Apr 102018
 
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Vita Vea, Washington Huskies (December 30, 2017)

Vita Vea – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Line

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*Note…these positions are based on what I think will be more of a 3-4 scheme. Edge guys get their own preview.

1 – Vita Vea – Washington – 6’4/347

Grade: 87

Strong Points:

-Rare blend of size and functional athleticism
-Plays hard all the time
-Crafty, savvy when it comes to getting off blocks in short spaces

Weak Points

-Lack of pure pass rush moves, needs more refinement there
-Tires easily, can’t be on field for long stretches
-Didn’t make a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage

Summary:

Fourth year junior entry. Could have come out last year and been a top 10 pick. Vea is a name I don’t see discussed often enough as a legit possibility for being the first defender taken in this class. If he had more pass rush production, something I still think there is some untapped upside with, he would be above the 90 mark. Vea is the closest thing we have ever seen to Haloti Ngata and if he can be matched with the right defensive mind that will move him around a lot, he is going to be a star. Don’t completely overlook NYG considering him if they trade down a few spots because he CAN be on the field at the same time as Harrison. He is a better athlete than most 3-4 DEs in the league.

NFL Comparison: Haloti Ngata / PHI

2 – Da’Ron Payne – Alabama – 6’2/311

Grade: 86

Strong Points:

-A boulder that won’t ever be pushed back, keeping gaps closed and LBs clean
-Showed promise as a pass rusher late in 2017
-Turns and shifts his weight while carrying elite presence when attacking the ball

Weak Points:

-Lack of production is noteworthy
-Doesn’t always fire out with proper leverage and hand placement
-Needs more violence post-snap

Summary:

Junior entry. 2 year starter but was a part of the DL rotation from day one. Payne will be NFL ready week one by whoever drafts him. He is the ideal inside run defender that has no issues taking on blocks, maintaining ground, and doing the dirty work to keep players around him free. Like Vea, his lack of production behind the line prevents him from the All-Pro status but he did take that part of his game to the next level late in 2017. Payne’s grade is partially based on projection, as I think if he is let loose as a pass rusher and/or penetrator, he can be a dominant force.

NFL Comparison: Linval Joseph / MIN

3 – Maurice Hurst – Michigan – 6’1/292

Grade: 82

Strong Points:

-Elite burst and pad level off the snap
-Excels at locating the ball when engaged in traffic
-Aggressive and surprisingly stout against the double team

Weak Points:

-Has a heart condition that still needs some questions answered
-On the very-small end when it comes to size inside
-May be too reliant on the initial movement

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Great story of a kid that really had to work his butt off to get some playing time and once he did, he took full advantage. When you try to teach DTs how to play the game with snap anticipation, leverage, and hand usage, pop in his tape. It is elite. I did downgrade him from 85 because of the heart issue that, from what I have been told, is scaring some teams to the point of taking him off their board. Bit if he clears that, his ability to impact the game as a gap shooter is big time. He may struggle to play a full load of snaps inside at that size, but the right coach and scheme can make him a star.

NFL Comparison: Mike Daniels / GB

4 – Rasheem Green – USC – 6’4/275

Grade: 81

Strong Points:

-Long and wide frame that will easily add weight
-Plus foot speed and bendability, making him a movement-threat in space and traffic
-Pro’s approach to the game when it comes to awareness and technique

¬Weak Points

-Gets high out of his stance and can be pushed around
-Needs to develop more lower body strength
-Lacks urgency and aggression at times

Summary:

Junior entry. Quietly recorded 10 sacks in 2017, earning 1st Team All Pac 12 honors. This is a name that doesn’t get discussed enough as one of the best 3-4 DL in the draft. Green already plays the game like a pro and that is a standout trait I noticed from day one of scouting him. He is an outstanding athlete with the kind of frame that coaches get excited about. He started to break out in 2017 and had he stayed another season, he may have been a top 10 pick in 2019. Really high floor and ceiling here.

NFL Comparison: Cameron Heyward / PIT

5 – Tim Settle – Virginia Tech – 6’3/329

Grade: 81

Strong Points:

-A force off the ball, can create a new line of scrimmage
-Plays low, fast, and physical
-Developed pass rush moves as 2017 progressed, versatile and reliable

Weak Points

-Conditioning has been an issue his entire career
-Inconsistent technique, will neglect hand placement too often
-Needs more control and balance, winds up on the ground or away from the action

Summary:

Third year sophomore entry. Was a bit of a surprise to see him come out in 2017, as he could have used another year of seasoning to potentially become a top 10 pick in 2019. I am high on him, I think he is a first round talent that may need some time, but in the end will be a versatile game changer. Settle was moved around a lot because of his size and burst off the snap. He is dominant at times and the light started to click over the second half of 2017. I would draft him knowing it may be a boom or bust, but the reward might be big time.

NFL Comparison: Marcell Darius / JAC

6 – RJ McIntosh – Miami – 6’4/286

Grade: 79

Strong Points:

-Active after the snap when needed, can change his style on the fly
-Powerful when engaged with run blockers, will hold his ground
-Very ball-aware, knows where to be and what to do, instinctive

Weak Points:

-Inconsistent use of leverage, plays high when he tires
-Doesn’t handle the double team well, lack of block awareness
-Will get out of control and spend too much time recovering off balanced

Summary:

Junior entry that has been a steadily growing presence in the ACC for the past 2 seasons. Overlooked in the exciting, playmaking, talent-loaded defense at Miami. McIntosh is a versatile playmaker that has a natural sense in the trenches. He is very good at getting his hands up against the short passes, very active against the run, and will make his presence known at some point. He had one of the more impressive performances against Quenton Nelson in 2017.

7 – Taven Bryan – Florida – 6’5/291

Grade: 79

Strong Points:

-Excellent athlete with a frame that can handle multiple roles
-Pursues sideline to sideline, will make plays all over, high motor
-Crafty and advanced technique when it comes to getting off blocks

Weak Points:

-Lacks a stout power game against the double team, gives up ground
-Will lose control and over pursue, too many recovery steps
-Needs more stability and lower body presence

Summary:

Fourth year junior entry. Never quite broke out with big time production, but he was surrounded by a poor defense in the SEC. Bryan stands out on tape because of his movement skills on a frame that has a lot of potential. I think the Giants could have a lot of interest here, because he fits the playmaking 3-4 DE role like a glove. There is work to be done when it comes to strength and power, but this is the kind of kid that you know will come in and get it done. High upside.

NFL Comparison: Malik Jackson / JAC

8 – PJ Hall – Sam Houston State – 6’0/308

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Incredible burst and speed, top tier
-Can hold the point of attack when needed with elite strength and leverage
-Smart and savvy, reads the action while engaged fast

Weak Points:

-On the bottom tier of size requirements
-Lacks conditioning, tires easily and will take plays off
-Can be surprised by down blocks easily and won’t recover well

Summary:

Four time FCS All American. All time leader in sacks and tackles for loss in school history. 14 career blocked kicks which is unheard of. Has experience all over the line. I have been and continue to be higher on Hall than most out there. I think he is a legit 2nd round talent that will cause a lot of headaches in the NFL. He may not be an every down defender with the lack of size, but his burst and leverage while maintaining very good power will cause offensive linemen to really work. If Hall was coming from a bigger program, I think he would be in the 1st round discussion.

NFL Comparison: Geno Atkins / CIN

9 – BJ Hill – NC State – 6’3/311

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Derives more than enough power from his lower body
-Can play low and quick
-Versatile skill set, can shoot the gap and create a new line of scrimmage

Weak Points:

-Block awareness is lacking, fails to see down blocks and gets washed out
-Doesn’t deliver a quality bull rush, eyes get lost
-Production vs the double team was lacking, too much movement

Summary:

3+ year starter. Really solid player that has been quietly productive and even somewhat overlooked in that dominant NC State line. Hill has the body of a run stuffer but the movement of a pass rusher. He is a disruptor that would be at his best in a penetrating role. He shows potential as a space eater when the situation calls for it, as his quick twitch power and aggressive hands can make life difficult for a run blocker. I suspect NYG will be very interested in him if they are leaning to a true 3-4 as a DE.

NFL Comparison: Jarran Reed / SEA

10 – Derek Nnadi – Florida State – 6’1/317

Grade: 76

Strong Points:

-Natural leverage advantage but still has the length to keep blockers away
-Quick in a phone booth, has tackle to tackle range
-Developed technique when it comes to hand work and rush moves

Weak Points:

-If he doesn’t win off the snap, he struggles to recover
-Limited impact as a pass rusher in college
-Footwork needs to be improved, doesn’t play wide enough

Summary:

A four year contributor, made the all ACC team three years in a row. Coaches rave about him and his worth ethic. Nnadi doesn’t check all the boxes when it comes to the measureables. He is short and stocky and did not test well athletically. But pop in any FSU tape over the past few years and it is hard not to come way impressed. This guy is a player and he will impact the game. Ideally he is in at NT on rushing downs, as his weaknesses can be exposed elsewhere. He ma be a better fit for the 4-3 front, but with NYG needing to find 15+ snaps from a backup nose tackle each week, Nnadi would be on my round 3 radar.

NFL Comparison: Javon Hargrave / PIT

11 – Lowell Lotulelei – Utah – 6’2/315

Grade: 76

Strong Points:

-Quick power off the snap, sends the blocker backward
-Unreal hand strength, can control anyone when both of his mitts are on
-Easy knee bend with an upright chest, making it easy for him to anchor

Weak Points:

-Reaction speed is lacking, a step behind often
-Won’t factor much as a pass rusher
-Has had some work ethic issues over his career

Summary: Kyle Williams / BUF

Four year starter. Brother of Star Lotulelei, a Pro Bowl DT currently. Had a lot of hype surrounding him because of the bloodlines and fast start to his career, but Lotulelei never quite took that step towards being a dominant force. He flashes it here and there, but some work ethic issues and a limited athletic impact on the game might drive him down a tad. He would be a very solid backup NT early on in his career and if the light turns on, he has the goods to be a plus-starter.

NFL Comparison:

12 – Nathan Shepherd – Fort Hays State – 6’4/315

Grade: 76

Strong Points:

-Athletic frame that just screams upside
-Converts his plus speed to plus power with ease
-Has the range to make plays all over the field

Weak Points

-Enters the league very raw and a few steps behind when it comes to technique
-Gets tall out of his stance and loses track of foot positioning
-Making a major jump in competition

Summary:

I am taking a bit of a chance with this kid. He is a major boom or bust but I think as a 3-4 DE, he has sky high potential. Shepherd has gained over 100 pounds since high school and he looks like he was cut out of stone. His football skill set and instincts are coming along, but he will still need time before he can be trusted on the field. There is a nastiness to his game that I like and you won’t find many better athletic packages than him.

NFL Comparison: Henry Anderson / IND

13 – Harrison Phillips – Stanford – 6’3/307

Grade: 76

Strong Points:

-Hard to move, plants his feet into the ground
-Pro-caliber plus-power presence
-Plays the hand game exceptionally well

Weak Points:

-Stiff lower body, tight hips and ankles
-Lumbers in space, limited range and pass rush productivity
-Disciplined and assignment-savvy

Summary:

Fourth year senior with some minor injury concerns. Has been the rock in the middle for the Stanford defense over the past two years. Phillips is highly touted by some and by no means am I down on him, I just simply see a 2 down player that is a little lesser athletically than some of the other guys in that position. His lack foot speed and overall stiffness may make things tough for him when it comes to the speed of the NFL. I think Phillips will be a solid rotational player in the NFL that is dependable and consistent, but nothing more.

NFL Comparison: Ziggy Hood / WAS

14 – Dashawn Hand – Alabama – 6’4/297

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Disruptive playing style, has plus athletic ability at his size
-Violent swiped and punches with his hands
-Versatile skills and tools, can be moved around a lot

Weak Points:

-Inconsistent performer, very up and down
-Has had off field and effort issues surrounding him his entire career
-Loses control and sense of balance

Summary:

After being one of the top recruits in high school, Hand struggled to really make his consistent impact on the Alabama defense. He was always a part of the rotation but his snaps were limited. The program is always bringing in new top tier talent, so it may have held back some of his opportunities. But the maturity concerns are real with Hand. Even though the light started to turn on in 2017, there is risk here. He does fit into that 3-4 DE role very well, however.

NFL Comparison: Derek Wolfe / DEN

15 – Chad Thomas – Miami – 6’5/281

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-A violent bully that makes an power impact every play
-Consistently gets the blocker off balance via contact
-Instinctive, a good feel for run defense

Weak Points:

-Lacks elite burst off the edge as a pass rusher
-Looks stiff when reacting laterally
-Will play high and get his eyes lost in the backfield

Summary:

Played a 4-3 DE role for Miami but is one of the few prospects that can play out there in any front. His playing style is versatile, as he can alter his approach at the snap of a finger. Thomas plays with man power and will try to win the battle via power presence play after play. He certainly has the strength to do so and if he can add another 10-15 pounds, he could be exactly what NYG needs at DE. There is a quality pass rusher here as well, a true 3 down player. Limited upside but I am confident he will reach it.

NFL Comparison: Adrian Clayborn / NE

Kendrick Norton – Miami – 6’3/314 – GRADE: 74
Trent Thompson – Georgia – 6’3/288 – GRADE: 74
Justin Jones – NC State – 6’2/309 – GRADE: 74
Andrew Brown – Virginia – 6’3/296 – GRADE: 73
Breeland Speaks – Ole Miss – 6’3/283 – GRADE: 73
Poona Ford – Texas – 6’0/306 – GRADE: 73
Deadrin Senat – South Florida – 6’0/314 – GRADE: 71
Taylor Stallworth – South Carolina – 6’2/312 – GRADE: 70
Khalil McKenzie – Tennessee – 6’3/314 – GRADE: 70
John Franklin-Myers – Stephen F Austin – 6’4/283 – GRADE: 70

NYG APPROACH

Without truly knowing the scheme, it is almost a sure thing this new regime will bring in new talent along the DL. While it isn’t a pressing need, the depth is questionable and any time a new scheme is being put in, getting rookies in place is very important. They are primed for development and their bodies are still evolving into NFL-readiness. The 3-4 DE role isn’t too hard to find and I think there is a lot of depth at that spot in this class. I think one of the later picks will be used there and don’t overlook the importance of having a strong backup behind Harrison. While this isn’t a pressing need, Gettleman is big on infusing resources into the DL. One of these guys will be selected.

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David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

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