The NFL Draft is just two days away, so at about this time next week we will have an idea of just how the board played out and which prospects landed where.
With that being said we have our own Mar’Quell Fripp-Owens, here to lay out his prospect rankings by positions heading into draft week.
NOTE: This is not a reflection of The Philly Blitz big board, this is just a breakdown of how the top ten prospects at each position compare to their positional peers
Interior Defensive Line:
– I’m almost 110% sure that this interior defensive line class was made in a lab next to Frankincense located on the outskirts of Wakanda.
Translation: None of these players can be human right?
You have DeMarvin Leal who plays some of the best football in the country at times but then you remember that he doesn’t have a home; and you know my quote about tweener players. If you don’t I’ll tell you: It’s better to be 75/75 than 50/50; meaning being good at a lot of things is good enough to get you on the the field at some point or another. Still a really good football player, you know who else is too? Travis Jones.
The stud one-tech from UConn is literally a people eater in the middle of the field. He pushes pockets in the pass game and as a run defender, quite frankly one person is not going be able to block him alone. Then there’s Devonte Wyatt, a 6’3 and 304 pound man being used as a spy to effectively take away some of the nations best mobile quarterbacks including a projected top selection in next years draft. With all this and we’ve still yet to mention Wyatt’s teammate — Jordan Davis, who… well, you’ll see.
– The two most important jobs in the league are protecting the quarterback and taking down the quarterback. With the entire game from high school all the way to the NFL turning more and more into a passing league as the years go buy, the guys who make their hay rushing passers are at the highest value that they’ve ever been. So with this EDGE unit taking claim as the cream of the crop when it comes to the defensive class, there is probably one position group who can hold a candle to this in terms of depth and talent in this class.
Now there are two ways to discuss the discourse of a projected EDGE talent — by traits or production, so of course you have to start with the two big names that ruled the top of draft boards with Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux and for this very reason. One is the All-time single season sack leader in the history of the University of Michigan while the other has been projected to be a double digit sack artist since his sophomore year of high school. While Thibodeaux has certainly flashed his potential and certainly can be viewed as a great investment of early draft capital, it’s always going to be an hard sell to go traits over tape. Especially when you turn on the tape and expose yourself to the dominant display Hutchinson put on this season. For some context, his 74 total quarterback pressures were the most in the country by an EDGE not named Cam Thomas (77).
Speaking of Cam Thomas, at 6’5 and 267 pounds the pride of San Diego State is the ideal frame for most EDGE prospects. Has quality body control and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around but to me his best trait is his hand usage. Funny enough where Thomas is another one of those high motor-high production players, he finds himself bunched right in between two of the most enticing prospects in the entire class when it comes to traits.
With both Ebiketie and Ojabo only having one season of quality production to their name, as well as questions surrounding their run defense you quite literally find yourself betting on the possibility of what could be. But if that light ever comes on, oh baby… welcome to the jungle. Reasons like this are exactly why Travon Walker from Georgia has been getting a significant push for the first overall pick. It’s almost impossible to fathom the idea of a prospect as raw as Walker when it comes to pass rushing plans be in consideration for the number one pick. Yet it’s easy for the league to learn it’s lesson on missing out on a Danielle Hunter-esque situation where a prospect has ideal measurables and traits but, almost no production yet translates seamlessly to the league.
– A position that doesn’t get enough love in this class but is starting to open some eyes the closer we get to the draft. This class is so good and so deep that I legit had to separate the group by who’s skill sets translate which linebacker position.
Starting at the top you have the notables Devin Lloyd and Nakobe Dean — another typical pick your poison process. I have nothing against those who have Dean listed as LB1, his play speed is next level, he is a tackling machine and just a really smart football player. Me on the other hand, it’s something about the things that Devin Lloyd can do on the football field from a coverage standpoint that is really exciting. Lloyd is probably the most all around linebacker in this class, the fifth year senior out of Utah was the heartbeat of the defense from a sideline to sideline standpoint and abilities to matchup with tight ends and running backs in man coverage.
A prospect who I believe should be mentioned in the same breath but haven’t quite due to him being from a smaller school is Chad Muma. Talk about a smart kid, Muma just gets the position. He’s an outstanding athlete (4.63 forty yard dash, 40” vertical, 4.28 20 cone shuttle) that has a nose for the football. Like he has a target attached to his helmet that helps him locate ball and get after it with relentless pursuit.
– Probably the most fun unit to scout in this entire process, as the people love to say — these kids got that dawg in them. The big question that lies within this group is who exactly is the top cornerback in the class? Well the proper answer is that there probably isn’t a consensus top guy in this class.
Your two choices though? A young man who played some of the greatest coverage you’ve ever seen in your life at any level fresh out of high school, at the young age of 18 — in the SEC I might add (helps that he spent practice covering the two best rookie receivers of recent memory) and a young man who hasn’t given up a touchdown in… well, ever. Oh but it doesn’t stop there, because as usual former University of Washington head coach and DB Guru, Jimmy Lake had his guys ready to play. Kyler Gordon and Trent McDuffie, despite their 5’11 frame are phenomenal tacklers, some of the best athletes at their position, and high quality cover cornerbacks.
A prospect who has become a bit of a forgotten man throughout this process has been Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. He has some of the best film in the class, but all this is predicated on his abilities to stay healthy. Booth in my eyes is the clear cut CB3 in the class, his eye popping athleticism, has forced incompletions or interceptions on about 18% of his targets, does a great job disguising his technique, and thrives in both man and zone coverage, though a lot of his reps were in off coverage. In the later rounds you have prospects such as Coby Bryant of. Cincinnati, Alontae Taylor of Tennessee, and Martin Emerson from Mississippi State who offers quality starter potential on the later days.
– The NFL is a game of evolution — coaches, executives, and players alike each look to get ahead of the curve, in terms of who and what can change the game. We’ve had our conversation about positional value and how it has negatively impacted positions like running back, interior offensive line, and especially linebacker. However one of the few positions that evolution has impacted positively is safety.
The job of the safety position is an ever so revolving door — Dan Quinn and Gus Bradley still have there preferences of a elite single high safety who can cover some ground sidelines to sidelines. Recently Brandon Staley and Vic Fangio’s two high method has reigned supreme, which take some of the pressure off the safety position, but with so many discrepancies across the league now, safeties have essentially led a full fledge agenda of position-less football. You watch the position these days and it’s become more and more prominent that you find prospects with similar ‘unicorn’ skill sets as a Tyrann Mathieu, Derwin James, or Jeremy Chinn. Nickel corner, linebacker, blitzes sooner or later safety will have the argument for the best athletes on the field.
This years safety class is a perfect example of how versatile the position has become. It’s easy to start with the man in a class of his own, not only is Kyle Hamilton the best safety in this class, but I’m a firm believer that he’s the best player in the entire class.
If you happen to miss out on Hamilton (which he may not be as highly sort after as we expected) then there are multiple players who may serve of high interest because of their versatility.
While Lewis Cine may not be as versatile as some of his peers, between his skill set (primarily a two high safety) and testing numbers; 4.37 forty yard dash, 33” broad jump, and 1.51 ten yard splits, he is the perfect build of the modern day preferences for a landing spot like Philadelphia or Tampa Bay.