Throughout the week leading up to the Senior Bowl, one of the biggest headlines from Mobile, Ala., was the incredible defensive line play. Scouts, writers and coaches alike saw an immense amount of talent from the DL; Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff came to the same conclusion during his visit.
This trend continued Saturday during the much-anticipated contest between the North and South teams, as D-linemen on both sides excelled at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
One such player was Vernon Butler, a defensive tackle out of Louisiana Tech. The All-Conference USA nominee registered an early sack that forced a fumble and earned another tackle for loss—undoubtedly improving his stock in the process.
Noah Spence had a good day, as well. The Eastern Kentucky defensive lineman was the best pass rusher of the week, according to Mike Mayock, applied consistent pressure off the edge on Saturday and tallied a sack in the opening half.
Another player to keep an eye on moving forward is Sheldon Rankins. Although he had to sit out of the Senior Bowl because of a knee injury, he impressed a lot of writers throughout the week's practices and was nearly unblockable at times. Clemson DT D.J. Reader reportedly looked good in practice, too, as did Illinois' Jihad Ward and Alabama's Jarran Reed.
This remarkable crop of defensive lineman bodes well for the Falcons, who have made it a priority to upgrade at the line of scrimmage. NFL.com's latest mock draft had a whopping 12 DL going in the top 40 picks come April. Based on the high-end juniors and the work put in this week in Mobile, that number doesn't seem far-fetched at all.