MOBILE, Ala. -- Alabama's defensive dominance didn’t end with the national championship.
The Crimson Tide continued to produce some of the best defensive players on the field during Senior Bowl week, with linebacker Reggie Ragland and defensive tackle Jarran Reed further increasing their stock as first-round draft prospects.
Both could potentially be in play for the New Orleans Saints at No. 12 -- especially Ragland.
The only problem with Ragland is that his natural position is middle linebacker, where the Saints are already set with second-year pro Stephone Anthony. But the 6-foot-1, 259-pounder spent much of the week practicing at outside linebacker to try and prove his versatility to teams like the Saints.
“I just want to show that I can cover and rush the passer. I want to show that I can do multiple things at the next level,” Ragland said. “I know I can play inside, but I want to be able to show that I can play outside too. If a guy goes down, I want to show I can go out there and play it too and not miss a beat.”
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay rated Ragland No. 3 and Reed No. 4 among his top NFL draft prospects who participated this week at the Senior Bowl. McShay was one of many scouts who noted that Ragland indeed showed versatility throughout the week by impressing as an outside pass-rusher.
ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker had a detailed report on Ragland, in which he noted that he is still a work in progress in pass coverage.
By most accounts, Ragland’s work ethic, poise and character will all boost his draft stock, as well. Ragland’s personality and self-confidence even stood out to me during a brief exchange after the first day of practice when he chased down Alabama coach Nick Saban on the field and demanded a hug from him.
Reed (6-foot-3, 311) also said his top goal for the week was to show off his versatility. He said he played mostly 3-technique at Alabama, which is where he would fit best in the Saints’ defense. But he said he feels equally comfortable everywhere from the 5-technique (defensive end) to the 0 (nose tackle).
“I played it all,” said Reed, who impressed McShay by the way he was able to handle a steady stream of double- and triple-teams throughout the week.
Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence were also among the top defensive prospects who generated a ton of buzz during Senior Bowl week and could be on the Saints’ radar.
I wrote this week about how the Saints spent extra time with Spence during a lunch meeting on Monday. But the biggest questions facing Spence are off the field after a pair of failed drug tests got him kicked out of Ohio State. If teams are convinced on his character, they’ll be even more convinced about his ability after this week.
There probably weren’t any defensive backs on display this week that will go as high as No. 12 to the Saints. But Boise State safety Darian Thompson, LSU DB Jalen Mills and Southeastern Louisiana CB Harlan Miller all boosted their stock as Day 2 possibilities.