Top 10 DEs In 2018 NFL Draft
1. N.C State DE Bradley Chubb – Senior – 6-4, 269 – 4.65
The year began with Bradley Chubb as the top defensive end prospect and the year ended with Bradley Chubb as the top defensive end prospect — if anything, people loved him even more. Chubb had 44 tackles for loss and 20 sacks over the last two seasons, and with his size and production, he’s the perfect 4-3 defensive end. He could go as high as No. 2 overall, and isn’t expected to get out of the Top 5.
2. Boston College DE Harold Landry – Senior – 6-3, 252 – 4.64
Landry, who can be a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker, took the college football world by storm in 2016 when he led the nation with 16.5 sacks. His production dropped off big time in 2017 due to injury, but when healthy he can be one of the best pass rushers in either scheme. He’ll likely be the second pass rusher off the board in the Top 15.
3. Florida State DE Josh Sweat – Junior – 6-4, 251 – 4.53
The scheme in which Sweat played in at Florida State hurt his production. Not that he was played out of position as a hand-in-the-ground 4-3 defensive end, but that he was mainly used as a guy who would be asked to hold the run more than pin his ears back and go after the quarterback. After showing off at the Combine with a 39.5-inch vertical and a 4.28 20-yard shuttle, Sweat proved he has more pass rush ability than his stats showed.
4. UTSA DE Marcus Davenport – Senior – 6-6, 264 – 4.58
Coming from a small school, Davenport went under the radar for most of the college football season. Playing against lower level competition, Davenport racked up 27.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks over the last two seasons. His length is obviously what’s most appealing about him. He can play as an outside linebacker or a defensive end, but he will certainly have a learning curve as the competition gets tougher in the NFL.
5. Ohio State DE Sam Hubbard – Junior – 6-5, 265 – N/A
Hubbard, a converted safety, shows good athletic ability for a man who is 6-foot-5, 265 pounds. He reportedly ran in the 4.9s in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, which isn’t great, but he’s still a player who can really set the edge and be a force in the run game, too. He has the ideal frame for a 4-3 defense, but needs to make the most of technique and his strength to succeed as a potential pass rusher on early downs, too.
6. Wake Forest DE Duke Ejiofor – Senior – 6-4, 270 – N/A
In a different draft class, Ejiofor might be regarded as one of the better 4-3 edge defender, but with such a variety of guys in the class around him, he’s a bit forgotten. He had 17 tackles for loss in each of the past two seasons and had 17.5 sacks combine through those two as well. He shows good burst off the snap and can bend to get to the quarterback. He should be an early Day 2 pick.
7. LSU DE Arden Key – Junior – 6-6, 238 – N/A
Boy, what could have been for Arden Key. When Key came onto the scene as a true freshman at LSU, he showed flashes of a potential Top 10 pick just as an 18 year old. However, between then and now things that happened off the field got in the way of that dream likely becoming a reality. Key fluctuated weight from a reported 230 pounds all the way up to 265 and now back down to 240. Even on the field, Key looked disinterested at times in 2017. He’ll likely be a much later pick, and not even a first rounder.
8. Oklahoma DE/OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo – Senior – 6-1, 241 – 4.77
Okoronkwo is the first real speed rusher we have on this list. He’s listed as a smaller 6-foot-1 and just over 240 pounds, so that’s to be expected. His 29 tackles for loss and 17 sacks over the last two seasons show he has the ability to make an impact in the backfield using his speed. He has quick burst off the snap, but because of his weight and size might just be a situational pass rusher, especially for a 4-3 team.
9. Georgia DE/OLB Lorenzo Carter – Senior – 6-6, 250 – 4.50
Where Josh Sweat may have stolen the headlines at the Combine with his speed and size, Carter was just as impressive with a 4.50 40-yard dash at 250 pounds. He’s a pass rusher who has length and athleticism, but just doesn’t know how to disengage blockers as well when he gets locked up. If he can make space, he can be a problem for offenses.
10. Ohio State DE Tyquan Lewis – Senior – 6-3, 265 – N/A
Lewis, like his fellow Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard, has prototypical size to play as a three-down defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. He had 37 tackles for loss and 23.5 sacks during his four years at Ohio State playing a variety of different defensive line positions. He knows how to be used in different ways in many sports of a 4-3 defense. He’s not the fastest or the strongest, but he has adequate speed and strength to contribute.
Best Of The Rest
11. Auburn DE Jeff Holland – Junior – 6-2, 249 – 4.79
Holland was a first-team All-SEC honorable mention in 2017 with 45 tackles, 13 tackles for losses, 10 sacks and four forced fumbles. He’s a hard working defensive end who doesn’t really overpower players or win with speed, but will give effort and that can obviously turn into some nice stats. Where he doesn’t have great athletics, he makes up for it by having a plan as a pass rusher.
12. Ohio State DE Jalyn Holmes – Senior – 6-5, 283 – 4.82
Can you tell they grow them big at Ohio State? Holmes is the next big 4-3 defensive end type from the Buckeyes this year, and has had a really nice nice draft season. At the Senior Bowl, he showed he can be a player who can move inside and out along a defensive line to play 5-tech, 4i, and even 3-tech defensive tackle; Holmes has that size and strength. He’s obviously not beating anyone with speed around the edge, but still shows good bust off the snap due to his powerful legs.
13. Miami DE Chad Thomas – Senior – 6-5, 281 – 4.92
Miami’s Chad Thomas has been a busy man this offseason. He started as a participant at the East West Shrine event in St. Pet, FL, but was then called up to the Senior Bowl after that due to a good performance (and a few drop outs). As you would expect for a man who is 280 pounds, Thomas isn’t a sack master with just 4.5 sacks in each o the last two season, but he did have double digit tackles for loss in both years, so he knows how to make his presence known. He has the size, just needs the coaching.
14. Kansas DE Dorance Armstrong – Senior – 6-4, 257 – 4.87
People were looking to Armstrong as the potential slept on pass rusher when the year began because of his size and length, but he just didn’t show the athleticism to really be that guy that teams covert. Still, he has the measurable attributes to be looked at as a good project pass rusher in the later rounds.
15. Central Michigan DE Joe Ostman – Senior – 6-3, 255 – N/A
Ostman came in East West Shrine week as as the pass rusher with all the stats who scouts and media members wanted to see if the talent matched or if it was just a case of him going up against lower level competition. The answer: probably a little of both. Ostman did turn some heads, but he doesn’t look the 6-3, 255 his measurables say. But, his 45.5 tackles for loss and 26 sacks over his career can’t be ignored. He’s a smart pass rusher.
16. Washington State DE Hercules Mata’afa – Junior – 6-1, 254 – 4.76
Mata’afa is a very interesting case because in Washington State’s smaller, faster defense, he played as their defensive tackle. But, he doesn’t have the size to do that in the NFL, and after the Combine, we’re not sure if he has the athleticism to play on the edge. He’s a project pass rusher, but 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 2017 still warrant a team trying.
17. SMU DE Justin Lawler – Senior – 6-4, 252 – N/A
Lawler is a guy who will be picked later in the draft as a depth player in a 4-3 defense. He earned first-team all-conference as a senior recording 74 tackles, 15.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and three blocked kicks for the Mustangs. He has good size and can be a guy you throw into a reserve and special teams role and could develop some as a pass rusher down the road.
18. Utah DE Kylie Fitts – Senior – 6-4, 263 – 4.69
When healthy, Kylie Fitts has some nice flashes in his tape, but the problem is he hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to compile those good plays into a full tape of evidence for his draft status. He’ll be a late round guy who is a high reward pick, if things work out.