2018 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Rankings: Defensive Lineman & Linebackers

2018 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Rankings: Defensive Lineman & Linebackers

The 2018 NFL Draft is less than 2 months away and this year's class is filled with top-level talent. There is not a consensus #1 player yet, but that does not mean this is a weak draft. RPO's very own, Matt Nicrone, has put together his pre-combine rankings for each position. Check out the first 4 parts:

Now let's take a look at the Defensive Lineman and Linebackers of this year's class!

Defensive End

1 - Bradley Chubb

  • College: NC State
  • Size: 6’4” 275 lbs. 

Good combination of size and athleticism. Sets and holds the edge with wide base. His motor and athletic ability cause him to jump off the tape snap after snap and his play attributes and production should translate quickly as a pro.

2 - Rasheem Green

  • College: USC
  • Size: 6’5” 280 lbs.

Green is tall with long limbs, needs to add some
muscle mass to his frame. Movements are fluid and athletic. Creates explosive bursts of power at the point of attack when pad level is good. Looks to knock passes down when the rush stalls.

3 - Marcus Davenport

  • College: UTSA
  • Size: 6’6” 255 lbs.

Davenport has good quickness in lateral slides down the line of scrimmage to close out running lanes. Aggressive demeanor as a hitter.Davenport put on 30 pounds from his sophomore to senior season and has the frame to continue getting bigger and stronger. He’s been used to being a stand-up rusher at UTSA, teams may see him as a 4-3 defensive end.

4 - Sam Hubbard

  • College: Ohio State
  • Size: 6’5” 265 lbs.

Hubbard has a strong intelligence and is very aware. Quick to sniff out play-action plays. Extremely high motor. Always finds himself in tackle-ready position and usually finishes. Has solid tape but nothing jumps off the page, speed and athleticism aren’t his strong points.

5 - Arden Key

  • College: LSU
  • Size: 6’6” 265 lbs

Arden Key is long-limbed with plus flexibility throughout upper and lower body. Good job of timing up snap for a head start. Plays slippery and is hard to keep centered.  Scouts have a concern regarding his personal discipline.  Key left the team last season for 4 months because of “personal reasons”.  There are red flags, but a strong Combine performance could land him a spot in the first round.

6 - Dorance Armstrong

  • College: Kansas
  • Size: 6’4” 246 lbs.

Plays with loose hips and agility.  He’s smooth and explosive in his movements. Has rush experience standing and with a hand in the ground. Good inside spin counter. Effort level is consistent. 

7 - De’shawn Hand

  • College: Alabama
  • Size: 6’4” 289 lbs.

Long, muscular build that is pro-ready. He carries 290 pounds of lean muscle. Has desired physical traits to play end in an odd front (3-4) as well as end or potentially tackle in an even front (4-3). Hand has good change of direction and quickness to alter his rush and track down QBs leaving the pocket. 

8 - Jaylen Holmes

  • College: Ohio State
  • Size: 6’5” 270 lbs.

Compact, strong slot corner who can beat up finesse receivers and disrupt the route release. Dawson can match and blanket underneath, but hip tightness shows up when he's forced to turn and run from a backpedal. Dawson can handle himself in man or zone coverage and is ready to work when run support calls. He has some length and speed limitations, but he has the instincts and cover talent to become a starting nickel cornerback.

9 - Chad Thomas

  • College: Miami
  • Size: 6’6” 275 lbs.

Thomas has all the physical and athletic traits that a team could look for along the edge and he's versatile enough to play in an odd or even front. Smooth lateral movement can mirror running backs. Change of direction comes easily. Athletic enough to drop into space as standup linebacker on occasion.

10 - Duke Ejiofor 

  • College: Wake Forest
  • Size: 6’4” 270 lbs.

Ejiofor's game revolves around his heavy hands and his ability to finish as a rusher if a blocker gives him an opening. Ejiofor needs to play with better play speed and a more consistent motor to reach his potential.

 Defensive Tackle

1 - Vita Vea

  • College: Washington
  • Size: 6’4” 344 lbs.

Vea's combination of size and light feet are rare.  At 350 pounds he was lining up as an edge rusher at times. Two-gap defender. Can punch, lock out, and locate the ball. Able to shed blockers and range down the line of scrimmage to make tackles. Still very raw player with much more to be seen.

2 - Da’Ron Payne

  • College: Alabama
  • Size: 6’2” 308 lbs.

Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism. He will be the premier run-stuffer. Payne is a game-ready starter who immediately upgrades a defense's ability to slow the run. 

3 - Maurice Hurst

  • College: Michigan
  • Size: 6’2” 282 lbs.

Hurst is an upfield three-technique who gets out of the blocks ahead of his competition. Has disruptive initial quickness. Comes off the ball low and looking to disrupt in the backfield. Too quick for blockers to trap. High motor pushes him into the pocket as a rusher. 

4 - Taven Bryan

  • College: Florida
  • Size: 6’4” 291 lbs.

Talented defender with rare athletic ability. Bryan played inside at Florida but has the size and talent to play inside or outside. He has the ability to become a disruptive player with a very high ceiling. 

5 - Tim Settle

  • College: Virginia Tech
  • Size: 6’3” 335 lbs.

 Settle has rare gifts for a big man with mass, play strength, quickness and agility. His weight loss and additional conditioning allowed him to play more snaps and play faster. He's a disruptive, versatile defensive lineman who offers enough pass rush potential to warrant reps on passing downs. Settle is a natural 4-3 fit but can play in a 3-4 as well. 

6 - Harrison Phillips

  • College: Stanford
  • Size: 6’4” 255 lbs.

 Phillips plays a little upright but he definitely has the leverage and power to play to anchor and muddy the run game waters.  As a former wrestler, Phillips has non traditional ways of getting to the quarterback. He has a good feel for blocking schemes and is able to handle down blocks and double teams while allow linebackers to flow to the ball.

7 - Derrick Nnandi

  • College: FSU
  • Size: 6’1” 299 lbs.

Shows good tape. Nnadi has a good motor, active hands and enough pass rush ability to cause problems for blockers up front.

8 - BJ Hill

  • College: Boston College
  • Size: 6’4” 315 lbs.

Hill is a one-gapping, upfield defensive tackle with decent athleticism who stays productive despite lacking some strength. While Hill's production has been solid, he will have to develop more strength at the point of attack or become a more explosive upfield player to set himself apart and become a rotational defensive tackle.

9 - Trenton Thompson

  • College: Georgia
  • Size: 6’4” 295 lbs.

Thompson is a tough, athletic three-technique who offers an adequate combination of disruption and strength at the point of attack. Though he's known as a player who plays with pain, his inability to stay healthy clearly had an impact on his lack of production this season. 

10 - John Atkins

  • College: Georgia
  • Size: 6’2” 205 lbs.

Atkins carries a wide frame and has adequate power but his inability to overwhelm interior blockers could limit his value to teams since he offers no help as a pass rusher. Good football character and work ethic. Possesses natural upper body strength.

Outside Linebacker

1 - Tremaine Edmunds

  • College: Virginia Tech
  • Size: 6’5” 250 lbs.

Edmunds combines elite size, speed and explosiveness. Edmunds has posted high-impact production over the last two seasons and he still has room to get bigger and better. He will also be only 19 years-old come draft day.

2 - Harold Landry

  • College: Boston College
  • Size: 6’3” 250 lbs.

Lacks height, but arm length makes up for it.  no false steps when the ball is snapped. Long-strider who takes early leads on races to the edge. Creates strip sacks and batted balls with his long, active arms. Expected to show out at the Combine. 

3 - Hercules Mata’afa

  • College: Washington State
  • Size: 6’2” 252 lbs.

Hercules was known for being an undersized defensive tackle who wins with quickness and tenacity. So it only makes sense that he makes the move to 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB. Mata’afa has a solid ability to bend the edge and shows fluidity in his movements. He shows great burst off the line of scrimmage. Excellent closing speed to chase down plays and generate clean-up sacks.

4 - Lorenzo Carter

  • College: Georgia
  • Size:  6’6” 242 lbs.

Carter played with increased toughness and confidence this year. Carter is an outside linebacker in a 3-4 or 4-3 with sideline sideline-to-sideline range and the tools to become a productive edge rusher in sub-packages. He needs to add more bulk, but he is a future NFL starter.

5 - Darius Leonard

  • College: South Carolina State
  • Size: 6'3" 230 lbs.

Has athletic ability and straight-line speed that should light up the combine. Leonard has packed on the pounds since hitting campus, but it hasn't compromised his play speed as he has posted dominant production throughout. Patient tackler. Blazing closing speed and outstanding sideline-to-sideline range.

6 - Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

  • College: Oklahoma
  • Size: 6’1” 242 lbs.

Okoronkwo doesn't possess the height, weight and length teams usually want on the edge. That being said, he's solidly built and plays with aggression and a good motor.  Attacks the pocket with natural instincts as a rusher. Uses hesitation moves, changes pace and alters his path to the quarterback. Posted impressive tackle numbers thanks to quick disengage and finish.

- Jeff Holland

  • College: Auburn
  • Size: 6’2” 249 lbs.

Play is fierce and physical. Has good initial upfield burst with ability to accelerate around the edge. Pursues inside pocket with control and patience. Works with high motor. Has upper body power to press and extend in setting edge.

8 - Uchenna Nwosu

  • College: USC
  • Size: 6’3 240 lbs.

Really athletic with loose lower body movement. Plays with smooth directional change and has instant stop-start quickness. Possesses good burst and overall chase speed. Nwosu may not have the edge strength to handle run downs, but if he tests well at the Combine, teams may fall in love with his burst.

9 - Malik Jefferson

  • College: Texas
  • Size: ’3” 240 lbs.

Built like an NFL linebacker with a long, athletic frame. Explosive with loose hips and good speed. Has ability to range far and wide for the tackle. Covers ground quickly. Substantially more productive when Texas put him in position to think less and just play. Tackles improved from 60 to 104 under new defensive coordinator.

10 - Dorian O’Daniel

  • College: Clemson
  • Size: 6’1” 215 lbs.

O'Daniel is a mad man on special teams. He is technically sound as tackler. Offers versatility. What he lacks in size and speed at the linebacker spot, he makes up for with production and consistency. He may not have the tools to become a quality full-time starter at linebacker, but his outstanding career as a special teams cover talent could be enough to earn him a roster spot. 

Inside Linebacker

1 - Roquan Smith

  • College: Georgia
  • Size: 6’1” 225 lbs.

Roquan Smith plays with discipline and focus. He is fluid and explosive in space. Block-slipper. Praised by his head coach as being a "tremendous leader" who holds himself accountable. While he's a little undersized, he does have the quickness and speed to keep himself from being mauled.

2 - Rashaan Evans

  • College: Alabama
  • Size: 6’3” 234 lbs.

Possesses good length and great speed. Premium athlete with plus agility, range and explosiveness. Evans is an ideal inside linebacker fit for a blitz-happy 3-4 unit, but he could easily fit as a 4-3 WILL with rush potential on sub-packages. 

3 - Leighton Vander Esch

  • College: Boise State
  • Size: 6'4" 240 lbs.

Vander Esch is a loose-hipped, instinctive linebacker who played in 2017 like he had a GPS tracker on the football. His production totals against both the run and pass are rare for being a first-year starter and with a frame that is primed for more muscle, his NFL ceiling is high. 

4 - Josey Jewell

  • College: Iowa
  • Size: 6'2" 236lbs. 

2017's Lott Trophy winner, Jewell is borderline from a size standpoint. He will have nay-sayers and some that may worry about whether he's big, or fast enough, to become a starter in the NFL. He’s an instinctive linebacker who combines physicality with a relentless motor to find his way into play after play. Jewell's consistent play speed and consistency as a tackle finisher could make him a future starter as an inside linebacker perfectly suited to the WILL spot in a 3-4.

5 - Micah Kiser

  • College: Virginia
  • Size: 6’2” 240 lbs.

Makes tackles near the line of scrimmage and doesn't wait on running backs to get to him. Recognizes cutback lanes and fills the fit to look up runners in the cutback lane. Tough guy who likes contact. Brings it to second level climbing blockers with stiff shoulder or a powerful punch. Has the play strength and leverage advantage to play under blocker's pads. Willing to fire downhill into his run fits to close off the lane.

6 - Mike McCray

  • College: Michigan
  • Size: 6’4” 248 lbs.

McCray is a big, physical inside linebacker who plays with most of the characteristics evaluators want from an inside linebacker, but his limited range could hurt his draft stock.

- Tegray Scales

  • College: Indiana
  • Size: 6’0” 230 lbs.

Highly instinctive linebacker who combines a keen sense of play direction with a feel for the optimal angles to fill up the stat sheet. Scales may lack desired size and speed, but his 36 tackles for loss and 13 sacks over the last two seasons should give an indication of his playmaking ability.

8 - Christian Sam

  • College: Arizona State
  • Size: 6’2” 237 lbs.

Sam is an inside linebacker who has the ability to swing over to a WILL spot if needed. He absolutely "looks the part" and has the potential to turn some heads with a big Combine and coming off of a 127-tackle season.

9 - Shaun Dion Hamilton

  • College: Alabama
  • Size: ’0” 233 lbs.

Technically sound and tough, Hamilton is a 3-4 inside linebacker with good football intelligence who is almost always where he is supposed to be. 

10 - Keishawn Bierria

  • College: Washington
  • Size:  6’2” 223 lbs.

Bierria is a smart linebacker with a solid resume from a successful program, but he lacks the athletic traits and playmaking talent that teams covet from early round linebackers.

Ben Jones 1, Coyote 0

Ben Jones 1, Coyote 0

2018 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Rankings: Cornerbacks & Safeties

2018 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Rankings: Cornerbacks & Safeties