The O.U.T List: Pre-Look – Defensive Fronts For 2021 NFL Season

Small School Defensive Front Talents, Potential 2021 RCI Invitees?

It is not always about the size, although it is important, but the will and fearless nature of a defensive end and defensive tackle normally is all it takes to sustain success in the NFL.

The Aaron Donald’s (Los Angeles Rams) and Sheldon Day’s (Indianapolis Colts) of the world are examples of what is takes to be standouts among the mighty big men of the trenches in the NFL, while at their limited stature.

It is a general rule that these essential talents would draw attention from major programs, and ultimately, find their way to the league.

Then, there are the John Randle’s (Hall of Famer) of the world, Division II gems that demand attention and the opportunity to fill a NFL roster spot. However, true talents like Randle does not come often and the scope for lower level programs, including Division II and less, does not zoom in constantly to focus on what is actually on the rise.

And this is why the evaluation process is so important, and the purpose for the NFL Regional Combine platform.

The RC platform helped to showcase several defensive front talents for NFL success like Justin Lawler (Los Angeles Rams), Kyle Phillips (New York Jets) Benson Mayowa (Las Vegas Raiders), Brandin Bryant (Cleveland Browns) Justin Zimmer (Browns) to name a few.

Typically, defensive fronts on the lower level of competition are undersized. Nevertheless, it does not mean they can not perform on the NFL stage. This year’s talents physically fit the bill for 2021 with their size and strengthen.

Clearly, most defensive fronts’ skill set does not translate to the NFL, despite having an outstanding collegiate career at the lower level of football.

Albeit, there are a few defensive fronts from this Overlooked Unknown Talents (O.U.T) listing who could transition to the next level if the right eyes were placed on them.

And if they are afforded the liberty of being invited to the NFL Regional Combine Invitational like others unknown gems before them, no telling if there will be another Randle in the midst.


DE ELERSON SMITH (NORTHERN IOWA) – 6-7, 245-pounds – Relentless, quick, agile, bullish style, great leverage for size, athletic, tremendous upper body strength, fundamentally sound, solid technique (especially inside), pure-tackler, stays with the ball, solid run stopper, intelligent, not easily fooled, great anticipation, great feet and hands.

Elerson Smith/Google Images

DE CODY ROSCOE (SYRACUSE) – 6-1, 247-pounds – Has great pursue (hustle, high motor), great balance, control and leverage, can play with hands in the ground, solid burst off the edge, great hand usage (crafty inside hand bring down technique), strong hands, solid closing speed, bring pressure consistently, good speed, versatile (can play inside – situational), instinctive, great anticipation, communicates well, student of the game.

McNeese defensive lineman Cody Roscoe lines up during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

DE ROMEO MCKNIGHT (ILLINOIS STATE) – 6-5, 260-pounds – Fires off the snap, quick first step, solid inside leverage, great pad level, wrap up technique is solid, good balance, solid hands usage, good feet, good lateral movement, effective on the inside as well, great change up, understand his gap assignment, high motor, does not take plays off, athletic, great bounce, strong, does not play high, solid fundamentals.

Romeo McKnight/Google Images

DE CHRIS GARRETT (CONCORDIA) – 6-4, 230-pounds – Drive through his legs well, solid on special teams, uses hands well, athletic, strong, patience, finishes plays strong, decent leverage, good in space, good lateral movement, great length, has control and balance, bring decent pressure, calculated.

Chris Garrett/Google Images

DE ALANI PUTUTAU (ADAMS STATE) – 6-2, 235-pounds – Filthy, aggressive, quick off the ball, great one-two technique, stands offensive linemen up, quick snatch-and-go, strong, manipulates offensive linemen, great balance and control, dangerous on the inside, explosive, great pad level, detailed, patience, keeps eyes in the backfield, great anticipation, instinctive, good speed, bring consistent pressure on the quarterback, can stop the run, solid technique, wraps up well.

Alani Pututau/Google Images

ERIK HANSEN (UPPER IOWA) – 6-3, 250-pounds – Great technique (especially hands swipe, slap, pull engagement), strong hands, solid feet, has balance and control, consistent pressure on quarterbacks, good feet, solid leverage, sheds blockers well, solid fundamentals, finisher, intuitive, smart, can play the run, fast, good closing speed, high motor, solid pursuit, frustrates opponents, plays harder and faster per quarters, great rhythm performer.

Erik Hanson/Google Images

GIBERTO ORTIZ II (EDINBORO) – 6-4, 235-pounds – Great technique (especially push-pull, grab-and-go), strong hands, good speed, great closingspeed, high IQ, high pursuit, great range and length, can play with hands in the ground, explodes off snap, good feet, move laterally, agile, elusive in gap assignment, great tackling technique and pad level, solid against the run, good containment pursuit, aggressive – yet patience, traditional NFL edge rusher skill set.

Giberto Ortiz II/Google Images




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