With the college football season imminently approaching, it’s never to early to look ahead to the 2019 NFL Draft and explore which position groups are deepest, and which players are worth watching, focusing on the defensive side of the ball. This year’s defensive line class has the potential to be one of the best in quite some time, while the secondary group lacks depth outside of a few very well known prospects.
On CBS Sports’ rankings, there are currently five defensive tackles ranked within the top thirteen prospects, which gives you a sense of how talented this position group truly is. Houston’s Ed Oliver is the main attraction: he has the quickness of Aaron Donald and the strength of a player 20 pounds heavier. He’s a top-five lock. Michigan’s Rashan Gary is an end/tackle hybrid that hasn’t yet reached his massive potential but can play up and down the defensive line. Clemson sports two elite tackles in Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, with Lawrence having the higher ceiling of the two. Per usual, Alabama features an NFL caliber lineman in Raekwon Davis, who will likely make a bigger name for himself as the year goes on. The wild card of the group though is Jeffery Simmons of Mississippi State. He flashed some dominant tape in last year but needs to show more consistency this year. All of the above players are likely to be first round picks and that’s only scratching the surface. This is a rare group.
Though not quite as stacked as the previous group, this year’s group of edge rushers has plenty of time to improve their reputation. Ohio State’s Nick Bosa appears to be a more athletic version of his brother Joey, and will likely be drafted higher than Joey because of it. Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell has Shaq Lawson’s size but also a quicker get-off and longer arms. Then there is Miami’s Joe Jackson, who is primed for a breakout year along with the rest of the Hurricane’s defense. A player I’ll be watching closely is Josh Allen’s former teammate at Wyoming, Carl Granderson. The senior has the size, speed and wingspan of a dominant college player, but needs to put it all together this year.
A solid class overall so far, there will be a linebacker that suites every defensive coordinator’s taste. If you’re looking for a franchise middle linebacker look no further than LSU’s Devin White or Notre Dame’s Te’von Coney. If you want outside linebacker that can cover and shut down outside runs, Kentucky’s Josh Allen, UB’s Khalil Hodge, or Michigan’s Devin Bush are more than capable. It will also be interesting to see if Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson can steal the show from his sophomore counterpart, Dylan Moses.
There’s still plenty of time of players to emerge out of this year’s safety class, but so far it is one that lacks depth. Having said that, the class seems to be stacked with free safety-type ballhawks in the secondary, starting with Boston College’s Lukas Denis. Denis is an ideal centerfielder in the mold of Earl Thomas or Jairus Byrd, coming down with seven interceptions in 2017. Miami’s Jaquan Johnson also seems to have a knack for turnovers, with four interceptions to go along with three forced fumbles last year. Up in Washington, the Huskies have JoJo McIntosh, who at 6’1” 205 pounds loves to come downhill against the run and punish runners.
Similar to safety, the corner class is a bit of an unknown quantity. What is known is that LSU’s Andraez “Greedy” Williams and Georgia’s Deandre Baker will be competing all season for the title of “Best College Cornerback.” Outside of those two, Julian Love for Notre Dame is a smart, technically sound player that is under-hyped at this point in time and Michael Jackson has the size teams want in their outside press corners (6’1”). Other prospects, like Duke’s Mark Gilbert and Ohio State’s Kendall Sheffield, are getting a fair share of good press, but judgement should be withheld until they prove they can handle full seasons as starting corners.