Who are the top defensive prospects for the NFL Draft

Posted Apr 22, 2018

There have been too many times to count how much we’ve heard about the 2018 quarterback class and it has completely overshadowed the rest of the talent in this year’s NFL draft. To help provide a wider view on this year’s draft class, takes a closer look at the top handful of defensive prospects in the 2018 crop.

DE Bradley Chubb – N.C. State – 6-4, 269
A three-year starter, Chubb played both left and right defensive end usually in a three-point stance. By the time his career with the Wolfpack was over he had broken Mario Williams’ records for sacks and tackles for loss.

At the NFL combine he ran a 4.65 40-time and had a 36-inch vertical.

“I think Chubb is an elite pass rusher,” said ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper. “You can make the argument that he’s the best player in this draft. He has a great attitude and approach to the game. He’s not as talented as Myles Garrett, but he’s more consistent. He’s not Garrett, but he’s close enough to say he could be the top pick were it not for the quarterbacks in this class.”

OLB Tremaine Edmunds – Virginia Tech – 6-4, 253
Viewed as a physical freak-type prospect, Edmunds ran a 4.54 40-time at 253 pounds. An aggressive downhill player, Edmunds is still working to refine the details of his game, but in a class thin at the position NFL clubs will be banking on Edmunds high ceiling.

“He’s an off-the-ball linebacker that’s 19-years-old that has the ability to become an edge rusher,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. “You can see it on tape. He’s been working on it with his coaches over the last several weeks. At 6-5, 250, he has the ability to be an edge guy.”

CB Minkah Fitzpatrick – Alabama – 6-0, 204
The 2017 Chuck Bednarik Award and Jim Thorpe Award winner and 1st-Team All-SEC performer, Fitzpatrick was a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide. Playing cornerback and safety in his time at Alabama, Fitzpatrick blends rare athletic ability with a high football IQ.

In an era where safeties need to cover almost as much as corners, Fitzpatrick offers uncommon coverage ability and his instincts allow him to play faster than he times (4.46).

“You look at corner specifically, it’s just a loaded group from top to bottom,” said NFL Draft Scout analyst Dane Brugler. “Minkah Fitzpatrick, whether you believe he’s a safety or a corner, I play him at corner myself. He’s included in that group.”

S Derwin James – Florida State – 6-2, 215
A prototype safety prospect, who also played nickel corner, linebacker and even kick returner, James successfully came back from knee surgery in 2016 to post crooked numbers in just about every defensive category.

He logged 84 tackles, 11 pass breakups and a pair of interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown. James’ 4.47 40-time combined with ball hawking instincts will play well at the next level.

“Derwin James just from a movement perspective reminds me of a guy who I think is one of the greatest players of all time in the late Sean Taylor,” said ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick. “Derwin James is going to be a heck of a player and come off the board in the top 10.”

MLB Roquan Smith – Georgia – 6-1, 230
In a class lacking quality middle linebacker prospects, Smith looks to be the cream of the crop. Blessed with natural instincts to find the ball, Smith put together two extremely productive seasons for the Bulldogs.

Capable of handling coverage assignments with his elite speed and diagnosing plays, Smith could be the quarterback of an NFL defense from day one.

“Smith showed off his athleticism at the combine, running a 4.51 40. That speed shows up on tape,” said Kiper. “He can get sideline to sideline in a hurry. A season after recording 95 total tackles and five tackles for loss, Smith had 137 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2017. He can blitz up the middle or off the edge, and I think he could play inside or outside linebacker.”

CB Denzel Ward – Ohio State – 5-11, 183
Ward is the next top corner in a long line of Buckeyes cover men. Following former teammates Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, the two-year starter was utilized at both boundary positions and the slot to shut down the opponent’s greatest threat.

Playing a good deal of press coverage at Ohio State, Ward possesses the speed to handle man coverage assignments in the NFL. The only question is how he’ll hold up against bigger wideouts in the NFL.

“Denzel Ward from Ohio State, did a blazing 4.32 in the 40-yard dash,” Brugler said. “He also came in a little taller than expected. Talking to scouts coming into the Combine, ‘Is he taller than 5-10? Shorter than 5-10?’ He came in at a hair under 5-11. So, Denzel Ward I think he’s cemented himself in the top-10, top-12 prospect in this draft.”