Back 2018 NFL Draft DL Rankings

Back To SEC

2018 NFL Draft DL Rankings

By Jim Johnson
Follow us at  Become a fan at the Facebook Page

Ranking the draftable edge defender prospects from the 2018 class, out of Southern Pigskin's coverage area.

These intial rankings are comprised of what right now are the draftable/PFA worthy prospects from our coverage area here at Southern Pigskin -- the ACC, SEC, Sun Belt, and SoCon.

These pre-combine rankings include a basic rundown of strengths and weaknesses, however, after the combine, they will be updated with round projections, player comparisons, and a more in-depth summation of my personal opinion on each respective player.

Starting with the quarterbacks, they will be released one day at a time until all of the position groups are up. After that, they will be easily found in a comprehensive database from a homepage that includes a first round mock draft.

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | IOL (OG/C) | EDGE (DE/3-4 OLB) | DL | LB | CB | S


1. Da’Ron Payne, Alabama: 6’2, 308

Strengths: Faced high expectations going into the 2017 season, met them, exceeded them, and improved across the board. A unique combination of elite strength and athleticism with the ideal build for the position. Opposing coordinators must scheme away from him in the run game. Showed notable development as a pass rusher last season. An absolute technician, even by Bama’s standards.

Weaknesses: Has the tools to be a good pass rusher but his production was only about average. Would like to see him finish more sacks when he does get pressure.

2. Taven Bryan, Florida: 6’4, 291

Strengths: Relative to his position, maybe one of the most athletic prospects in the entire draft class. Above average playmaker against the run -- showed some improvement from 2016 to last season. One of the nation’s premier interior pass rushers over the past two seasons and maintained that level of efficiency with a much larger sample size in 2017.

Weaknesses: Not as strong as one would like, struggles with interior power. Underdeveloped feel, instincts.

3. Derrick Nnadi, Florida State: 6’1, 310

Strengths: Plays with upper echelon strength and quickness. Highly developed run defender -- one of the nation’s best and most consistent over the past two years. Effective use of bull rush and converts a high rate of pressures to sacks. Overall, pretty technically sound.

Weaknesses: Decent size but not quite the NFL ideal. Pass rush productivity took a step back in 2017. Kind of a one-track pass rusher, needs to develop his repertoire of moves.

4. Tim Settle, Virginia Tech: 6’3, 335

Strengths: Crazy athlete for how big he is. Good play strength. Very developed run defender that maintained efficiency of production and increased overall production with an increased workload last season. Always been able to get pressure inside or outside, but struggled to finish sacks in 2016 -- remedied that in 2017.

Weaknesses: Pass rush efficiency took a step back with a larger sample size in 2017. Technique needs work. Too many missed tackles.

5. Breeland Speaks, Ole Miss: 6’3, 285

Strengths: Versatile and athletic with good speed for his size. Has a playmaker’s nose, finishing plays against the run and as a pass rusher at a solid rate. One of the premier interior pass rushers in college football last year on a large sample size, after having shown flashes the year prior. Powerful run defender on the edge.

Weaknesses: Only one season of strong production. Needs to be coached up, technically speaking. Can be moved by interior power. Was ejected from two different games in 2017.

6. Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama: 6’4, 288

Strengths: An undeniably talented athlete with top notch lateral agility and change of direction for the position, good play strength and a long, sturdy build. Bull rush bully, winning often with his superior talent. Great tackler.

Weaknesses: Never lived up to his billing as the top overall recruit in the class of 2014. Didn’t start until last season at Alabama. As a part of some of those incredible defensive lines, one would expect more efficient production.

7. R.J. McIntosh, Miami: 6’4, 293

Strengths: Nice size, length for the position with a powerful base and plus play strength. Good get off and great feel as a run defender. Showed flashes of his run stopping prowess in 2016 before busting out last season as one of the nation’s most consistent and productive interior defenders.

Weaknesses: Below average athleticism. Wasn’t as effective a pass rusher last year as he was in 2016 -- even then he was only about average.

8. B.J. Hill, NC State: 6’3, 321

Strengths: Good size for the position. Plus athleticism. Really good feel as a run stopper -- solid production in 2016 followed up by a career year last season. Above average interior pass rusher two years ago, despite lower conversion rate.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal play strength and not quick enough to overcome it. Ideally he could improve both, but at least one has to get better. Pass rush production regressed heavily in 2016.

9. Trenton Thompson, Georgia: 6’4, 295

Strengths: Good build with a powerful, sturdy base. Above average athleticism for the position. One of the nation’s premier run defenders in 2016, playing with great feel and making a ton of plays. Productive pass rusher two years ago, as well.

Weaknesses: Production fell off a cliff in 2017. Even though his pass rushing numbers were good in 2016 it was more from pursuit and clean up rather than consistent pressure. Persistent injury concerns.

10. Andrew Brown, Virginia: 6’4, 285

Strengths: Above average play strength combined with a good get off allows him to win at the point of attack. Overcomes athletic limitations to get pressure inside, outside, or with a bull rush. Unceasing competitor, never gives up on any play.

Weaknesses: Not very athletic, a plodder. Works hard and stays with the play but just doesn’t have very good feel as a run defender. Technique has a ways to go. Too many missed tackles and not enough converted sacks.

11. Zaycoven Henderson, Texas A&M: 6’0, 305

Strengths: Good all-around athlete, quick. Good run defender and pass rusher in 2016, and showed pronounced improvement in both respects last season.

Weaknesses: Undersized with less than ideal length. May not possess adequate play strength and it’s unclear if he could maintain that key athleticism with added weight.

12. Justin Jones, NC State: 6’2, 312

Strengths: Good size and strength for the position. Showed out as an above average run defender and interior pass rusher in 2016.

Weaknesses: Not very athletic. Regressed across the board in 2017.

13. Kentavius Street, NC State: 6’2, 290

Strengths: Versatile with experience playing all over the defensive line for NC State. Deceptive straight line speed. One of the strongest players in the class -- tantalizing power.

Weaknesses: Not as long as one would like for an end and doesn’t carry as much weight as most tackles. Isn’t very quick or laterally agile. Not very productive over the past two years.

14. Greg Gilmore, LSU: 6’4, 308

Strengths: Good size, length. Burst onto the scene last year as a solid run stopper and interior pass rusher.

Weaknesses: Only one year of strong production. Adequate all-around player, but not dominate in any particular respect.

15. Kendrick Norton, Miami: 6’3, 312

Strengths: Good size with a sturdy base and above average play strength. Good feel against the run.

Weaknesses: Subpar production over the past two seasons as a starter at Miami. A non-threat as a pass rusher. Average athleticism at best.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP