Defensive players are a bit harder to project but the elite talents are typically successful. There are players at the college level that shine due to scheme and level of competition that look like studs and never play a down in the NFL. The combine helps some elevate their draft stock but it doesn’t seem as critical for defensive prospects. 

I have watched tape on these prospects, as well as read and studied what some of the analysts I trust have to say. Below are some prospects who should be playing next year on Sundays and trying to stop the offensive onslaught in the NFL. 

Defensive Lineman

  1. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
  2. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
  3. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
  4. Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame
  5. Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama

Riser: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

Faller: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Underrated: Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame

Small School: Youhanna Ghaifan, DT/DE, Wyoming

Player Feature: Ed Oliver, Houston

Everything you need to know is here. That is all…

I am kidding, but I feel like the tape says it all. Oliver is relentless, strong, possesses a first step unlike many others, and is the top prospect in the draft. He has lateral quickness and uses great technique to get low and disrupt the offensive line from his first step all the way through a play. Oliver had 38.5 tackles for loss in his first two seasons and 138 tackles overall. He added 10.5 sacks all while drawing double and triple teams. Oliver may need to add some bulk, as he is athletic instead of big, and some NFL offensive linemen could push him around - if they even get ahold of him. 

Defensive Ends and Edge Rushers

  1. Nick Bosa, Ohio State
  2. Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
  3. Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
  4. Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion
  5. Rashan Gary, Michigan

Riser: Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion

Faller: Rashan Gary, Michigan

Underrated: Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

Small School: Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion

Player Feature: Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion

Matt Miller had a small write up about Ximines on Bleacher Report and said it as well as I could, but this small school star is quickly making a name for himself. In his first five games of 2018, he has already tallied 6 sacks and 29 tackles, 8.5 for a loss. He has great size to be an outside linebacker and has lateral quickness and balance, while his handwork is outstanding and allows him to shed blocks. Ximines may need some time and coaching coming from a small school, but he is an elite talent that is quickly rising up draft boards.            

Linebackers

  1. Josh Allen, Kentucky
  2. Devin White, LSU
  3. Te’von Coney, Notre Dame
  4. Cameron Smith, USC
  5. T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin

Riser: Josh Allen, Kentucky

Faller: Tre Lamar, Clemson

Underrated: Cameron Smith, USC

Small School: Malik Fountain, Central Michigan

Player Feature: Josh Allen, Kentucky

Allen is a rare talent that has a way to disrupt games far beyond the stat sheet. Kalyn Kahler wrote a great article about Allen for Sports Illustrated recently that highlights his story and what makes him so great. While Devin White is the best pure linebacker, Allen has a lot in his game that reminds me of Khalil Mack. He is insanely quick and relentless, he plays the game hungry and attacks plays with near reckless abandon. Opposing offenses always need to know where Allen is; he’s a player I really can’t wait to see at the pro level. 

Cornerbacks

  1. Greedy Williams, LSU
  2. Amani Oruwariye, Penn State
  3. DeAndre Baker, Georgia
  4. Kendall Sheffield, Ohio State
  5. Trayvon Mullen, Clemson

Riser: Amani Oruwariye, Penn State

Faller: Julian Love, Notre Dame

Underrated: Michael Jakson, Miami

Small School: Blace Brown, Troy

Player Feature: Amani Oruwariye, Penn State

Oruwariye entered 2018 as a starter for the first time and has looked phenomenal in the full-time role. He has 2 interceptions and 19 tackles in just 5 games and is showing he will be a star at the next level. Oruwariye has an impressive wingspan and ability to jump to wrestle away contested high point throws. He is physical and hard to block, and both quick and strong as well. He also has great feet although scouts think they may not have elite level quickness. Oruwariye is sneaking up into first round conversation and is a player to keep an eye on.  

Safeties

  1. Deionte Thompson, Alabama
  2. Marvell Tell, USC
  3. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida
  4. Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State
  5. Taylor Rapp, Washington

Riser: Deionte Thompson, Alabama

Faller: Taylor Rapp, Washington

Underrated: Jaquan Johnson, Miami

Small School: Chris Johnson, North Alabama

Player Feature: Deionte Thompson, Alabama

Thompson has burst onto the scene and up the rankings for 2019 draft eligible safeties. He is fast, aggressive, can lay down a punishing hit, and adjusts well to plays as they develop. Thompson is still learning; he has only started six games and his performance has already been amazing. He is great in coverage but can get exposed and baited by an experienced quarterback - that will get better with time. For an outstanding look at what he brings to the table, check out this great article on The Draft Network. Thompson has a chance to be the first safety off the board at the rate he is progressing. 

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