The 2018 class of defensive lineman is a fairly strong class, with a chance to have several DL1 starters and a handful that should make an impact early in their careers and start for your IDP squad. My normal strategy when approaching the defensive line is to have a few true stud DL1 starters and a few that will rotate in when I need but I don’t typically carry a lot of defensive line depth. Defensive line spot starts are typically available unless it is a deep roster league. And always be aware of your scoring, several factors are important when filling your roster. Most leagues are adjusted to have scoring for each position and defensive line will often award more per tackle and even sacks- if it is a sack heavy scoring it is smartest to target the big sack defensive ends. Below are nine prospects I am most excited about.
Bradley Chubb, DE North Carolina State
Bradley Chubb accomplished almost all a defensive end could achieve in his senior year for the Wolfpack: All-American, first team All-ACC, winner of the Hendricks award for best defensive end, and winner of the Bronko Nagurski award for best defender. Chubb has an array of moves that compliments a relentless motor and will be a force to be reckoned with in the NFL, he is projected as a top-5 pick in the NFL draft. Chubb projects to be defensive end in a 4-3 but has displayed ability to move around the line and play different positions. Chubb showcased his athleticism at the NFL combine, testing as one of the top 5 defensive ends and also has shown good character. He has proven throughout the process that he will be a smart and impactful player for the lucky NFL franchise that drafts him.
Marcus Davenport, DE University of Texas- San Antonio
Marcus Davenport was a dominating force in college, many have been quick to point out that it was against inferior competition and that is definitely a factor to consider. The raw talent that he displayed and how much he stood out cannot be denied, no matter who it was against. Marcus plays mean, aggressive, hits tenaciously, and also has good techniques that a good NFL coaching staff will help refine. Marcus had a strong showing at the combine and Senior Bowl and his size along with the raw athletic profile has led to him being mentioned by teams as a first round pick. Marcus will likely play a part time role as a defensive end, likely in a 4-3 defense also, and will develop into a DL1 within his first 2-3 seasons.
Da’Ron Payne, DT Alabama
Da’Ron was a key piece on a dominating defense at Alabama and anchored the interior of the Crimson Tide defensive line. Incredibly powerful but also technically sound, Payne is NFL ready and should be a day 1 starter on the interior which is not very common in a defensive tackle coming into the pros. Da’Ron didn’t put up overly impressive numbers at the combine but his size combined with the numbers and his incredible technique displayed at the highest level of college competition will render the combine showing a moot point. Da’Ron is projected currently as a middle to late first round pick and will be a run stuffing interior lineman from his first snap in the NFL.
Maurice Hurst, DT Michigan
Maurice is a bit smaller than the typical interior lineman but more than compensated for any lack of size with a lightning quick initial array of moves once the ball snaps. The quick moves at the snap allows him to get low and be disruptive, knifing into the backfield and disrupting plays as they form- Hurst had 34 tackles with 11.5 for a loss as a junior in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately he missed the combine with a late developing medical issue but was projected to have a good showing due to his size and quickness. Maurice is projected to be a middle to late first round pick as well, but is possibly the best interior lineman in the draft- at times showing that he could legitimately be the best defensive line prospect of 2018 as well.
Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
A year ago it seemed a lock that Harold Landry would be first round, possible top 10 pick. Landry notched 16.5 sacks in his junior season and surprisingly went back to college for his senior year, only to see his production dip as he battled an ankle injury for a part of the year. Landry showed out at the combine, posting one of the best shuttle and three cone times for defensive ends will bring his game to the NFL level- likely drafted in the first round. Landry possesses a quick first step and uses a tremendous burst to get at the QB, also plays well versus the run and dropping back to ‘spy’ on the quarterback. Landry needs a little more experience with his array of moves but figures to be a factor in year 1 on a defensive line rotation.
Taven Bryan, DE, Florida
Taven helped his stock with a strong combine showing, but athletic ability has never been a question with him. Taven relied on pure and raw ability, often disruptive and great speed with a burst for a defensive lineman. He has not displayed great technique up until this point and has not been asked too- his upside with coaching is what has him mentioned in late first round draft talk. He has played interior at Gainesville but tested as a DE and projects to be a DE at the NFL level. Taven will likely rotate in to a defensive end spot his first season as he learns the pro game but his raw upside is absolutely undeniable.
Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Vita is strong. STRONG. He posted 41 reps on the bench press at the combine and showed immense power on the interior of the Huskies defensive line during his career. Even at 6’4” and nearly 350 pounds, Vita played some at defensive end because of his speed and ability to get after the QB. He will make his spot in the NFL on the interior and should be a day 1 starter. His power and quickness along with great hand moves will get him on the field from his first day in the NFL and some coaching on technique will help mold Vita into a good defensive tackle for years to come.
Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
Josh went into the combine and greatly helped his draft profile by running a 4.53 40 and one of the top vertical and broad jumps at his position as well. Josh did not have great production at Tallahassee but the talent was evident, his speed rush and footwork really stood out in the games that I was able to watch. He moved around the line but always seemed to find a way to be disruptive and in the backfield wreaking havoc. Josh could have his hand in the dirt at a defensive end or possibly even line up at outside linebacker due to his speed and agility. Josh should be a day 2 pick and a player to watch as he develops in the NFL.
Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
Sam was a productive player taking over for Joey Bosa at Ohio State and is not as flashy as the other prospects at defensive end in the class, yet still will be a productive player in the NFL. Sam showed better than expected at the combine, showing good agility and quickness for a 270 pound defensive lineman. Sam has great upper body strength, a constant motor fighting off blocks with a good array of hands and feet moves- but won’t ever be the most explosive and speedy pass rusher. Sam should be a day 2 pick and likely not the sexiest pick, yet will still be a productive defensive end will possibilities to have more tackles in the run game as a 4-3 end.
Others of Note
Hercules Mata’afa, DT, Washington State
A player I personally love and am hopeful he lands in a situation where he can get a chance to show his tremendous speed and ability to generate pressure- a ‘tweener’ size wise.
Arden Key, DE, LSU
Arden didn’t help his stock at combine but displayed an array of pass rush moves at LSU and could be an effective player in the NFL with some bulk and a coaching staff to refine game.
Da’Shawn Hand, DT, Alabama
Huge and NFL ready frame, Da’Shawn showed flashes of a complete lineman that play in the middle of a 3-4 or 4-3 but did not establish himself on a talent laden Alabama defensive line.
Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest
Duke didn’t participate at combine, in his time at Wake he would often display a phenomenal motor and disruptiveness. The knock on his game was his instincts against the run were lacking and inability at times to shed blocks on the line.
Numbers below were part of the RAS Report compiled by Mr. Kent Lee Platte @MathBomb- phenomenal follow!