2018 NFL Draft: Defensive Ends

Some of these guys will be 4-3 defensive tackles. Others will be 4-3 OLB’s or 3-4 DE’s. Positions are fluid and scheme dependent. Apart from the top guys, teams will probably be best served by looking for players that are good fits for their scheme. Cade Massey wrote up a good overview of the subject.

Bradley Chubb: Chubb does a lot of things quite well. He pairs his excellent vision with solid athleticism. He can attack the line of scrimmage or hold his position at the point of attack. I don’t have anything bad to say about him, save that he doesn’t quite compare to the true monsters. He gets a great draft grade by being really good at all the things he’ll be asked to do. The thing is, his main job is to rush the passer, and there his numbers weren’t quite elite. His SackSEER rating has him third overall in the class. That makes him a somewhat awkward selection, at least in the top five. Chubb isn’t on the same level that Myles Garrett was last year, and it’s hard to get excited about a top five pick that didn’t dominate the college level. Then again, you don’t get excited by someone doing his job play after play, but that’s what you can trust Chubb to do. It’s also why he’s who I’d take first after the potentially elite quarterbacks are off the board.

Harold Landry: More dominant as a pass-rusher than Chubb. Showed nice agility at the Combine. He’s the SackSEER favorite, mostly due to his success in college and passes defensed. Where he falls behind Chubb is power. He didn’t have the same ability to hold his position at the point of attack. The more I think about the two of them, the more I like Chubb’s versatility. Yes, Landry might be better at purely attacking the quarterback, but he’ll also be targeted by them until he shows he can handle that. He’s a natural speed rusher with a great first step. He has good range to track down the ballcarrier when the play is moving away from him. He also has solid tackling technique once he arrives. Landry should be an effective pickup, possibly even in the top 10.

Marcus Davenport: The other man in the SackSEER elite three. Davenport didn’t learn much in the way of proper technique at UTSA. He did develop in terms of size, strength, and speed, which he showed off at the Senior Bowl and the combine. Frankly, if he continues to develop, he could be on par with Chubb. He has length you can’t teach and an excellent work ethic. I really effing hope Davenport doesn’t end up falling to the Patriots. That’s how much I like him.

Sam Hubbard: Was trending towards a first-round selection until he ran a 4.95 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. He had an excellent combine (where he skipped the 40) that highlighted his agility and athleticism. Despite his size, Hubbard doesn’t quite have the power you would want from the position. He made a lot of plays by never giving up, even when he lost the initial battle. His college production at Ohio State was excellent. I expect him to come off the board early day two and be a solid pro.

Arden Key: Oh dear. Arden Key ran a 4.91 40-yard dash on his Pro Day. Hubbard weighs 270 pounds. Key weighs 238. He was dominant in 2016 (11 sacks, 12.5 tackles) in eleven games. He had an awkward offseason and missed a few games in 2017. When he was on the field he wasn’t as effective (4 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss) in eight games. He still had some great moments on film, but they came less often. His off-field issues raise concerns when they threaten his on-field production. Key is a case where you are going to need to know what you are going to get from him. If you expect a return to his 2016 form, he’s a potential first-round value. If you think he’s damaged goods, avoid.

Josh Sweat: He’s SackSEER’s favorite value prospect, but the film doesn’t bear that out. He got his ass kicked constantly at the point of attack. He had an excellent first step, but a terrible second step. He couldn’t keep his forward momentum through any kind of resistance. I wonder if he ever fully recovered from his ACL tear. I know I’d wince if my team took him in the second round. I’m selling Sweat.

Duke Ejiofor: Weird prospect. Remarkably slow off the snap. Seems to be more interested in defeating offensive lineman in hand-to-hand combat than evading them. Didn’t seem willing or able to hold his position at the point of attack. However, he was very effective when he was asked to chase down the quarterback or ball-carrier. He has to attack the line of scrimmage as he doesn’t have the range to handle coverage responsibilities. I’m a little worried about the ankle injury whose surgery caused him to miss the combine. He also has a history of missing games due to concussions. Fun fact: Duke is descended from Nigerian royalty. I’d prefer to place my draft gambles elsewhere.

Rasheem Green: Everyone struggles vs. double teams, but Green turns getting beat by them into an art form. I’m not sure he’s strong enough to hold up at the NFL level. I saw way too many plays where he couldn’t disentangle from blocking and the play went right by him. He has a solid statistical profile and his nose for the quarterback was impressive. It’s just hard to trust a guy who isn’t explosive enough to evade blocking, or strong enough to shed it. He’ll likely go in the third round, but I hope not to NY.

Kemoko Turay: Much better attacking a point than defending one. Good pass rush skills, but not enough functional strength to hold his ground against the run. Agile enough to drop into coverage against RB’s in the flat. Great acceleration to finish a play. Long arms (33.5) to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage. I really like Turay’s potential. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Jets or Giants pick him up early in the third round.

Da’Shawn Hand: I probably should have listed him in the DL group, but I like him as a 3-4 DE. Not a great burst off the line, but only needs a little bit of leverage to overpower the offensive lineman and get past. Unusually large tackle radius. Able to hold his position at the point of attack. Not able to blow by offensive lineman, but has a good ability to collapse the pocket if the QB holds the ball too long. I see Hand as a solid third-round value.

Tyquon Lewis: A mediocre athlete by NFL standards. Respectable production at Ohio State. Did most of his work in the backfield when he got through clean. Excellent vision at the line. Weak in space. Best when able to attack the line of scrimmage. Can hold his own at the point of attack. Solid early day three pick.

Andrew Brown: He’s a 3-4 DE, or a 4-3 tackle. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for with strength, technique, and effort. He impressed me with his footwork in traffic, constantly moving to the proper position to make a play. I’ve seen mocks with him falling to the fifth round and that blows my mind. Some great athletes fail in the NFL because they don’t grok football. Brown understands the game and gets the most out of his gifts. I think he’s a fair value at the tail end of day two.

Hercules Mata’afa: No natural position at the NFL level. In college he was highly effective beating interior linemen with speed. In the NFL he won’t have the size or strength to work inside. He doesn’t have the length (31.5 inch arms) that teams are looking for from defensive ends. He’s not athletic enough to be a linebacker. He has a quality speed rush, both inside and outside, so it comes down to your defensive coordinator and whether they feel they can find a way to properly use Mata’afa’s talents while mitigating his shortcomings. Another early day three pick.

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