The 2019 NFL Draft will yield some of the best defensive line prospects in years and the first round will be dominated by true difference makers. Some of the players taken in the second and third round could have been drafted in the first round other years. Below are some of the players who will likely go in the first round and who you should target in your IDP drafts.
Nick Bosa, DE Ohio State
The younger brother of Joey Bosa, Nick could be a better prospect and should be the top overall pick in the NFL and IDP drafts. Bosa is a pass rushing phenom, his speed to get around the end with bend and balance is among the best I have ever witnessed. He has great handwork, burst, and excels in run defense and play recognition.
Bosa sat out most of 2018 to recover from injury and prepare for the NFL – his 2017 tape is ridiculous, they were rarely any plays in which he wasn’t the first player in the face of the quarterback on passing plays. Pick Bosa with confidence first overall in your draft this year.
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Quinnen Williams, DT Alabama
My personal top prospect and the potential top NFL pick, Williams is a beastly interior defensive lineman with the best initial burst in the class and tremendous power. Williams played on a talented line but still faced double teams regularly, he is extremely tough to block with one lineman or tight end.
Along with elite burst, he has great hands, and despite only starting for one year – his football intelligence and diagnosis of plays are evident on tape. In IDP leagues which require DTs, Williams is a possible top pick in rookie drafts.
Ed Oliver, DT Houston
Oliver was in play for the top overall pick before 2018 started and has faded back into the mix, but will likely be a mid-first round pick in the draft. The talent is elite and he should go earlier – Oliver has tremendous strength and uses leverage well to routinely win battles in the trenches.
He faced double and triple teams every play in college and didn’t put up eye-popping numbers, but his college tape displays the dominance – he is routinely in the backfield and disrupting every play. He should be a top-five NFL Draft pick and should also be one of the top seven or eight picks in your IDP rookie drafts.
Rashan Gary, DE Michigan
Gary is freakishly athletic and the draft community is divided on him. Some have him going inside the top ten and others have him in the second round. He wasn’t productive at Michigan but also didn’t play to his strengths – the coaching staff played him out of position routinely.
Gary uses speed to set up power moves and his burst is unreal – he doesn’t possess many counters but wasn’t used to rush the passer in Ann Arbor. He is an elite athlete at 275 pounds and has tools to be a destructive player in the NFL. From an IDP standpoint, I have been shying away from him in rookie drafts because of the uncertainty in his role but his athletic upside is tantalizing and he could be a highly productive NFL player.
Clelin Ferrell, DE Clemson
Another of my favorite players, Ferrell doesn’t get as much ‘love’ as the top prospects but he will a very good defensive lineman in the NFL. He possesses good burst – at times great – has phenomenal handwork, a fierce motor which never takes a play off, and has an array of pass rushing moves as well.
Ferrell is a strong run stopper and could slide around the defensive line some as well – I really like him as a solid option in IDP leagues. He will always get tackles in run defense to have a safe floor and is a good enough pass rusher to get six to eight sacks a season as well.
Brian Burns, DE Florida State
Burns is potentially the best pure pass rusher in the class not named Bosa – he is a bit smaller while playing around 250 pounds but his weight allows him to showcase speed and elite burst. He gets in the backfield quickly and with purpose, he is smooth and has a long stride with a bend which gets him around tackles with ease.
Burns isn’t the strongest end. His speed could lead to him being able to play as a standup outside linebacker or to drop back in coverage in a hybrid role as well. He should be a solid pass rusher on Sundays and with some added weight and power – possibly an elite quarterback nightmare.
Montez Sweat, DE Mississippi State
Sweat had a historic performance at the Combine in Indianapolis – running the 40-yard dash at 4.41 seconds at 6’6” and 260 pounds. He has a massive wingspan and his first stride is quick and covers a lot of ground.
Sweat wins by following up with an expansive repertoire of hand moves and surprising strength for his lanky frame. He may take a little more time to fully develop but the athletic traits are ridiculous and his long arms will wreak havoc in the run stopping game as well.
Christian Wilkins, DT Clemson
Wilkins will be a much better NFL player than an IDP asset but there is a lot to love about his game. He has great character and is a natural leader. Teammates fed off his leadership and emotion at Clemson. Wilkins has lateral quickness and strong agility, especially for a stout lineman weighing nearly 320 pounds.
He disrupts in the interior on pass rush downs and is a fierce run stopper as well. Wilkins also batted down 15 passes while in college, he is intelligent and constantly active and he makes other linemen around him much better by wreaking so much interior havoc on the defensive line.
Jaylon Ferguson, DE Louisana Tech
Ferguson enters the NFL Draft after breaking the NCAA Division I all-time sack record, managing 45 in his college career. He doesn’t have the burst of some of the players listed above or the ability to bend and go under offensive linemen – Ferguson uses timing and phenomenal handwork to fight his way to opposing QBs.
He is strong and uses leverage well and solid as a run defender as well. Ferguson should be productive at the next level but I don’t see his skills translating to being an elite defensive end.
Jeffery Simmons, DE Mississippi State
Simmons was projected as a possible top ten pick before tearing his ACL in February. He is an impressive blend of power and agility and has a sudden burst he follows up well with overpowering strength and a relentless array of moves which make him difficult to block consistently.
Simmons needs work on his instincts and play recognition – he made a lot of plays in the run game by his relentless attacking and never giving up on plays but his initial reads were often not good. He could still be selected in the first round. Simmons is an impressive pass rusher, full of potential, and someone to target later in your IDP drafts.
Jachai Polite, DE Florida
Polite was projected as a first-round talent before the NFL Scouting Combine but the process sunk his draft pedigree. He had some bad interviews, then his workouts didn’t look good. The tape on him is impressive – he has a lightning-fast initial burst, his use of moves in instinctive, and he uses a diverse array of moves to set up blockers and make plays.
Polite is a strong run defender and his pursuit speed is impressive. The biggest knock is maturity and adding some weight and power would help him immensely as well. He could still sneak into the first round if a team falls in love with him. Polite is a sneaky add later in IDP drafts as well.