Top Five 2018 NFL Draft Prospects- Defensive End
These guys will look to become the future pass rushers of an NFL franchise. Today I rank the top five defensive end prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Bradley Chubb, NC State
Bio: In his final two seasons at NC State, Bradley Chubb was a nightmare for ACC quarterbacks and running backs recording 48 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks. As a senior, he won the Ted Hendricks award as the nation's top defensive end and the Bronko Nagurski award as the nation's best defender.
Strengths: Protype defensive end. Long armed with wide chest, built shoulders and tree trunk legs. Good combination of athleticism and size. Sets and holds the edge with wide base. Major disruptor who can get into gaps and drive up the field to get the play off schedule. Fights back against wash down blocks. Relentless and crazy. Plays on quick feet. Range to swallow backside lanes and chase play side. Doesn't quit on plays and makes tackles downfield. Runs feet through contact. Actively searches to force fumbles. Doesn't just play with his hand in the dirt. Able to drop, open hips and roam in coverage. Solid body control. Faced quality tackle competition in the ACC. Mature rush technique. Has improved on his skills each year. Jab move can ruin a tackle's pass protection. Hands are quick, talented, and violent. Able to pummel the tackle's punch and dull the edge. Runs the rush arc with acceleration around the corner. Devastating monster on spins. Powers through inside edge of a tackle. Comes from football family, his father and brother played at the college level and his cousin, Georgia running back Nick Chubb, is also in this draft class.
Weaknesses: Hand moves need to be sped up quicker. Athletic tackles get into him before he builds up speed. Hip movement isn't natural. Plays top heavy occasionally. Improved knee bend would help with conversion of speed to power. Gets overly involved with initial contact and will lose sight of the ball carrier. Needs to improve feel for down blocks and attack them earlier. Gets behind in the play against reach blocks. Poor pad level leads to inconsistent balance through contact. Shed timing could improve.
Projected Round: 1
Compares to: Mario Williams
Possible landing spot: Indianapolis Colts
2. Marcus Davenport, Texas- San Antonio
Bio: A three sport star in high school, Marcus Davenport dominated for his hometown college at both defensive end and outside linebacker. As a senior, he was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year after recording 55 tackles and 8.5 sacks.
Strengths: Long limbed with a frame capable of adding more weight. Has good quickness in lateral slides down the line of scrimmage to shutdown running lanes. Aggressive demeanor as a tackler. Will unload with force from his hips and wrap up ball carriers. Drives through the target. Plays with fluid directional change to alter his path to the ball when running downhill. Uses length to work the edge as a pass rusher. Has tools and traits to get much better as a pass rusher with more hand work and coaching. Will flash speed to power potential that can be elite. Can throw combos with his hands to disorient offensive linemen. Able to set a good edge when he gets arm extension. Will likely be too much for tight ends and running backs to handle as he continues to grow and learn.
Weaknesses: Plays with high pad level. Slow to regain weight and change directions when tackling in open space. Has delayed acceleration in pursuit and is unable to consistently close out runs to the outside. Needs open space to get to top speed. Allows blockers into his frame more than he should. Needs to learn to slip contact rather than taking on everything. Instincts are below average and he's slow to find the ball on play-action and draws. Needs to do a better job of getting hands and feet working together. Tight hipped as a rusher and more straight lined than an edge trimmer. Could struggle to cover if asked to drop into space.
Projected Round: 1
Compares to: Danielle Hunter
Possible landing spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3. Arden Key, LSU
Bio: As a true freshman, Arden Key started the final nine games and led the team with nine quarterback hurries. The nest season, he finished with 12 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss.
Strengths: Tall with plus flexibility throughout upper and lower body. Uses long levers to find his way to the blocker's edge. Good job of timing up snap for a head start. Plays loose and is hard to keep centered. Disappears from blockers with upper body turns. Unorthodox movement confuses blockers. Earlier in career, would set up tackles with inside jab step that forced them into unbalanced position and allowed him to get to the edge. Shows ability as a two way rusher both inside or outside. Able to lean in and around the edge at top of the rush. Could be a nightmare if he learns to use length consistently. Surprisingly effective at changing direction. Has range to rope in running backs who try to get around him towards the corner.
Weaknesses: Personal discipline a concern. Left LSU for four months in spring of 2017 for "personal reasons" and had shoulder surgery during that time. Gained 15 lbs. unnecessarily that spring. Systematic mover and lacks fluidity. Liability against the run. Struggles to dominate tight ends at point of attack. Slow to shed blocks. Tightness in hips as an up field rusher. Lacked speed even after losing 20 lbs. during the season. Pass rush was predictable and sluggish in 2017. Shows lead hand early allowing tackles to slap it away before landing punch. Two hand swipe ineffective at greasing edge. Spin moves are phoned in. Plays with wasted motion on the edge. Next to no effort when dropping into coverage. Plays upright and is lackadaisical in zone.
Projected Round: 1-2
Compares to: Barkevious Mingo
Possible landing spot: Minnesota Vikings
4. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
Bio: Initially intending to attend Notre Dame on a lacrosse scholarship, Sam Hubbard gained 70 lbs. while transitioning from safety to linebacker to defensive end for Ohio State. After playing as a reserve his first two seasons, he was a fulltime starter over the last two years recording 21.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.
Strengths: Plays with consistent pad level and good knee bend at first contact. Attacks with square pads and a wide, balanced base. Sinks hips and braces up with arm extension when setting the edge. Possesses good football intelligence and has great awareness. Quick to spot play actions and draws. Has stick-and-move hands to punch and peek past the blocker to find the football. Motor allows him to make plays that others will quit on. Always finds himself in tackle ready position and usually finishes. Expert level hand fighter as pass rusher. Will throw three or four straight slaps and chops to prevent tackle from letting his punch land. Shows tackles a strong charge before unleashing an effective spin counter back inside.
Weaknesses: More of a hard worker than an athlete. Burst to the ball is just average. Doesn't get early wins at the point of attack. Pursuit speed is average at best and he'll come up just short of the tackle at times. Can be a little tight when trying to get the corner and flatten as a pass rusher. Can be run up and past the quarterback by athletic tackles. Arc runner rather than move maker as a pass rusher. Below average conversion of speed to power. Could afford to add to add a little more muscle. Needs to develop a go to move that he can win with as an edge rusher.
Projected Round: 1-2
Compares to: TJ Watt
Possible landing spot: New Orleans Saints
5. Harold Landry, Boston College
Bio: As a junior, Harold Landry burst onto the national spotlight finishing in the top five nationally with 22 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, and seven forced fumbles. He could have declared for the NFL Draft in 2017, but instead decided to return for his senior season.
Strengths: What he lacks in height, he makes up for in arm length. Smooth athlete with good reactions. Speeds off the line with no wasted motion. Long strider who almost always gets to the edge first. Loose hips and upper body create an angular, leaning target that is hard to get a good punch on. Nice flexibility when getting around the edge. Able to drop under a tackle's hands and corner with a tight turn and above average pop to the quarterback. Should turn heads at the NFL Combine and pro day. Willing to go for the strip on the throwing arm and not just kill the quarterback. Creates forced fumbles and batted balls with his long and active arms. Uses athletic ability to chase after mobile quarterbacks. Rangy with A+ pursuit speed in the run game. Has experience dropping into space as a cover man. Plays with good change of direction and quick lateral movement to track down bootlegs and scrambles.
Weaknesses: Undersized for an NFL defensive end. One trick pony as a pass rusher. Needs to develop a variety of rush moves for the pro game. Still learning to develop his arsenal of tricks. Primary rush counter move is basic. Hasn't learned a lot of the advanced points of working the edge. Larger tackles can be a hindrance. Upper body strength is below average. Conversion of speed to power has shown to be inconsistent. Sticks blocks too long. Lacking consistent toughness at first contact. Would rather chase and tackle than meet the ball carrier head on. Can get to tackles in the running game but needs to do a better job of wrapping up. 2017 effort level didn't seem to match his relentless junior year play, even before he suffered an ankle injury that limited him to nine games.
Projected Round: 1-2
Compares to: Bruce Irvin
Possible landing spot: Tennessee Titans