Back OAYP: 2019 SEC Defensive Linemen Rankings

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OAYP: 2019 SEC Defensive Linemen Rankings

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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The new OAYP advanced metric ranks the SEC's returning defensive linemen.

In case you missed it, I’ve already released the marginal OAYP rankings for all the qualifying SEC offensive players and the edge rushers. Those, along with a more comprehensive explanation, can be found here:

-Quarterbacks

-Running Backs

-Receivers

-Tight Ends

-Offensive Linemen

-Edge Rushers

Today, we’re diving into the true defensive linemen. Those include defensive ends in three-man fronts, defensive tackles, and nose guards. Gone is Quinnen Williams, but outside of him, a ton of talent returns at the position. That means we have a pretty large sample of players that should be more accurately reflective than, say, the edge rushers were.

So let’s tier the SEC defensive linemen, just like we did with the offensive players and edge defenders, into superstars (marginal OAYP >1), second tier (marginal OAYP between 0.5-1), and potential breakout stars.

*marginal OAYP scores in parentheses*

Superstars

-Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M (1.9)
-Derrick Brown, Auburn (1.35)
-McTelvin Agim, Arkansas (1.33)
-Rashard Lawrence, LSU (1.17)
-Raekwon Davis, Alabama (1.12)

Off the top of my head, I would have had the exact same top five as the formula, but not in that order. My gut says: Brown, Lawrence, Davis, Agim, and then Madubuike.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue with Madubuike’s production. In some ways, the formula is, first and foremost, a playmaker index. Whereas, for example, Pro Football Focus’ grades measure consistency, OAYP values the sort of snaps that show up on highlight reels. Madubuike’s three forced fumbles in 2018 are tied with Agim for the most among returning SEC players. He’s also tied for first with Brown and Lawrence among returning interior defenders in tackles for loss alone atop that list in sacks. It will be interesting to see if he can be as statistically impactful in 2019 after Texas A&M’s losses of Otaro Alaka, Tyrel Dodson, Kingsley Keke, Landis Durham, and Daylon Mack in the front seven. The Aggies’ average front seven OAYP score is the lowest of the five schools represented by the above superstars, so while he was the beneficiary of a strong supporting cast last season, he will be the focal point going forward.

In some ways it was surprising to see Derrick Brown come back for his senior year. I actually think it was a good decision, though. This is among the most talented defensive line classes ever, and while he could have been a first rounder, it was not a sure thing. Barring an unfathomable regression, he’ll go in the top half of the first round in 2020. An ideal blend of power and explosiveness, he combines a good first step with a devastating bull rush that only a few SEC offensive linemen have been able to handle over the past couple of seasons. With Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson back alongside, his encore performance could be his best.

Agim has spent some time at end during his career, both in high school, where he developed into a five star prospect, and at Arkansas. He’s a good, even a very good defensive end, but not elite. He is an elite tackle. Now, finally moving to the interior of John Chavis’ defensive front, after posting double digit tackles for loss, QB hurries, and, as noted above, three forced fumbles, just imagine what he can do at his most natural position.

Lawrence is a consummate leader, both on and off the field for LSU. He, like Brown, probably could have gone pro and been a day two selection at worst. He, Brown, and Madubuike had the most tackles for loss of any returning interior defender last year at 10.5. He’ll also continue to benefit from a top tier supporting cast -- LSU’s average front seven OAYP is a full point higher than Texas A&M’s and second only to Alabama among the above five teams. He’s strong, violent, and eats double teams for breakfast. Banged up a season ago, he could challenge Brown for the title of ‘SEC’s best defensive lineman’ in 2019 if he stays healthy.

Rounding out the top five is the monster known as Raekwon Davis. The anticipation going into last season was that he would be Alabama’s best defensive lineman, and perhaps even the best player on their entire defense. He was clearly not Quinnen Williams, and might have even been third in his own position group, behind Isaiah Buggs. That’s not even an indictment of Davis, either, simply a reflection of just how dominant that trio was. He’s as tall as the average NBA player and heavier than Ndamukong Suh, yet shows incredible range for his size. When you hear people discuss the irresistible force paradox, the immovable object they’re referring to is Raekwon Davis.

Second Tier

-Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina (0.66)
-Labryan Ray, Alabama (0.63)
-Marlon Davidson, Auburn (0.62)
-Glen Logan, LSU (0.53)

It’s not much of a surprise that three of the four second tier players are teammates with one of the superstars. Like a rising tide lifts all boats, a truly elite defender makes everyone around him better.

Javon Kinlaw is the lone player in the second tier without a companion in the ranks of the elite. Granted, with a healthy DJ Wonnum back on the edge in 2019, that’s subject to change. He joined the Gamecocks after spending time at the JUCO level as part of their 2017 signing class, dripping with talent, but overweight and limited by his physique. Since then, he’s cut around 40 trims and now sits at a trim 305-ish. Long, lean, and mean, Kinlaw has the sort of rare physique that scouts will drool over. His raw strength at that size, combined with an incredible first step for the position allows him to shed blocks with the best of them. The only left for him to prove is that he can turn that unlocked potential into more consistent production.

The number two recruit at his position in the Class of 2017, LaBryan Ray has served only in a rotational role during his Alabama career, to date. Even so, he managed six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks during his sophomore campaign. Ray possesses the size, athleticism, and versatility that we’ve come to expect from Alabama defensive linemen, and could become one of the premier defensive linemen in the nation as he takes on more of a starring role for the Tide.

Marlon Davidson is a perfect complement to Derrick Brown’s attack, attack, attack mentality. Davidson won’t wow anyone with his athleticism, but he approaches the position with veteran savvy. He doesn’t offer a ton in the way of pass rushing prowess, though he may be underrated in that respect, but is a physical run stopper that does his job with great consistency. Davidson’s raw production does not fully depict his value to Auburn’s defensive front.

Glen Logan is a lot like the movie Fight Club. It was far from a success at the box office, and Logan is far from a box score stuffer, but both are beloved by a certain audience. The David fincher film grossed just over half of its budget, and Logan’s production is arguably about half of what fans may typically expect from a player as highly touted as Logan was coming out of high school. Even so, Fight Club eventually garnered the appreciation it deserved. Maybe in 2019, the same will happen for Logan.

Potential Breakout Stars

-Phidarian Mathis, Alabama (-0.63)

Obviously, given the weight towards value over efficiency on the defensive scores, the smaller sample size players generally won’t be above the mean in marginal OAYP. Mathis ultimately may not even end up being Alabama’s primary nose tackle. He had a fine spring by all accounts, but freshman early enrollee D.J. Dale stole the show. Neither will be Quinnen Williams, but I’m quite sure that Nick Saban’s defense will be just fine regardless. Mississippi State’s Lee Autry and Jayden Peevy from Texas A&M are also both worth keeping an eye on.

Full Marginal OAYP Scores for Qualifying SEC Defensive Linemen

  1. Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M (1.9)
  2. Derrick Brown, Auburn (1.35)
  3. McTelvin Agim, Arkansas (1.33)
  4. Rashard Lawrence, LSU (1.17)
  5. Raekwon Davis, Alabama (1.12)
  6. Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina (0.66)
  7. Labryan Ray, Alabama (0.63)
  8. Marlon Davidson, Auburn (0.62)
  9. Glen Logan, LSU (0.53)
  10. Josiah Coatney, Ole Miss (0.39)
  11. Jordan Elliott, Missouri (0.24)
  12. Fletcher Adams, Mississippi State (-0.14)
  13. Emmit Gooden, Tennessee (-0.15)
  14. Keir Thomas, South Carolina (-0.18)
  15. Adam Shuler, Florida (-0.18)
  16. Tyler Clark, Georgia (-0.22)
  17. Malik Herring, Georgia (-0.27)
  18. Julian Rochester, Georgia (-0.28)
  19. Kobe Smith, South Carolina (-0.33)
  20. Kyree Campbell, Florida (-0.37)
  21. Benito Jones, Ole Miss (-0.48)
  22. Phil Hoskins, Kentucky (-0.49)
  23. Drew Birchmeier, Vanderbilt (-0.52)
  24. Dayo Odeyingbo, Vanderbilt (-0.57)
  25. TJ Smith, Arkansas (-0.64)
  26. Neil Farrell, LSU (-0.66)
  27. Jordan Davis, Georgia (-0.74)
  28. Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina (-1.1)
  29. Tedarrell Slayton, Florida (-1.24)
  30. Cameron Tidd, Vanderbilt (-1.29)
Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP