The 2019 NFL Draft will be stacked with defensive line talent. Expect many to be drafted in the first round, both edge and interior players. Here is a little look at some of the talent you’ll hear about in the run-up to the draft. The notes do not include any study of the 2018 tapes yet, it’s purely from their previous college seasons.
Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The younger brother of Joey Bosa is looking not only like the top defensive line player but also the top overall player for the 2019 NFL Draft. Just like his brother, Nick plays with excellent hand craft for the position, with his technique being mature like a NFL pass rusher. Bosa displays early long strides to gain ground. He has excellent hand usage to win at initial contact and throughout the rush, stabbing his opponent. He’ll look to club and swat away blockers’ arms and show a varied range of pass rush moves. He can counter when first rush moves fail, showing quick feet and very good ankle bend. Plays with good burst, power and leverage. Lowers pad and shoulder to dip at the top of the arc and create a direct angle to the quarterback. He always comes with a plan of attack when rushing the passer and has a variety of moves in his arsenal.
Nick will need to keep this steady in 2018 to ensure himself as the top defensive line player in the draft. He doesn’t have much bend at the hips (still finds a way to dip under the tackle) and can get fooled by play action and miss opportunity to tackle the ball carrier.
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Some people may have Oliver as their top guy and I do understand why. This guy is so freaky with his explosive athleticism and rare sudden movements for the position. Think of an Aaron Donald-type player – he’s a little undersized but you can’t ignore his talent. Oliver does an excellent job of keep pad level down and using natural leverage. He’s a slippery player who gets into the backfield against the run often, and explodes through gaps. Keeps eyes in the backfield and will shed blocker to make the tackle. And he can spin off of blockers neatly.
Where Oliver needs to improve for 2018 is his efficiency in his hand work and technique. He’d also benefit with adding a variety of pass rush moves and a plan to his rush, rather than with quickness and power.
(Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)
Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
Davis is an impressive man with an excellent build and size for the position with great length as well. He has superb athletic ability for his size, particularly with good lateral quickness. Davis shows flexibility and the ability to readjust body positioning. He shows power coming off the line of scrimmage, and has an excellent pad level for his size.
Where he needs to improve in 2018: Inconsistent get off, snap timing needs improvement. Can be a tick late coming off blocks in the run game, allowing running backs to run right by him. Raw as a pass rusher and would need to develop more moves and a game plan. Hand work can be a little undeveloped.
Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Gary has a thick muscular build for an edge player, and could play inside too. Yet he moves like a linebacker, with very good athleticism. Gary is already high up on my board early on and has the chance to cement that position but also has the chance to be a top-5 player on people’s boards. He shows immense strength and power at the point of attack to jolt offensive linemen. Gary does a very good job of tracking the ball carrier in the backfield. He has superb backside chase ability with the speed to catch and tackle. He easily converts speed to power, shows a nice long arm move, and can rip and dip under the tackle. Shows bend at the hips and good cornering for his size.
Where he needs to improve in 2018: He shows inconsistent pad level in both the pass and run game. Gary can get pinned inside by blockers, and will need to read, react and be aware of angle blocks. Although improving as a pass rusher, he’d benefit from more moves added to his arsenal.
Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
Simmons is one naturally powerful guy on the defensive line. He has very good athleticism and burst, and shows good agility and fluid change of direction. Displays burst and agility to cross the face of blockers, and lateral quickness to shoot other gaps. He anchors well against the run, and is always using active violent hands.
Where he needs to improve in 2018: Pad level rises during contact in the run game. Use of length can be inconsistent, too much bend in arms allowing blockers close to him. Also his off-field incident will have several teams digging deeper and it could cause his stock to plummet.
It’s still early days so I haven’t included every talent yet. Names to keep an eye on:
Brian Burns, DE Florida: Ridiculous get off ability, great bend and body control. He can play the run and displays power. It will be interesting to see how he performs in 2018, but he has the talent to be a top-10 pick.
Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson: Excellent movement for his size. Shows a great motor and quickness to win. His issues are notable against the run, and this is very likely to keep him outside the top-10. I would expect more power in his play which is needed and better use of hands to stack and shed. 2018 will be a big year for his draft stock.
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson: Of all the players on the defensive line at Clemson, Ferrell is the one I feel most confident being a first rounder. He could, I feel be taken as high as the early teens. His build for an edge player is impressive, possessing great length. Has all-round traits that you want in the position showing quickness and very dominant power. In 2018, if he becomes more dominant, his stock could so and be taken higher than some of the talent listed above.