Evaluating the depth of the 2019 NFL Draft Class: Defensive Edition.
Every draft class has a theme. There are always positions that are deep, and positions not so deep. You ask yourself going into the draft every year, ‘if my team needs position x to fill a need this year, do we have to take them in the first round? Or if we miss out on the top guys is there good value st the position in later rounds?’.
Of course, outliers exist. A JaMarcus Russell can be taken first and a Tom Brady can be taken 199th. There’s no exact science to the draft. That’s what makes it so fun. The good thing is that a players draft position does not determine his career, he does. However, every year we are overloaded with hundreds of analysts offering us their pre-draft rankings, ratings, and grades to give us an idea of what to expect in the upcoming draft. So what are the strengths and weakness in the 2019 class? Now that we have taken a look at the biggest positions of need on each side of the ball, let’s take a look at the rest of the defense!
- Top Prospect: Nick Bosa, Ohio St.
- Biggest Riser: Brian Burns, Florida St.
- Sleeper Potential: Oshane Ximinies, Old Dominion
- Bust Potential: Rashaan Gary, Ohio St.
- Players With a First Round Grade: 5
Yeah, if you need an edge rusher this year, you’re in luck. The depth of this class is fantastic. Not much needs to be said about Nick Bosa other than he is a purely dominant athlete. So let’s move on to the next player.
Brian Burns is best suited as a 3-4 OLB, and boy is he a good one. He has arguably the best bend in this class at the position. His size and athleticism combo will be a nightmare for tackles to compete with. Hard to imagine him getting out of the first round.
The big sleeper nobody is talking about enough is Oshane Ximinies out of Old Dominion. He has excellent hand usage and engages them well to defeat blocks and get around the tackle. Coupled with excellent speed and bend around the corner and you got a great prospect. If he can develop some counter moves and a little more strength, he will be a 10+ sack player.
But, buyer be warned on Rashaan Gary. All the physical tools in the world, but could not put it together and severely underachieved in college. Add in the talks that he took plays off, and you have a second-round prospect in Gary. If he can put it all together, great. If not... yikes!
Ultimately, teams in search of an edge rusher have a total of 15 guys with a grade that falls within the first two days to chose from. It’s a good year.
Interior Defensive Line
- Top Prospect: Quinnen Williams, Alabama
- Biggest Riser: Charles Omenihu, Texas
- Sleeper Potential: Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois
- Bust Potential: Jeffrey Simmons
- Players With A First Round Grade: 3
Again, the abundance is great among the interior defensive line position. Quinnen Williams is undoubtedly the top player on the board here and second overall. Like Nick Bosa, we need not beat a dead horse here.
So let’s take a look at Charles Omenihu. He projects as a 4-3 tackle, not as a fit in the 3-4 unless he adds 10-20 lbs. However, teams looking for a pass rusher will find a great one here. He has excellent length, power, and hand-usage to shed blocks. He needs to hone those skills a little bit, but if he can, look out.
Khalen Saunders might be the most athletic 300-pound man we have ever seen. He profiles as a nose tackle that plays with fantastic leverage and power. His pass rushing ability leaves a little to be desired, however, most nose tackles come off the field in sub packages anyway. Grab Saunders on day two and let him flourish.
The guy to stay away from is Jeffrey Simmons. Like Gary, he has phenomenal physical traits; unlike Gary, he has excellent production. However, injury and off-the-field concerns will cause several teams to stay away from him completely.
All in all, I have 10 guys worthy of a pick the first two days
- Top Prospect: Devin White, LSU
- Biggest Riser: Blake Cashman, Minnesota
- Sleeper Potential: David Long, WVU
- Bust Potential: Devin Bush, Michigan
- Players With A First Round Grade: 2
Let’s first address the elephant in the room so that I don’t have an army show up at my door to stone me. No, I do not think that Devin Bush is a bust. However, since Bush and Devin White are the only two linebackers I gave a first-round grade to, Bush is the one I went for with bust potential. The biggest issue I came away with in watching his tape is his ability to disengage from blocks, which can be a problem in the run game. If a lineman gets his big paws on Bush, he can be removed from the play entirely. However, Bush does have the best coverage grade in the draft from the LB position. The fluidity in his hips is a sight to behold, and if he can learn some block-shedding moves, he may come away as the best linebacker in the class.
On day two you have the big riser in Blake Cashman out of Minnesota and the forgotten man in Mack Wilson out of Alabama. Cashman shot up boards with his athletic testing. The athleticism translates to the field well, as his read and react skills are remarkable. His best fit may be as a chess piece to move around the defense and let him make plays with his speed. That being said, Wilson is a guy that could step in day 1 and take some reps. With only 17 starts under his belt, he is a bit raw, but his ceiling is high. He doesn’t have the lateral ability or the top end speed of the others, but he makes up for it with his football IQ and overall physical skill set. Don’t be surprised if he sneaks into round 1.
After the big four, (White, Bush, Wilson, Cashman), you’re mostly looking at day 3 value. There are guys who can play but are scheme-specific and may need to find a niche in the NFL. The big sleeper is David Long out of West Virginia. He displays excellent short-area quickness, change of direction ability and anticipation. He’s a sub package defender that can play sideline to sideline, however, his lack of size (5’11, 227 lbs) can restrict him to nickel football.
- Top Prospect: Byron Murphy, Washington
- Biggest Riser: Rock Ya-Sin, Temple
- Sleeper Potential: Julian Love, Norte Dame
- Bust Potential: DeAndre Baker, Georgia
- Players With A First Round Grade: 2
Bryon Murphy gets the nod as the top prospect and the safest pick at the position this year. Unlike the other defensive positions, cornerback is not quite as deep. Each prospect has concerns, and Murphy’s is his size. He may struggle against the press and ability to high point a ball, but he more than makes up for it with his route recognition and technical traits.
Rock Ya-Sin is the biggest riser here, some even saying he could go as early as the first round. A plus athlete with excellent recoverability, he will be a playmaker at the next level. His footwork needs a little... work. Grab him on day 2 and you have a potential future lock-down corner.
The sleeper pick, if you can call it that, is Julian Love. Very few outlets have seemed to talk much about him despite him being routinely ranked as a top 5 CB. Flat out, he’s just a football player, man. And a great one. His acceleration lacks, but his intelligence makes up for it.
DeAndre Baker is the guy to stay away from in this class. Attitude and effort issues are the big knock on him. He projects as a long term starter if he gets his mind on straight, with some of the press-man ability in this class.
If you need a CB, this isn’t the class to take one. There’s no real top prospect, just a bunch of talented players with questions. If any of these guys put it all together, you may find a stud. If not, you got a bunch of duds. Overall I have only 8 players with a grade on the first two days.
- Top Prospect: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida
- Biggest Riser: Darnell Savage, Maryland
- Sleeper Potential: Marquise Blair, Utah
- Bust Potential: Deionte Thompson, Alabama
- Players With A First Round Grade: 1
Say it with me, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is the top safety of 2019. He’s a game-changer. Whether it’s making a play on the ball, a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, or as a blitzer, he just makes plays. Whatever you ask of him, he is willing and capable of doing it. Whatever lucky team lands him will land a perennial Pro Bowler. (Note, I am not Mel Kiper and will not stake my career on that statement, though I do stand behind it).
Darnell Savage (get used to that name) is a player on the rise. With 8 INTs over the last two seasons, he displayed the ball skills to be a pro-ready player. After running a 4.36 at the combine, he has soared up boards. He’s an aggressive player, but sometimes that’s what you need from a true centerfield-type safety.
Marquise Blair is a later guy to keep an eye one. A sub-4.5 guy that is a capable deep safety, he’s a guy you let sit to grow into his own. Once his production catches up to his true ability, he could be a formidable starter in this league. But watch out for Deionte Thompson. He is a plus athlete that is super aggressive, and that can sometimes hurt him. A little discipline can go a long way. If he doesn’t learn discipline, you’re looking at a guy that will struggle to crack the starting 11.
The safety position is a deep one. Only 1 guy with a first-round grade, but 11 total worth taking on the first two days.
Defense is where it’s at this year man. You need an edge rusher? We got it. Interior line? Come on down. Safeties? Take your pick. Even the weaker position groups are filled with potential. You’ll see defense go fast and early in this class. So get it while it’s hot.
Shameless plug time: follow me on Twitter to interact and ask any questions you have on my scouting of this class. @doverly3