While Myles Garrett, Marshon Lattimore, Jamal Adams, and Haasan Reddick have the tools to be big time playmakers in the NFL, there is a lot of defensive potential to be found deeper in the draft. Below are a hand full of less-talked-about athletes who could be household names shortly.
LB Elijah Lee 6’3” 228 Kansas State (3rd or 4th Round Projection)
Long and lean, Elijah Lee is effective against both the run and the pass. He was extremely productive with 110 tackles and a pair of interceptions in 2016. To maximize his potential, Lee will need to get better at shedding blocks at the next level.
S John Johnson 6’ 208 Boston College (3rd or 4th Round Projection)
Last year Denver Broncos’ safety Justin Simmons impressed in his rookie season. This year his fellow Boston College Eagle John Johnson looks to do the same. Johnson is an excellent zone player who has experience playing corner as well as safety. He plays well against both the run and the pass and is at his best in deep field coverage. In 2015 Johnson had 61 tackles and three interceptions. This year as a senior he totaled 77 tackles and three interceptions.
DE Trey Hendrickson 6’4” 266 Florida Atlantic (3rd or 4th Round Projection)
Trey Hendrickson has good size but not great size and does not have the fast twitch speed that is coveted in edge rushers. What he does have is an excellent repertoire of pass rush moves. Hendrickson is a playmaker is known for causing fumbles and blocking kicks. During the 2016 season, he had 51 tackles and 9.5 sacks.
DE Keionta Davis 6’3” 271 Tennessee-Chattanooga (4th or 5th Round Projection)
A big man from a small school. That may be the most eloquent way to describe Keionta Davis. Davis was extremely productive at the FCS level recording 34 sacks over the last three seasons. Although he is shorter than you would like a defensive end to be, with his bulk he can play inside and out, adding to his value.
LB Steven Taylor 6’1” 224 Houston (4th or 5th Round Projection)
Although he’s not the fastest linebacker you’ll find, Steven Taylor has a knack for making plays. With experience playing both inside and outside backer, Taylor has been extremely productive with 166 tackles, 30.5 TFLs, and 18.5 sacks over the last two seasons. He could be a good fit as a 4-3 middle backer or possible as a 3-4 outside backer.
LB Harvey Langi BYU 6’2” 251 (4th or 5th Round Projection)
Harvey Langi is a big physical linebacker who can make plays all over the field. At times he seems a little slow to react and has struggled with tackling technique, but he has the physical tools to develop into an excellent pro. Langi had 125 tackles, 6.5 sacks and two interceptions over the last two seasons.
CB Jalen Myrick 5’10” 200 Minnesota (4th or 5th Round Projection)
In a deep class of defensive backs, Jalen Myrick made himself noticed running a 4.28 40 at the combine. Myrick has excellent man coverage skills and can align out wide or in the slot. He is an aggressive tackler and had 41 tackles as a senior including 3.5 for a loss. Myrick had 11 pass breakups on the season, but only one interception.
CB Channing Stribling 6’1” 188 Michigan (5th or 6th Round Projection)
Jabrill Peppers and Jourdin Lewis get all the attention in Michigan’s secondary, but it was Channing Stribling who led the team with four interceptions as a senior. Running a 4.6 40 at the combine certainly didn’t help Stribling’s draft status, but his size and playmaking ability make him intriguing. He could match up well in the NFL against larger receivers or with his long frame succeed in a zone system.
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin 6’ 230 Tennessee (5th or 6th Round Projection)
There are two major issues with Jalen Reeves-Maybin. The first is the shoulder injury which required surgery and sidelined him for the majority of the season. The second is his that he does not have ideal size. Reeves-Maybin is athletic and loves to play downhill. He is best outside of the box and may be effective replacing a larger slower linebacker in substitution packages. He has excellent coverage skills and can contribute on special teams.
S Kia Nacua 6’2” 215 BYU (6th Round to Free Agent Projection)
Some players just always seem to be around the ball. Kai Nacua is one of those players. He is not the fastest or most fluid player on the board, but he can read the quarterback and knows how to make plays.