This week we take our first foray into the defensive side of the ball in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The New York Giants have spent heavily on their defensive line over the past couple years and rookie fifth round pick Avery Moss is playing well in his increased role, seeming to flash in each game.
However, if there is one thing the Giants’ defensive front truly lacks, it is a true pass rusher — a sack artist in the mold of Osi Umenyiora who can quickly beat blockers, pressure passers, and generate sacks.
The Giants might have other, more pressing, needs for their first round pick, but they should also be ready for every iteration of how the draft board could shake out by the time they are on the clock in April of 2018.
And, as former Giants’ GM Ernie Accorsi once said, “You can never have too many pass rushers.” It should also be noted that the Giants once had the opportunity to draft the great Reggie White and pair him with Lawrence Taylor — Instead they drafted a left tackle they “needed” who never played for them.
With that in mind, we should get acquainted with the current list of top pass rushers in the 2018 draft
1 - Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
One of my top five players overall, Chubb went from a good player that nobody was really talking about to the best defensive end in the country. He doesn’t have the other-worldly athleticism that Mario Williams, Julius Peppers, Jadeveon Clowney, or Myles Garrett had coming out of college, but what he does have is a good first step, terrific power, good hand usage, and great awareness. At 6’4,” 275 pounds, he has almost an almost prototypical size and build for the position, and has shown the ability to take over games. He has somehow managed to not just be consistently good, but has gotten better each of the last three years. Over that time, Chubb has racked up impressive 194 tackles, 54.5 tackles for a loss, 25 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 4 passes defensed, an interception, and a fumble recovery.
2 - Harold Landry (DE/OLB, Boston College)
Landry came in to the season as the top EDGE (which I define as a player who can rush the passer as either an outside linebacker or a defensive end) in the draft. The Boston College senior could have entered the 2017 draft and likely would have been selected highly. He has taken a step back from his incredible 2016 campaign (50 tackles, 22 TFL, 17 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 7 passes defensed, and 1 int), and has missed games with an ankle injury to end the season.
However, Landry is an impressive speed rusher with the burst and bend to blow past offensive tackles. He would do to add a power element to his game, but if a team needs a speed rusher, he can have a big impact early on.
3 - Clelin Farrell (DE, Clemson)
Clemson has developed a reputation for putting quality edge rushers in the NFL, and Farrell looks like he is going to be the next in that line. He is a long, lean, and athletic pass rusher who has progressed almost weekly over the last two seasons. Long over-shadowed by Christian Wilkins, Farrell has emerged to be recognized as a great player in his own right, and is even considered by some to be the better of the two.
4 - Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (OLB, Oklahoma)
Okoronkwo is undersized to be a defensive end, and will likely be limited to playing rush linebacker in the NFL. There’s nothing wrong with that, and as long as he is allowed to play to his strengths, he is really good at what he does. Easily the best player on the Oklahoma defense, and as of this writing he has 64 total tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles (2 fumble recoveries), and 2 passes defensed.
Okoronkwo has an injury history that will need to be evaluated, but he has the potential to be an impact player in the right situation.
5 - Sam Hubbard (DE, Ohio State)
Hubbard is an interesting case. He plays on a stacked with future NFL players, several of whom could be first round picks. The possibility that teammates make a player look better than he is has to be taken into consideration, but Hubbard has intriguing potential. He was a safety in high school, but has added mass and strength to play on the defensive line in college -- and I’m always a sucker for a “work ethic” guy. He retains something of that “DB” athleticism, and is not only a good rusher off the edge, but is also capable of making plays in space.
I could also mention Tyquan Lewis and Dre’Mont Jones in this section as well. That OSU line is THAT stacked, and Nick Bosa isn’t even draft eligible yet.
Other names to know
Hercules Mata’afa (Washington State), Dorance Armstrong Jr. (Kansas), Arden Key (LSU), Porter Gustin (USC), Duke Ejiofor (Wake Forest), Lorenzo Carter (Georgia), Marcell Frazier (Missouri)