And now for something completely different, during the VFA Agent money madness… some Draft talk. Last week, I took a look at the Offensive position groups and gave out grades relative to their pro potential impact. SO, now it’s time to poke at the Defensive side of the ball, and the pickings are pretty impressive up front. Probably not so much in the secondary.
The 2018 Draft was barely over before personnel people were chanting, “wait until next year” and singing the praises of the DL group, in anticipation of hitting a motherlode of talent in 2019. Nothing has changed in that assessment over the last 11 months. There is talent and there is quantity in this group. The only thing we have to be wary of in this evaluation is where to put a cluster of talented guys who have one foot in the DL group and the other foot in the Edge-Rusher category. Some of those edge-rushers may be best suited to stand-up most of the time in 3-4 base schemes as OLB’s. For my purposes, I have identified who, in my eyes, is what for pre-Draft discussion. No matter where different teams intend to position them, the point is still, quality is quality, and will seek it’s own level of play. It’s up to NFL teams to find the right fits for the right prospects in their schemes.
Right now, I would project 6 of the Top 10 Draft slots to end up being from the DL. How about 10 DL prospects in the First Round. As of today, I have 24 DL ranked in my Top 100 prospects. I think somewhere between 40-50 players from the DL group could be drafted overall.
Numbers alone don’t tell us everything, but some Combine numbers were just hard to comprehend. QUINNEN WILLIAMS/Alabama just took breaths away, when he recorded a 4.83/40 at 6’3/303. Though Rashan Gary did not have as productive a college career as Williams, his numbers at the Combine were Clowney-like, starting with a 4.58/40 at 6’043 and 277 pounds. His 26 bench press reps were pretty impressive as well, considering he has 34 1/8″arms. How about DE MONTEZ SWEAT from Miss State, who ran a 4.41/40 at 6’056″ at 260 lbs.? By the way, SWEAT’s arms were 35 3/4″ long. The entire Clemson DL will likely get drafted in the first 3 Rounds, so how about the biggest guy, DEXTER LAWRENCE, at 6’044″ and 342 lbs. posting a 5.05/40. A big time flash-player, CHARLES OMENIHU/Texas, checked in at 6’053″/280 lbs., and proceeded to run a 4.92/40. Omenihu also had 36″ long arms to help with his swim move in getting around OT’s. The highly coveted NICK BOSA, who spent most of 2018 out with groin surgery, weighed 266 lbs. and posted a 4.79/40. BRIAN BURNS, an elite young Edge-Rusher ran a 4.53/40 at 249 lbs. The best way to describe this group of players is simply to call them freakish!
Grade: A (there is no such thing as A+ in my grade book)
The sheer numbers on this group are down a bit, because a significant number of players who might have resided in this position group got shifted to the DL group as Edge-Rushers. The number one LB prospect could have gone that direction, but he played so well last season primarily as a stand-up OLB, that he ranks as elite here. That prospect is JOSH ALLEN/Kentucky, who looks like the model for a 3-4 OLB. ALLEN weighed in at 262 with 33 1/2″ arms at the Combine. He recorded a 4.63/40 and had double-digit sacks during the 2018 season. He could go as the Top Pick, unless the Cards are serious about Kyler Murray. Yet, the real excitement at the standard ILB slots are the DEVINS, as many are now labeling them. WHITE/LSU and BUSH/MICHIGAN are the two DEVINS, and both should go in the top 10-15 Picks in Round 1. WHITE, at 6’0/237, ran a 4.42/40. BUSH, at 5’11/234, ran a 4.43/40. They both appear to be 3-down playmakers who can drop into coverage, as well as rush the pocket. The only criticism of this position group might be lack of depth, but that is in part a product of prospects who fit nicely as a 3-4 scheme OB, who are in the DL group for now. I would also point out, that in the evolving, pass happy NFL, a majority of the time, defenses are aligned with only 2 true LB’s on the field due to 5-6 DB being in play. All things considered, this looks like a very solid group.
I am going to lump the CB’s and S’s into one group this year. This, once again, reflects the changing NFL defensive schemes, using 5 and 6 man DB formations a majority of the time. For more and more teams, the Nickel-back/Slot Corner is now being considered as a starting position. The Combine did divide the DB’s into 2 groups. They labeled the first group of 36 as CB and the second group of 29 as S. Historically, the CB group at the Combine has battled with the WR group for the fastest 40-times. I thought it was interesting that of the top 10 DB 40-times this year, all 4.42 or under, 5 of the group were S. That included the fastest of them all, ZEDRICK WOODS/Ole Miss, who blazed out a 4.29-time, which was the fastest for the entire Combine this year.
My top 4 CB’s going into the Combine were BAKER, MURPHY, GREEDY, YA-SIN. Interesting to me, was the fact that GREEDY WILLIAMS, at 4.37, was the only one of the four who even ran sub-4.50. Just as a rough group comparison, the WR group had 10 players run 4.42/40’s or faster. My resultant comment is, how are these DB’s going to cover the WR’s on go-patterns? Quickness might help, but I’d say the edge goes to the offense based on this year’s overall numbers. Despite the 40-times, I would rank the CB group as having more overall talent than the S group. It is highly possible that not one S will go in Round 1 in this April’s Draft. The 4 CB’s mentioned above may still all go in Round 1. Coincidentally, I think we might see 4 S’s go in Round 2. Overall, I expect under 20 DB’s to go in the top 100 Picks. On a comparative basis, I would say that NFL offenses are about to gain a decided advantage in talent on the receiver side of things from the 2019 Draft Class.
That’s a wrap folks. The DL group is by far the strongest in this Draft, but the Offense will gain the overall talent advantage when the dust settles at the end of April.