The NFL Draft starts tomorrow night with the first round before Friday night’s second and third rounds air on ESPN. We’ve been looking at some of the guys that’ll be in the mix to be selected and make pro rosters, and now after two wide receivers, we head back to the defensive side of the ball.
When you mention Dontavius Russell, he may not get the highest pub, but there’s certainly a muscle in Jake Fromm’s back that spasms with pain.
A four-year starter at Auburn, Russell became the consistent quiet cog in Rodney Garner’s defensive front. He played in 50 games during his time on the Plains, including 12 as a freshman, before turning into one of the key pieces on the line. With guys around him like Montravius Adams, Derrick Brown, Jeff Holland, Marlon Davidson, and Nick Coe, he was never going to be the flashiest guy on the field. He wasn’t going to be the one making sack after sack and blowing plays up. Russell’s job was to occupy blockers, stuff the holes, and allow everyone else to make plays. He was fantastic at that, and it may end up giving him the best chance to be the first Auburn player off the board.
Anybody that watched Auburn’s defensive line this year knew Russell, but they wouldn’t see him make many plays that show up in the stat sheet. Like Cole Cubelic said in the video above, he wasn’t going to stand out that way, but he was going to allow everyone else to stand out that way.
His size is great, and at 6’3, 319 pounds, he’s got some room to grow horizontally to help fill more of a gap on a professional defensive line. That’s exactly what the analysts think when you look at his draft profile, which gives him a “better-than-average chance to make NFL roster” , but does have suggestions for improvement.
They think that Russell’s biggest bugaboo is his natural inclination to play too upright. Off the snap, he’ll often pop up instead of hitting down low to get leverage, and that’ll neutralize him immediately against a season NFL guard. In addition, there are a couple of small fixes, like inconsistency with hand usage, and a tendency to go hot and cold when it comes to moving through blocks.
However, it’s impossible not to like his size. You can’t teach that, and he’s got room to grow. He’s also a guy that can cause havoc with one victory along the line. We all saw it plenty of times where the running back had to bounce outside because there were bodies strewn across the ground in front of him due to Russell blowing the interior apart. He wouldn’t make the tackle in that situation, but he was the root of the cause for someone else to finish the play.
When you’ve got a good head on your shoulders and you’re a hard worker like he is, the chances to succeed rise. Cole Cubelic thinks that he’ll be a mid-to-late second rounder, which may be a little optimistic. Others think of him as a late-rounder, or a priority free agent. Unfortunately, there are a ton of good defensive tackles available in this draft class, so that may be the biggest hit on his draft stock. Overall, I think that he’ll be a guy that finds a spot late in the draft and sticks with a team for a while because of his work ethic and tendency to do the dirty work on the interior.