Pre-NFL Draft Positional Rankings – Defense

The 2018 NFL Draft is a defensive draft. The level of defensive talent is through the roof at every level – especially in the front seven. Despite the majority of the talk being centered around the quarterbacks in the draft, players such as Bradley Chubb, Maurice Hurst, Roquan Smith, Minkah Fitzpatrick and others – the influx of talent will help teams slow down offenses that ran the NFL such as the Rams, Patriots, Eagles and Steelers.

With the run on quarterbacks expected early, many of the top defensive talents could slide to contenders. Will your team land a top defensive talent? Disagree with the rankings? Let me know on Twitter @Matt_LaPan.

Defensive Linemen: The talent on the interior of the defensive line is undeniable. Maurice Hurst, Vita Vea, Da’Ron Payne and Taven Bryan are nearly all locks to be selected in the 1st round. Hurst had a medical scare at the combine, but appears to be healthy and has some of the best tape in college football. Disruptive hands, burst off the snap and a nose for the ball make him a strong target. Both Payne and Bryan have similar traits, but Hurst checks a few more boxes.

Vea is a run-stuffing force in the middle with an ability to push the pocket. He will demand double teams on nearly every play, changing how the team that drafts him will be able to play defense. It is hard to find a true nose tackle with his value.

Harrison Phillips is a popular name, but when you look at his film it might be better than some talk him up to be. He is strong at the line and uses his hands extremely well. The sleeper in the class could be Da’Shawn Hand. The former Alabama product has an incredibly high ceiling with a strong frame and great leverage. His potential appears to be untapped, but he will need to land in a good uni to unlock it.

  1. Maurice Hurst
  2. Vita Vea
  3. Da’Ron Payne
  4. Taven Bryan
  5. Harrison Phillips
  6. Derrick Nnadi
  7. Da’Shawn Hand
  8. R.J. McIntosh
  9. Andrew Brown
  10. B. J. Hill

EDGE: Much like the interior defensive line, the EDGE in this draft has a ton of talent. One of the top players Bradley Chubb sits atop the group. He plays on every down and can set the edge against the run, or bend it on passing downs. He creates a ton of plays in the backfield, making him a nightmare for opposing teams.

Very close behind him is Harold Landry. He had a disappointing final season at Boston College due to injury, but is a pure pass rusher that can ruin a game plan when he gets rolling. He is lightning off the snap and gets low to dip under tackles.

Marcus Davenport, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Sam Hubbard all have well-rounded games but will need some time to develop their rush moves to win at the next level. They all have a base set that will allow them to be situational players immediately, but can grow into very good players with the right coaching.

The biggest questions come with Arden Key. He is one of the most naturally talented and gifted rushers, but has not put it all together yet. He has a great first step, but tends to come out high. Great speed and bend, but leaves his chest open to better tackles. He could be available early in the 2nd round and develop into a steal.

  1. Bradley Chubb
  2. Harold Landry
  3. Marcus Davenport
  4. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
  5. Arden Key
  6. Sam Hubbard
  7. Josh Sweat
  8. Lorenzo Carter
  9. Duke Ejiofor
  10. Uchenna Nwosu

Off-Ball Linebacker: Continuing the theme of talent in the front seven – the off-ball linebackers are a group that is top-heavy, but extremely talented. Reckon Smith is a sideline-to-sideline player with strong coverage skills. He can play on every down and brings some serious thump. He is a plug-and-play starter that a team can get multiple years of excellent play out of.

Trumaine Edmunds is a more of a projection, but his size, athletic ability and nose for the football make him one of the most sought after prospects in the entire draft. He has the length and speed to rush off the edge,  but the toughness to play off the ball. He could become a true weapon for a creative defensive coach that utilizes him in different positions across the front seven.

As for Rashaan Evans, he is a typical Alabama interior linebacker that plays with great instinct, great pop and disruptive ability. Much like many of the linebackers before him, he is a plug-and-play starter who can lead a defense.

  1. Roquan Smith
  2. Tremaine Edmunds
  3. Rashaan Evans
  4. Leighton Vander Esch
  5. Micha Kiser
  6. Malik Jefferson
  7. Josey Jewell
  8. Tegray Scales
  9. Azeem Victor
  10. Jerome Baker

Cornerback:The talent in this draft is not only on the front seven – there is a lot of talent at the cornerback position. Jaire Alexander is an aggressive, physical cornerback with press-man skills and fluid hips. He finds the ball and attacks.

Not to be outdone, Denzel Ward is a playmaker who has terrific ball skills and great closing speed to get over the top of a route. He plays with great instincts and range, making him a danger to throw at on any play. He shows quick feet to turn and run with the speediest receivers as well.

Some believe Joshua Jackson is also a CB1 type of player, and has the physicality to be that. He can get beat with speed, but has great instincts to counteract that. He should fit in as an immediate starter on a cornerback-needy team. There are a lot of speed corners further back in the top-10 such as Davis, Jackson and Yiadom that can counteract the speed that many teams try to use to “take the top off a defense”. Having a player who can fill that role in the mid rounds brings great value.

  1. Jaire Alexander
  2. Denzel Ward
  3. Mike Hughes
  4. Isaiah Oliver
  5. Joshua Jackson
  6. Quenton Meeks
  7. Holton Hill
  8. Carlton Davis
  9. Donte Jackson
  10. Isaac Yiadom

Safety: The safety class might not have as much talent as other groups in the draft, but a top two of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James is hard to beat. Fitzpatrick is more of a weapon that can cover backs, receivers or tight ends with ease. He has fluid movements like a corner (where he played in college), but the range of a safety. He is a lock to be a day one starter.

As for James, he is a more physical, aggressive safety. He does not have the same coverage skills, but is solid in coverage and extremely strong in the run game. He might fall further than he would in other years, but a team selecting him in the middle of the round are getting a player that would be a top-5 or 10 selection in most other years.

  1. Minkah Fitzpatrick
  2. Derwin James
  3. Ronnie Harrison
  4. Kyzir White
  5. Justin Reid
  6. Marcus Allen
  7. Jessie Bates III
  8. DeShon Elliott
  9. Terrell Edmunds
  10. Kameron Kelly