The defensive side of the ball has some truly game changing players, but lacks depth across the board. This class includes names like Jalen Carter, Will Anderson Jr, Joey Porter Jr and Myles Murphy, but it also includes some you might not be familiar with. The depth of Edge Rushers and Cornerbacks are very strong in this class, continuing to show how football continues to morph into a pass centric game. The focus of finding and developing pass rushers and cornerbacks is essential to building a successful NFL defense. Historically the Linebacker has been the leader and focus of the defense, but that traditional concept is being altered by the wide open offenses they are installed to stop.
The NFL Draft is roughly a month away in Kansas City. A lot of movement will occur between now and then, thusly changing needs and opinions of the teams waiting to acquire their next franchise foundation.
TOP 9 DEFENSIVE LINEMAN:
The D-Line in this class has 4 to 5 players with 1st Round grades. There is a large gap between the 5th and 6th player, but serviceable depth across the board. Jalen Carter gets a ton of well deserved recognition, but I’m also intrigued by Calijah Kancey. Kancey is a stud pass rushing force from Pittsburgh and he has been molded and mentored by famous PITT alum Aaron Donald. On film, Kancey gives me a ton of Donald vibes and I think he’ll play at an elite level for years. A guy to watch for on Day 2 is West Virginia DT Dante Stills. He was the leader of the Mountaineer defense for years and a player opponents game plan for regularly.
1.). JALEN CARTER. (GEORGIA)
2.). CALIJAH KANCEY. (PITTSBURGH)
3.). BRYAN BREESE. (CLEMSON)
4.). ISAIAH FOSKEY. (NOTRE DAME)
5.). MAZI SMITH. (MICHIGAN)
6.). SIAKI IKA. (BAYLOR)
7.). ADETOMIWA ADEBAWORE (NORTHWESTERN)
8.). KEEANU BENTON (WISCONSIN)
9.). DANTE STILLS. (WEST VIRGINIA)
TOP 15 EDGE RUSHERS:
If your team can attack the quarterback relentlessly, it usually bodes success. This crop of edge rushers is loaded top to bottom. This position group is the deepest of any group in the Draft and that depth will force teams to go after other positions earlier on. Don’t freak out if some of these better players fall. It isn’t because they aren’t elite, but more because the limited depth at other positions forces them to go earlier and these gems will fall. Will Anderson Jr is the Alpha of this group, but keep your eyes on Will McDonald IV, BJ Ojulari, Zach Harrison and Robert Beal Jr.
1.). WILL ANDERSON JR. (ALABAMA)
2.). NOLAN SMITH. (GEORGIA)
3.). MYLES MURPHY. (CLEMSON)
4.). TYREE WILSON. (TEXAS TECH)
5.). LUKAS VAN NESS (IOWA)
6.). WILL McDONALD IV. (IOWA STATE)
7.). KEION WHITE. (GEORGIA TECH)
8.). BJ OJULARI. (LSU)
9.). FELIX ANUDIKE UZOMAH. (KANSAS STATE)
10.). NICK HERBIG. (WISCONSIN)
11.). ZACH HARRISON. (OHIO STATE)
12.). TULI TUIPULOTU. (USC)
13.). ISAIAH McGUIRE. (MISSOURI)
14.). ANDRE CARTER. (ARMY)
15.). ROBERT BEAL JR. (GEORGIA)
TOP 7 LINEBACKERS:
This position group is the weakest in the NFL Draft by far. I don’t think any of these prospects are worthy of a 1st Round pick, but depth players for your teams defense. Trenton Simpson is the best prospect of the bunch, but I am intrigued by Texas product Demarvion Overshown. Iowa Linebacker Jack Campbell looks like a 80’s/90’s Middle Linebacker and I’m worried about his ability to play in space.
1.). TRENTON SIMPSON. (CLEMSON)
2.). DREW SANDERS. (ARKANSAS)
3.). JACK CAMPBELL. (IOWA)
4.). DEMARVION OVERSHOWN. (TEXAS)
5.). NOAH SEWELL. (OREGON)
6.). DORIAN WILLIAMS. (TULANE)
7.). IVAN PACE JR. (CINCINNATI)
TOP 14 CORNERBACKS:
This position group is very good with 7 players who could be taken in the Top 40. I will go further and say that 3 of these players will be taken in the first 12 selections on April 27th. As we have stated numerous times, this is a passing league and the ability to stockpile solid defensive backs allows the defense to fight back. If your team is able to land one of these guys, it truly will bear fruit. Joey Porter Jr has been developing for this moment for years and he watched his father dominate at the NFL when he was growing up. A couple others to keep your eyes on are Deonte Banks, Clark Phillips III and Tyrique Stevenson.
1.). JOEY PORTER JR. (PENN STATE)
2.). DEVON WITHERSPOON. (ILLINOIS)
3.). CHRISTIAN GONZALEZ. (OREGON)
4.). KELEE RINGO. (GEORGIA)
5.). DEONTE BANKS. (MARYLAND)
6.). CAM SMITH (SOUTH CAROLINA)
7.). CLARK PHILLIPS III. (UTAH)
8.). EMMANUEL FORBES. (MISSISSIPPI STATE)
9.). GARRETT WILLIAMS (SYRACUSE)
10.). ELI RICKS. (ALABAMA)
11.). TYRIQUE STEVENSON (MIAMI)
12.). TRE’VIUS HODGES TOMLINSON. (TCU)
13.). JULIUS BRENTS (KANSAS STATE)
14.). DARIUS RUSH. (SOUTH CAROLINA)
TOP 7 SAFETIES:
This collection of players isn’t as star studded as the cornerbacks. The one thing they all have in common is that they hit. With all the rules in football, defensive backs might shy away from the big hit, but these guys bring the thunder. The leader of the group is Brian Branch. He has position flexibility, which makes him very attractive. A few names to remember are Sidney Brown and Christopher Smith. These guys were the leaders of their elite college defenses.
1.). BRIAN BRANCH. (ALABAMA)
2.). ANTONIO JOHNSON. (TEXAS A&M)
3.). SYDNEY BROWN. (ILLINOIS)
4.). JAMMIE ROBINSON (FSU)
5.). CHRISTOPHER SMITH (GEORGIA)
6.). JORDAN BATTLE (ALABAMA)
7.). JAY WARD. (LSU)
The NFL Draft is dramatic theater at every turn. The evaluations and subsequent selections are the most analyzed decisions in the sporting world. Stay tuned to Spinnable Sports for my Top 105 overall players in the draft. You can also find our AFC & NFC Offseason Rapid Reactions to the flurry of moves so far. In the coming days, my 3 Round Mock Draft will also be released. The Irrational Confidence Podcast (@IRConfidencePod on Twitter) position previews and Live Mock Draft are dropping on any podcast platform plus the Spinnable Sports YouTube Channel very soon!