Finalized Defensive Grades

I’ve teased it, and talked about it, and it’s time. After dropping my offensive grades earlier this week, here are my finalized defensive grades as of March 26th. Obviously I have more prospects to watch, so the rankings could theoretically change, but all the grades are final. Tell me what you love and what you hate in the comments or on Twitter (@HindenburgScout)!

INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN

Christian Barmore. Via rolltide.com
  1. Marvin Wilson, Florida State- I’m aware this is considered a hot take, but I will stand by it. When healthy, Wilson has the best tape in this class. He’s not without risk. Wilson earned a late first round grade and the only first round grade of the group.
  2. Christian Barmore, Alabama- Barmore finished the 2020 season with a stretch of high level play. A very athletic big man who should be a solid contributor as a rookie this upcoming fall. Barmore earned an early day 2 grade.
  3. Levi Onwurzurike, Washington- Onwurzurike is a player you draft hoping that his best football is ahead of him. He earned an early day 2 grade.
  4. Marlon Tuipulotu, USC- Tuipulotu, like much of this class, has inconsistent film with just enough flashes to draw you in. He’s scheme versatile which helps his overall grade. He earned a mid day 2 grade.
  5. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa- Nixon generated quite a bit of hype on Draft Twitter at one point in the process. While he has some traits to work with, he’s a bit raw and will need to improve as an all around player to find significant playing time. Nixon earned a late day 2 grade.
  6. Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA- Odighizuwa has the ability to generate serious pressure from the interior. The concerns about his ability to be strong at the point of attack and be consistent in the run game are warranted. He earned a late day 2 grade.
  7. Alim McNeill, NC State- McNeill is a powerful space eating lineman who will absolutely be coveted by some teams. His limitations to generate interior pressure brings his grade to a late day 2 range.
  8. Jay Tufele, USC- Tufele is highly regarded by some people who’s work I respect. While I see the appeal, I don’t see an every down player or difference maker. Best suited to a rotational role, Tufele earned a late day 2/early day 3 grade.
  9. Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina- This is the biggest projection in the group, and Jackson will be one of the few players listed at multiple positions on draft boards. In Mobile, he looked explosive and strong at the point of attack when playing an interior role. Given a unique physical frame and plus athleticism, this is my preferred spot for Jackson. It won’t be a seamless or fast transition becoming an every down player on the interior, but the potential upside earned him a late day 2/early day 3 grade.
  10. Bobby Brown, Texas A&M- Brown isn’t getting nearly the attention he deserves. Inconsistency is an issue. He projects to be a starter relatively early in his career if he improves. Brown earned an early day 3 grade.
  11. Khyiris Tonga, BYU- Tonga is likely limited to a two down nose tackle early in his career, but has the chance and athleticism to grown beyond that. With one of the higher upsides in the class, Tonga earned an early day 3 grade.
  12. Julian Twyman, Pittsburgh- Twyman had one of the more disappointing Pro Days to date. The tape shows a player with the ability to generate pressure from an interior role, while struggling to stay on his feet and maintain gap discipline in the run game. Twyman earned a mid day 3 grade.
  13. Tyler Shelvin, LSU- Shelvin was a surprise declaration and opt out. He’s got athleticism but the tape shows a project who likely will not make an impact for quite some time. He’ll find a limited rotational role somewhere. Shelvin earned a late day 3 grade.

EDGE

Kwitty Paye. via mgoblue.com
  1. Kwitty Paye, Michigan- Paye is the cream of the crop in this EDGE class. Strong against the run and athletic enough to win outside, he’ll only get better as his technique is refined at the next level. Paye earned a top 10 grade.
  2. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia- Ojulari has some of the most impressive reps on film of any pass rusher I’ve evaluated, but it’s not consistent. Will be limited in what he offers in run support early. He projects cleanly to several different roles in a defense. Ojulari earned a first round grade.
  3. Jaelen Phillips, Miami- Phillips is the most refined and pro ready pass rusher in the draft. His inconsistency in the run game drops him here. Some NFL teams will likely have him removed from the draft board entirely due to injury concerns. Phillips earned a first round grade.
  4. Carlos Basham, Wake Forest- Basham has shown that he will make an impact in both phases of the game consistently. Has incredible scheme versatility as he is strong enough to kick inside and put his hand in the dirt and athletic enough to drop into coverage if needed. Basham earned an early day 2 grade.
  5. Patrick Jones, Pittsburgh- Jones was half of a talented duo at Pittsburgh, and should be able to slide into a starting role very early in his NFL career. Shows an impressive array of pass rushing techniques and counters, Solid player against the run. Jones earned an early to mid day 2 grade.
  6. Gregory Rousseau, Miami- Rousseau is one of the more polarizing prospects in the draft. He pass rushes with no plan and wins on pure athleticism which won’t be the case on Sundays. His best course of action may be to bulk up and play inside or as a big end in a 3-4 base, which may be the approach he’s taking based on what I heard in Mobile. Rousseau earned a mid day 2 grade.
  7. Elerson Smith, Northern Iowa- I’m not sure any player who’s season was altered due to Covid-19 helped themselves more than Smith. He played exceptionally well in Mobile and was visibly heavier and stronger than he appeared in 2019. One of my favorite players in this class. Smith earned a mid day 2 grade.
  8. Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma- Perkins has some crazy impressive moments, but is far from a complete player. Consistency is a fair question, particularly against the run. Perkins earned a mid day 2 grade.
  9. Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh- Weaver isn’t as explosive of an athlete on the edge as some teams will prefer, but he is a sound and disciplined football player. Ideally suited for a rotational role. Weaver earned a mid to late day 2 grade.
  10. Joseph Ossai, Texas- Ossai has a ton of fun traits, but doesn’t have a defined role at the next level. He may be better suited to play an off ball backer position and utilized as a pass rusher from there. Some teams will likely try to find him a role as an EDGE to take advantage of his athleticism. Ossai earned a mid to late day 2 grade.
  11. Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame- Perhaps the most underrated defensive prospect in the draft at this juncture, Hayes is as well rounded as anyone. Skillful pass rusher with an impressive arsenal of pass rush moves, disciplined in his responsibilities and consistent in the run game, Hayes is going to be a valuable chess piece somewhere. He earned a mid to late day 2 grade.
  12. Joe Tyron, Washington- Tyron is going to be limited to strictly a rotational pass rusher initially, but he has some serious juice. He earned a late day 2 grade.
  13. Payton Turner, Houston- Turner has impressed at every turn. Very scheme versatile player. Turner earned a late day 2 grade.
  14. Cameron Sample, Tulane- Sample impressed in Mobile and has better tape than some of the more athletically gifted names to follow. He earned a late day 2 grade.
  15. Janarius Robinson, Florida State- Robinson’s film isn’t as impressive as someone as gifted physically as he is should be. His physical profile and untapped potential alone make him worth a gamble earlier than I have him graded, as a late day 2 prospect.
  16. Jayson Oweh, Penn State- The most athletic player on this list is just too raw and lost on the field to earn a higher grade. I fully anticipate him getting drafted well earlier based off of his physical profile, but he graded out as a late day 2/early day 3 prospect.
  17. Quincy Roche, Miami- Roche projects to be a rotational speed rusher only right now. Needs to get much stronger at the point of attack and improve as a run defender to earn significant snaps. Roche earned an early day 3 grade.
  18. William Bradley-King, Baylor- King is a long and twitchy athlete who has a great chance to improve drastically in the NFL. He earned an early day 3 grade.
  19. Joshua Kaindoh, Florida State- Much like his counterpart above, Kaindoh has a tremendous physical profile but lacks the production one would expect. He needs to develop counters as a pass rusher and get stronger at the point of attack. Kaindoh earned an early to mid day 3 grade.
  20. Shaka Toney, Penn State- Toney is a player I expect to transition to an off ball linebacker position rather than a true EDGE. He lacks the strength required. He graded out as a mid day 3 prospect.

LINEBACKERS

Zaven Collins. via tulsahurricane.com
  1. Micah Parsons, Penn State- He’s not the complete package some bill him to be, but he has the chance to turn into one of the best defenders in the league. Off field is a bigger question than on it. Parsons earned a first round grade.
  2. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame- JOK is probably my favorite overall defender in the draft. He’s a chess piece capable of playing anywhere in the back end at a high level. He plays every snap at a million miles an hour, and earned a top 10 grade.
  3. Zaven Collins, Tulsa- Collins is a sideline to sideline defender and capable of manning any linebacker spot across any scheme. His coverage abilities are a bit of a projection. His best role will be an off ball Sam backer who is heavily utilized as a pass rusher. Collins earned a first round grade.
  4. Baron Browning, Ohio State- One of the best kept secrets in the draft, Baron Browning’s athleticism and rounded skill set will translate right away. He’s shown the ability to blitz effectively, mirror tight ends and backs in coverage and navigate through traffic in the run game. He earned a first round grade.
  5. Jabril Cox, LSU- Everything I said about Browning is true of Jabril Cox. He may be the best cover linebacker in the draft. He’s a three down player immediately and earned a first round grade.
  6. Pete Werner, Ohio State- Werner is going to be an immediate impact player at the next level. Scheme versatile, he may be best suited inside. Werner earned an early day 2 grade.
  7. Jamin Davis, Kentucky- Davis has some extremely impressive film and I know some people who are very high on him and believe he’ll translate to an every down starter almost immediately. Davis earned an early to mid day 2 grade.
  8. Nick Bolton, Missouri- Bolton makes several splash plays on film, but may be limited to a two down role the majority of time. Bolton earned a mid day 2 grade.
  9. Dylan Moses, Alabama- If Dylan Moses returns to the level of play he had prior to a torn ACL, he’ll be the steal of the draft. His 2020 film wasn’t very encouraging, and the team drafting him is taking a bit of a gamble. Moses earned a mid day 2 grade.
  10. Chazz Surratt, North Carolina- Surratt is still visibly raw to the position. He failed to take a step forward in 2020 after a promising 2019 campaign. He is limited athletically and size wise, but he plays hard whistle to whistle. Better as a coverage backer than being relied on to navigate through traffic and make an impact in the run game. Surratt earned a mid to late day 2 grade.
  11. Tony Fields, West Virginia- Fields is an athletic prospect capable of helping in pass coverage immediately, and is one of the safer bets to develop into an every down player relatively quickly. Fields may be one of the more under the radar prospects in the media, but the NFL is likely to be higher on him. Fields earned a late day 2 grade.
  12. Charles Snowden, West Virginia- One of the more unique players in the group, I’m really not sure where he plays at the next level. Has shown the ability rush the passer and has done well in coverage at times as well. Finding a role to suit him won’t be easy for some schemes. Snowden earned a late day 2 grade.
  13. KJ Britt, Auburn- Britt is a tone setter at the position, but his lack of coverage ability hurts his role at the next level. He earned a late day 2/early day 3 grade.
  14. Monty Rice, Georgia- Rice has the physical profile to develop into a role player. Rice earned an early to mid day 3 grade.
  15. Riley Cole, South Alabama- Cole has good football IQ and is a sure tackler. Will need to find a role on special teams to earn the time to develop into a role player at the linebacker position. Cole earned a mid to late day 3 grade.
  16. Paddy Fisher, Northwestern- Fisher excels in the box and in run support, but lacks the requisite athleticism to play meaningful snaps at the next level. He graded out as a priority UDFA.
  17. Tuf Borland, Ohio State- Borland lacks the requisite athleticism to play meaningful snaps at the NFL level. He graded out as an UDFA.

CORNERBACKS

Jaycee Horn. via gamecocksonline.com
  1. Patrick Surtain, Alabama- The film and the testing say the same thing, Surtain is a high level corner prospect. While not on the level of a prospect like Jalen Ramsey, he is going to be CB1 wherever he goes from day one. Surtain earned a first round grade.
  2. Jaycee Horn, South Carolina- Horn is barely behind Surtain on my scale. An elite athlete, once he betters his technique and is a little less handsy with receivers in the open field he will be an absolute stud. Horn earned a first round grade.
  3. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech- Farley’s film grade placed him here, his injury concerns nearly pushed him lower. Has all the tools to be an elite corner at the next level. Farley did earn a first round grade.
  4. Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State- The people who believe he can’t play outside are wrong. Samuel earned a very high day 2 grade.
  5. Eric Stokes, Georgia- An extremely athletic prospect who improved greatly from 2019 to 2020. Stokes earned an early day 2 grade.
  6. Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse- Melifonwu has the potential to be one of the best players in the class from a value standpoint. Some teams may prefer him at safety, but he has the athleticism and hips to play corner in either a man heavy or zone heavy scheme. He earned an early to mid day 2 grade.
  7. Greg Newsome, Northwestern- Newsome has some of the best hips in the class and top flight athleticism. He’s a starting corner to be found later than normal due to the overall talent of the group. Newsome earned an early to mid day 2 grade.
  8. Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina- A physical prospect who is massive for the position. He’s not going to excel at everything at the next level, but a team who deploys him correctly will be thrilled with what he offers. Mukuamu earned a mid day 2 grade.
  9. Aaron Robinson, UCF- Robinson is a chippy player likely to be a full time slot corner at the next level. In Mobile, he was able to stay in man coverage on Kadarius Toney in what was my first exposure to him. Very fun player. Robinson earned a mid day 2 grade.
  10. Elijah Molden, Washington- Another player ideally suited for the slot in the NFL, Molden has been a playmaker for Washington for some time. He’ll be a valuable member of a secondary on Sundays. Molden earned a mid day 2 grade.
  11. Tyson Campbell, Georgia- Campbell is a tough evaluation. He has all the physical traits for a premier corner. Smooth hips, lateral quickness and the speed to man up vertical threats. His film is inconsistent and he doesn’t play up to the level he should. His traits can’t be ignored, and he earned a mid day 2 grade.
  12. Benjamin St. Juste, Minnesota- St. Juste is a big, physical corner that some teams will covet. Has scheme versatility and the ability to play safety as well. He showed major growth in consistency and technique from 2019 to 2020. St. Juste earned a mid day 2 grade.
  13. Shaun Wade, Ohio State- I’m not sure a player hurt their draft stock more in 2020. Wade was once very high on my board. This past season showed he just isn’t comfortable as a boundary corner. His 2019 film was excellent in the slot. His ball skills, intelligence and strong tackling could mean a transition to safety at the next level. Wade earned a mid to late day 2 grade.
  14. Bryce Thompson, Tennessee- Thompson may be one of the more overlooked prospects at the position. With prototypical size and athleticism, as well as strong ball skills, he could be a steal. I think he can develop into a starting corner at the next level. Thompson earned a late day 2 grade.
  15. Bryan Mills, NC Central- Mills is a developmental prospect with some very high end stretches of play on film. Mills earned a late day 2 grade.
  16. Paulson Adebo, Stanford- Adebo is an athletic prospect who has much more upside than is typically available later in the draft. He earned an early day 3 grade.

SAFETIES

Javon Holland. via goducks.com
  1. Javon Holland, Oregon- Holland’s blend of athleticism, ball skills and instincts on the back end are rare. Scheme versatile and capable of playing man coverage in the slot if asked or roaming the secondary. Holland earned a first round grade.
  2. Trevon Moehrig, TCU- Moehrig is playmaker. Many people who’s work I respect have him ranked as the best available safety. He finished just a hair lower than Holland, and earned an early day 2 grade.
  3. Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State- One of my biggest draft crushes, Nasirildeen is the chess piece so many teams are looking for. Massive for the position and athletic enough to play any role in the secondary. The rise of hybrid players continues here. Nasirildeen earned an early day 2 grade.
  4. Richie Grant, UCF- Grant was the most impressive secondary player in Mobile. Slightly more scheme dependent than some others. Top notch ball skills and a sure tackler, he’ll start as a rookie. Grant earned an early day 2 grade.
  5. Andre Cisco, Syracuse- Always around the football. Cisco should develop into a solid player in the NFL and earned a mid day 2 grade.
  6. Ar’Darius Washington, TCU- Washington has some of the most fun film to watch in the class. His size and scheme dependence are real issues. He’s too talented to grade any lower despite the concerns, and earned a mid to late day 2 grade.
  7. Tyree Gillespie, Missouri- If Gillespie always played to the level he did against Alabama, he’d be a surefire first round pick. Needs to improve as an overall player. Gillespie earned a mid to late day 2 grade.
  8. Jacoby Stevens, LSU- Versatile player who should find a contributing role at the next level eventually. Stevens earned a late day 2/early day 3 grade.
  9. Caden Sterns, Texas- Sterns is solid in coverage for the most part, but doesn’t play with the physicality I’d like to see. He earned an early to mid day 3 grade.
  10. Talanoa Hufanga, USC- Hufanga is a tough projection at the next level. I’m not sure where he fits best. I am sure that he’s talented. Hufanga earned an early to mid day 3 grade.
  11. Richard Lecounte III, Georgia- Lecounte’s film shows an intelligent football player with plus ball skills. The athletic testing confirms he may not be athletic enough to develop into an every down player on Sundays. He earned a mid day 3 grade.
  12. Paris Ford, Pittsburgh- Ford was one of my highest rated players from brief summer scouting. His testing suggests he’s simply not athletic enough for the NFL. His grade is a compromise between athletic ability and film, because I believe his film shows a good football player. I think he can carve out a niche role, and he earned a late day 3 grade.

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