What are some of the thoughts this week on the defensive prospects in the class? It’s a very deep class in terms of overall depth at most positions.
EDGE / DE
- Hercules Maatafa (Washington State) is a beast without a position. He is a production monster. I’m a huge fan of his. He could be a steal late in the draft for someone.
- Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Oklahoma) is good, folks. He was a star at Oklahoma for his brief period of time in Norman. There were some questions about his size entering the Senior Bowl but he measured in at 6’1 250+ so he can stick at defensive end or transition to outside linebacker. I’m a big fan.
- Sam Hubbard (Ohio State) isn’t the best athlete in the world but the technical coaching he received while in school is so good. He’s very fundamentally sound in both pass and run game. I love Buckeyes defensive linemen due to their highly regarded DL coach Larry Johnson, Sr.
- Dorance Armstrong, Jr (Kansas) is a freak athlete. He was literally the only guy worth worrying about on the Jayhawks defense yet he still produced. He’s been up and down the boards for some reason. The Titans could be in play here but I doubt it.
- Uchenna Nwosu (USC) is rather intriguing as an edge prospect. The Titans worked him out extensively so the interest is mutual. He has some things to work on for sure. Intriguing is the word for him.
- Vita Vea (Washington) is a big dude. A big dude that can move very quickly. Nothing new of course but I marvel at a guy at that kind of size that can run as fast as he does. He’s awesome. Top 20 is a near certainty.
- PJ Hall (Sam Houston State) is a freak athlete. He blew it up during his Pro Day. Seriously, go check out his numbers. He put up 4.83 in the 40, 38” vertical jump, 9’8” broad jump, and 36 bench press reps. That’s insane for a guy his size. The stat line is crazy as well. 284 tackles, 86.5 tackles for loss, 42 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, and a whopping 14 blocked kicks. This is good, I think.
- Nathan Shepherd (Fort Hayes State) is another small school defensive tackle I’ve been keeping an eye on during the process. He went insane at the Senior Bowl until an unfortunate injury knocked him out of the proceedings. He’s really good.
- Maurice Hurst (Michigan) is a monstrous tackle on the field. He’s very quick for his size and is very fundamentally sound like most Michigan defenders. Knows his role and executes nearly every time. The heart issue was cleared up in time for his Pro Day but it bears monitoring further as we move along in the offseason into training camp. Heart issues are scary things, folks.
- Josey Jewell (Iowa) is a great guy and hard worker by all accounts but not an NFL talent. He’s undersized and did not test very well. A classic throwback to the old days of inside linebackers.
- Funny / crazy name of the draft (defense edition) Courtney Love (Kentucky). Yeah I’m just old enough to remember that famous name from the music industry. The linebacker version is an UDFA level guy but I bet he gets a lot of flack for the name.
- Matthew Thomas (Florida State) is a pretty good talent when he’s right and on the field. He’s very good but the off field issues kept him back until his junior and senior seasons. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t live up to his five star billing. I believe it’s extenuating circumstances leading from his mother’s sad and tragic passing early on in his career.
- Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech) is an athletic freak / specimen. A high riser up the boards during the 2017 season. The offseason process has been very kind to him. I get it but there’s a small chance that he ends up being just another Aaron Curry more than Khalil Mack.
- Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State) has some medical issues involving his neck and spine from a previous injury to that area after some research. That’s a big red flag to me. No thank you.
- Marquis Haynes (Ole Miss) could be a sleeper pick for someone late in the process. He was a solid guy for a program that was reeling from NCAA related issues (of their own doing).
- I’m a huge fan of Isaiah Oliver (Colorado) and his work in Boulder. He’s fits as an outside corner but can play slot as well. He could sneak into the first round if things broke right.
- One late round corner I’m a fan of is DJ Reed (Kansas State). He’s a bit undersized but he makes up for it with being a special teams ace. I like his game. The Titans have met with him so there is some interest there.
- Another late round guy I like is Christian Campbell (Penn State). Campbell stood out at the Senior Bowl as the best corner there. He was like glue to the receivers and rarely got beat.
- One corner that I do not like is Tavarus McFadden (Florida State). He’s had a terrible offseason process on top of a horrific 2017 season. It seems like he didn’t care and read the press clippings too much. There is some talent there to turn it around though.
- I’ll be interested to see where Siran Neal (Jacksonville State) ends up going late. He’s a sleeper that very few are talking about.
- Rashaan Gaulden (Tennessee) is a pretty good prospect as it turns out when he’s not flipping birds at hostile crowds. He has risen up the boards this offseason.
- Speaking of safeties that have good offseason events, Dane Cruikshank (Arizona) is one. Lost in the wreckage that was the Sun Devils’ 2017 season, he was a solid contributor to that side of the ball. A tremendous athlete by all accounts.