With Senior Bowl practices set to begin this week, we thought we should give you a heads up on a few guys from each team to keep an eye on out there in Mobile. Here’s six players from the South team, which will be coached by Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans coaching staff.
CB Danny Johnson, 5’10, 194 lbs, Southern
A small-school FCS candidate who came into his senior season as one of the top defensive back prospects in the country. Johnson has even dabbled a little at receiver from time to time. It’ll be important for him to show that his size doesn’t limit him and there are some doubts that he’s 5’10. Still, he’s got a lot to like about him including speed in the 4.35-4.4 range. This past season, Johnson recorded 55 tackles, had 12 pass breakups, and three interceptions, two returned for touchdowns.
Despite missing three games his junior year, Johnson led the FCS with seven picks, while contributing 57 tackles and nine pass breakups. He gets pro-comparisons to Buster Skrine and Robert Alford but is widely considered a much more polished product. He’s a mid-round projection right now but could be a really solid NFL nickelback.
DE Marcus Davenport, 6’7, 256 lbs, UTSA
Davenport is an interesting prospect though he’s not from a Power Five FBS school. He’s got really great length and athleticism to play on the edge and pass rushers are always in high demand, they typically go earlier than other postions. Davenport was a standout player in 2017 with 55 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, four batted passes, and three forced fumbles.
He finished his collegiate career as UTSA’s all-time leader in tackles for loss (38), sacks (22), and quarterback hurries (21). He’s as decorated as they come in the C-USA and played on a defense that ranked first in the C-USA in seven statistical categories while also ranking Top-10 in FBS in five. Davenport is a bit light for his stature but he’s got a good combination of burst, speed, and power. Will it intrigue NFL scouts enough to chance it at the back end of the first round, where he’s currently projected by some experts?
LB Darius Leonard, 6’3, 235 lbs, SC State
Three small-school guys right out of the gate, but Leonard absolutely dominated his competition which is what you have to do to get noticed. Leonard flew around the ball all season long reaching 113 tackles, eight tackles for loss, eight sacks, two picks, and a forced fumble.
He’s a player that is very aware of offensive tendencies and his instincts are off the charts. Leonard is one of those players that coaches like Rod Marinelli will love as he’s a leader on and off the field. He was a two-time MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, finished fifth in the Buck Buchanan Award voting, and earned first-team All-MEAC honors in four consecutive seasons. Leonard leaves South Carolina State as the all-time leader in tackles, he amassed 42 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks just over his first three seasons. Leonard is projected anywhere between rounds two and four but could easily go higher with a solid draft season performance.
OT Desmond Harrison, 6’6, 313 lbs, West Georgia
What a surprise? Another small school prospect but you’re going to have to get creative in this class of offensive linemen. Harrison was actually a former Longhorn but failed drug tests got him dismissed by then-coach Charlie Strong. Harrison really played well for the Wolves and he’s got a lot riding on this opportunity. He’s got NFL size, quickness, athleticism, and length.
Harrison is better developed than a lot of offensive linemen in this draft and could really see his draft stock soar with a solid Senior Bowl performance. He’s seemingly put his problems behind him and is currently projected as a second-round pick with potential to move up the boards.
OLB Shaquem Griffin, 6’1, 223 lbs, UCF
Griffin’s story is remarkable as it started in tragedy when at four-years old, he had to have his left hand amputated due to a birth defect. Griffin was determined to play football despite his limitations and really left a pretty incredible resume out on the field in Central Florida. He’s actually the twin brother of Shaq Griffin, the Seahawks’ third-round pick from last season.
Griffin tallied 74 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and an interception for the Knights in 2017. UCF was the only undefeated team in college football and are the self-proclaimed National Champions. If they are the real champs then Griffin is their MVP. Without question, he has the speed, instincts, physicality, and production to indicate he’s deserving of being drafted. However, there will be concerns of what he’ll be able to achieve at the next level with his limitation.
WR Marcell Ateman, 6’4, 220 lbs, Oklahoma State
His counterpart at OK State, James Washington, will also be participating on the South team next week. Washington had all the stats as the spread offense really allowed him to thrive, but Ateman also has high draft potential. Ateman recorded 59 catches for 1,156 yards, and eight touchdowns. He averaged almost 20 yards per catch and has the size that NFL scouts covet.
Ateman’s mismatch qualities and his big-play potential could see him off the board quite early if he is able to make the most of this showcase opportunity. He’s an explosive player that makes huge contributions when his number is called.