CHUBB LEADS THE PACK
Here’s a look at the top edge rushing prospects entering the 2018 NFL draft:
1. BRADLEY CHUBB
North Carolina State (6-4, 269)
Lowdown: He could've left school after his junior year but returned, in part, to boost his draft stock. That decision paid off, and it wouldn't be surprising if Chubb is the first defensive player selected, perhaps even in the top five. He's one of the rare prospects who blends on-field production (20 sacks over the past two seasons), size and impressive numbers at the scouting combine that will likely convince NFL teams he can be an impact pass rusher immediately. Chubb had 10 sacks as a senior and 23 tackles for a loss. But he said at the combine that he’s underrated as a run defender, and it should impress teams that he’s equally proud of his ability to chase down running backs as he is rushing the quarterback. Still, Chubb understands that it’s his ability to bring pressure that will most wow teams during the draft process, and he’s pitching himself in meetings with coaches and executives as a “relentless” player who views himself as a combination of all-pros Von Miller and Khalil Mack. So clearly confidence isn’t an issue, either.
2. MARCUS DAVENPORT
Texas-San Antonio (6-6, 264)
Lowdown: He weighed just 198 pounds when he arrived for his freshman year at UTSA but packed on nearly 60 more in the four years since, developing himself from an under-the-radar recruit into a likely first-round pick. Davenport didn’t have a high-profile college career but has made a strong impression during the pre-draft process. He had a strong week at the Senior Bowl, when he got to face the top-tier talent he didn’t always see in college, and then posted impressive numbers at the combine, where he ran a position-best 4.58 40yard dash. NFL teams will likely be im- pressed by his raw athleticism and, especially, his 80-inch wing span. He’ll likely face some questions about whether he projects better as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or if he will be able to play right away as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end in a 4-3.
3. HAROLD LANDRY
Boston College (6-3, 252)
Lowdown: He doesn't have the size of other top edge rushers in this class but makes up for a lack of bulk with speed. Landry said at the combine that he prides himself on his quick first step at the snap. While he might not yet have a refined set of pass rush moves, that speed is a valuable trait that could land him in the first round. Landry’s sack numbers dipped from 16½ in his junior season to just five as a senior in 2017, when he missed several games because of an ankle injury.
4. ARDEN KEY
LSU (6-6, 238)
Lowdown: His most important test at the combine was among the first: The weighin. Key’s weight fluctuated dramatically at Baton Rouge, and he said he topped out at 280 pounds at his heaviest but played last season around 275. At the combine, he managed to get below 240, much closer to where NFL teams will like to see him play professionally in order to harness his athleticism. But now he’ll need to convince those teams that he has the discipline to stay in shape. Key will also have to answer questions about why he left the LSU program for four months last spring. He has declined to publicly discuss the personal reasons for his absence but claims he's been forthcoming in team interviews.
5. SAM HUBBARD
Ohio State (6-5, 265)
Lowdown: He replaced Joey Bosa, the third overall pick in the 2016 draft, in Columbus. Hubbard credits time spent as Bo-
sa’s backup for accelerating his own development. While he might not be able to match Bosa’s sheer athleticism, Hubbard is hoping to impress NFL teams with versatility that could allow him to flourish in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
6. OGBONNIA OKORONKWO
Oklahoma (6-1, 242)
Lowdown: He doesn't match the stature of peers likely to be picked well ahead of him. But Okoronkwo's college production (17 sacks, 29 TFLs since 2016) is certainly impressive enough.
7. DUKE EJIOFOR
Wake Forest (6-4, 270)
Lowdown: He elected to have surgery on a lingering shoulder injury in February and won't be able to work out for teams before the draft. Ejiofor seems to project best as a defensive end in a 4-3 base defense, though he said he spent some time work- ing as a standup pass rusher last season for the Demon Deacons.
8. HERCULES MATA'AFA
Washington State (6-1, 254) Lowdown: One of the more intriguing edge rushers in this draft, he spent much of his college career as an undersized interior defensive lineman. But at his weight, he won't make it as an NFL defensive tackle, so the logical progression is for him to move him outside. He’s trying to sell NFL teams on his versatility and that his experience inside should be an asset instead of a reason to downgrade him.
Texas-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport is moving up NFL draft boards.