The NFL game is a constantly evolving arms race between offenses and defenses. Every year players get bigger, stronger, and faster, while schemes evolve and new wrinkles are created to use those players. Both sides strive to create and exploit match-ups, and find new ways to win each down.
Part of that evolution has been the blending of 4-3 and 3-4 defensive principles, blending concepts and personnel packages to open up schemes to more, and more varied college players. As a major consequence of that, players who used to be dismissed as "Tweeners" are now looked at as "EDGE" players, who use unique size and athleticism to create problems for NFL offenses.
Noah Spence (Eastern Kentucky) -- After a dominant senior bowl, Spence had made significant headway towards rehabilitating his draft stock after being banned from Big 10 competition for failed drug tests. Then a disappointing combine performance (the result of working through a hamstring injury suffered at the Senior Bowl) dropped him back down the national boards. Personally, I don't care. For me, Spence is the top edge rusher in this draft class, and the premier speed rusher. He has the ability to bend the edge and win with speed from both the defensive end and linebacker positions. Spence needs to get better at uncoiling his hips and using his arms to create separation in the run game, but he has the same size, build, and first step as Khalil Mack. [Prospect Profile]
Kamalei Correa (Boise State) -- Correa has the athleticism, agility, build, and mentality to be an early draftee as an EDGE player. His tape is a bit uneven, but he has the tools and motor to potentially blossom in the NFL. For that to happen, however, Correa needs to get better at using his hands and putting himself in position to succeed. His motor and speed are impressive, though.
Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State) -- A defensive end at Michigan State, Shilique Calhoun might have to move to more of a hybrid role at the next level. He doesn't have the frame to be an every-down defensive end in the NFL, but he has the burst and flexibility to bend the edge, and the movement skills to play from a two-point stance. Calhoun could have been a high pick in the 2015 draft, but didn't take the expected step when he returned to school. He should still be drafted in the first three rounds and be an effective player in the NFL. [Prospect Profile]
Yannick Ngakoue (Maryland) -- Neither of the most productive pass rushers played for a "big time" program. Carl Nassib came from nowhere to lead the country in sacks for Penn State, and Yannick Ngakoue was second in FBS for Maryland. Ngakoue has a white-hot motor and slippry athleticism that should translate to a pass rusher in a 3-4 or hybrid scheme at the next level. He might be limited to a pass rushing specialist, but it's something at which he is good.
Jordan Jenkins (Georgia) -- Bigger than normal for a linebacker, smaller than average for a defensive end, the captain of the Bulldogs' defense would have been tagged a "tweener" in years past. But as defenses have evolved, places for players like Jordan Jenkins have been created. While Jenkins does have good movement skills for a nearly 260-pound player, power is his stock in trade, and he could become an important contributor in the right scheme.
Kyler Fackrell (Utah State) -- Playing for Utah State, Fackrell didn't get as much attention as he probably should have. At talented pass rusher, Kyler Frackrell has an intriguing blend of length and athleticism, and the kind of upfield burst NFL teams look for. At 25 he is old for an NFL rookie, and suffered a torn ACL in 2014, so he will likely slip further than he otherwise would have.
Joe Schobert (Wisconsin) -- Potential Giants' pick Leonard Floyd was third in college football in most quarterback pressures in less than 2.6 seconds, and Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib was second. First was Wisconsin outside linebacker Joe Schobert. At 6-foot-1, 244 pounds, he doesn't look like he should be on the line of scrimmage, but he uses his agility, athleticism, and active hands to quickly get past blockers and into the backfield. The team that takes him will likely need a plan, and use him as a nickel player.