clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2016 NFL Draft: Top 32 Big Board (Defense)

Who are the best 32 defensive prospects in the nation after a crazy regular season?

Vernon Hargreaves III. Future Titan?
Vernon Hargreaves III. Future Titan?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The college bowl season is right around the corner with awards season finished and Navy beating Army for the 14th straight time. Who are the best draft eligible defensive prospects after hundreds of games worth of wild finishes in 2015? Last week, we took a look at the top 32 offensive prospects here.

1. Joey Bosa 6'5 275 DE Junior Ohio State

- Bosa didn't have that dominant year everyone expected on the stat sheet but he helped free up his teammates to make plays elsewhere when they felt like playing up to expectations. He has a pretty good arsenal of pass rushing moves and countermoves. A skilled end prospect and one of the better ones in recent memory. Fits the 4-3 more than 3-4. Considered by many as the top prospect regardless of position in the entire country.

2. Reggie Ragland 6'2 258 ILB Senior Alabama

- Ragland was a force to be reckoned with and showed why he's the best inside linebacker prospect this year. He was simply a dominant playmaker for the Crimson Tide defense chock full of NFL ready talent. He's very fundamentally sound in all aspects. Shows elite instincts and proper tackle form. Very physical hitter. Athleticism is good enough to cover sideline to sideline but he's better at going downhill, striking fear into the opposition. Doesn't miss tackles when given the opportunity.

3. Jalen Ramsey 6'1 202 CB Junior Florida State

- Ramsey is arguably the Seminoles’ best player. Athletic ability, instincts, and ball skills are very good. Versatile defender as he’s played safety, corner, and some linebacker. Converted to cornerback full time in 2015 after the departure of several talented teammates to the NFL. He possesses the size and athleticism that scouts crave. His confidence elevates the level of play around him. Had a great 2015 season despite a turnstile at safety beside him due to injury and lack of "talent". He is a talented corner but could be the next Eric Berry should he be converted to safety.

4. Shilique Calhoun 6'5 252 DE RS Senior Michigan State

- A dominant force for the Spartans for two years now. He's improved his fundamentals in 2015. Projected to be a first rounder in 2015, 2016 shouldn't be any different. Pass rush arsenal has grown considerably. Very good usage of hands and arms to keep the blocker at bay. A sound tackler in the run game. Ball skills have progressed. Above average speed game. One of the best pure 4-3 end prospects in the country.

5. DeForest Buckner 6'7 290 DE Senior Oregon

- Arik Armstead who? Buckner is just as good if not better than the 49ers first round pick in the 2015 Draft. He’s a physical marvel and has very little bad weight. More of a brute strength type of defensive end instead of the speed type we’ve seen from Oregon in years past. Has some ability to drop back into coverage but it’s not the best aspect of his game.

6. Jaylon Smith 6'3 235 OLB Junior Notre Dame

- THe 2015 Butkus Award winner. Smith might be the most explosive linebacker in this year's class. He's an dynamic athlete with incredible range. A hard hitter as well. Fundamentally sound tackler. Drop back ability is elite. Could be Lavonte David 2.0. Will test off the charts at the Combine.

7. Vernon Hargreaves III 5'11 198 CB Junior Florida

- The best pure cornerback prospect in the class. He was the Gators' best defender at times. The definition of shutdown corner. Instincts are good. Size is another plus. He's had to cope with being the leader of an exhausted defense due to the Florida's totally and utterly inept offense. He and his defensive teammates held up as long as they could in the SEC title game but the game was fait accompli as soon as the ball was kicked off.

8. Shaq Lawson 6'3 275 DE Clemson

- Vic Beasley who? Lawson has more than capably replaced Beasley as his replacement in 2015. Lawson possesses more of a brute strength game rather than a explosive athletic ability one. He has very solid fundamentals and is well schooled in tackling the right way. Has the strength to toss aside the blocker and a high motor. Footwork despite his athletic limitations is above average. Doesn't have that explosive first step like a Joey Bosa but will constantly outwork the blocker. Ball skills are good. Discipline and football IQ are very good. Doesn't abandon his gap assignment to go hunting for glory stats like sacks and tackles for losses. Has the talent to be a first round pick should he declare.

9. Kenny Clark 6'3 308 DT Junior UCLA

Clark has been the Bruins' best defender in 2015. He's played tackle, end, and some nose tackle for UCLA throughout his career. Position and scheme versatile. Possibly the most technically refined defensive lineman in the country. Knows when and how to use power/finesse in every move. Lateral agility is an issue, however. High running motor but that can be exploited against him when he's lost in the wash. Fires off the ball really well for a guy his size.

10. Johnathan Allen 6'3 283 DL Junior Alabama

- Allen is the key cog in the Crimson Tide defensive machine. Can play both inside at tackle and outside at end. Very solid in fundamentals. Run defense is above average. Strength is a plus despite his relatively "light" 283. Leads the team with 9 sacks.

11. Mackensie Alexander 5'10 195 CB RS Sophomore Clemson

- Alexander is the second best corner in the conference. He boldly claimed that he was the best corner in the ACC and he just might have the skills to back it up. Fundamentally sound and is very coachable. Athleticism is above average as well. Lockdown defender who rarely lets a receiver get by.

12. Emmanuel Ogbah 6'4 275 DE RS Junior Oklahoma State

- Ogbah is the Big 12's most talented pass rusher and has the stats to back it up. Led OSU in tackles for loss, sacks, and forced fumbles. Lateral agility is a major plus to his game. Arm length is another positive. Arsenal of pass rush moves are above average although he leans on his strength rather than finesse at times. A fast riser up the boards.

13. Leonard Floyd 6'3 232 OLB RS Junior Georgia

- The SEC's most versatile pass rusher over the past couple of seasons. He came on like gangbusters in 2014 but faded somewhat in 2015 after changing positions. Arm length is very good. First step is one of the better ones in the nation. Agility is very good as well. Frame needs work, however. He needs to fill out some more.

14. Robert Nkemdiche 6'4 296 DL Junior Ole Miss

- If Bosa isn't the most talented defender, this guy is. However, the recent off field incident in which he fell out of a 15 foot high hotel window and being subsequently charged with pot possession knocks him this low. The story will have to play out as it's very confusing as to what happened that night. Fortunately he was not seriously injured in his fall. Stay tuned on this guy.

15. Jayron Kearse 6'4 220 S Junior Clemson

- Kearse is one of the top safeties in the ACC, if not the entire country. Athleticism is off the charts good and he has worked diligently on his fundamentals this year. Good athlete that can play both safety positions but strong safety is likely his calling card. NFL bloodlines are a plus as he is the nephew of former Titans great Jevon Kearse and former Miami Hurricanes DB Phillip Buchanon is a cousin.

16. Myles Jack 6'1 222 OLB Junior UCLA

- A much better athlete than Shaq Thompson. Jack also played at running back in addition to his linebacker duties. He’s much more of a physical presence on defense than Thompson. He likely needs to move back a level into the secondary to safety to have a future in the NFL. He is a talented linebacker but I did not like how he abandoned his team after getting hurt and declaring for the draft. Teams will have some questions about that as interviews come and go.

17. Adolphus Washington 6'4 290 DT Senior Ohio State

- Washington was the man in the middle that made things happen for the talented Buckeyes defense. He's one of the better run stoppers in the game. Underrated as a pass rusher. Washington was suspended for the bowl game due to being arrested for solicitation.

18. Su'a Cravens 6'1 225 OLB Junior USC

- Cravens is arguably the best defender in the Pac-12. Position versatile as he originally started out at safety before converting to linebacker last year. Athleticism is very good as the hips are fluid and footwork is impressive. Instincts are great as well. Finds the hole in the offensive scheme and attacks it. Pass defense is underrated as he shows an uncanny ability to always find the ball.

19. A'Shawn Robinson 6'3 312 DL Junior Alabama

- Another defensive line stud for the Tide. Robinson is the strongest of the two between him and Allen. He's very good in the run game and is very agile for a guy his size. Projected to stay at tackle due to his size and strength in run defense. Character is a plus as well.

20. Desmond King 5'11 200 CB Junior Iowa

- Might be the most underrated corner prospect in the country. Led the Hawkeyes to a berth in the Big Ten title game and an undefeated regular season. Not the most explosive athlete out there but is very fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game. A willing tackler as well. Runs the route for the receiver at times. Could be the best corner in 2017 should he elect to stay in school.

21. Johnathan Bullard 6'3 283 DL Senior Florida

- The Gators' best lineman and one man show due to significant injuries on the line. Strength is a big factor in his game. Power moves are very good. Holds up at the point of attack and doesn't get lost in the wash. Played through nagging shoulder and knee issues so toughness isn't an issue. Projects as a five tech in a 3-4.

22. Andrew Billings 6'1 310 DL Junior Baylor

- This year's Grady Jarrett but bigger. He isn't the most stat heavy lineman but occupies his assignment so his teammates can go make plays. Underrated in pass defense. Brute strength to simply push back the blockers and go about his business. Like Jarrett, he's boxed in as a tackle due to his lack of ideal lateral agility. Big 12 DPOY winner with Ogbah.

23. Jalen Mills 6'0 196 S Senior LSU

- The elder statesman of the Bayou Bengals secondary. Arguably the best safety prospect in the country. Football IQ and instincts are very good. Experienced and position versatile as he's seen pretty much everything at both corner and safety. He missed a significant portion of the 2015 season early on dealing with a broken leg.

24. Carl Nassib 6'6 270 DE RS Senior Penn State

- One of the more underrated end prospects thanks to a lot of talent above him. He's been a steadying force for the Nittany Lions as they went through a tough season. Surprisingly agile and possesses quick feet. Doesn't get lost in the wash easily. Holds up decently in the point of attack.

25. Jordan Jenkins 6'2 253 OLB Senior Georgia

- The rock of the Bulldogs defense. Position versatile as he was asked to play end in certain situations. Lost a lot of weight this year (20 pounds) in an effort to gain more quickness and agility. Not the best athlete on most fields but a consistent presence. Scheme versatile as he's switched between Todd Grantham's 3-4 and Jeremy Pruitt's 3-4 seamlessly.

26. Kendall Fuller 6'0 197 CB Junior Virginia Tech

- Fuller can make an argument that he is one of the best cornerbacks in the nation. He has impressive NFL/NCAA bloodlines as he's the youngest brother of the Fuller clan that were Hokies and went on to the NFL. There is also a Titans connection as oldest brother Vincent was a 2005 draft pick. Kendall might the best of the family, which is saying something because Kyle was pretty good during his rookie year in 2014. Instincts and fundamentals are excellent. Athleticism is very good as well. He has the speed to keep up with the faster receivers and plays bigger than his measurements.

27. Shawn Oakman 6'8 276 DE RS Senior Baylor

- Oakman is a physical specimen that is still learning the game. He's had a pretty solid 2015. Will compete with DeForest Buckner and Robert N for first end taken off the board. A more technically refined guy than most will give him credit for. Speed is the name of his game. Run defense is a bit lacking but pass rush is above average. Built like a NBA power forward.

28. Tre'Davious White 5'11 191 CB Junior LSU

- Honey Badger who? OK, hyperbole aside, White is a solid talent in his own right. He has good athleticism and can run with any receiver step for step. Needs to hit the weight room as bigger receivers can outmuscle him at the catch point at times.

29. Jarran Reed 6'3 313 DL Senior Alabama

- The other guy on the Tide's monstrous defensive line. His game is based on brute strength and not so much on finesse. A surprisingly agile and quick guy for his size when he's asked to unleash that part of his game. Willing to do the dirty work inside. Profiles as a big five or 0 tech at the next level. A bigger Al Woods if you will.

30. Vonn Bell 5'11 205 S Junior Ohio State

- He's an above average athlete with NFL quality instincts and vision. A hard hitter with good tackling form. Bell's reaction time is good. He's more of a strong safety at this point but is capable at both safety spots. Frame needs some work, however.

31. Noah Spence 6'3 261 OLB RS Junior Eastern Kentucky

- Spence transferred to Eastern Kentucky after being removed from Ohio State and being banned from the Big Ten due to a drug addiction issue. He seems to have righted the ship, passing multiple tests and being a model citizen. On the field, he's a talent. Lateral agility and drop back skills are pretty good for a guy his size. First step is very quick. Position versatility is a plus as well. His interviews will be huge for him.

32. KeiVarae Russell 5'11 196 CB RS Junior Notre Dame

- Russell spent 2014 as a redshirt due to his academic misconduct case. He came back with a vengeance in 2015. Possesses good size for a corner. Has the ability to keep up with any receiver. Ball skills are above average. He is likely done for the year with a broken leg suffered late in the year.