1) Bradley Chubb N.C. State
2) Arden Key LSU
3) Clelin Ferrell Clemson
4) Sam Hubbard Ohio St
5) Marcus Davenport UTSA
- This a rather poor class of pass rushers overall so I would not be shocked to see them going sooner than other positions with deeper overall talent. The hands down best natural end in the class is Bradley Chubb who plays with a lot of quickness, power, leverage, and energy. He is a top 5 talent if not for the quarterbacks most likely getting picked before him. Some may worry since his best fit is as a base end in a 4-3 front, which means some top teams like the Colts, Bears, and Broncos do not run a defense that fits him. However, he is just a talented player and if he is there you draft him then figure out where he fits later. The second best base end in this draft is Arden Key who has a lot of talent on the field, but there are a few things I worry about with him. One is his health where he has been dinged up the past few seasons, but my biggest issue is his off field stuff where he was missing in the off season workouts. I know it's not the end of the world, but I always prefer my players buying into the team and not off doing their own thing. His style also reminds me of previous talented ends like Barkevious Mingo, Dion Jordan, and Quinton Coples who all have talent with some motivation issues. However, if he stays in the game and motivated he could be a special player.
Ferrell is the biggest upside pick in the draft in my opinion. He is still an incredibly young player with a lot of upside to him where I am hesitant to make him a high pick. However, he is already a good all around pass rusher with his strength, speed, and bend around the corner. He is also versatile enough to be a standing rusher. I would not be shocked if he were taken early in the first round, but you need to give him time to develop before he becomes an every game factor. Everyone is down on Sam Hubbard due to a bad statistical season, but with how heavy the rotation was at Ohio St I think he just could never get into a consistent rhythm. He is also unfairly being compared to Joey Bosa who is turning into one of the best ends in the league. Hubbard is a solid all around end with good strength, speed, and length to be a handful for opposing offensive linemen. Maybe if he works with Bosa to learn proper technique and gain more stamina he could turn into a similar player. Lastly, we have this year's small school end who can rise up boards due to his incredible length and athleticism. He does need to prove himself against higher level of talent to really help out his draft stock. I would be surprised if he sneaks into the back end of the first round.
1) Da'Ron Payne Alabama
2) Vita Vea Washington
3) Christian Wilkins Clemson
4) Trenton Thompson Georgia
5) Maurice Hurst Michigan
- This is a very strong tackle class and may be one of the positions pushed down in the draft by teams reaching for edge rushers, which is a much weaker class. My favorite tackle is Da'Ron Payne and not just from recency bias on seeing how great he can be during the playoffs. Unlike previous Alabama tackles who were already finished products, banged up, or one dimensional, Payne is none of those things. This was his first year as a full time starter so he is less banged up and has a lot of developmental upside coming. He is already a great run stuffer and as he continues to develop his pass rushing technique he should turn into a talented player. Next is Vita Vea who does not get a lot of press in the great Northwest, but he is a very similar prospect to Danny Shelton from a few seasons ago. In fact, many think Vea has more upside as a pass rusher due to his better than expected athleticism for a man his size. Then the next in the first round trio is Christian Wilkins who is more of a finished product where he already is at his best as a interior disruptor and run stuffer. One thing he does great is provide a lot of energy and activity in the middle of the defense. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the first tackle taken off the board.
The second tier are guys who have first round caliber talent, but need to develop more to be a consistent threat. Every year we get a tackle with a lot of talent, but some motivational issues where he takes off a lot of plays. Previous years it was Frank Clark, Carl Davis, Malik McDowell, and now we have Trenton Thompson. When motivated like he was during the playoffs he is a tackle who can make plays all over the field flashing impressive speed to get down field to tackle runners who got loose. He also has good strength and versatility to play also as a five-technique end. If he lands in a good situation he could be a nice sleeper pick. I was all in on Davon Godchaux who slide down in the draft last year due to his size issues, but he turned out to be a very good player for the Dolphins this season. This year I am all in on Maurice Hurst who people say is too thin and lacks strength on the interior. Strength is something you can work on in weight room, but Hurst has a special first step quickness and ability to shoot in the backfield that is difficult to teach. I can see him turning into a very nice three-technique tackle and a good value pick.
3-4 Outside Linebackers:
1) Arden Key LSU
2) Clelin Ferrell Clemson
3) Austin Bryant Clemson
4) Harold Landry Boston College
5) Dorance Armstrong Kansas
- Again, this is a weak pass rush class and that includes standing pass rushers. Arden Key and Clelin Ferrell are two candidates who can play both as a base end and as a standing rusher. Meanwhile, Ferrell's teammate Austin Bryant I think is a more natural fit as a standing pass rusher than a base end. His weight and size is a tad on the smaller size. However, more than that his speed is his best calling card shooting off the edge and dipping under offensive tackles extended arms. He is not as versatile all around as Ferrell is who is a stronger and more anchored player against the run. Bryant also has a lot of upside and could be a late first rounder who develops in a rotation. I can see him being much like Charles Harris, and Shane Ray who took a bit before they really started to make an impact.
Next it is one player who I think is being played up way too much. Harold Landry to me is a completely one dimensional player who can only use his speed to get after the quarterback. However, at his size he can easily be manhandled by blockers and regularly washed out in the run game. The tape of him going against Mike McGlinchey and Notre Dame's talented o-line could be a sign of things to come in the pros where he was regularly eaten up in the run game. If he is used as strictly as a pass rusher he could find a good niche. Lastly, there's a talented and athletic pass rusher who could be a nice value pick in Dorance Armstrong. His numbers are down playing on a bad Kansas defense where team's double blocked and ran away from him. However, he has a lot of length, bend, and speed off the edge to be a good player for the pros.
1) Roquon Smith Georgia
2) Rashaan Evans Alabama
3) Tremaine Edmunds Virginia Tech
4) Malik Jefferson Texas
5) Leighton Vander Esch Boise St
- Much like the edge rushers this linebacker class leaves a lot to be desired. Especially, with Kentucky's talented linebacker Josh Allen returning to school. Roquon Smith is far and away the best middle linebacker in this draft. He fits the modern mold team's look for now where is a tad undersized, covers very well, and is a very sure tackler. Smith was all over the field in the two playoff games, but had been great all season long displaying great all around ability. I would not be shocked if he gets selected as high as #10 to the Raiders. The next best linebacker is a guy who won the Championship on Alabama in Rashaan Evans. It is incredible how hyped up his predecessors were compared to him. Evans in his own right is a durable linebacker with good speed, and coverage ability to fit in the modern day NFL. He could sneak into the back end of the first round, but if he slides to the second round he could be a great steal.
The next group are linebackers who could very well drop all the way to the third round in my opinion. Tremaine Edmunds had a great season last year, but went to have a rather average year this season. He has the pro skill set you like in modern linebacker with good speed to move around on defense playing the run and pass well. However, he just does not make enough splash plays for me to be willing to call him a great linebacker for the next level. Malik Jefferson is much of the same as Edmunds, however he has a whole lot more upside than Edmunds. Jefferson has an elite skill set, but never seemed to play like it at Texas. If he figures it out in the pros he can become a very nice value pick, but I doubt he ever plays hard since teams are already questioning his love for the game. Lastly, we have my sleeper pick in Leighton Vander Esch who is leaving Boise St early after a huge break out season. He finished his great year with an incredible bowl game where he tallied 12 tackles and a sack. All season long he has been active in the run and pass game. I could see him being a similar backer to Jake Ryan or Jatavis Brown at the next level.
1) Joshua Jackson Iowa
2) Denzel Ward Ohio St
3) Mike Hughes UCF
4) Carlton Davis Auburn
5) J.C. Jackson Maryland
- This cornerback group is a very mixed back in my opinion where you can pick any of the top players from the group and make a good argument that he should be taken first. Right now though Jackson to me is the best corner prospect who seemed to figure it out this season. He has always had incredible coverage ability, length, and ability to bat the ball down. However, this year he has figured out how to actually take the ball away with his incredible reach. If he runs well at the Combine he could easily be a top 10 pick. Then the other corner who could sneak high in the draft with a good Combine is Denzel Ward. My big issue with him is his size where he could get pushed around like Vernon Hargreaves against bigger receivers. He does have incredible blanketing ability and speed to keep up with any receiver. Though I cannot see him making a big impact like his former teammate Marshon Lattimore and neither will Jackson for that matter most likely, but Ward can be an excellent slot corner.
Mike Hughes is a corner who I personally really like and has been a tad dismissed by a lot of scouts, but he has gifted speed. If he continues to work on his technique and footwork to better translate his athleticism to coverage he could have the same upside that Adoree' Jackson had coming out of USC. Hughes is also a talented returner who can make an impact there. I also love his confidence and chippiness where his position that trait is probably the most useful where he is looking for a fight every time he comes to the line. Carlton Davis is the top long armed and big corner where everyone is trying to find the next Richard Sherman on the outside. He has the ability to play in a press scheme very well, but I worry about his ability to flip his hips like many other bigger corners. I can see him a big boom or bust prospect. Lastly, another boom or bust prospect for another reason is J.C. Jackson. If drafting was just based on what he can do on the field he could be the first corner taken. He has good size, speed, and ball skills to be a talented cover corner. However, he comes with a lot of off field issues stemming from his time at Florida where he was shot at and charged with a robbery the year after. People at Maryland says he has cleaned up his act a lot and has never been in trouble there. If he can continue that in the pros he could be a great value pick.
1) Minkah Fitzpatrick Alabama
2) Derwin James Florida St
3) Ronnie Harrison Alabama
4) Justin Reid Stanford
5) Terrell Edmunds Virginia Tech
- Unlike the corner class that is a tad bit of a mixed bag, this safety class is actually really good with some good depth. So, it would not be shocking to see the players outside of the top two in this group to slide down further than expected. Fitzpatrick is my favorite safety in this class due to his versatility and more natural fit in coverage. He has amazing instincts, ball skills, and tackling ability to be able to play in the box or out in the deep middle of the field. Fitzpatrick could even be drafted to be a corner, but if he is moved there his advanced instincts is reigned back a bit since he can only play on one side then. I would be shocked if he makes it past the top 8 picks. The next safety is just a hair below Fitzpatrick in Derwin James who I think is an incredible athlete. However, he is not as refined as the Bama product nor is a sure fire pick to stay at safety. At 6'3" he is a taller than average safety and has the girth to be able to float down to be a smaller linebacker. Some also worry about his natural instincts in coverage. Overall, I can see him being a lite version of Eric Berry where he can make an impact against big tight ends and smother small slot receivers.
The next tier is a good mix of guys who can do a bit of everything so it depends on what teams are looking for when drafting a safety. Ronnie Harrison reminds me a lot of Landon Collins in both terms of size and athleticism, but also where their strengths lie. Harrison much like Collins is a much better in the box safety right now, but continues to develop in coverage just like Collins. I am not sure if he is as motivated as Collins who worked incredibly hard to get to where he is. Harrison does have better ball skills already so maybe he has less to develop than Collins. Next is another first round caliber safety in Justin Reid who is the brother of Eric on the 49ers. Reid is a nice all around safety with high level of intelligence and instincts. However, he is not overly athletic nor is he a big thumper. He reminds a lot of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who was kind of a finished product coming into the NFL. Lastly, Terrell Edmunds the brother of linebacker Tremaine in this draft is another safety similar to Reid. He is good all over the field with good ball skills and instincts. However, his ball skills is trailing much more than the players ahead of him and could take a bit to really find himself. He sort of reminds me of Adrian Amos who took a few years until he reached his true ability.