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5 Defensive Under the Radar Senior Bowl Prospects

Updated: May 9, 2023

By Adam Aniba

Washington will have their new talent evaluators at the Senior Bowl with new GM Martin Mahew and new VP of Football/Player Personnel Marty Hurney. They're looking to build on a defense that finished the season ranked 4th overall. Their track record has been questioned during their time in Detroit and Carolina. One thing seems clear though; they're in Mobile representing Ron Rivera to look for solutions at linebacker, safety and cornerback on defense. Fans will gravitate to the big names in the early portions of the draft, but building blocks and potential starters are often found at the Senior Bowl.

After reviewing the college film of some of the participants, 5 Under the Radar Prospects stood out on defense and should be in play on Day 3 of the draft.

Richie Grant FS/DB


2nd-3rd Round Grade

Height: 6 feet, 1 1/2 inches

Weight: 227

Wingspan: 76 inches

Arm length: 30 inches

Hand size: 9 1/2 inches

Career Stats (46 games) 290 total tak (189 solo), 11.5 TFL, 1 sack, 10 ints, 1 td, 17 PD, 4 and 5 FF

2020 72 total tak (49 solo), 1 sack, 3 ints 5 PD, 2 forced rec and 2 FF

Washington's situation at safety has been murky since the death of Sean Taylor. After Landon Collins went down with a season ending achilles tendon injury, rookie Kamren Curl stepped up and by season's end was viewed as the future starter at SS. It's unclear how Collins will fit into the mix after he returns, but FS has been a revolving door.

UCF FS Richie Grant is a prospect that opened eyes during Thursday's Senior Bowl practice session, recording 2 ints during 11 on 11s. He looked like the most instinctive defensive back on the field and is just scratching the surface of his ability. As was the case at UCF, his ability to always be around the ball and run stride for stride with receivers make him a safety that will likely be on Washington's radar. His strength lies in playing single high coverage, but he also displayed the toughness to hold his own in the box. Grant saw time at multiple spots along the defensive backfield, which is always a big plus. Grant even saw time at slot corner, but his ability to man centerfield makes him an ideal prospect for DC Jack Del Rio's scheme. When looking for a safety that excels in coverage as well as one that can support in the run, Grant could be a Day 3 bargain if available.

Hamsah Nasirildeen S/LB Hybrid

Florida State

3rd-4th Round Grade

Height: 6 feet, 3 1/8 inches

Weight: 213

Wingspan: 82 3/4 inches

Arm length: 34 1/4 inches

Hand size: 10 inches

Career Stats (35 career games) 233 total tak (139 solo), 4.0 TFL, 4 ints, 9 PD, 1 FF, 3 FF and 1 sack

2020 (2 games) 13 tak (5 solo), 1.5 TFL,1 int and 1 PD

Hamsah Nasirildeen has looked impressive in coverage, seeing time in single high coverage, as well as playing in the box. Coming into the Senior Bowl there were questions about how far the FSU defensive back has conme since his late 2019 ACL tear. He's answered those questions thus far, being labeled as the most "fluid" big man in coverage at FSU.

A combination of Kamren Curl, Landon Collins (if he's still in WAS) or Jeremy Reeves and Nasirildeen could be the type of big dime formation that could finally neutralize tight ends. Opposing tight ends have routinely been a problem for Washington, despite finishing 4th overall in total defense. The FSU defensive back has the physical traits and length to mix it up when attacking the line of scrimmage, but displays rare athleticism for a defensive back his size.

Many expect Nasirildeen to run in the 4.45-4.5 range during his pro day forty yard dash. The early buzz is Nasirildeen will be drafted higher than expected and a big game could lead to the Seminole drafted in the top 50 after all is said and done. The traits and instincts are there, but his medicals and overall interview could be the difference maker in how high he'll get drafted. Washington boasts two 3rd round picks in this draft. If Nasirildeen is sitting there in the 3rd round, the FSU safety would be a potentially dynamic pairing with Curl.

Tre Brown S/CB


Mid 5th-7th Round Grade

Height: 5 feet, 9 3/4 inches

Weight: 188

Wingspan: 74 3/4 inches

Arm length: 30 1/4 inches

Hand size: 9 1/2 inches

Career Stats (44 games) 141 total tak (116 solo), 8.5 TFL, 4 ints, 2 sacks, 31 PD

2020 31 tak (25 solo), 1.0 TFL, 3 int, 6 PD

As the season concluded, Washington's situation at corner left more questions than answers, with a first round playoff loss to Tampa Bay. Although Kendall Fuller had an up and down season, his spot on the roster is safe for the next 2 seasons, as is the case with Jimmy Moreland. Head Coach Ron Rivera's acquisition of Ronald Darby on a one year "prove it" deal, turned out to be a wise choice. It seems likely that Darby will return, unless the market shifts in his favor and Fabian Moreau is a free agent who would probably leave for another opportunity.

This leaves Washington's depth at cornerback limited, but this year's Senior Bowl boasts an overachiever that would be a late round steal. Oklahoma cornerback Tre Brown will have his naysayers , but his ability to step up in multiple Big 12 Championships was impressive to watch. The clip above showcases a few of his clutch plays, which displayed his ability to step up when it mattered for his team. During the 2017 Nike Football Ratings Championship, Brown clocked a 4.41 in the forty yard dash. It certainly seems like he's improved his overall burst and quickness over the last three seasons, so it wouldn't be out of the question to see him run in the 4.38 range during his pro day. Although used sparingly, his ability to contribute as a late round kick returner could be enticing for Rivera who saw little return from the position in his first year in Washington.

Ifeatu Melifonwu S/CB


Mid 5th-7th Round Grade

Height: 6 feet, 2 5/8 inches

Weight: 212

Wingspan: 80 1/8 inches

Arm length: 32 1/8 inches

Hand size: 9 inches

Career Stats (23 games) 88 total tak (71 solo) 5.0 TFL, 4 ints, 1 sacks, 19 PD

2020 54 tak (43 solo), 3.0 TFL, 1 sack, 1 int, 6 PD, 1FR and 1FF

The theme of the hybrid player continues with Ifeatu Melifonwu. Some evaluators view him as a rangy, limited zone corner/sub-package big safety. The last name might ring a bill with some, considering his older brother is safety Obi Melifonwu who was selected 56th overall by the Raiders in the the 2017 draft. It remains to be seen if little brother can run in the 4.4 range, similar to Obi, but a productive week of practice and a good game versus higher level competition this weekend could help his stock.

Melifonwu has the athletic tools to be an effective sub-package weapon with more teams going to multiple tight end formations and using more spread concepts. The Syracuse defensive back is at his best in zone coverage, when he can utilize his length. He has the physical traits to line up against opposing tight ends, but it remains to be seen if he's got the instincts needed to be effective on the next level. Melifonwu is the definition of a boom or bust prospect, but if available late on Day 3, the Syracuse DB could be a high ceiling developmental project.

Chazz Surratt LB

North Carolina

2nd-3rd Round Grade

Height: 6 feet, 1 1/2 inches

Weight: 227

Wingspan: 76 inches

Arm length: 30 inches

Hand size: 9 1/2 inches

Career Stats (24 games '19-'20 after switch to LB) 206 total tackles (91 solo) 22.5 TFL, 2 ints, 12.5 sacks, 5 PD, 2FR and 2 FF

2020 91 tak (44 solo), 7.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 1 int, 3 PD, 1FR and 1FF

The story of Chazz Surratt's rise is unlike any other prospect at the Senior Bowl. After being recruited as a quarterback at UNC in 2016, he dealt with multiple nagging injuries during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, which kept him off the field. A ligament injury in his hand coupled with a new coaching staff pushed Surratt to consider a position switch or consider life after football.

Surratt not only took on the challenge of a position switch with a new coaching staff but he gained 15 lbs and switched to the defensive side of the ball. By week #1 of his junior season he convinced the coaching staff to give him a shot to start at linebacker and the early returns were impressive. The Tar Heel linebacker recorded 12 tackles in his first game against S. Carolina, making plays all over the field.

Surratt finished the 2019 season 2nd for ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and led the team in tackles with 115 (49 solo) while adding 15.0 tak for a loss, 6.5 sacks, 1 int. 2 PD, 1FR and 1FF. His coaches realized quickly that the converted quarterback's athleticism and ability would allow them to deploy him in a variety of ways. The Tar Heel linebacker saw time at all three LB spots, including being deployed as a situational pass rusher. His ability to drop in coverage and lock down the flat really makes Surratt a linebacker built for the NFL.

With Surratt's stock on the rise, he could go as early as round 2. Washington's need for a starting MLB is well documented. Although Surratt isn't a prototypical linebacker and lacks experience, his ability to play a variety of positions in sub packages will be appealing to teams.

As the Senior Bowl wraps up, the coverage from The Burgundy and Gold Report will continue to churn on so Stay Tuned.

*All Senior Bowl prospect measurements noted by The Burgundy and Gold Report were found directly on the Senior Bowl official website. Just CLICK Senior Bowl logo to go direct to their site.

*Draft grades cross referenced with TDN grades

Written By Adam Aniba



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