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2017 NFL Draft: Peach Bowl Scouting Preview, Led by Alabama’s Defensive Front Seven and Washington’s John Ross

After a NFL draft talent themed Orange Bowl, the Peach Bowl will not shy away from next-level talent. Alabama is, of course, known for its production over the year developing first round talent at will but Washington doesn’t take too far of a step back boasting a handful of its own.

 By: Christian Page

The game could possibly play host to the two best cornerbacks in this class as it also will showcase a heavy dosage of quality defensive linemen. A spread offense that tests the Alabama secondary throughout the game has been known to be the possible Achilles’ heel for the Alabama defense in recent memory – if there is one. Look for the Huskies to use the speed of John Ross early and utilize Jake Browning’s arm strength to test the back end of the Alabama defense.

Game Details: Dec. 31 // 3 p.m. EST // ESPN // Georgia Dome – Atlanta

Here are the top draft-eligible players in the Peach Bowl.

Alabama (13-0, 8-0)

ArDarius Stewart, WR, 6’1, 204, #13 (Jr.)
Calvin Ridley was the heralded wide receiver coming into season, but Stewart has emerged as the biggest threat for Alabama in the passing game. A versatile talent showing speed during his routes, after the catch and when running sweeps from the opposite side of the field, Stewart could be that x-factor that leads the Tide to another title. Stewart is a dynamic playmaker in the open field with sudden acts of quickness showcasing plenty of ability after the catch.

OJ Howard, TE, 6’6, 245, #88
Arguably the best tight end in the 2017 NFL Draft class, Howard has ideal length and athleticism for a tight end, working as a receiver, on wheel routes and the potential to dominate in the seam. While he hasn’t been often used in the Alabama offense, his performance in last year’s national championship, his flashes throughout his career as a Vernon Davis-like prospect at the position, and his remarkably high character could vault him into the top-20 picks.

Cam Robinson, LT, 6’6, 310, #73 (Jr.)
Even though being such a dominant run blocker, Robinson still leaves some traits to be desired as a pass protector. Struggling to hold containment versus Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett and Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, Robinson’s lack of lower body weight distribution (lack to consistently anchor) was noted. Robinson flourishes in the run game knocking defenders out left and right while being effective in the open field and at the second level. With enough tools to be a plug and play player in the NFL on Day One, Robinson could be a shoe-in as a first round pick. And based on his body of work and what he excels at, his first big impact may be inside at guard.

Reuben Foster, LB, 6’1, 228, #10
As we just learned his well-defined nickname the “Reuben Missile Crisis,” I could just leave it at that. Foster’s game is described with intensity, power, explosiveness and speed in which are all traits of athleticism that are found in Hall of Fame linebackers. Not billing Foster to that caliber level quite yet, but his instincts and athleticism alone make for one of the the best players in this entire crop of players.

Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, 6’3, 291, #93
Versatility speaks volumes for defensive line draft prospects and excelling at the multiple positional alignments only adds to already an impressive resume. Allen fits that description and is a lock for a top five pick in April. No matter what weight he has carried throughout his college career, Allen consistently wins with initial quickness off the snap. Pairing his quickness with his rapid movements from his violent hands, the senior defensive lineman is a brute to block against. He stays balanced as he embraces contact not missing a beat in his route to the quarterback. Allen will most likely face off a fair amount of snaps versus potential first round left tackle prospect Trey Adams.

Marlon Humphrey, CB, 6’1, 196, #26 (Soph.)
Humphrey has shown to be a solid press cover corner while also showing the ability to consistently make open field tackles. I have been most impressed with his grit to make those consistent tackles in the run game showing physicality that some safeties don’t even bring to the table. The most concerning part of Humphrey’s game is being able to stay on par with receivers deep down the field as he lacks the lower body fluidity to show consistency in being able to turn and run. Washington receiver John Ross will test that part of his game on the first offensive drive for the Huskies.

Tim Williams, OLB, 6’4, 252, #56
Despite some concerning off the field behavior and character red flags, the 3-4 edge rusher plays with great speed to power, extends with control and push upfield, and can finish in the backfield as a defender. While he’s likely to be a bit more situational in the NFL and has his most value as a true pass rusher, he has the requisite length and power on the edge to be considered for first-round grades aside from his off-field woes.

Ryan Anderson, OLB, 6’2, 253, #22
Alabama’s most reliable outside linebacker, Anderson is a do-it-all prospect who rushes off the edge with great bend and control but can also dip into short-area coverage and work in the flat with success. He’s been productive as a versatile edge player and while his athleticism likely won’t test him into the top-25 picks, he’ll be viewed as a reliable linebacker prospect for 3-4 defenses.

Other Players to Watch
-Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, 6’3, 305, #54

 

Washington (12-1, 7-1)

John Ross, WR, 5’11, 190, #1 (Jr.)
Not a tremendously diverse route runner but effective enough, Ross supplies a potential weakness for the Alabama defense. Alabama struggles to consistently contend with the deep ball as a couple of the corners have been noted to be stiff and not quick enough to change direction to catch up with speed. Ross’ short area quickness and ability after the catch calls for enough attention to game plan for. Ross is tied for third in the nation with 17 receiving touchdowns. He also has accounted for 1,122 yards on 76 receptions.

Vita Vea, DT, 6’5, 332, #50 (Soph.)
Vea has already garnered plenty of praise with comparisons to the athletic Dontari Poe of the Kansas City Chiefs. Vea is a force in the run game with his size and strength providing for an almost unmovable task for the offense. The powerful defensive tackle uses his violent and heavy hands to power through guards and centers resulting in a fine example of converting power into speed. A quick penetrator in the interior at his size is highly coveted at the next level.

Elijah Qualls, DT, 6’1, 321, #11 (Jr.)
A former running back in high school, if you can believe it, Qualls’ athleticism shows as he plays with plenty of it while occupying space in the interior. Playing as a 0-tech tackle, Qualls isn’t asked to do much when it comes to rushing the passer or when the play develops to the outside. As a result, he has been limited to just a space filler in the trenches. He plays with an average burst of the line but with his huge frame it would be nice to see him generate more push at the point of attack. Though he plays his role as it should be played, his upside may be limited when projecting him to the NFL.

Sidney Jones, CB, 6’0, 181, #26 (Jr.)
Jones is one of the more disciplined cornerbacks in college football playing with poise while trusting his ability. The ball hawk cornerback is a smooth customer when having to back pedal with his matchup then not displaying any missteps when having to turn and run. He is a technician. Jones plays with that feisty demeanor that all coaches love to see which only makes him a more appreciated defensive back. His size is really only his biggest concern as he sports a thin frame but that has yet to put him at a disadvantage as he thrives in press coverage jamming receivers left and right off the snap.

Budda Baker, FS, 5’10, 192, #32 (Jr.)
If one word can describe Baker’s game it would be anticipation. Baker can time a throw and locate the football just as quick as any safety at the next level. An instinctive free safety, Baker displays the ball skills that are much appreciated by next-level evaluators accompanied by the hit power to cause the ball to be jarred loose. Baker is the best free safety prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft class.

 

Other Huskies to Watch
-Darrell Daniels, TE, 6’4, 246, #15
-Jake Eldrenkamp, OG, 6’5, 297, #52
-Dante Pettis, WR, 6’1, 188, #8 (Jr.)
-Kevin King, CB, 6’3, 192, #20