Written by Collyn Foster
This year’s draft was centered around the offense, whether it be the quarterbacks, the deep running backs, or the elusive wide receivers. But the majority of my favorite prospects came from this crop of defensive players. This year’s class of defensive prospects was one of the most athletic and diverse classes we’ve seen in year and their potential is through the roof. Defensive players, no matter how good, are often looked over because of the value of the offensive positions of importance, like QB. A multitude of very good defensive prospects fell in this year’s draft because of the run on quarterbacks, such as Minkah Fitzpatrick, who fell to 11, and Derwin James, who fell to 17. These are two of the best all around football players in this class and they fell because of the emphasis on offense and building the pass game. Big time defensive players fell this year and arguably landed in better situations than they might have if taken higher in the draft. Here are 5 of my favorite landing spots for some of my favorite prospects in this class.
1. Jaire Alexander/Josh Jackson- Green Bay Packers
When it comes to drafting for a team who doesn’t have many holes to fill, I am a big proponent of doubling down and locking down a position for many years. That is exactly what the Packers did in this year’s draft. They grabbed arguably two of the top corners in this year’s draft. Alexander is an athletic playmaker who is electric return man and a stingy defender. He was the 4th rated corners in this class according to PFF (LINK PFF). The top rated corner was Josh Jackson, and the Packers grabbed him in the second round. Jackson is a big, physical defender who had arguably the best ball skills in college football last year. The Packers add Alexander and Jackson to an already young secondary, which includes 2nd round picks last year Kevin King and Josh Jones. This Packers secondary is primed to be good for many years to come.
2. Ronnie Harrison- Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags were another team that did not have a lot of holes to fill on their roster, but went best player available with most of their picks. Prior to the draft, many projected them to select Harrison in the first round, but ended up snagging him in the third round. Harrison was a highly touted prospect coming out of Alabama and was one of the unexpected fallers during the draft. Harrison is a physical, downhill player who is very effective in the run game and can cover a multitude of positions in coverage. The Jaguars aren’t in dire need of safety help, but Harrison can still come in and be an effective tool for them in certain sub packages because of his annept ability to play in the box and bring the hammer in the run game. Harrison is in line to become the heir apparent to Barry Church, who is getting up there in age and Harrison can be the perfect replacement for him in a year or two when he decides to hang up his cleats.
3. Tremaine Edmunds/Harrison Phillips- Buffalo Bills
The Bills needed a lot of help this offseason after losing a number of pieces to free agency and through trades, they had a number of holes to fill. They went out and traded up to grab their new franchise quarterback in Josh Allen and also the franchise quarterback of their defense, Tremaine Edmunds. Edmunds is an uber athletic linebacker who can run sideline to sideline and make plays all over the field. His most popular pro comparison has been Brian Urlacher, and anytime a player is compared to someone of that caliber, he has to be given a long look at. After watching his tape, I am fully convinced that he can become a true difference maker on the defense. Another player the Bills added that caught my eye was Harrison Phillips. The long time mainstay of the Bills defense has been Kyle Williams, and he has been a consistent anchor in the middle of the Bills defense for years. With Williams coming to the end of his career, the Bills added basically the same player in Phillips. He was the anchor of the Stanford defense the past few seasons and I expect him to do the same for the Bills. The Bills still have a lot of holes to fill on this roster, but I feel like they got a very good head start by adding Phillips and Edmunds.
4. Denzel Ward- Cleveland Browns
Over the past few seasons the NFL has become a pass heavy league and the emphasis on passers and pass catchers is more prominent than ever before. And the Browns recognized this with their second pick in the first round, selecting Denzel Ward. Ward was the top cornerback in the 2018 class, he uses his phenomenal ball skills and physicality to over power and knock receivers off their line. His long arms allow him to make up for his lack of height (5’11”). The Browns added a couple different pieces to this secondary during the offseason, including Damarious Randall, and EJ Gaines and second year player Jabrill Peppers. The Browns added Randall from the Packers who played corner and it was announced that he will make the switch to Free safety, that not only opens up Peppers to play his more natural strong safety position but also Ward to start at one of the corner positions. In a league that is centered around the pass, adding pass defenders is becoming one of the most important positions on the team, and the Browns added a damn good one in Ward.
5. Bradley Chubb- Denver Broncos
Like I mentioned for the Packers, I am a big fan of making your strengths even stronger in the draft if you’re fortunate enough to have the chance. The Broncos were sitting at the 5th pick in the first round and reportedly had a deal in place to move back with the Bills, until the 5th pick care around. Bradley Chubb was on the board, and the pick was in before the previous pick could leave the stage. The Broncos added arguably the best defender and one of the best overall players in the draft to go along with the best edge defender in the league in Von Miller. To go along with Miller and Chubb, the Broncos also have Shaq Barnett and Shane Ray to create one of the most dynamic and consistent pass rush units on any team. The Broncos have their bookend edge defenders that can both rush the passer and play the run effectively. Chubb is a big, physical prospect who has good athleticism for his size. I expect the Broncos to have one of the best pass rushes in the league for the next few years, and if I’m an OT on any team playing the Broncos, I’m terrified.