2019 Draft Watch Part 2
This is a five-part series in which I will take a quick glance at who to keep a watch for this offseason as the draft process begins. There is still a lot left to be determined, but this will give you an early glance at who some of the top candidates at each position are. In this second installment, we will take a look at the defensive end position.
#1 Nick Bosa – Ohio State – JR He is the younger brother of the star defensive end for the Los Angeles Chargers, Joey Bosa. His father was a former first-round pick for the Miami Dolphins in 1987. We all know about Joey and how damn good he is, but little bro Nick is no slouch. He is widely considered the top defensive prospect in this year’s upcoming draft in April. His brother Joey was the third overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and Nick very well could be the top overall pick this year. Nick had a career-best eight and a half sacks in 2017 and was on pace this year (four in first three games), to break that mark until he suffered an abdominal injury that would end his season. Teams will put him through a thorough health evaluation to make sure he’s good. How he tests at Combine and Pro Day will be huge for him. He is one of the most polished prospects in this draft with an elite skill-set and a full repertoire of moves. He will be an instant impact player for the team that drafts him. His best fit would be to land on a team that utilizes a 4-3 scheme that can maximize his full potential. 1st Round Grade – Top 5 Pick
#2 Clelin Ferrell – Clemson – JR If it wasn’t for Nick Bosa coming out, Ferrell would be the top-rated defensive end in this year’s class. Ferrell is a member of a supergroup of Clemson’s talented defensive front four. Make no mistake though, he is talented enough to carry any team. He’s a pass-rushing terror, and in his three full seasons at Clemson, he has tallied twenty-seven career sacks with a career-best eleven and a half this season so far. At 6”5” / 260 lbs he has tremendous length and quickness. Also factor in that his hand technique may be the best in the class. Clelin also earns top grades as a run defender. He will be a three-down player and an immediate starter at the next level. 1st Round Grade – Top 15 Pick
#3 Zach Allen – Boston College – SR Zach may be one of the more solid and reliable players in the draft. He has a terrific all-around game and has a non-stop motor to go with it. Two seasons ago, he recorded a whopping one hundred tackles at the defensive end spot. That’s a huge number for that position. He is excellent at setting the edge and always finds his way to the ball. His ability to read, diagnose and react to plays is top notch. As a pass rusher, his numbers don’t jump off the page, sixteen and a half sacks in thirty-seven career games, but he has a deep repertoire of moves and his technique gets top grades as well. He had a career-best six and a half sacks this season and I believe he can be a six to ten sack guy at the next level. At 6’5” / 285 lbs he has very good size and can even kick inside if needed. He may have more value as a pass rusher from interior than on edge, but his ability to set the edge and shut off running lanes at defensive end is his best skill. 2nd Round Grade – Top 50 Pick
#4 Brian Burns – Florida State – JR This is one of the more intriguing defensive ends in this year’s draft. I see him being more of a pass rush specialist-type player. At 6’5” / 231 lbs he will need to add weight to be a true defensive end. So it’s possible he could play as an outside linebacker depending on the team that drafts him and what he does with adding weight. Burns was one of the few bright spots for the Seminole defense this year, as he recorded a career-best ten sacks. That brought his career college total to twenty-three. Burns has very good bend, mobility, with superb explosion. With his length and hands, he has the tools to be a very good pass rusher in the pros. At his current weight, he’ll struggle if he can’t routinely create separation and use speed. 3rd Round Grade – Top 80 Pick
#5 Jachai Polite – Florida – JR Like Burns above there is a lot to like about Polite, but there are concerns. His weight (242) could be a slight issue and the fact that he’s only had one year of top-notch production in college. He had a breakout season for the Gators in which he recorded career-best numbers in tackles (45), tackles for loss (19½), sacks (11) and an amazing six forced fumbles which led all of college football. Polite has the tools to be an impact player at the next level but will need to polish his game and be more consistent. He made a lot of splash plays for the Gators, but he tended to disappear for semi-long stretches in between them. While only one year of top production draws concerns, it was against the elite competition in college football: the SEC. He needs to continue to develop his overall game and improve handwork, but his high motor and effort will serve him well. Polite has lots of potential and needs to land on a team that can maximize it. 4th Round Grade – Top 125 Pick