Collinelli’s Big Board 1.0

During the summer, I’ve watched about 150 potential draft prospects for the 2020 NFL draft. Each week I gave you my top-5 at each position, film breakdowns, and the rest of my rankings. All of that was leading up to this piece where I can narrow it down to my top-50 players to start the season. There are a couple of disclaimers I need to get out of the way before we can jump into the rankings. 

First, I only watched roughly 150 players which means there are players that I didn’t watch just yet. If you see someone who is missing don’t assume I didn’t like their film but instead ask me if I got to their tape yet. Second, there are a lot of ties between players who play the same position. That is just the way it is this time of the year. There is a whole year to be played plus the pre-draft process which is when it becomes easier to divide players who are close and play the same position. When you see players grouped together by position on the board that means they are essentially tied for me right now. Third, just remember this is a preseason list. Tons of things will change between now and when the season ends. If I have a player low or off of my top-50 just remember how early in the process it is. 

As always any comments or questions hit me up on Twitter @DanteCollinelli

 

Numbers 50-40

IMG_2905
Jordan Love

50. Zach Moss, RB, Utah 

49. Alton Robinson, Edge, Syracuse

48. Jabari Zuniga, Edge, Florida 

47. Rashard Lawrence, DT, LSU

46. Jake Hanson, IOL, Oregon 

45. Shane Lemieux, IOL, Oregon

44. Brandon Jones, S, Texas 

43. Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

42. KJ Costello, QB, Stanford 

41. Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford 

40. Grant Calcaterra, TE, Oklahoma

 

Numbers 39-26

IMG_3267
Curtis Weaver

 39. Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota 

 38. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

 37. Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue 

 36. Curtis Weaver, Edge, Boise State 

 35. Julian Okwara, Edge, Notre Dame 

 34. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Vanderbilt 

 33. AJ Terrell, CB, Clemson

 32. CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

 31. Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State 

 30. Trey Adams, OT, Washington

29. Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn 

 28. Henrey Ruggs, WR, Alabama 

 27. Colin Johnson, WR, Texas 

 26. Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State 

 

Numbers 25-16

IMG_2928
Jonathan Taylor

 25. Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson

 24. Xavier Mckinney, S, Alabama 

 23. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

 22. Jeffery Okudah, CB, Ohio State

 21. Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado

 20. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

 19. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin 

 18. Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama 

 17. Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama 

 16. Creed Humphrey, IOL, Oklahoma 

 

Numbers 15-1 

IMG_2948
Jerry Juedy

 15. Tyler Biadez, IOL, Wisconsin

 14. Tristian Wrifs, OT, Iowa

 13. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

 12. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson 

 11. D’andre Swift, RB, Georgia 

 10. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia 

 9. Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford 

 8. Ceedee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

 7. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon 

 6. Tua Tagovalia, QB, Alabama

 5. Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia 

 4. Aj Epenesa, Edge, Iowa 

 3. Grant Delpit, S, LSU

 2. Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State 

 1. Jerry Juedy, WR, Alabama 

 

 

 

Prospect Preview: 2020 Safeties

We have seen some truly gifted safeties come out in recent years. Jamal Adams, Derwin James, and Minkah Fitzpatrick just to name a few. What makes a good safety in today’s NFL is much different than a couple of years ago. Today’s safeties are asked to be stalwarts in coverage but also provide a competent run defense. Most safeties are also asked to play more than one position. They will line up in deep coverage, in the slot, as a linebacker, and even occasionally as an edge rusher. 

The NFL has also put a premium on safeties who can create turnovers. I mentioned this in an earlier Prospect Preview but teams need players who will buy them extra possessions on offense. So, to recap what are we looking for in a safety prospect? They have to be athletic enough to cover sideline to sideline, quick enough to be a man coverage option, smart enough to be an option in zone coverage, tough enough to make an impact in the running game, and dynamic enough to make turnover worthy plays. Yikes, that is a lot of boxes to check for one position (those are just the basic ones). 

Last year’s safety class left a lot to be desired for me with only one first-round grade (Nasir Adderley, Delaware). This year’s class is pretty solid so far with some great players at the top of the class so let’s get into it.

As always any comments or questions hit me up @DanteCollinelli on Twitter. 

Number One: 

Grant Delpit, Junior, LSU

IMG_3328

I’ve been hearing about how amazing Grant Delpit is for about two years now. I’ve been able to watch him out of the corner of my eye but this was the first time I put him under the microscope. In summary, he’s one of the best players I’ve watched this summer. Remember the checklist of things I listed in the intro? Delpit checks all of those boxes with absolute ease. Delpit is a freak athlete with insane burst on the ball and a great vertical. His straight-line speed looks good on film too with him flying around all over the place to make tackles. In man coverage, Delpit is athletic enough to stay with TEs, RBs, and slot receivers alike. In zone, coverage it’s easy to see that Delpit understands what is happening in front of him. He reads the eyes of the quarterback and breaks on the ball with urgency. Delpit fills his holes against the run quite well and wraps up ball carriers with good form and power. The best part of Delpit’s game, in my opinion, is how dynamic of a playmaker he is. Delpit racked up five sacks, six interceptions, nine pass breakups, and one forced fumble in 2018. Those are all tangible ways Delpit affects the game outside of just being the last line of defense. It exemplifies everything you could ask for from a modern-day safety which is why Delpit ranks as my number one overall safety heading into the season. 

Number Two: 

Xavier Mckinney, Junior, Alabama 

IMG_3329

Death, taxes, and Alabama having top of the line safety prospects. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Landon Collins, Deionte Thompson, and Minkah Fitzpatrick are just off the top of my head. Joining them this season will be Xavier Mckinney. On tape, Mckinney shows that he has the requisite range to be a single high safety at the next level. He does a good job of reading the QBs eyes and coming downhill to make plays on the ball. The first play on the thread below is a perfect example of exactly that. Mckinney has the needed acceleration and burst to click and close on the ball in zone coverage, as well. When Mckinney is asked to step into the box he does a good job in run support. Despite being a lean player, Mckinney hits pretty hard and wraps up well through contact. Mckinney’s length and athletic profile point to a pretty high ceiling as a centerfielder. The plays where he does go sideline to sideline and makes a play on the ball are pretty. My biggest complaint with Mckinney is less about his actual play and more about how Alabama employs him. I would love to see him used more as a single high safety which I’m hoping to see with Deionte Thompson now in the NFL. Mckinney needs to get some more love in the national media if you ask me. 

Number Three: 

Brandon Jones, Senior, Texas 

IMG_3330

In most cases, I like to talk about a player’s strengths before I mention some of their weaknesses. Jones does so many things well but has such a big Achilles heel I need to mention it first. Jones has no idea how to play the ball in the air. Catching the football looks like a completely foreign concept to him. He prefers to hit the receiver instead of picking his head up and sticking his hand out. Jones has great long speed and has plenty of range to be a single high safety at the next level. He’s got a hard-hitting mentality and isn’t afraid to come up and pop anybody. He does a great job filling his gaps in the running game and making tackles from different angles. I really liked him in deep and short zone coverage for the Longhorns. He does a good job of reading route stems breaking in front of him which he combines with the natural burst to close on the ball. Again, if he could just develop some kind of ball skills then he would be a first-round safety prospect. Without that part of his game Jones’ has a limited impact on the game which is becoming more and more unattractive to NFL teams. Jones’ athletic profile should keep him firmly in the top-50 conversation no matter what which makes him the classic high floor but low ceiling player. 

Number Four: 

JR Reed, Senior, Georgia 

IMG_3332.JPG

JR Reed is a returning player to the prospect preview from 2019. Reed actually ranked as my number three safety coming into the season but, obviously, he returned to Georgia. There is just something about Reed as a prospect that just draws me to him. I think its got a lot to do with his firey mentality for the game. Reed isn’t afraid to come down from his safety perch and bang bodies with players. He fills his gaps in the run game admirably and shows solid tackling technique when he arrives in control. As a coverage option, Reed displays the ability to stick with tight ends and bigger slot receivers with mirroring and physicality. Reed has some flashes of ball skills which are mostly him playing through the hands of the receiver all the way through the catch point. I think the biggest hiccup on Reed’s tape is his lack of sideline to sideline range. The previous players we have talked about have all had enough speed to be options as a single high safety, but I think Reed misses out on that ship. Sadly, that limits both his ceiling and usage at the NFL level. With that said, I think Reed does a good enough job against both the run and man coverage that he can be viewed as a coverage chess piece. The last thing Reed needs to work on this season is controlling his firey mentality a little better. Sometimes he can get too excited and end missing tackles or assignments. 

 

Number Five: 

Antione Brooks, Senior, Maryland 

IMG_3331

Antione Brooks is one of the most unique players I have watched this entire summer. Honestly, I haven’t seen safety tape like Brooks my entire life. Brooks doesn’t play a lot of deep safety but instead plays more slot, linebacker, and edge rusher. I am not kidding there are reps on his tape of him firing off the edge and dipping his shoulder to corner to the quarterback and make a sack. He’s got better bend then like half of the edge rushers I watched a couple of weeks ago its crazy to watch. As far as actual safety traits go, Brooks shows up a lot in man coverage covering big slots and tight ends. He does a good job keeping up with them using his solid athletic profile. It’s easy to see that Brooks has the long speed and burst to be an effective sideline to sideline safety if needed. Brooks is a temperature changer on the Maryland defense. When he starts hitting people and making plays the whole defense raises their game. I have two main problems with Brooks that are keeping me from ranking him higher. First, while he is versatile I’m not 100% sure where his “Homebase” is right now. I love that he can play a number of positions, but I would like to see him really excel in one spot/role this season. If he does that then everything can be the icing on the cake. Second, he seems like he is late to process things that are happening in front of him. This limits both his ability to be effective in zone coverage and his ability to make plays on the ball. Overall, Brooks is a super interesting chess piece player who I’m excited to watch develop this season.

 

Numbers 6-12

Number 6: Reggie Floyd, Senior, Virginia Tech

Number 7: Richie Grant, RS-Junior, UCF

Number 8: David Dowell, Senior, Michigan State

Number 9: Alhoi Gilman, Junior, Notre Dame

Number 10: Jalen Elliot, Senior, Notre Dame

Number 11: Tanner Muse, Graduate, Clemson

Number 12: Nigel Warrior, Senior, Tennessee

Players I couldn’t watch because I’m on vacation

Number 1: Jordan Fuller, Senior, Ohio State

Number 2: Richard Lecounte, Junior, Georgia

Number 3: Kyle Dugger, Senior, Lenior Ryne

Number 4: Stanford Samuels, Junior, Florida State

Number 5: Greg Elisworth, RS-Junior, Iowa State

 

Prospect Preview: 2020 Cornerbacks

I feel bad for the modern-day cornerback. They are set up by the league to fail at there job. All of the rules are geared for wide receivers and quarterbacks to have more impressive stats. Imagine trying to cover the best athletes in the world but you can barely touch them most of the time. The crazy thing is that sometimes corners are in perfect position but still get beat because receivers and quarterbacks are that good right now. 

Last year’s corner group wasn’t exactly a deep group of players. Players like Greedy Williams and Byron Murphy headlined the class for a lot of scouts on Twitter but neither player was drafted in the first round. This year, the corner group is probably the most impressive position group I’ve watched so far this summer. I complained last week that I didn’t have enough good linebackers but this week I have too many good corners. If you feel like a corner you love is super low on the list don’t fret because there is a good chance I actually liked them. This class is so deep that I ran out of time to get to a couple of players I think have the potential to be top 50 players. Here’s the crazier part, however, I believe that all 5 of the corners I will highlight today could be first-round picks when April rolls around. 

As always any comments or questions hit me up on Twitter @DanteCollinelli

 

Number One: 

Paulson Adebo, Junior, Stanford

IMG_3311

The Paulson Adebo hype train has officially left the station on draft Twitter, and I am on board. Adebo was one of the last players I watched this week and he blew me away right off the bat. His natural length and athletic ability are just off the charts, especially when closing on the ball. He competes at the catch point on every play while his long arms give him plenty of opportunities to make PBUs and interceptions. This kid makes up so much ground when asked to close on the ball its insane. Adebo closes horizontally with pure speed and burst so often that teams don’t even run crossing routes at him anymore. Obviously, with all of these skills you want to see great ball skills and Adebo has those too. It’s hard to find a rep where Adebo gets legitimately beat. Sure, you will find reps where he gives up a catch but he’s always in the correct place at the correct time sometimes QBs and WRs are just that good. He stays sticky in coverage and always puts himself in a position to make a play on the ball by understanding leverage. If Adebo declares this season I would be beyond shocked to see him fall out of the first round. His natural skillset combined with technical prowess is just to good to pass up. 

Number Two: 

Bryce Hall, Senior, Virginia  

IMG_3312

Oh, baby! I’m so excited that Byrce Hall is finally going to be in a draft class and can’t go back to school this year. You have to understand that Adebo and Hall are less like 1 and 2 and more like 1A and 1B. I scouted Hall last season because there was a chance he could have come out. I was ready to make him my CB 1 in 2019 but then he broke my heart and decided to go back to school. Bryce Hall is the best down the field cornerback that I have scouted so far in my career. This man funnels people to the sideline and then bullies them at the catch point so efficiently that you should stick to throwing underneath routes against him. His length and acceleration don’t make throwing underneath routes any better though. Hall closes on the ball so quickly with burst and anticipation he makes QBs think twice even if there appears to be an opening. Hall is a smooth mover with fluid hips and quick feet too. Like Adebo, there just isn’t a lot of things that he doesn’t do well. One thing that stuck out with Hall is that he fills his gaps in the run game extremely well. His tackling isn’t fantastic but it’s rare to find a sure tackling corner. Hall’s mentality in the running game is what counts, if you ask me, and his tough mentality stays with him while in coverage. The battle between Adebo and Hall for my CB 1 will be one of the most hotly contested spots on my board. 

Number Three: 

Kristian Fulton, Senior, LSU 

IMG_3313

In a lot of other classes, I think Fulton is probably an unquestioned CB 1 but this year is just stacked. Fulton shines when asked to change directions in coverage and mirror receivers down the field. He always established good positioning down the field and made plays on the ball. His athletic ability shows up when has to compete with bigger, faster receivers. He’s got the long speed and burst to keep with anyone at any spot if that wasn’t clear already. I love how smart of a player he is too. Fulton understands route stems and when to break on routes that are developing in front of him. Even at the catch point, you can see him do things that are considered “veteran traits”. He attacks the elbows of receivers and always follows through their hands which allows him to affect the ball without actually touching it. So, I guess the question now is: Why is he down here at number three? Two things bothered me ever so slightly about him. One, he got a little dinged up last year but nothing too serious. Two, I saw him get beat by a couple of double moves while peaking into the backfield. It’s not a gigantic problem for him it just happens once in a while. Overall, Fulton is a smooth, athletic, and smart corner who still has a shot to be CB 1. 

Number Four: 

Jeffery Okudah, Junior, Ohio State 

IMG_3314

Wow, really shocking that Ohio State has another top of the line CB prospect but here we are. I am convinced that the Atlanta Falcons were watching Jeffery Okudah instead of Kendall Schefflied and then were shocked when he was available in the fourth round. Anyway, lets actually talk about Okudah instead of making fun of his former teammates. The first thing that jumped out to me about Okudah was how good he was of tracking and staying with receivers all over the field. The first play on the thread below is one of the more impressive reps I saw from any corner this summer and shows off exactly what I’m talking about. Okudah has the length to make an impact on the ball at the catch point and he does when coming downhill. His closing speed in zone coverage is great and his long speed is perfect for man coverage. For Okudah, I think his stock would soar if he improved his ball skills just a little bit. Yes, he makes plays on the ball downhill but vertically he can get out of position at times. Interceptions aren’t the end all be all of corner play but I would like to see some more from him this year. Okudah has all the tools to be a press-man corner at the next level which we know the NFL is salivating for. 

Number Five: 

Trevon Diggs, Senior, Alabama 

IMG_3315

Hey, here is another shock right? Alabama with a good cornerback? That never happens. All jokes aside Trevon Diggs might be the most underrated good cornerback in the 2020 class which is amazing because he plays at Alabama. Diggs has vines for arms. He’s got some crazy length and it shows up all the time. Think you are gonna outreach him at the catch point? Well, let me be the first to tell you that you will not be able to. His mirroring skills down the field are also impressive. He moves smoothly for a bigger player and does a great job flipping his hips when he needs too. His long speed might be his best trait when comes down to it. If you watch him play against DK Metcalf last year you will see that he was keeping up with him stride for stride. Some of the areas I would like to see Diggs improve in are route recognition and reaction time. Occasionally receivers will set him up for inside routes and he’s just a little late catching on allowing for the completion to be made. Once he gets better in that area then there is nothing stopping him from becoming a bonafide first-round corner.

 

Numbers 6-14

Number 6: AJ Terrell, Junior, Clemson

Number 7: CJ Henderson, Junior, Florida

Number 8: Mark Gilbert, RS Junior, Duke

Number 9: Jaylon Johnson, Junior, Utah

Number 10: Damon Arnette, Senior, Ohio State

Number 11: Julian Blackmon, Senior, Utah

Number 12: Troy Pride Jr, Senior, Notre Dame

Number 13: Levert Hill, Senior, Michigan

Number 14: Chase Lucas, RS Junior, Arizona State

Players I need to Watch:

Number 1: Linwood Crump, Senior, Temple

Number 2: Harrison Hand, Junior, Temple

Number 3: Chris Fredrick, Senior, Syracuse

Number 4: Jeff Gladley, Senior, TCU

Number 5: Kindlor Vildor, Senior, Georgia Southern

Prospect Preview: 2020 Linebackers

Like many positions on defense, the linebacker position is going through a transition phase at the next level. Big bulky players who come downhill and stuff the running back are no longer valued high in the draft. Now, the NFL values linebackers who can move in space and be options against the passing game and the running game. Linebackers who create turnovers and fly around the field are also highly valued because defenses are more concerned with creating takeaways then actually stopping anybody. 

The 2018 linebacker class was a weak one outside of the top two players. Devin White and Devin Bush both ended up in my top 10 on my final Big Board. Outside of that though I only had five linebackers with a third-round grade or higher. I was hoping for a rebound year for the 2020 class but it’s not looking good at the moment. There are players with potential here, however, I’m hoping we get some late risers in the process to add to the depth of this class. 

As always any comments or questions hit me up on Twitter @DanteCollinelli

 

Number One: 

Dylan Moses, Junior, Alabama 

IMG_3287

Thank god for Dylan Moses. He’s the only linebacker in this class that is not only well rounded but also technically sound. There are very few things that Moses does poorly on the football field and so many things that he does right. For starters, it is easy to tell how developed he is mentally when processing the run game. He reads his keys quickly and then goes to make the stop. Moses doesn’t bite in on play-action a lot and is rarely caught shooting the wrong gap against the run. He’s a proficient tackler always coming to balance and driving through the legs of the ball carrier. One of the most exciting things about Moses is his speed from sideline to sideline. He has the range to be an impact player on every inch of the football field which I mentioned as being a big deal in the intro of this article and he won’t get beat around the corner too often. Moses was taken off the field for a lot of dime packages at Alabama but the coverage reps I did see showed an athletic player who can at least keep up with tight ends and running backs. With Mack Wilson now in the NFL Moses should pick up those dime reps he missed out on last year giving us more of a chance to see what he looks like in coverage. At the very least you’re getting a smart and athletically superior linebacker in the middle of your defense for years to come. 

Number Two: 

Isaiah Simmons, Junior, Clemson 

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Miami

This is where things start to get tricky for me with this linebacker class. Simmons is listed by Clemson as a linebacker but doesn’t really play much linebacker. I saw Simmons line up as a slot corner, outside corner, deep safety, edge rusher, and linebacker. The majority of his reps come from the slot; he’s quite versatile. I liked Simmons’ tape a lot because he’s clearly a fantastic athlete out in space. My issue, however, is if I can truly call him a linebacker. Since it’s so early in the draft process I am gonna let it slide for now and call him a linebacker. Simmons strengths align perfectly with what the NFL is going for right now. His ability to cover tight ends and running backs is unmatched in this class. Not only does he have the size (6’4 and 225), but he also has the speed which pops on tape. What’s even more impressive is that he’s able to stay with all of these tight ends and backs in 1v1 man coverage. That is rare for a linebacker. I even saw him stay with slot receivers at times. While Simmons is a great man coverage player he still has a way to go with his technique, especially with his feet at the line of scrimmage. In zone coverage, Simmons has the length and burst to make a quarterback’s life hell. The issue is that he doesn’t seem too comfortable dropping back into coverage and keeping his eyes forward. If you can clean that part of his game up then you are looking at an elite coverage chess piece on the defensive side of the football. 

Number Three: 

Markus Bailey, 5th Year, Purdue 

IMG_3289

I watched Markus Bailey’s tape on Thursday which is typically the second to last day that I watch tape for these articles. I was desperate to find a linebacker who was well rounded enough for today’s NFL and Bailey provided me with some solid film. The trait Bailey hangs his hat on is his zone coverage. You can tell by watching him that he’s got a lot of experience in that area. He’s got fluid hips when dropping into coverage and always drops to the right spot without having to turn around and look. He made some plays on the ball as an underneath defender making him a real solid coverage option at the next level. Against the run, Bailey is a pretty sound tackler, as long as he gets squared up. He has the speed to get sideline to sideline fairly quickly, but I wouldn’t call him a blazer. He doesn’t get much run as a traditional “Mike” linebacker so reps of him reading run keys and attacking are a little hard to find. My biggest complaint with Bailey right now is that he has a problem with length. His arms are stubby and limit him as a tackler and as a zone coverage option. I saw a couple of reps where he got stiff-armed into the ground and where he couldn’t reach passes that were thrown near him. Bailey is just all-around a solid option at the LB spot with a knack for zone coverage, despite physical limits. 

Number Four: 

David Woodward, Junior, Utah State 

IMG_3290

I got to say that when I started this “prospect preview” series back in June I did not expect to have two players from Utah State crack my top-5 but here we are. I am not gonna sit here and say that I’m in love with Woodward but he’s got some traits that are worth investing in right now. Woodward stood out right off the bat with his effort to be around the ball on every play. What’s nice about that though is Woodward actually has the range to make plays all across the field. He moves well in space, seems like he has good top speed, and flashed some nice acceleration. I thought he did a nice job of pursuing runners to the boundary by taking good angles and slipping around contact. When he got there he came in under control and made sound tackles. The hiccup for me with Woodward right now is that Utah State has him listed at 230 pounds but he looks lighter than that to me. His lack of power really shows up on tape because when linemen get their hands on him he can go for a ride. As a coverage option, I think Woodward has the needed athletic profile to be an effective pass defender but the technique isn’t there. He looked lost in zone coverage to me and his footwork in man coverage needs a lot of refinement. Woodward flies around the field and has a lot of tools giving him a higher ceiling than a lot of the guys I watched this week. 

 

Number Five: 

Paddy Fisher, Junior, Northwestern 

IMG_3291

Paddy Fisher seems to be the subject of a lot of disagreement on draft Twitter right now. I’m not gonna lie to you; I wasn’t very impressed with his film right away. Once I watched the rest of this linebacker class I realized that Fisher is actually further along than a lot of the other guys. Fisher does a lot of things well but doesn’t do anything particularly great. He did a good job scraping down the line to make plays against the run. He reads his run keys fairly well and is a sound tackler who comes to balance every time. The question marks with Fisher start to come up when you get into his athletic profile and his ability in coverage. After watching his film (twice) I was still on the fence about whether or not he had the needed range to play middle linebacker at the next level. There are some reps of him getting beat to the corner, but he also moves well for a bigger linebacker (listed at 241). In coverage, I didn’t think he looked smooth in his backpedal and I saw him get burned more than once in man coverage. With that said, he’s clearly a smart player who understands zone concepts fairly well. Summing it up, I’ve got a lot of questions when it comes to Fisher which prevents me from putting him higher on this list. 

Numbers 6-14

Number 6: Shaquille Quarterman, Senior, Miami

Number 7: Tuf Borland, Junior, Ohio State

Number 8: Joe Bachie, Senior, Michigan State

Number 9: Micheal Pickney, Senior, Miami

Number 10: Troy Dye, Senior, Oregon

Number 11: Kenneth Murray, Junior, Oklahoma

Number 12: Khaleke Hudson, Senior, Michigan

Number 13: Sean Bradley, Senior, Temple

Number 14: Antonio Jones-Davis, RS-Senior, NIU

Players I need to see more of to rank them:

Number 1: Chapelle Russel, Graduate, Temple

Number 2: Bryce Huff, Junior, Memphis

Number 3: Rashad Smith, Senior, FAU

Number 4: Dante Olson, RS-Senior, Montana

Number 5: Mohammed Barry, Senior, Nebraska

 

Five Potential Breakout Defensive Players from the 2018 NFL Draft

I always find it prudent to check in on the draft classes of the past and see how they are fairing. The 2018 class gave us a lot of talented players including 5 new quarterbacks, two All-Pro Indianapolis Colts, a franchise running back in New York, and an All-Pro Safety in LA. As with every draft class, however, some players show promise in their rookie season but don’t have an opportunity to breakout. Sometimes it’s due to injury and sometimes it’s due to being buried on the depth chart. 

For this article, I am gonna take a look at five defensive players from the 2018 draft class who are due to have better sophomore seasons than rookie seasons. Unlike the offense, every position on the defense is eligible for this list. Just like the last one, this is not a rankings list, but instead, a watch list. 

As always any comments or questions hit me up on Twitter @DanteCollinelli.

Number One: 

Harold Landry, OLB, Tennesse Titians 

IMG_3274

2018 Stats: 4.5 sacks, 44 combined tackles, 1 Forced Fumble

Oh, what I would give to see Harold Landry never get hurt again. Landry was a first-round grade on my board in 2018 because of the elite bend and speed he had off the edge. There was always major injury red flags with him though, so he fell to the second round. Landry played in 15 games last year for the Titans and started in three of them. Although I have a lot of love for Cameron Wake, he’s just not the same player he was a couple of years ago. The other players competing for a LOLB spot are former Temple grad Shareff Finich and Dereck Robertson. Landry should have the starting job essentially handed to him this year and when healthy Landry could be a double-digit sack performer. He also has the benefit of getting to play with Mike Vrabel as his head coach. Vrabel played linebacker in the NFL for several years and has done a great job with the Titans defense so far. All of the pieces for Landry to hit his true potential are in play we just have to sit back and watch. 

Number Two: 

Isaiah Oliver, CB, Atlanta Falcons

IMG_3275

2018 Stats: 23 combined tackles, 7 passes defended, 1 interception

Every single draft cycle there is a group of players that I gravitate towards for whatever reason. In 2019, it was players like Devin Bush, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Brett Rypien, and Rock Ya-Sin. In 2018 however, Isaiah Oliver was someone I was super high on coming out of Colorado. Oliver had all the tools to be an effective press-man corner in the NFL and had some ball production to go along with it. Oliver played in 14 games last season for the Falcons but only started in two of them. The fact that he had 7 PBUs with just two starts is actually grounds for a solid rookie season. The Falcons still have Dezmond Trufant as their number one corner but the number two corner role is wide open for the taking. Here are some of the names competing with Oliver for that spot let’s see how many of them you actually recognize, okay? Kendall Sheffield, Tavez Calhoun, Rashard Causey, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Jordan Miller, and Parker Baldwin. How many did you get? Probably not that many, right? Suffice to say Oliver is in line to be the starter for the Falcons all 16 games this season. That alone should help him along to having the breakout season I think he is due for. 

 

Number Three: 

Jerome Baker, LB, Miami Dolphins 

IMG_3276

2018 Stats: 79 combined tackles, 3.0 sacks, 3 passes defended, 1 interception

Please don’t accuse me of being a homer with this pick because I promise its got nothing to do with Baker playing for the Dolphins. It does, however, have to do with the Dolphins’ new coaching staff and Baker’s improved play down the stretch last season. Baker played in all 16 games in 2018 including 11 starts. I wasn’t that high on Baker coming out of Ohio State but there is little denying his natural athletic talent. Baker is a great mover in space and should be a coverage option for the Dolphins this coming season (trust me they need those). What really excites me is Brian Flores’ new scheme which should give Baker some more opportunities to rush the passer. Baker had three sacks last season and was not given a lot of responsibility in that area. Baker’s athletic profile projects nicely as a pass rusher and Flores’ is known for getting the most of his defenders as pass rushers. No need to go over the depth chart for the Dolphins because Baker started the majority of last season and only got better. I expect Baker to be a versatile chess piece on a bad Dolphins team this season. 

 

Number Four: 

Ronnie Harrison, SS, Jacksonville Jaguars 

IMG_3277

2018 Stats: 32 combined tackles, 1.0 sack, 3 passes defended, 1 interception 

Ronnie Harrison was another player I had ranked in the first-round during the 2018 draft cycle but he slid down to the third round. Harrison spent most of the 2018 season buried on the Jaguars depth chart behind Jonathan Cyprien. In total, Harrison only started in eight games last year but still had some production to show for it. Cyprien is no longer on the team and his competition on the depth chart CJ Reavis and Andrew Wingard who aren’t exactly fantastic players. Harrison is a hard-hitting safety who should make an impact in the box for a Jaguars team that has a lot of proficient defenders. Not only is Jonathan Cyprien gone but Telvin Smith is also not expected to play this season. Smith was the heart of the Jaguars’ defense and accounted for a lot of tackles and overall production. With Harrison’s hard-hitting mentality and newly found starting role, he should be a prominent member of an already talented defense in 2019. 

 

Number Five: 

Marcus Davenport, DE, New Orleans Saints 

IMG_3278

2018 Stats: 22 combined tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 passes defended, 1 forced fumble

Let’s be honest here because Davenport has much higher expectations than the rest of the players on this list. Not only is he the only player on this list that was drafted in the first round but he’s also the only player who cost the drafting team an extra first-round pick in a trade-up selection. Davenport’s 2018 season got off to a good start recording 4.0 sacks in the first eight games, but then, he only recorded 0.5 sacks the remaining eight games of the season. Davenport battled some injuries which lead him to only play in 13 games last season but that included 0 starts. Davenport should get an opportunity to start alongside Cameron Jordan this season just based on the amount of capital the Saints have spent on him. Davenport was a raw product coming of UTSA so hopefully, he improves technically as a pass rusher this season which leads to more production. Look, I wasn’t a huge fan of Davenport when he came out in 2018 but the Saints need his pass rush, and the depth chart around him isn’t great. Trey Hendrickson and Mario Edwards Jr are his main competition. Davenport has all the tools to be an effective pass rusher and I’m just praying he will show a lot of improvement this upcoming season.

Prospect Preview: 2020 Edge Rushers

The most important position in football is the quarterback. That makes the second most important position the player who can stop the quarterback. The easiest way to stop a quarterback is tackling him before he even throws the football, and that is the chief job for an edge rusher. 

Last year’s class of edge prospects was considered to be an elite grouping of talent filled with multiple first-round picks. Nick Bosa went number two overall, Clein Ferrell went number four, Josh Allen went number seven, Rashan Gary went number twelve, Brian Burns went number sixteen, Montez Sweat went number Twenty-Six, and LJ Collier went number Twenty-Nine. If you weren’t counting that was seven edge rushers selected in just the first 32 picks. 

Typically, when you have a class with that much firepower there is a drop off the next year in talent. While there might be a slight drop off in the 2020 class, this is still a good class with a lot of talented players. 

As always, any comments or questions feel free to hit me up on Twitter @DanteCollinelli

 

Number One: 

Chase Young, Junior, Ohio State 

IMG_3263

Ohio State is on an unfair run of great pass rushers in recent years. First, it was Joey Bosa who was selected number three overall in 2016. Second, was the aforementioned Nick Bosa who was selected second in 2019. Third, is Chase Young who coming into his junior season, in 2020, has a chance to be another top-three pick from the Buckeyes. Young has fantastic speed and power around the edge combined with natural size and athleticism. He can bench press tackles off his chest and beat them around the outside by dipping his shoulder. Young’s hand usage is pretty far along as I saw him work a couple of pass rush counters on tape. Young isn’t just an elite pass rusher, but also, a great run defender. He sets a hard edge rarely letting running backs get to the outside. He has the quickness to shoot gaps against the running game and a nice swim move to blow by tackles and get into the backfield. Young will top a lot of people’s boards as one of the best players in the country, and I am totally on the hype train going into the season. 

 

Number Two: 

AJ Epenesa, Junior, Iowa 

IMG_3264

AJ Epenesa was the best back up player in all of college football last season. I can’t think of any on the field reasons he should have been a backup, and I haven’t heard anything bad about him off the field so, to say the least, I was confused. Let’s start with the obvious with Epenesa. He’s a big kid! Iowa has him listed at 6’6 and 280 which explains his great upper and lower body strength. All of that strength leads to a really effective bull rush which shows up all over his tape. That was the part of Epenesa’s game I was expecting to like. What surprised me was how well he moves and bends for such a big player. There are a couple of reps where he really dips his shoulder and bends his hips allowing him to turn the corner and sack the quarterback. For a player, his size and weight to be able to do those things consistently is super impressive. His first step off the line is explosive and puts a lot of pressure on tackles right away. As a run defender, Epenesa does a good job setting the edge and shooting gaps to make TFLs. The only thing that separated Young from Epenesa is that Young looked like much better of a mover in space. Epenesa is a really technically sound player and definitely in the conversation for Edge 1 heading into the season. 

Number Three: 

Yetur Gross-Matos, Junior, Penn State 

IMG_3265

In 2018 Gross-Matos became just the 11th player in Penn State history to record at least 20.0 TFLs in a season and the first since 2008. Gross-Matos immediately stands out on tape with his natural length and size. He does a good job using that length to keep tackles off his chest plate and control reps. His impact in the running game is immediate. He does a great job shooting gaps and swim moving over tackles to get free releases into the backfield. Gross-Matos’s long arms give him a huge tackle radius, so it’s rare for him to miss a tackle once he gets back there. Gross-Matos flashed the ability to bend the edge quite well which is why I have him ranked so high. My number one trait for edge players is bend and Gross-Matos showed enough flashes of it to convince me he has it. With that said, I would love to see a better pass rush plan from Gross-Matos and more consistent bend around the outside. All of the physical tools are there for him to be a first-round pick in April he just needs to put it all together. 

Number Four: 

Julian Okwara, Junior, Notre Dame 

IMG_3266

Julian Okwara is looking to become the second Okwara in the NFL. His brother, Romeo, was an undrafted free agent in 2016 who has stuck on the Detriot Lions roster. As far as Julian is concerned he’s got a lot of appealing physical traits right now. His natural length and burst off the edge are both evident in spades. His bend definitely flashes on tape with a great example on the first play on the thread below. The last play on the thread shows off his long arm bull rush that puts tackles on their heels quite often. Okwara’s first step isn’t overly great as sometimes he can be late off the ball. Once he gets going though, that second and third step really covers a lot of ground. He gets on top of tackles quickly and comes in with a lot of built-up steam. There are two things really bother me with Okwara. One, being that his anchor in the run game is a little weak for my liking. He gets pushed off the ball and way down the field on too many occasions. Second, is that he doesn’t finish enough plays with sacks. If he got off the ball quicker and had slightly better hand usage then I think he would have way more production. The message I am trying to get across is that Okwara has all the unteachable skills as a pass rusher but needs to become more technically refined to reach his full potential.

Number Five: 

Curtis Weaver, RS Junior, Boise State 

IMG_3267

Having a Bosie State edge rusher at number five is probably surprising to some people, but Weaver is a really fun prospect. He does an amazing job attacking the inside shoulder of offense lineman giving him a quick and easy advantage. His ability to win with inside pass-rushing moves like swims and swipes is super consistent. It also allows him to be an elite penetrator in the run game frequently getting into the backfield for TFLs. My big hang-up on Weaver was whether or not he could win with bend on the outside of tackles. It doesn’t show up 100% of the time but there is a good amount of reps of Weaver dipping his shoulder and cornering to the quarterback. Once I saw that I knew that I had the potential of a good inside-outside rusher on my hands. Weaver is limited as an athlete compared to some of the players I have ranked ahead of him. He doesn’t look overly smooth in space, and I didn’t see great burst from him consistently. Weaver strikes me as a high floor player with the ability to win on the inside and on the outside of opposing offensive tackles. If Weaver can show even more bend around the edge this season than we might be cooking with grease when the draft rolls around. 

 

Numbers 6-13: 

 

Number 6: Jabari Zuniga, RS Senior, Florida 

Number 7: Alton Robinson, Senior, Syracuse 

Number 8: Anfernee Jennings, RS Senior, Alabama 

Number 9: Kenny Willikes, Senior, Michigan State

Number 10: Bradlee Anae, Senior, Utah 

Number 11: Darell Taylor, Senior, Tennessee

Number 12: Quincy Roche, RS Junior, Temple 

Number 13: Jonathan Garvin, Junior, Miami 

 

Players I need to see more of to feel comfortable ranking them: 

 

Number 1: Mike Danna, Grad Transfer, Michigan 

Number 2: Terrell Lewis, RS Junior, Alabama 

Number 3: K’Lavion Chaisson, RS Sophomore, LSU

Prospect Preview: 2020 Defensive Tackles

Defensive tackle is one of my favorite positions to scout and watch for fun. The battle between massive men in the trenches isn’t just about pure strength. Those battles are filled with so much nuance and skill that it is like watching “dancing bears”. Some of the physical feats that these men can pull off while weighing over 300 pounds are just astounding to me. 

We were spoiled by a truly special group of defensive tackle prospects last year headlined by two top-10 picks in Quinnen Williams (Number 3) and Ed Oliver (Number 9). My final big board for the 2019 draft class included nine defensive tackles in the top 60 and twelve in the top 100. I knew there would be a drop off this year after last season, but somehow I was still disappointed in what I saw from most of the players I watched for the 2020 class. 

As always any comments or questions be sure to hit me up on Twitter @DanteCollinelli

 

Number One: 

Raekwon Davis, Senior, Alabama 

IMG_2146
Raekwon Davis

Here’s a list of Alabama defensive lineman that either plays defensive tackle or are hybrids between the edge and the inside drafted since 2011. Marcell Darius, Tim Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, Da’ron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Quinnen Williams, and A’Shawn Robinson. That’s a list of some really productive players all coming from Alabama. Raekwon Davis is next in line to continue this tradition of Alabama defensive lineman being great NFL players. Davis would have been a first-round grade for me last year but chose to go back to school. Davis is refined technically with his hand usage and pass rush moves. He’s a very smart player who understands blocking schemes and how to shoot gaps in order to disrupt plays. I saw him win with some bend on the inside as well which points to a lot of upside as a rusher. Davis is a rare player where not only does he have a high floor but also has a high ceiling that can be developed. I watched tape of Davis from 2017 and 2018 and saw a good amount of improvement in his pass rush plan. He still has a little ways to go in that area, but if he improves again during the 2019 season we could be looking at him as a lock to be picked in the top-10. 

Number 2: 

Derrick Brown, Senior, Auburn 

IMG_3017

Similar to Raekwon Davis, Derrick Brown had a good amount of hype around him as a draft prospect during last year’s college football season. Brown was ranked as a first-round pick by ESPN’s Mel Kieper Jr for a good chunk of the season. To say the least, I was coming into Brown’s tape with a certain level of expectations, and he just didn’t meet them. However, I don’t think Brown is a bad player or anything since he comes in at number two on this list. There are flashes of dominance from Brown when he’s able to pin his ears back and rush the quarterback. You can see the natural strength and athleticism that would point to a first-round type of player. The issue for me was that he’s a little too inconsistent with those flashes of dominance. His hand placement can come and go at times. When he gets off the ball quickly and wins with his first pass rush move it’s quite pretty. With that said, his pass rush plan is something that also comes and goes. Brown has all the natural tools to be a highly regarded prospect when the draft rolls around, but I need to see more consistency in his technique and pass-rush plan for that to happen. 

 

Number Three: 

Rashard Lawrence, Senior, LSU 

IMG_3019

If you couldn’t tell there is a pretty big gap for me between the number one and number two players on this list. Well, there is also a pretty sizable gap between the number two and number three player on this list. Although, Lawrence has some intriguing traits that I think are worth buying into at this point in the process. His first step off the snap and just overall quickness on the inside is very appealing in pass rush situations. He’s got a good snatch and rip move that typically gives him inside leverage which he uses to get to the quarterback a lot. My issues with Lawrence are centered around his play against the run. I thought he was a little light in the pants and didn’t have a great anchor. Sometimes he would stray from his gaps and that lead to some pretty big runs right where he was supposed to be. He needs to do a better job of shedding blockers in the trenches while also staying home in his gap. I’m excited to see Lawrence play in 2019 because a lot of his mistakes at this stage are very fixable. 

Number Four: 

Javon Kinlaw, Senior, South Carolina 

IMG_3018

Speaking of players who have tremendous upside as a pass rusher but struggle against the run we have Javon Kinlaw. Kinlaw comes in a 6’6 and it’s easy to see his natural length show up on tape. As a pass rusher, he does a great job getting off the ball quickly while using his long arms to put offense lineman back on their heels immediately. The first rep on the thread below is a great example of what I just described. Kinlaw has a nice swim move in his arsenal of pass rush moves as well. It’s rare to find rep against the passing game where Kinlaw doesn’t at least disrupt the integrity of the pocket a little bit. The problem comes when he’s asked to defend the run, and it’s not pretty. Kinlaw is listed by South Carolina at 302 pounds, but man, he gets thrown around on the inside like nobodies business. There are way too many reps where Kinlaw is getting pushed a couple of yards off the ball or getting sealed off allowing the running back to run right through where he was supposed to be. He needs to develop some kind of reliable anchor during the 2019 season in order for him to be in the top-50 conversation when the draft rolls around. 

Number Five: 

Jordon Scott, Junior, Oregon 

IMG_3020

Mister Scott is a thick young man in the middle of the Duck’s defense. Oregon has him listed at 6’1 and 329 pounds. Wanna talk about stout in the middle? Scott is almost impossible to move out of his gap and has plenty of natural strength to control the lineman in front of him. One of the things that sold me on Scott was his first step quickness. For someone that weighs 329 pounds, he’s got some real explosiveness to his game. My big hang up with Scott is that I think he’s a true “zero technique”. The zero technique refers to a player who lines up directly over the center and that is losing some value at the NFL level right now. Like I said earlier, Scott’s quickness is very intriguing so if he can put together a season that includes like 5.0-6.5 sacks he will shoot up this list as someone I think can be used in more ways than he was in college. 

 

Numbers 6-13 

 

Number 6: Robert Landers, Senior, Ohio State 

Number 7: Raequan Williams, Senior, Michigan State 

Number 8: Leki Fotu, Senior, Utah 

Number 9: Lorenzo Neal, Senior, Purdue 

Number 10: McTelvin Agim, Senior, Arkansas

Number 11: Benito Jones, Senior, Ole Miss 

Number 12: Neville Gallimore, RS Senior, Oklahoma 

Number 13: Marvin Wilson, Junior, Florida State