We’ve identified quite a few impact defenders to this point, but several more are worth mentioning as must-watch prospects.
Jeremy Cash, SAF, Duke
The popular comparison this draft season for Duke safety Jeremy Cash is Arizona Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon. He was a hard-hitting safety in college like Cash, and his position change started a trend in the NFL. Cash played in a similar role at Duke, rarely playing in coverages. Teams that interview Cash should see whether he is adept at identifying coverages and route concepts.
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
One of the best cornerbacks in the 2016 class is Mackensie Alexander of Clemson. The athletic shutdown corner excelled in man coverage this past season. He allowed a completion percentage of less than 30 percent, according to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.
Alexander never registered an interception in his two seasons, though. The redshirt sophomore is raw in his technique, and his lack of production raises questions. Teams must figure out if he’s able to be more than just a man corner moving forward, so showing him situational stills could help answer whether he’s ready to be a part of a multiple-coverage defense or not.
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
A three-year starter for the Michigan State Spartans, defensive end Shilique Calhoun is looking to become an impact player in the NFL. He logged 27 sacks and 44 tackles for loss in his career. But he must be one of the better performers in the athletic drills. Calhoun showed flexibility to bend the edge at times but not as often as he could have. Evaluators need to see that next-level athleticism from him.
Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
A 6’1”, 304-pound defensive tackle from Louisville, Sheldon Rankins is among the very best tackles in a deep class. He is quick despite having a bit of a stocky build for the position. He routinely beat zone blockers to their zone, which can single-handedly destroy the scheme. Rankins needs to prove he’s just as athletic as he appears to be on tape. Watch for his numbers in the jumps and three-cone drill to be among the best in the class.
All stats used are from Sports-Reference.com.
Ian Wharton is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.