In an effort to get through all of the positions before the draft, I’ll be just shortly naming some of the prospects to watch in this draft class, as well as some potential sleepers and maybe busts. I wasn’t able to go as far in depth this year as I did last year, but enough to develop a feel for the class and compile my rankings.
This year’s EDGE and off ball linebacker class is interesting as usual. The EDGE class, some of which were included in the defensive line snapshot, is a bit underwhelming. It’s pretty top heavy, and a lot of projects and developmental pieces along the way. The off ball linebacker class offers a bit more talent, and also some more traditional thumpers as well.
Top EDGE Prospect: Noah Spence Eastern Kentucky 6’2″ 251
Spence, a former five star recruit out of HS, was a stud at Ohio State, until he was kicked off of the team and banned from the Big Ten for multiple positive tests for ecstasy. While extremely talented, his character concerns have pushed him down some team’s boards. Prior to the Senior Bowl, Spence was thought of as a 1st round pick. After Mobile, it was thought that he could be a top 10 pick. However, after the Combine, he seems to have fallen significantly. He didn’t test overly well, but in the words of Football Gameplan’s Emory Hunt: “You don’t get any better or worse at playing football while running in track cleats and compression shorts.”
Top Linebacker Prospect: Myles Jack UCLA 6’1″ 245
While admittedly I’m not as high on Myles Jack as some people are, he’s easily got the highest ceiling in this class. He’s an athletic freak, despite not running a 40 yard dash, his speed is evident. Oddly enough, while he’s a linebacker, he’s in coverage an awful lot. The San Diego Chargers worked him out as a Safety, but he should be a linebacker in the NFL. He’s a bit of a projection, as any spot he’s going to be asked to play in the NFL, he simply doesn’t have a ton of snaps at in college. He’s likely a Will linebacker in a 4-3 front, however he’ll be a Nickel linebacker extraordinaire.
Biggest Bust Potential: Leonard Floyd Georgia 6’5″ 244
Don’t get this twisted, I don’t think Floyd will bust, he’ll be a pretty solid NFL player. However, it’ll be dependent on scheme and where his future team decides to play him. Floyd played both on the EDGE and off ball at Georgia, however he’s a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none. I think he can play a 3-4 OLB spot or a Mike or Sam in a 4-3. He’s very athletic, but is a bit hit and miss. If he can improve his strength and consistency, he’ll be a force for any defense.
Biggest Sleeper: Tyrone Holmes Montana 6’2″ 251
When Justis Mosqueda, give him a follow at @Jumosq, talks about an EDGE player, I listen. A week or so ago he wrote a really nice article on Bleacher Report about Holmes, and after watching him more, he’s got the potential to be a huge steal in the middle to late rounds. Under recruited coming out of HS, he’s done nothing but give quarterbacks nightmares, leading the FCS in sacks a year ago. He’ll be a stud as a 3-4 OLB and situational rusher.
De’Vondre Campbell Minnesota 6’5″ 232
Campbell is a bit of an interesting prospect. He’s got the ideal physique and frame for the position. He even ran a 4.58 at the combine, so why is he being overlooked? For starters, he’s only played at the Division 1 level for two years. Secondly, he didn’t play all that well while he was at Minnesota, not necessarily known for being a football factory. Campbell has all the physical tools if an NFL coach decides that he wants to mold them.
Small School Stud: Matt Judon Grand Valley State 6’3″ 275
Not that Montana isn’t a small school, but we’re going D2 here. Judon, who ran a 4.73 at the Combine in Indianapolis, shouldn’t be overlooked in this year’s draft despite the small school label. He’s got the size to be a solid 4-3 defensive end, or he could be experimented with by a 3-4 team as a run down big OLB. Either way, if he hits the 4th round, someone will be getting a steal.
My EDGE rankings:
1. Noah Spence Eastern Kentucky 1st Round
2. Joey Bosa Ohio State 1st Round (Top 10 DE)
3. Shaq Lawson Clemson 1st Round
4. Leonard Floyd Georgia 1st-2nd Round
5. Shilique Calhoun Michigan State 2nd Round
6. Emmanuel Ogbah Oklahoma State 2nd Round
7. Kamalei Correa Boise State 2nd Round
8. Jordan Jenkins Georgia 2nd Round
9. Kyler Fackrell Utah State 2nd-3rd Round
10. Bronson Kaufusi BYU 2nd-3rd Round
My Linebacker Rankings
1. Myles Jack UCLA Top 10
2. Reggie Ragland Alabama 1st Round
3. Leonard Floyd Georgia 1st Round (1st-2nd EDGE)
4. Darron Lee Ohio State 1st Round
5. Josh Perry Ohio State 1st-2nd Round
6. Su’a Cravens USC 2nd Round
7. Deion Jones LSU 2nd Round
8. Jaylon Smith Notre Dame 3rd Round (No. 1 LB before injury)
9. Kentrell Brothers Missouri 3rd Round
10. Travis Feeny Washington 3rd-4th Round