After a weekend snowstorm along the East Coast, NFL scouts might not be able to escape more precipitation in Mobile, Alabama this week. With rain in the forecast down south, many of the nation's top seniors will attempt to enhance their draft prospects during Senior Bowl Week.
"I think the Jets fans are going to really want to watch again that defensive line because there are some players that are listed as defensive linemen who I believe might be able to not only play that traditional 4-3 DE role but also as a 3-4 rush 'backer," said CBS draft analyst Rob Rang. "Noah Spence from Eastern Kentucky, an Ohio State transfer, is the most dynamic athlete among this year's defensive linemen/outside linebackers. Edge rushers would really make a lot of sense with the Jets."
The Jets interior defensive line remains one of the best in football and there are decisions ahead as both Pro Bowl DE Muhammad Wilkerson, who racked up 12 sacks last season and NT Damon "Snacks" Harrison, who totaled a career-high 92 tackles, have expiring contracts. GM Mike Maccagnan has expressed an interest in adding some more speed off the edge this offseason.
"Bronson Kafusi from BYU has the length the Jets have shown a preference for as well and Tyler Fackrell from Utah State. You don't necessarily think of great athletes from Utah State, but Fackrell reminds me a little bit of another former Utah State Aggie Bobby Wagner who had a splash performance in the Senior Bowl a couple of years ago and wound up being a very good inside linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks," Rang said. "Fackrell is a completely different type of player as an edge rusher and he does have that sneaky athleticism that I believe is going to show up Senior Bowl Week."
The Green & White added an intriguing young pass rusher last spring, selecting Louisville productive Lorenzo Mauldin in the third round. As the season progressed, Mauldin got more time and he finished his rookie campaign with 4.0 sacks.
"Lorenzo Mauldin is a prime example of why I believe the Jets fans should be focusing in on the defensive line this year because Mauldin of course was a DE while at Louisville and made that transition outside a little bit as a linebacker. It just gives you a lot of versatility," Rang said. "It's a similar kind of skill-set of what Noah Spence provides and that's why I think teams are going to be very much watching those defensive line battles this week in practice."
While the North & South rosters were released Friday and this is a week for the seniors, Rang expects the underclassmen to steal the headlines in April.
"I think we're going to continue to see underclassmen dominate the first round," he said. "In fact, I had only eight seniors among my top 32 prospects. I think we're going to see that and I think the story of this year's draft is going to be the defensive linemen – 11 defensive linemen among my personal 32 top prospects at this point."