Five Under The Radar Prospects: Defense

Oregon Ducks linebacker Jalen Jelks (97) in the game against the Michigan State Spartans.Photo: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Ric Serritella

Below are five players who may not hear their names called until Day 3 but possess the potential to start at the next level.

DT Michael Dogbe, Temple

Houston Cougars quarterback D'Eriq King (4) is sacked by Temple Owls defensive tackle Michael Dogbe (9)Photo: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

One of the strongest players in college football, Dogbe benched press 505 pounds during summer workouts, including 37 reps of 225 lbs and squatted 685 pounds. In addition to being a physical freak, the New Jersey native has been a strong, physical presence in the middle of the defensive line, providing a run-stuffing presence for the Owls. Dogbe has already set career highs with six and a half tackles for loss and four and a half sacks, along with 40 tackles, plus two forced fumbles through seven games. He arrived at Temple as a defensive end before being moved inside by then head coach Matt Rhule.

EDGE Jalen Jelks, Oregon

Oregon Ducks linebacker Jalen Jelks (97) sacks Portland State Vikings quarterback Jalani Eason (10)Photo: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Shows good initial quickness upfield as a speed rusher, exhibiting both burst and timing. Stronger at the point of attack than he looks, keeping his butt down to maintain leverage and showing at least functional upper body strength for playing at the line of scrimmage. Quicker than fast, showing just average straight-line speed upfield, as well as in pursuit. Perhaps anticipating that he'd be asked to move to linebacker in the NFL, Jelks switched positions in 2018 opting to play linebacker as a senior after enjoying a breakout junior campaign in which he set career-highs with 59 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He saw action at both linebacker and at defensive end at the Senior Bowl.

ILB Cole Holcomb, North Carolina

North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Cole Holcomb (36) lines up against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.Photo: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

A phenomenal athlete, Holcomb ran an incredible 4.53 forty-yard dash at the NFL Regional Combine, a testament to his explosiveness and quickness. His football IQ enabled him to play all three linebacker positions for the Tar Heels and he showed tremendous leadership this past season in the wake of the school’s sneaker scandal, taking a defensive unit consisting mostly of younger players under his wing. In 43 career games, Holcomb accumulated 327 tackles (15.5 for loss) for his career and was able to generate four forced fumbles this past season. He registered a 39.5” vertical, 10-0 broad jump and 7.14 L-drill time, along with a 1.54 10-yard split in the forty and 4.14 short shuttle time. He could potentially thrive in a 4-3 scheme and possibly hear his name called late on Day 3 of the draft due to his upside.

CB Jimmy Moreland, James Madison

South defensive back Jimmy Moreland of James Madison (17) catches the ball during the South squad 2019 Senior Bowl practice.Photo: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

A difference-maker since stepping onto the field at JMU, Moreland proved that he was not just a product of weak competition at the East-West Shrine Game, turning heads with his boisterous play and earning a promotion the following week as a late addition to the Senior Bowl. He possesses cat-quick cover corner with terrific ball-skills, recording 18 interceptions at JMU and returning six of them back for touchdowns. He stays low and demonstrates a tight backpedal with rocket boosters attached to his feet to quickly close on underneath routes, including quick screens. He has excellent balance and loose hips in his transition, allowing Moreland to change directions fluidly without throttling down. Terrific awareness of the ball in the air, showing the vision and body control to corral passes over either shoulder, as well as good timing and explosive leaping ability on jump balls. While lacking preferred size, Moreland's agility and ball skills are certainly NFL-caliber warranting middle round consideration.

FS Saquon Hampton, Rutgers

Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive back Saquan Hampton (9) celebrates after a defensive stop during the first half against the Michigan State Spartans.Photo: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Wherever the ball is, it seems as if Hampton knows exactly where it is going to end up. Named team captain prior to this season, Hampton has some sleeper like qualities that are extremely intriguing as a ball hawking safety. Athleticism is where Hampton thrives, as he looks extremely natural in his transitions. His play speed is excellent, and has no issues whatsoever staying with his man. In coverage, Hampton makes plays on the ball and isn’t afraid of taking chances. Hampton not only uses his athleticism in the pass game, but does a great job breaking down and tackling in the run game. He uses his speed to shoot the gaps and isn’t afraid of navigating traffic inside the box. Hampton is a prospect that has immense upside in the later rounds as he boasts intriguing speed, ball skills, and instincts.

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