In this series, we analyze rookie IDP prospects by position group, giving you insight into where players will be selected and the pros and cons of each prospect’s game. Today, we’ll focus on the defensive linemen. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the first round NFL IDP prospects at defensive line.
Chase Young, Ohio State
Projected NFL Draft Selection: Top 3 pick
Pros: Elite athleticism and production
Cons: Counter moves
Considered by many to be the best all around player in the draft, Young has the talent and skills needed to be a top NFL defender. Last year, in 12 games at Ohio State (suspended two games for accepting inappropriate funds), the former five star recruit out of Hyattsville, Maryland produced 46 total tackles, 16.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, and nine forced fumbles. NFL.com compares Young to Julius Peppers, and most NFL scouts expect Young to be an elite player.
The potential defensive rookie-of-the-year will likely be the first defender taken in this year’s IDP rookie drafts. Projecting to be an early second round rookie pick in all formats. However, that would be as an edge rusher, there is a chance Young is designated as an outside linebacker, weakening his IDP stock.
Derrick Brown, Auburn
Projected NFL Draft Selection: Top 10
Pros: Size, strength, and intangibles
Brown’s name will be called very early in the 2020 NFL Draft. Initially expected to be a top five selection, the 326 lbs. defender’s stock has dropped slightly over the past few months. Still considered a top 10 pick, we see Brown starting for his soon-to-be NFL team immediately. In his final season at Auburn, Brown finished with 54 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Likely a two gap NFL player, Brown will have plenty of tackle opportunities up front as a pro.
In DT required IDP fantasy leagues, Brown’s value is high, creating third round buzz in rookie drafts. However, the 22 year-old is likely to be a later round pick in most non-DT required rookie drafts. As a pro, I expect Brown to be a consistent producer, but have limited sack totals, which lowers his overall ceiling.
Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
Projected NFL Draft Selection: Top 20
Pros: Quickness, frame, and first step
Cons: Technique and consistency
Kinlaw is looking like a high-end, first round pick in April’s draft. The former junior college performer transferred to South Carolina after a year, then a few short years later took home All-SEC honors in 2019. The Gamecocks star secured 35 tackles and six sacks as a senior. Built thick and intimidating, there are some rumblings that Kinlaw may be the first defensive tackle taken in the 2020 draft.
Kinlaw is in line to be an immediate IDP production, and similar to Derrick Brown, should warrant mid to late round IDP rookie draft considerations. Drafted into the proper system, I see Kinlaw’s ceiling to be a bit higher than Brown’s, as his games showed an aptitude for more splash plays.
AJ Epenesa, Iowa
Projected NFL Draft Selection: 1st round
Pros: Length, size and production
Cons: Speed and explosiveness
Epenesa will be a highly coveted player coming out of Iowa this spring. As a three year fixture for the Hawkeyes, the 275 lbs. stud will quickly develop into a starting defender in the NFL. Epenesa’s size and his ability to set the edge make him an excellent fit for either a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense. Additionally, producing 22 sacks over his final two Big Ten seasons, solidifies the fact that he’s ready for the NFL.
A lot of Epenesa’s value will depend on his NFL landing spot. If selected by a team in dire need of a DE, Epenesa will come off of rookie IDP boards in the third or fourth round. If he’s projected as a part-time/committee player, he drops down most IDP draft rankings.
Despite a late 1st Round projection on some boards (or not even on it in some cases), A.J. Epenesa is getting love from some bettors in thinking he’ll have a chance at the Defensive Rookie of the Year next season. They may be seeing something we’re not as he’s getting +1100 to win it, behind only Chase Young and Isaiah Simmons.
Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
Projected NFL Draft Selection: 1st round
Pros: Burst, agility and range
Cons: Hands and power
Posting 35 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks as two-year starter at Penn State, Gross-Matos definitely shows burst on film. Because of that outstanding film, I don’t expect Gross-Matos lasting past the first round in the NFL Draft. As a splash player with plenty of experience rushing the passer, Gross-Matos could develop into a real threat to passing games in the NFL.
I consider Gross-Matos as a boom or bust IDP prospect. Depending on his landing spot, he could produce double digit sacks for many years. However, the pass rusher could also struggle against talented offensive linemen and flame out early in his career. Expect Gross-Matos to be selected in the later rounds of IDP rookie drafts with high upside if he figures out the NFL game.
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