For the weeks leading up to the NFL Combine event (late Feb.), I go through preview tape of all the prospects attending/invited and give a quick reaction grade and a few sentences on what I’m seeing – a quick guide, of sorts, of what we’re focusing on watching at the event.
It’s a quick eye-test reaction, and grading/scouting typed in pencil. The NFL Combine measurables can/do change things radically for some of the prospects…there’s always a nice (or disappointing) surprise or ten.
After the 2019 NFL Combine results are in, we can load all the results into our computer scouting models to marry up with our performance analytics -- and then start our detailed studies on the top prospects and computer-model sleepers at each position.
Every day for the two weeks leading up to the 2019 NFL Combine we will release another positional preview of the prospects, ranked by our early grades applied.
Today’s group: ‘DTs’ (just defensive tackles)
Tomorrow’s planned group: DE prospects (not EDGE DEs)
2019 NFL Combine Scouting Preview/Ranking: DT
DT Demarcus Christmas, Florida State (6’3”/300) *Preview Scouting Grade: D
Looks like an up-and-down 4-3 DT. Has moments where he shows quickness but wears down quickly and has to take plays off. He’s a big body that takes up space and makes some plays occasionally but gets blocked by better O-Lineman easily. He wasn’t very productive in college either. I don’t see much hope here as a 3-4 DE either.
DT Albert Huggins, Clemson (6’2”/308) *Preview Scouting Grade: D
Big presence as a 4-3 DT, but watching his tape puts you to sleep. He barely gets in on plays. He doesn’t have a great power move or nice foot speed to rely on…he’s just a big guy who makes a push off the snap and then you never notice him again.
DT Byron Cowart, Maryland (6’3”/297) *Preview Scouting Grade: D
Played three ‘nothing’ seasons at Auburn and then transferred to Maryland and had a ‘meh’ season. Cowart has size and some athleticism, but I don’t see a ton of production on tape or on a stat sheet. He’s usually just stuck in the middle of the line of scrimmage ‘existing’.
DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson (6’3”/355) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-
A big dude who can plug up the middle. Fast for his size, but still slow moving in the interior…a warm body to plug up the middle of the line with. No special performances in college and did fail a drug test.
DT Greg Gaines, Washington (6’2”/320) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-
He’s a big dude. At the Senior Bowl, sometimes, he was unblockable by his sheer force of nature. On the football field, in live action (not Senior Bowl drills) he looks/plays a little slow/blocky. He’s a nice plugger up the middle, but unless he’s got speed that I didn’t realize…he’s going to likely be a rotational DT/run stopper type.
DT Keke Kingsley, Texas A&M (6’3”/295) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-
Played 4-3 DE on the tape I was watching but looks like a better fit at 4-3 DT at his size…and he’s too slow/no moves as a DE rusher off the edge. May be an OK 3-4 DE, but I didn’t see anything special from his DE work at Texas A&M which would get me excited about him as an NFL DE. He does have some athleticism for his size and long arms, which are a plus as a 3-4 DE. There are things here to work with but no ‘wow.
DT Dontavius Russell, Auburn (6’2”/323) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-
Really nice feet for his size. His tape is better than his stat sheets/production numbers. He’s a solid piece for an NFL defensive line interior. Not an All-Pro, but solid/useful.
DT Chris Slayton, Syracuse (6’3”/315) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-
Can really get off the snap and move for his size. A nice 4-3 DT prospect. Nothing really stood out with him, but you could see he’s got an NFL body and skills to play in a rotation as a 4-3 DT.
DT Armon Watts, Arkansas (6’5”/298) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-/C
Nothing for three seasons and then a breakout performance in 2018…7.0 sacks, one of the leaders in sacks among DTs in college football. I see nice size and movement skills. Not sure why he is rated so poorly by scouting services. I haven’t gone deeper on character, etc., yet – but on the surface he looks like a draftable 4-3 DT.
DT Daniel Wise, Kansas (6’3”/290) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-/C
I watched him working as a 3-4 DE on tape, and he seems miscast there. His body looks like a future 4-3 DT. He had 28.0 TFLs total the past two years, which isn’t to be sneezed at. He looks good-not-great.
DT Terry Beckner, Missouri (6’3”/305) *Preview Scouting Grade: C
Hard to grade…Beckner is big, sloppy in his play, stands around too much but he’s also ‘big’ and can really move. He has fast feet. He could be a menace, but I see him quitting after he’s blocked right away…stands and looks around and misses plays. He’s big but no great definition in his arms…like he’s just big and fast, and knows it, and doesn’t do much besides relying on his God-given physical tools.
On one hand he’s a possibly bust, on the other…what if someone got a hold him, transformed his body and effort to match his size and speed? Thus the middle of the road ‘C’ grade.
DT Khalen Sanders, W. Illinois (6’0”/318) *Preview Scouting Grade: C+
Big dude known for his ability to do gymnastic running back flips…which is pretty amazing for a 315+ pound man. Has athleticism. Was dominant at the FCS level but not that dominant…not off the charts. Endeared himself to everyone at the Senior Bowl. He’s going to be drafted higher rather than lower because the NFL community really likes him as a person. He’s very likable…and then there’s the backflips at 315+ pounds.
DT Maxx Crosby, E. Michigan (6’5”/265) *Preview Scouting Grade: C+
Very intriguing DE prospect. He’s very ‘long’…long arms, long legs. He has great pass/backfield rush skills to get by defenders with any number of moves, and then reaches out with his long arms to grab ballcarriers or QBs. At first glance, he looks like a skinny TE prospect, but then you see him contorting past blockers on tape and see statistical output (35.5 TFLs, 18.5 sacks, and 8 forced fumbles the past two seasons) and you’re captivated.
His Combine times are critical…it’s either going to push him into a top 150 prospect or possibly doom him to 200+ or UDFA-ville. He doesn’t look the part, so he needs to do something at the Combine to get attention.
DT Renell Wren, Arizona State (6’5”/294) *Preview Scouting Grade: C+/B-
Plays angry, borderline nasty (in a good way). Fires off the line like no other from the class. He really gets a great first step surge, and he’s powerful/a bull as a 4-3 DT, but also worked as a 3-4 NT that was a handful. I like a lot of what I saw here.
DT Daylon Mack, Texas A&M (6’1”/325) *Preview Scouting Grade: C+/B-
A force at defensive tackle. He’s almost unblockable…he will push his blocker backwards off the snap almost every time. He doesn’t accumulate numbers on the stat sheet, but he corrupts the interior to allow others to prosper.
DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson (6’3”/312) *Preview Scouting Grade: B-/B
Just a very solid DT prospect for the NFL. Probably a 1st-round/top 15 or so pick. I’m not sure he’s worthy of a top 15, but he’s good. He may be a touch overrated because ‘Clemson’. He has good energy/effort and has the size and athleticism you want. He’s good but not off-the-charts.
DT Trysten Hill, C. Florida (6’1”/330) *Preview Scouting Grade: B/B+
Boy, is he a fighter. I’m not sure there is a DT prospect in this draft with as much desire/fire off the snap as Hill. He’s a big dude, not that fast but he’s pretty quick for his size and then is relentless trying to get through the line. He’s a guy you want a 3-4 NT or 4-3 DT. He creates problems up the middle. Enjoyable player to watch.
DT Gerald Willis, Miami (6’2”/298) *Preview Scouting Grade: B+
Relentless. I grabbed a random tape to watch and it was him vs. LSU. As it started, 10+ plays in, I’m thinking…not that great. Then I stop and go and look at the game log/stats to see how he did in his LSU game…assuming this was going to be a boring watch – and then I see he had 8 tackles, 4.0 TFLs, and 1.0 TFLs…in his D1 debut game!! 4.0 TFLs…but he almost had 7-8-9 of them. The guy was getting into the backfield all game. I’m smitten but I want to see his Combine numbers. After the LSU game, his numbers were good but nothing like his debut…might have been a debut blip.
DT Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame (6’6”/304) *Preview Scouting Grade: A-
Scary…6’6”/300+ and moves pretty quick lined up as a 4-3 DT. What a menace! He offers a legit DT pushing the line but with reach to try to disrupt passes thrown over the middle. He offers an option as a 3-4 DE as well. His size and versatility make him a coveted prospect.
DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama (6’3”/295) *Preview Scouting Grade: A/A+
He’s as advertised. I don’t think he’s ‘the next Aaron Donald’ but he’s really very good. Very quick feet and just pop-pop gets past interior blockers almost every play. He’s a handful to deal with. Definitely up for debate as the top DT prospect with Ed Oliver and best prospect in the draft. The fact that he’s ‘Alabama’ means he’s likely rated over Oliver on every NFL draft board from actual NFL teams to all the media. I’m an Oliver guy but I could be ‘Team Williams’ after the NFL Combine numbers come in.
DT Ed Oliver, Houston (6’3”/290) *Preview Scouting Grade: A+
The Combine will determine if he’s an A-, A, or A+…or, perhaps, a B+. To my eye, no one moves like Oliver at 290 pounds except Aaron Donald. So, if Oliver is 290 range and runs in the 4.6s…he’s the #1 pick in the draft. If he’s 275 and/or runs 4.7s, then he’s an A-/B+ and maybe a top 10 pick in the draft. There is legit ‘next Aaron Donald’ action here, and the Combine will confirm or deny it.