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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: EDGE DL prospects
Tomorrow’s planned group: QB prospects
2019 NFL Combine Scouting Preview/Ranking: EDGE
EDGE Wyatt Ray, Boston College (6’2”/250) *Preview Scouting Grade: F+
One of my least favorite tape sessions of all the defenders. Ray has NFL movement skills, but more of a 4-3 OLB, I don’t see any great EDGE ability at all. What I did see was a lot of half-effort…jogging after plays he could have turned it up and maybe caught up to…a lot of standing around and looking after blocked off the snap. I liked nothing about this except I see Ray has NFL size and movement skills…but he looks lazy/disinterested to me.
EDGE Shareef Miller, Penn State (6’3”/244) *Preview Scouting Grade: F+/D-
Did not see much here – a so-so athlete putting his head down and trying to rush the QB every play…he’d get some sacks (8.0 in 2018) but mostly he’d miss/be out of all the plays otherwise because he doesn’t have the radar or (seemingly) the desire to play anything else but rush the passer…and he’s not that great at it.
EDGE Sutton Smith, No. Illinois (6’1”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade: D-
Two-time MAC Defensive Player of the Year. I have no idea how Sutton gets all these sacks…29.0 sacks the past two seasons and 56.6 TFLs. He played 4-3 DE for NIU but isn’t much to look at…but he scratches and claws his way to making plays. I don’t see an NFL EDGE rusher that’s for sure. Maybe he slims down to a safety or becomes a 4-3 OLB, maybe. I just don’t see the size/athleticism obvious for the NFL.
EDGE Gerri Green, Miss State (6’3”/245) *Preview Scouting Grade: D-
I didn’t see anything here. ‘College good’ 4-3 DE, but not ready for primetime NFL edge for me. Maybe there’s more here, but what I saw was very dull.
EDGE Jamal Davis, Akron (6’2”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade: D-
Gotten eaten up by South Carolina in their bowl game. He’s just too small to be a 4-3 DE (what he played for Akron)…fine playing in the MAC conference but he won’t cut it as an EDGE at the next level. Has the look/body of a safety. He’s a 4-3 OLB prospect at best but he doesn’t look all that quick/fast for the transition.
EDGE Justin Hollins, Oregon (6’5”/242) *Preview Scouting Grade: D
Taller, wiry frame…good athlete but WAY too easy for O-Lineman to block out of the play off the EDGE. He has some quickness but didn’t seem to be able to beat better blockers with it. Didn’t have the game/temperament of a 4-3 DE…plays more like a rover or 4-3 OLB. Had a great 2018, statistically, 64 tackles, 14.5 TFLs, 6 PDs, 5 forced fumbles…but a good chunk of his production came early in the schedule against weaker teams.
EDGE Darryl Johnson, NC A&T (6’4”/233) *Preview Scouting Grade: D
2018 MEAC Defensive Player of the Year (19.5 TFLS/10.5 sacks). Looks like he has possible NFL athleticism of the edge. Hard to tell watching him vs. weaker competition/lower-level of college. He didn’t blow me away on his FCS tape, so I’m worried he’s not fast/quick enough for the NFL. He’s wiry, high-effort…but possibly not as gifted as the D1 guys.
EDGE CeCe Jefferson, Florida (6’1”/252) *Preview Scouting Grade: D
Has NFL athleticism, but is too small to play 4-3 DE…like he did for Florida. He looks most comfortable as a pass rusher, but he won’t be a 4-3 DE at 6’1” in the NFL. He needs to move to 3-4 OLB…but I don’t know that he has the game for that. He looks like a full-fledged pass rusher and not really into all the other roles. Tools to work with but they need to be coached/developed.
EDGE Austin Bryant, Clemson (6’5”/260) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+
A head down and try to blitz the backfield every play kinda defender. Did a lot of his damage on stunts, etc. As a pure pass rusher, he’s OK, but seems like a 4.8+ runner. When he did try to play the run or drop into coverage it looked sloppy/slow. He doesn’t look like he’s put in the time in the weight room either.
EDGE Jalen Jelks, Oregon (6’5”/245) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+
Has the size you’re looking for, but the speed is lacking, to my eye…and way too easy to block out of a play as well. He should’ve been a dominant force in college but had 3.5 sacks in 2018…and I didn’t see him getting any special blocking attention. He just doesn’t have much moves/technique or raw speed to get to the QB. Has some upside, potentially.
EDGE Jachai Polite, Florida (6’2”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+/C-
Really nice feet, but undersized as a 4-3 DE for the NFL. If he shifts to 3-4 OLB, I fear he doesn’t have the knack/gift for playing all the facets of an OLB. He wants to be a pass rusher and his quick feet allow him to dodge and burst into backfields…maybe not as likely for him in the NFL. He might be a pass rush specialist 3-4 OLB.
EDGE Malik Carney, UNC (6’2”/245) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+/C-
Undersized 4-3 DE prospect for the NFL. Too small to be a 4-3 DE but doesn’t really play like a 3-4 OLB either. 3-4 OLB would be his best spit but he might be a bit too slow and of a DE-mentality to be an effective OLB.
EDGE Ben Banogu, TCU (6’3”/245) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+/C-
Looks more like a 3-4 OLB who plays the run and pass well but isn’t a great pass rusher/disruptor. He has NFL movement and size, but I didn’t see any real ‘wow’ things on tape.
EDGE Chase Winovich, Michigan (6’3”/255) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+/C-
High energy, high-effort 4-3 DE for Michigan, and was pretty good…but I don’t think he’s an EDGE rusher for the NFL at all. A little too slow. Where he might be a fit is 3-4 ILB. He’s thicker and aggressive like an interior linebacker, potentially.
EDGE Christian Miller, Alabama (6’2”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade: C
Miscast as a 4-3 DE for Alabama in 2018…great opportunity in college, but he’s not an NFL EDGE rusher. Not big enough, powerful enough to be a consistent 4-3 DE menace. He has NFL movement skills…more of a 3-4 OLB…a cover-er and run player who can ‘sneak’ rush the passer. He’ll be useful for the NFL if he wants to grind for it over the years.
EDGE Porter Gustin, USC (6’4”/255) *Preview Scouting Grade: C+/B-
On his last 10 games, Gustin racked up 10.5 sacks…pretty nice pace. The problem is his last 10 games is exactly the total he’s played the last two seasons. An immediate starter/contributor for USC as a freshman, a nice year as a sophomore…ready for huge things ahead and then he’s haunted by nagging injuries cutting his seasons short to 4 and 6 games respectively.
He’s a 4-3 DE pass rusher…has a Clay Matthews vibe, complete with long hair. One of the sleepers of this EDGE class…if he can stay healthy.
EDGE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson (6’4”/260) *Preview Scouting Grade: C+/B-
Ferrell looks like a handful off the edge as a 4-3 DE. Has good feet and real nice length/reach. He has a lot of physical tools and played with great defensive players at Clemson, but Ferrell was not the dominant one…or the standout to me. He never was a total menace. He was obviously better built than most of the guys trying to block him, but he didn’t dominate with this advantage…he was just ‘good’ in college. His body says upside to great, but his play seems a little lacking, as do his stats/numbers.
EDGE Carl Granderson, Wyoming (6’4”/261) *Preview Scouting Grade: C+/B-
Has the body of a B+/A- 4-3 DE prospect…he just looks like the prototypical NFL 4-3 DE. Flashes signs of greatness but mostly I saw ‘good’ but handled by better blockers for the most part. A lot of great raw tools to work with here. He can also drop into coverage pretty well from time-to-time.
EDGE Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion (6’3”/255) *Preview Scouting Grade: C+/B-
Has NFL size and movement but in games against tougher blockers, he was handled/contained pretty well. Has the raw tools, but the more I watch of him the more I see a lack of ‘moves’/technique to get to the backfield. If he can’t outrun the blocker, he’s in trouble. Has upside, but not as ready-made as I thought back during Senior Bowl previews.
EDGE Jaylon Ferguson, La. Tech (6’4”/260) *Preview Scouting Grade: B
I’m on the fence with Ferguson. Watching him against Miss State, to watch him against SEC blockers…they mostly contained him. But there were a couple of instances where he just used his superior footwork to get past his blocker and land a hit/sack on the QB. That’s the thing with Ferguson that I didn’t fully appreciate on my first watch – he has some juke moves that breaks defender’s ankles. Straight up he’s easy enough to block, but every so often he goes this crossover move and the blocker can’t keep up with it and…boom.
Ferguson might be an ‘A’ or a ‘C’. Have to wait until his Pro Day to find out. He’ got invited to the Combine but cannot participate because of a fight/arrest he had at a McDonald’s his freshman year. Unreal.
EDGE D’Andre Walker, Georgia (6’3”/245) *Preview Scouting Grade: B
I like his movement skills and athleticism very much. A very natural athlete. Will test with higher-end speed, I bet. Played 4-3 DE for Georgia, in the tape I watched. Rushed the passer with speed, needs to add moves for the NFL. Played the pass and run well…has 3-4 OLB ability for sure. The Combine might really launch his draft prospects.
EDGE Jordan Brailford, Oklahoma St. (6’3”/250) *Preview Scouting Grade: B/B+
Great get-off on the snap…such quick feet. He showed that and then some at the East-West Shrine game. Watching more tape of him this week – he played 4-3 DE primarily but sometimes was moved to middle linebacker as a wrinkle…a 4-3 DE working as an 4-3 ILB, not something you see every day. I like his game and movement skills. He’s going to be a nice NFL starter somewhere.
EDGE Brian Burns, Florida State (6’4”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade: A-
Sleeper pick to put up a better all-around set of numbers at the Combine than Josh Allen. As good a jump off the snap as you’ll find in this class…like he’s a WR playing the EDGE. He plays/looks like a 4-3 DE…rushes the passer most every snap, which you want with his skill set.
29.0 TFLs the past two seasons and 10.0 sacks in 2018. Amazing closing speed to get to TFLs and sacks.
EDGE Montez Sweat, Miss State (6’6”/245) *Preview Scouting Grade: A-
In the argument for top EDGE rusher, top defensive prospect in this draft. He has it all – top size and reach/wingspan and speed/agility. Can rush the passer but also drop off into coverage or play the run. He showed ability on tape and at the Senior Bowl week. He’s a very good defender with elite attributes. ‘A+’ is on the table, but we have to see the Combine results.
EDGE Josh Allen, Kentucky (6’4”/260) *Preview Scouting Grade: A
Cat quick 4-3 DE. Could be a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. So quick in pursuit. Doesn’t just put his head down and rush the passer/backfield. Allen drops into coverage and plays the run solidly as well. He has the size-speed to be a legit Pro Bowl EDGE rusher. Whether he is an A- or A+ (or ‘A’) depends upon his Combine numbers.