams, however, Wyatt is still a plus run defender with excellent lateral mobility, hand technique, and diagnosing skills.

Still, he’s most desirable because of his ability to pressure the quarterback from the interior. He’s quick and violent at the point of attack, a true pocket-collapser. For far too long, Grady Jarrett has been alone pressuring quarterbacks from the interior of the Falcons defensive line and Wyatt has the tools to take the pressure off Jarrett.

Neil Farrell Jr. – LSU

Farrell was an all-around menace for the Tigers with above-average pass rushing skills, but his strengths truly show when he defends against the run. He’s got a ton of experience, playing in 48 games during his time in Baton Rouge. His 24 run stops were fourth in the country a year ago, so he has the chance to make an immediate impact wherever he goes.

Photo: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire

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