Five Combine Snubs Who Could Be Drafted: Defense

Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Jonah Williams (73) tackles Tennessee Volunteers defensive lineman Kyle Phillips (right) after he intercepted a pass.Photo: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Ric Serritella

History tells us that on average, there will be approximately 30 players who were not selected to the NFL Scouting Combine that will hear their name called in the NFL Draft each year. Here’s a look at five candidates on defense.

DT Cortez Broughton, Cincinnati

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde career of Broughton will keep scouts up at night trying to figure out if they are getting the interior pass-rusher that we saw flashes of in 2016 (five tackles for loss) and explosive at times in 2018 (18 tackles for loss) or the inconsistent player in 2017 (three and a half tackles for loss), where he was a non-factor for most of the season. His Bearcats career got off to a tough start, enduring a season-ending injury in 2015. Broughton possesses very active hands His versatility has allowed Cincinnati to move him around the line more frequently this season. A strong performance at the East-West Shrine Game could get him recognized late in the draft as a Day 3 selection with upside.

DT Kevin Wilkins, Rutgers

Wilkins played all over the Rutgers defensive line throughout his career, which may be key to his NFL draft stock. Boasting prototypical size for a defensive end/defensive tackle, Wilkins had an extremely productive season in which he showed many intriguing traits that translate to the NFL. His explosion off the ball is notable, as he is able to use quick swim moves to get past offensive lineman. Wilkins is disruptive at the point of attack which sometimes requires him to get double teamed, which opens lanes for his other defenders to make plays. He’s extremely versatile and shows tweener ability to play inside at tackle in a 4-3 scheme, or at end in a 3-4 scheme. While Wilkins excelled in the run game, his pass game impact left a lot to be desired. His array of moves to get to the quarterback are limited. While is first step explosion is notable, his overall play speed and body control lead to him being out of position on some plays. Wilkins is going to find a home in the NFL due to his versatility, motor, and disruptiveness, but may need to refine his technique at the next level.

DE Kyle Phillips, Tennessee

The versatile Phillips has proven ability to play up and down the defensive line with experience on the inside/outside during his Volunteers career. In fact, his speed and quickness could even translate to linebacker at the next level. A long, lean athlete, Phillips is physical, tough and is always in top shape according to coaches. He has also been praised for being a quick learner and intense competitor. In 12 games this past season, Phillips tallied 55 tackles, including seven and a half for loss, four sacks, an interception (returned for touchdown), four pass deflections, a forced fumble and one recovery. During the week of the East-West Shrine Games, Phillips built his case for being drafted with a strong week of practices, which featured his explosive get off and quick first step. He followed up that performance with an eye-raising workout at the NFL Regional Combine, where he timed 4.67 in the forty, with a 4.88 short shuttle, 7.28 L-drill, along with a 30” vertical and 9-3 broad jump. A clean player on and off the field, Phillips can be used in an array of ways and is viewed as an excellent Day 3 value in the draft.

ILB Bryson Allen-Williams, South Carolina

A four-star recruit from the Steve Spurrier regime, Allen-Williams endured an up and down collegiate career during his time in Columbia, often playing out of position. He has always put the team first playing BUCK, SAM, defensive end, nickel and has been called the best edge rusher on the team by the coaching staff. The speedy backer is well-built with a solid frame and possesses the necessary athleticism to shoot the gaps or drop in pass coverage. He does a nice job in bump and run; shows excellent instincts and takes good pursuit angles. In addition, he’s a sound forum tackler in the open field and possesses the skill-set to be an outstanding special teams contributor. Injuries have robbed him of enjoying any type of consistency. A season-ending shoulder injury in 2017 granted him an extra year of eligibility. He also suffered an ankle injury, which cost him the final month of his senior campaign. His speed and versatility make him an intriguing inside linebacker prospect but concerns about his durability has dimmed his draft stock a bit, making him a late round/priority free agent value.

CB Nate Brooks, North Texas

A versatile corner, Brooks had an extremely productive career at North Texas. He played exclusively on the outside during his career but shows the ability to also play the slot due to his play speed. Brooks looks extremely natural in his back pedal, and plants his foot in the ground and darts to the ball when it leaves the quarterbacks hands. He has ideal reactive athleticism when it comes to the corner back position and has the necessary ball skills to compliment that. Brooks shows the ability to play man and zone coverage but is better suited in zone. He has a lean, wiry frame, and needs to build up some strength at the next level. Another question mark is the lack of competition, as he wasn’t regularly playing against power five schools. Production, play speed, and instincts is where Brooks wins and he projects as a late round value pick if he could bulk up a bit.

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