Preseason 2016 NFL Draft Watch: Defensive Line

Top Tier

Ohio State’s Joey Bosa is the favorite to be the first overall pick in the 2016 draft and is already receiving JJ Watt comparisons. The Buckeye end is one of the best lineman in the country as a result of his great athletic ability and even greater refinement of his game. When rushing the passer, he displays good swim, rip and spin moves to keep tackles off-balance. As a run defender, Bosa is stout and can shed offensive lineman to take on ball carriers.

Like Bosa, Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah is an extremely refined player. He is not the athlete Bosa is, but Ogbah does all the little things right. Against the run, he is stout and Oklahoma State has used him at nose tackle on a few occasions even though he is listed as an end. Ogbah has a good motor and can effectively dip around blockers to reach the quarterback.

Robert Nkemdiche came to Ole Miss with high expectations, after being ranked as the number one high school senior in the country. The statistical results have been mixed, but Nkemdiche will likely be a top-15 selection if he keeps up his current rate of play. At 293 pounds, Nkemdiche plays tackle even though his speed is that of a much smaller player. He is also incredibly strong with a great bull rush. The only concern with Nkemdiche is his technique against the run, in which he won’t square his shoulders to the line of scrimmage, making it easy for offensive lineman to move him.

The top nose tackle in the 2016 draft figures to be Alabama tackle A'Shawn Robinson. Robinson’s game is all about stopping the run. He is built enough to hold a double team, while also showing enough agility to disengage and take down the ball carrier. As with most bigger tackles, endurance is a bit of a concern, and Robinson is not nearly as good against the pass as he is against the run.

Other players to watch include: Shawn Oakman: DE, Baylor, Montavius Adams: DT, Auburn, Deforest Buckner: DE, Oregon, Jordan Jenkins: DE, Georgia.

Mid-Round and Sleepers

Penn State end Anthony Zettel made off-season headlines when he sacked a tree on video. Zettel is extremely quick with excellent snap anticipation, allowing him to shoot the gap between offensive linemen. Zettel also has an excellent motor. He is solid in the run game, but he can struggle when teams run directly at him.

Even though Baylor has historically been known for its offense, it could have two defenders drafted early in 2016 with Oakman and tackle Andrew Billings. If Billings shows the ability to finish plays more often, his stock could go through the roof. He displays good strength and quickness in both the run and pass game.

Other names include: Shilique Calhoun: DE, Michigan State, Darius Hamilton: DE, Rutgers, Sheldon Day: DT, Notre Dame.

Best of the Rest

Nebraska nose tackle Vincent Valentine will be an interesting prospect going forward. At the moment, Valentine is much better against the run where he uses his size and quickness to be a disruptive force. He has little value against the pass, not yet having shown the ability to translate his size into a good bull-rush.

Valentine’s teammate, tackle Maliek Collins, is the complete opposite. Collins game is all about using speed and quickness to shoot the gap on running plays, and he shows more skill as a pass rusher. However, Collins is not nearly as successful against the run.

Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper looks like a solid two-down run stuffer at the NFL level. For a defensive end, he is incredibly stout and even shows the ability to be double-teamed but not concede any ground to blockers. He looks okay as a pass rusher but is not the type of player who will win based on speed.

Bronson Kaufusi from BYU is one of the more versatile players in the group, having spent most of his career at outside linebacker. As a pass rusher, Kaufusi has a good swim move to get past offensive lineman but does not have great speed or first step to make much of an impact aside from his swim. He looks solid as a run defender but appears better sui ted to rush the passer than take on running backs.

Other players to watch: Jonathan Bullard: DE, Florida, Drew Ott: DE, Iowa, Adolphus Washington: DT, Ohio State, Luther Maddy: DT, Virginia Tech. 

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