This draft is likely to be an outlier from a defensive standpoint. Only three times since 1970 has the first defensive player off the board lasted past the fifth pick.
1995 – Kevin Carter DE – 6th overall
1999 – Champ Bailey CB – 7th overall
2005 – Adam Jones CB – 6th overall
That the first defensive player might not come off the board until pick 7-10 doesn’t mean this draft is devoid of talent on that side of the ball. Fortunately, this draft appears to be strong in areas we want to address.
The most maligned class in this draft, but I think it’s mainly just weak at the top. There are several day 2 and 3 linemen in this class who will be contributors in the NFL. As much as we adore those spring-loaded 290 pounders, we might be better served grabbing a 325 pounder who can absorb double teams without getting washed out.
Christian Barmore established himself as the clear DT1 with his play in the CFP, looking every bit like a top 15 pick. At his best, he uses his length, burst and refined hand technique to dominate opponents. It does concern me that he seems to turn it on and off like that. He’s a redshirt sophomore, so maybe he just found his new level. If he can maintain this energy, he might wind up being a steal for someone. You know WFT is just aching to pick him.
Daviyon Nixon has posted some extremely impressive tape. His awareness is elite for the position and at his best, his tackling radius is also off the charts. Excellent burst off the line and long arms, he weighed 313 at his pro day and still clocked a 4.86. There’s just a lot to like about him. A lot of his production came in the first two games last year, against Purdue and Northwestern. Unclear if offenses started paying more attention to him or if he was beating up on bad O lines. Not that big of a knock in my book because you want guys who don’t play down to the opposition.
Jay Tufele is one of my favorite players in this draft. He opted out in 2020 after his sister spent a month on a ventilator due to Covid. Strong young man, was only 20 during 2019 season. Can stand up to double teams but needs to improve his consistency in this aspect. Bull rusher with a nasty swim move. Was compared to Neville Gallimore by one analyst, but he’s much more disciplined than that bull in a china shop, IMO. The motor runs hot all the time. Undervalued.
The next four prospects will earn their money by being disruptive in the passing game. Milton Williams only weighed 284 pounds at his pro day, but he carries zero bad weight and could easily hold another 15-20 pounds. He fires off the ball fast and uses his basketball background to slither through gaps. Very productive player who kept improving.
Levi Onwuzurike is another energetic and explosive player. He was not in a position to shine @ Washington and could really flourish in a more friendly scheme. Intelligent and a team player, he was happy to occupy guards most of the time. Rangy athlete for his size. Leader by example and team captain.
Alim McNeill is a strong kid who really flies off the snap. Playing mostly 0 tech, the high school running back and linebacker wasn’t in the best situation to showcase his traits. He was still able to reset the LOS frequently. Could really be something special if he learns how to use his hands better and gets in a system that plays to his strengths.
Osa Odighizuwa is another undersized but explosive defensive tackle. He actually played all along the Bruins front. 91-0 his last two years as a high school wrestler, he knows how to use his hands and understands leverage. Brother Owa was a third round pick of the Giants who quickly washed out of the league.
Marlon Tuipulotu is strong as an ox. He stepped up his game with Tufele opting out and forced himself into the day two conversation. Plays a physical brand of football, like his cousin, USC safety, Talanoa Hufanga. Another cousin, Fili Moala, played seven years in the NFL. He should have a solid career as a run plugger.
Bobby Brown III is what they’re talking about when they say a guy has an inconsistent motor. His best reps are terrific, showing an expanded tackling radius and the ability to collapse the pocket. Way too often, he plays in a phone booth and shows no desire to chase down anything. He’s only 20, so the light might click on, but he’s a guy I don’t want, especially at his round 4/5 projection.
No player outside of Shaun Wade, and maybe Dylan Moses, saw his stock drop more than Marvin Wilson. He was getting lots of first round buzz before the season, but inconsistent play and issues with the coaching staff really tanked his season. There may be a buying opportunity here if people overreact to his lost season. His 2019 tape was very good.
Jaylen Twyman is a candidate to be overdrafted. He racked up 11 sacks, but only had 36 pressures, so it’s safe to say he had some good fortune last year. Probably fits best in a 4-3 where he can penetrate and wreak havoc. Testing numbers at his pro day were disappointing but he crushed the bench press with 40 reps.
We’ve reached the land of the 0 techs. I would like to get a guy who can rotate with Mike Purcell and I don’t want to spend a lot. Most of these guys have weight issues and I want someone we can part with easily if conditioning turns out to be a major issue. Tyler Shelvin and Tedarrell Slaton have struggled to stay at effective playing weights. They’ve both got up into the 380 pound range. Quinton Bohanna has also had some issues, but seems to be slightly better disciplined as he was a team captain in 2020 and praised by the coaches for his unselfish attitude. Four year starter who is not the natural athlete Shelvin or Slaton are, but could have a better pro career by simply being more professional. Khyiris Tonga is an overaged prospect who tested well, but is cursed with really short arms. Good quickness for his size and unlike his run plugging peers, Khyiris isn’t carrying any bad weight at 320+.
This is a tough group to rate and even tougher to rank. Loaded with freak athletes, but there’s no definitive number one prospect.
Take away the concussion history and Jaelan Phillips would be the guy this year. But he does have that history and it was so severe he even retired from football for a while to pursue a career in music. He decided he loved football too much and he was very productive this year. Ideal size, good length, advanced hand technique, hustles and makes plays. Injury history isn’t limited to concussions but was healthy and awesome last season.
Kwity Paye‘s mother fled war ravaged Liberia. Kwity was born in a refugee camp. Mother never saw him play in four years of high school because she was working 3-4 jobs to raise Kwity and his brothers. Team captain. Unreal level of focus. Good bet to squeeze out the maximum of his considerable ability. Only got one B in his life. Twitched up and keeps pads low, preventing tackles from getting solid hand strikes. Go Kwity!
Azeez Ojulari has been bouncing up and down the board, apparently over concerns about an old knee injury. Not fully clear to me. Burst is elite. Violent hands and the kind of bend you like to see. Sudden athlete who rakes at the football and creates turnovers. Not a huge guy, but long with strong hands. Team captain as a freshman.
I think it’s fair to call Jayson Oweh a project. A freak in a class full of them, his pro day numbers were out of this world and his explosiveness is evident. It doesn’t seem possible that he would get shut out on sacks in seven games last season, but somehow that’s what happened. It’s not like he isn’t working hard, either. You have to think this was a fluke and better days are ahead for him.
Joe Tryon definitely looks the part. Slabbed with muscle and highly productive in 2019, he opted out in 2020. Competitive, scheme diverse athlete who might take a big step forward with NFL coaching.
Every year, there’s an athlete who gets more criticism than they deserve and analysts focus intently on their flaws without giving them credit for the things they’ve done well. Barely 21 years old right now, Gregory Rousseau had 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in 2019. Three years before that, he was a 210 pound high school WR/S. He moved to the defensive line in 2017 as his huge frame began to add weight. Many of his plays behind the LOS were the result of second efforts, but rather than getting credit for working hard, people only wanted to dismiss his production. His length is already a major weapon and he’s just scratching the surface on how to use his attributes. His 11 1/8” hands are the biggest in the draft. Intelligent, motivated and coachable. His future may not be as an edge in the NFL, but he does have a bright future.
Carlos Basham is a handful. He clocked a 4.59 @ 274 pounds and the motor runs hot. I think he’s going to be a very productive 5 tech in the NFL, but he could be utilized in a number of ways.
Joseph Ossai tested well and he works hard, but he lacks the bend you see from elite pass rushers. Plays hard all the time and it seems like much of his production is effort based.
Paton Turner is a unique athlete. Long arms which help him a lot as a pass rusher, and long legs which help him eat up ground, but also cause him issues with leverage. Energetic player and a team captain. Could really make an impact in the right role.
Ronnie Perkins is a strong dude. He embarrassed Teven Jenkins by putting him on roller skates on the end of a savage long arm move that is his bread and butter. Perkins has dealt with a couple of suspensions, but his coaches say he was the team leader on defense.
Dayo Odeyingbo’s needle is pointing up. Experienced, productive player who is still in need of refinement in many areas. Tremendous length and developing power. Team captain and leader by example. Lots of pathways to success for this athlete and the ceiling is high.
Rashad Weaver is a powerful athlete who made a lot of plays as a three year starter. He combined with Patrick Jones II to give Pitt a sensational tandem. Jones was born on a naval base in Japan and learned the game in a Japanese high school. Jones has an ultra high motor, but he may lack the flexibility to be a top pass rusher in the NFL.
There are probably another half a dozen toolsy edge prospects in this draft. Edge is another position group this year that lacks an obvious blue chipper but is reasonably deep in quality players.
We have already covered most of this material in class. The top of this linebackers class is the best we’ve seen since at least 2018, maybe 2012.
Micah Parsons is a prototype physically. He also has nice instincts for a guy who has only played linebacker for a few years. Yes, he’s probably a bit of an asshole. No, I don’t think he’s the psychopath he was portrayed to be the last six months. If the Broncos believe he’s matured enough and are confident in drafting him, we’ll have a lot of fun watching him.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is one of the most unique athletes in this draft as we enter the brave new world of “positionless football.” Graded extremely well covering slot receivers. Unteachable suddenness. Motivated and driven. Triggers too soon at times, likely to avoid blockers and takes himself out of some plays. Got his weight up to 221 for pro day. Still tiny but getting out of the 0 percentile anyway. I would be much more concerned about him being misused with a different coach, but I assume Fangio will know what to do with him. The overhang safety role he flourished in doesn’t really exist in our scheme to any large degree.
Zaven Collins is arguably the most unique athlete in the draft. You gave to go back to Levon Kirkland to find a linebacker this size who was trusted with pass drops. Team leader. Not the intimidating physical presence you would expect for his size. Game is more about range and knowledge of route concepts than brute force.
I really love watching Nick Bolton play football. Short, but not small. Huge, strong hands and natural leverage advantage help him shed blocks but he can get engulfed at times. Most instinctive linebacker in this class, IMO. Clocked a 4.59 but field speed is faster because he doesn’t take false steps. Explodes through ballcarriers. Film junkie. Coaching staff adored him. Team captain. Never missed a game in college.
Jamin Davis kind of came out of nowhere. Long, lithe, well-defined physique. One year starter who took his game to a completely different level this year. Understands zone concepts and is very comfortable in his drops. Rangy athlete who struggles to disengage when blockers get into him.
Jabril Cox is a smooth, fluid athlete who excels in the open field. Elite instincts as a pass defender. Four year starter, three at North Dakota State and one at LSU. Game translated well to SEC. I won’t call him one dimensional, but he’s much less impressive as a run defender. Doesn’t take on blockers with authority and needs to improve all aspects of this part of his game.
I know I jumped Baron Browning pretty good the other day, but I don’t see him as a terrible player. He was a five star athlete at birth and he was a hard-working team-oriented player @ Ohio State. He also got a little bit better every season, even if he did fall way short of their expectations on signing day. It remains to be seen if he’ll ever develop the mental aspects of the game, but if you give him a simple enough role, his fantastic athletic gifts could make him a productive player. I just don’t see him as a second round talent. I saw someone rank him over Bolton the other day and I just don’t see how anyone can justify that unless they’re scouting solely on traits.
Chazz Surratt is a fun prospect. Smart kid. Basketball star in high school. Made the ultra rare conversion from quarterback to linebacker after his sophomore season. Intelligent and athletic enough to play linebacker in the NFL. Overaged. Short arms will hinder him defending the pass and taking on blocks. Has made great strides in a short period of time. Missed an egregious number of tackles after conversion but cleaned up that part of his game considerably. I like him but might not be able to justify him @ 71.
I think the position group drops off badly here. I don’t view the next tier of players to be worthy of their 3rd to 5th round projections.
Like Surratt, Buddy Johnson also converted from quarterback, but he did it as he left high school. Speedy, rangy and smart, coaching staff can’t say enough good things about him. Might be maxed out @ 229 pounds. Played all three linebackers spots for A&M and will be a dynamite special teams player.
Dylan Moses seemed to lose some burst after his knee injury. He was clearly not 100% last season and his confidence was affected. Depending on how far he drops and his medicals, this could be a buying opportunity for someone.
I think the top three athletes in this class are far above the rest of the position group.
Trevon Meohrig just grows on you the more you watch him. He seems like an ideal athlete for the split safety scheme we run a lot. Equally comfortable in the box or the slot. Rangy, smart, high character kid. High school quarterback and wide receiver and it shows up in his recognition skills. 26 passes defended and six interceptions in 22 games. Jim Thorpe winner. Scheme diverse stud.
Richie Grant was a lightly recruited two star prospect who only got one FBS scholarship offer. Good on UCF for recognizing his talent. Ball hawk who had 10 interceptions in three seasons. Also a big hitter who forced seven fumbles. Team-oriented player who should make an impact at the next level right away. Overaged prospect who will turn 24 during the season.
Jevon Holland has a nice well-rounded game. Terrific ball skills with nine interceptions and 19 passes defensed the last two years. He shows no hesitation as a run defender. Top punt return skills as well. You kind of wish he was ten pounds heavier and he can be over aggressive at times.
I think Jamar Johnson is kind of in his own tier. Best cover skills of any safety in the class. Advanced feel for routes, decisive at the catch point, terrific hands that came down with 13 interceptions in four years. Fluid and athletic. Run defense is a major issue. Missed tackle rate over 25%. Will enrage you with lack of effort on some attempts. Coverage skills good enough that you will live with the flaws.
I think the dropoff in this position group is severe at this point.
Andre Cisco is a roller coaster ride. 13 interceptions and 29 passes defensed in 22 starts. Allowed seven (7) touchdowns in 2019 alone.
Ar’Darius Washington is a tough, confident kid, but he is simply tiny. 5-8 and 176 pounds would be a stretch as a slot corner and it makes him unplayable as a safety, IMO.
This draft is crawling with linebackerish safeties who you can’t trust deep. Hamsah Nasirildeen, Divine Deablo and Talanoa Hufanga are looking to bust someone up out there. The biggest question is probably which one of these guys can hold up best with their playing style. Hufanga has broken the same collarbone twice and that could take him off some boards.
I like this cornerback class. Solid at the top and relatively deep. Crazy the amount of second generation NFL players in this class. Patrick Surtain, Jr, Jaycee Horn, Asante Samuel, Jr and Elijah Molden are all legacy players.
Patrick Surtain, Jr is battle tested at the highest level. Long, speedy, durable, scheme diverse. High character person. Not a twitched up athlete in comparison to some in this group, but smooth, confident and competitive. High floor with this player.
Jaycee Horn checks a ton of boxes. Muscular, long, fast, flexible, ultra-confident and competitive. Extremely physical as a pass defender, both in redirecting routes and at the catch point. This shows up in a higher than acceptable number of flags. Did not inherit dad’s hands as he was credited with 25 passes defended and just two interceptions. Dropped twice that many. Willingness to support the run comes and goes, but default position is relatively disinterested.
Caleb Farley has had a rough off season. Durability is suddenly a major red flag, although this back injury doesn’t seem like something that will be chronic. Freak athlete who was absolutely dominant in 2019. Physical and competitive. Could wind up being a massive steal for somebody.
While Caleb Farley has one major injury concern, Greg Newsome II has missed time every season with a variety of injuries. Slender but sticky. May have benefited from being part of an extraordinary Wildcat secondary that utterly smothered passing games all season long.
Asante Samuel, Jr doesn’t get talked about very much, but he’s a sticky, speedy three-year starter with a serious attitude about the game. Undersized but so was his dad. Team captain. Driven athlete who is eager to make his own name for himself.
Elijah Molden is another undersized but tough kid who had a dad in the NFL. Combative and way more physical than you expect from his size. Played single high safety when he wasn’t covering the slot and slot corner will be his role in the NFL.
Eric Stokes has flown under the radar around here. Good athlete who responds to coaching. Has to clean up some flaws in his game. Prone to panic and get grabby at times. Will need to rein in his physicality before the catch in general.
Kelvin Joseph gives off a strong boom or bust vibe. Gained attention by not getting completely abused by Alabama’s receivers. Has the confidence you like to see, very natural flipping his hips. Has a concurrent rap career and you know this will lead to questions about his passion for football. Has butted heads with coaches in the past.
Tyson Campbell has the plus tools found in five star recruits but he has never shown the ability to consolidate his skill set into consistent production. Thrown at a lot despite the prototype physical gifts. One of the players I’m worried about us drafting.
Ifeatu Melifonwu is a king sized cornerback who is not quite as freaky as his brother, Obi, but is said to be much more football oriented. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea. Looks like the type of cornerback Seattle has had success with over the years.
I’m higher on Tre Brown than most people. Experienced, confident, physical player. Enthusiastic gunner on punt coverage. Easy acceleration. Just plain feisty. Made huge plays three straight years in Big 12 Championship wins. Being projected into round four, but seems like he should go a round higher.
Ambry Thomas is another undervalued cornerback. Diagnosed with digestive disease colitis in June of 2019. Lost 35 pounds during a month long hospital stay, but was on the field in September and played a full season. Competitive and focused. Excellent quickness. Very tough to beat deep. I will be surprised if he doesn’t become an NFL starter at some point.
Aaron Robinson is a solid athlete who played the bulk of his snaps in the slot where his quickness and aggressiveness served him well. He was particularly disruptive breaking up screens. Safety mentality and could wind up there at the next level.
Here come the traits prospects! Robert Rochell attracted no FBS attention as a skinny zero-star WR, but Central Arkansas was thrilled to get him. Tremendous physical tools. Length, acceleration, long speed are all present. 38 passes defended and 10 interceptions. Willing tackler. Not strong enough and technique needs lots of refinement. Looked shaky at the Senior Bowl practices against better competition and then got hurt.
Marco Wilson started 35 games in the SEC in a good but sometimes tumultuous college career. The physical tools are there in abundance. Easy mover with good acceleration. Not NFL ready at this point and may never be, but it would be interesting to see how he might respond to NFL coaching. Major bust potential.
I got really excited when I heard the Broncos interviewed Avery Williams. Undersized zero-star recruit who attracted no attention, FBS or FCS, after high school. His high school coach secured him a walk-on opportunity and Boise State offered him a scholarship after his redshirt season. Started 44 games at cornerback, but size and length issues will limit him to backup duty in the NFL. Also has some experience playing running back. True value is in his special teams skills. Excels in all phases. Returned five punts, three kickoffs and a blocked punt for touchdowns. Blocked three punts and two kicks. Gunner on punt coverage. Team captain praised for his leadership.
Okay, that should do it for another year. Enjoy the draft, everybody.