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NFL Draft 2018: Top defensive prospects to watch for in Senior Bowl

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Can the Bengals find a linebacker to upgrade their defense, or maybe a replacement for Michael Johnson down the road?

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Auburn vs Central Florida Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Senior Bowl is a great chance for the Bengals to get a look at the top defensive talent they could add to their roster in the draft.

They have a need at linebacker, but they could also look to add some depth or competition along the defensive line depending how free agency unfolds as well.

Here are the top defensive prospects from the Senior Bowl.


Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford

Phillips is a truly undersized defensive tackle, but his productions speaks for itself. He had 98 tackles last season, and 17 of them were for a loss. He also had seven sacks on the season. Phillips measurables will be a huge deal this week, but if he stuffs the stat sheet on game day, it will be hard to care that much. The Bengals seem set at defensive tackle, but if a good player falls to you, it should be hard to pass them up.

Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State

Bengals fans may not think defensive end is a position the Bengals will look at, but free agency will determine that. If Chris Smith walks, then the Bengals could use one of their picks to draft Michael Johnson’s replacement for when his contract expires after next season. Lewis could fit that bill. He was overshadowed by a talented bunch of defensive ends at Ohio State, but he could be there early in the second round for the Bengals to snatch up.

Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M

Watts is a versatile safety who will be able to show of his range at the Senior Bowl. The Bengals need to add to their depth at the safety position after losing Derron Smith was signed by the Browns off the Bengals practice squad. Watt could also be quite the special teamer while he waits for his opportunity at the safety position.

Kyzir White, S, West Virginia

White is a hitter. He loves to run up and lay the wood on ball carriers, but he isn’t as versatile a player as Watts is, and it would be hard to see him filling the role of George Iloka if he missed some time like last season. Iloka is one of the best in the NFL at limiting big plays, but White would need to show his coverage abilities at the Senior Bowl. Still, he’d fill Shawn Williams’ role quite nicely, aside from getting picked on by the better tight ends in the NFL.


Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

Davenport has quickly been rising up mock drafts recently. He has all the mesurables you could want from a defensive end. He just has to show he can put it altogether against the cream of the crop. It is extremely doubtful the Bengals would spend their first-round pick on him, but Davenport is just a general name you should watch out for come draft time.

Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF

Griffin’s only knock as a player really is the fact he plays with only one hand. Even that doesn’t seem to slow down his play though. He had a huge game against Auburn in the Peach Bowl, and he has flashed his athleticism all season. He will obviously drop in the draft, but he is a guy the Bengals could draft to upgrade their linebacking group.

Andrew Brown, DE, Virginia

Brown feels like a shorter version of Johnson, which isn’t a knock on Brown since Johnson is 6’7. Brown is the ideal run-stopping defensive end, but he really lacks outside pass-rush ability. He is better suited to rush the passer from the inside position, which you could copy and paste from a description of Johnson really.

Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State

Despite being undersized, Leonard does a nice job of fighting off blocks. That is something he will have to continue to show at the Senior Bowl. Everything else about him checks out as an athletic linebacker who could become a pretty good coverage linebacker.