Monday, February 29, 2016

Top 5 Defensive Prospects by Position

Draft Nuggets 2016: Entry #8
By Jeff Bowers of

Prospect Overview Part Two: Defense

With the NFL Scouting Combine just a week away (February 23-29), here is an overview of the Top 5 Prospects at each position along with a positional strength rating and a talent projection. Keep in mind, there is still a long way to go in this process and these evaluations are always subject to change as new information is gathered. In addition, the talent projection is not necessarily indicative of where a player will be drafted but more of their talent level, as it can’t account for the need of a team, the value of the position or the ineptitude of some teams.

Edge Rushers

Positional Strength: 2 of 5

1.       Joey Bosa, Ohio State, 1st round
2.       Shaq Lawson, Clemson, 1st round
3.       Leonard Floyd, Georgia, 1-2 round
4.       Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky, 2nd round
5.       Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State, 2nd round

Commentary: This is one of the weakest classes of edge rushers I have seen in a long time. Bosa is a high motor guy, but might top out as a Greg Ellis type. Lawson might end up as the best DE from this class but is still very raw in his technique. Floyd is very slight and will need to add weight to even be a 3-4 OLB but has nice burst. Spence is easily the most talented edge rusher in this class but off-field concerns will make many shy away. Ogbah is a solid rotational DE who might develop into a starter in time.

Defensive Tackles

Positional Strength: 5 of 5

1.       DeForest Buckner, Oregon, Top 10
2.       A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama, 1st round
3.       Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss, 1st round
4.       Sheldon Rankins, Louisville, 1st round
5.       Jarran Reed, Alabama, 1st-2nd round

Commentary: While weak on edge rushers, the 2016 draft class of defensive tackles might be the best I have ever seen. Buckner is scheme-versatile with both pass rushing and run stuffing skills. Robinson dominated at Alabama and will likely carry that forward into the pros. Nkemdiche comes with character concerns but might be the best pass-rushing DT in the class. Rankins is an impressive combination of size and speed reminiscent of Dontari Poe in KC. Reed is a solid run stuffer with room to improve in collapsing pockets.


Positional Strength: 4 of 5

1.       Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame, Top 5
2.       Myles Jack, UCLA, Top 10
3.       Reggie Ragland, Alabama, 1st round
4.       Darron Lee, Ohio State, 1st round
5.       Kentrell Brothers, Missouri, 2nd round

Commentary: This is a very impressive year for stand-up linebackers, if not for injuries. Jaylon Smith would be a top 5 pick if not for blowing out his knee in the Fiesta Bowl. Though he will likely have to “redshirt” his rookie year, someone will get a steal in the middle 1st. Jack is an amazingly athletic run-and-hit linebacker still learning the nuances of the position. A torn meniscus will keep him out of the Scouting Combine next week. Ragland is a big, fierce middle linebacker either in a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme. Darron Lee can fly all over the field in both pass and run defense; a priceless skill in today’s pass-happy NFL. Brothers is a tough run defender who often arrives with malice.


Positional Strength: 3 of 5

1.       Mackensie Alexander, Clemson, 1st round
2.       Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida, 1st round
3.       Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech, 1-2 round
4.       Eli Apple, Ohio State, 2nd round
5.       Jalen Mills, LSU, 2-3 round

Commentary: The 2016 cornerback draft class features almost no true “shutdown” CBs but does have decent depth in round 2-4. Alexander is physical corner already accustomed to facing #1 WRs but will have to overcome his size and watch the grabbing. Hargreaves III is just a few inches in height away from being seen a lockdown corner but will need to keep his aggressiveness in check. Fuller, the brother of Bears 1st round corner Kyle Fuller, has all the skills to even surpass his sibling but is recovering from injury. Apple is a tall and stout corner so coveted in the NFL today but will need to show plus speed or perhaps be moved to FS. Mills is another very gifted but very raw cover corner from LSU.


Positional Strength: 3 of 5

1.       Jalen Ramsey, Florida State, Top 5
2.       Su’a Cravens, USC, 1-2 round
3.       Vonn Bell, Ohio State, 2nd round
4.       Darian Thompson, Boise, 2nd round
5.       Jeremy Cash, Duke, 2nd round

Commentary: A position that usually is thin, the safety class in 2016 is surprisingly strong and fairly deep. Ramsey is the #1 overall player on many boards despite not playing a “premium” position and could star at either safety, corner or even nickel LB. Cravens was a cover linebacker at USC that will likely move to SS or nickel LB in the pros and use his natural speed in space. Bell uses his brain as much as his body to man the safety spot and could quickly become a team captain. Thompson a very rangy safety with a propensity to create big plays (and occasionally give them up as well). Cash is an in-the-box safety that is great in run support and might even be converted to a linebacker at the next level.

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