2023 NFL Draft: Pass Rushers Galore at the Senior Bowl


January 31

Long before I joined SportsGrid, a decade ago, I was covering the NFL Draft exclusively. And long before I made a career in sports media, I was a kid in New York who loved both the pro and college games, which made the NFL Draft one of my favorite events of the year.

Which college stars had the tools to make it to the next level? Which NFL teams would build a future Super Bowl Champion starting with the draft? The possibilities were endless. While I’m not as locked into the draft process as I once was, the draftnik in me is alive and well. 

With the Senior Bowl practices beginning today, let’s look at some of the top prospects on the defensive side of the ball in Mobile.

Unfortunately, Texas Tech defensive end and potential top-ten pick Tyree Wilson is among the players who pulled out of the Senior Bowl. However, there is no shortage of edge rushers considered top-100 prospects. Can any work their way into the first round as Jermaine Johnson II out of Florida State did last year?

Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey, Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV, Army’s Andre Carter II, Kansas State’s Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Auburn’s Derick Hall, and Georgia Tech’s Keion White are all in that conversation. 

Foskey has an excellent quick step, allowing him to leave South Bend as ND’s all-time leading sacker. Never satisfied with just getting to the QB, Foskey has a knack for going after the football. Some favor McDonald, who has elite traits and athleticism with the fleetness of foot and quick twitch that will impress at the NFL Scouting Combine. 

Carter Jr. blew up with 14.5 sacks as a junior, and even though his sack total dipped in 2022, the Cadet expects to be the highest draft pick out of Army in decades but will need to get stronger to get on the field in the NFL. That’s why he’s considered a project by some despite the production.

You can make the case that Tennessee’s Byron Young and TCU’s Dylan Horton should be with the group above, while Clemson’s K.J. Henry is used to being overlooked. 

Fellow Tigers defensive linemen Myles Murphy (edge) and Bryan Bresee (DT) are considered lock first-round picks, with Murphy mocked in the top ten more often than not. But it was Henry who led the D-line in tackles (11 more than Murphy) and QB pressures. Coaches will love his physicality.

Don’t rule out Central Michigan’s Thomas Incoom, LSU’s Ali Gaye, Appalachian State’s Nick Hampton, Missouri’s Isaiah McGuire, Kansas’s Lonnie Phelps Jr., and Oregon’s D.J. Johnson as potential Day 2 picks.

Gaye is the most intriguing of that group, as he has the largest gap between talent and production. Depending on how he develops, he could be the feather in the cap of a scout or get a coach in trouble.

Tomorrow, we’ll flip to the offensive side of the ball.

Thumbnail photo via Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

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