Stay­ing in school may pay off for Chubb

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS | FOOTBALL - Lind­say H. Jones

The top edge rush­ing prospects en­ter­ing the NFL draft:

1. Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State (6-4, 269 pounds): He could have 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. 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 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, 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. Pro­jected: po­ten­tial top five

2. Mar­cus Daven­port, Texas-San An­to­nio (6-6, 264): He weighed 198 pounds when he ar­rived for his fresh­man sea­son 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 40-yard dash. NFL teams will likely be im­pressed by his raw ath­leti­cism and, es­pe­cially, his 80-inch wing span. He’ll likely face 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 end in a 4-3. Pro­jected: Round 1

3. Harold Landry, Bos­ton Col­lege (6-3, 252): 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 has work to do to beat big­ger NFL tack­les who can en­velop him, 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 five as a se­nior in 2017, when he missed sev­eral games be­cause of an an­kle in­jury. Pro­jected: Round 1

4. Sam Hub­bard, Ohio State (6-5, 265): He re­placed Joey Bosa, the third over­all pick in the 2016 draft, in Colum­bus. Hub­bard cred­its time spent as Bosa’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. Pro­jected: Round 1-2

5. Lorenzo Carter, Ge­or­gia (6-6, 250): Part of the Bull­dogs’ star-stud­ded line­backer corps, his ver­sa­til­ity should al­low him to play in a va­ri­ety of schemes. Carter most im­me­di­ately projects as a sub pack­age pass rusher, per­haps sim­i­lar to the ca­reer pro­gres­sion of for­mer Ge­or­gia team­mate and cur­rent Chicago Bear Leonard Floyd. Carter has im­pres­sive speed, run­ning a 4.5-sec­ond 40yard dash at the com­bine, and had a pro­duc­tive — if not elec­tric — col­lege ca­reer, in­clud­ing 41⁄2 sacks in 2017. Pro­jected: Round 2-3

6. Ar­den Key, LSU (6-6, 238): His most im­por­tant test at the com­bine was among the first: the weigh-in. Key’s weight fluc­tu­ated dra­mat­i­cally at Baton Rouge, and he said he topped out at 280 pounds at his heav­i­est but played last sea­son about 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. Pro­jected: Round 2-3

7. Og­bon­nia Oko­ronkwo, Ok­la­homa (6-1, 242): 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. Pro­jected: Round 3-4

8. Duke Ejio­for, Wake For­est (6-4, 270): He elected to have surgery on a lin­ger­ing shoul­der in­jury in Fe­bru­ary, so teams are re­ly­ing on his film. Ejio­for seems to project best as a de­fen­sive end in a 4-3 base de­fense, though he said he spent some time work­ing as a standup pass rusher last sea­son for the De­mon Dea­cons. Pro­jected: Round 4-5

9. Her­cules Mata’afa, Wash­ing­ton State (6-1, 254): 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. Pro­jected: Round 5-6

Teams in need of edge rush­ers

1. Colts: Their 25 sacks in 2017 were fewest in the AFC. In­di­anapo­lis hasn’t been for­mi­da­ble rush­ing the passer since the days of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

2. Gi­ants: A team that traded Ja­son Pierre-Paul posted only 27 sacks a year ago and is switch­ing de­fen­sive schemes needs help and might con­sider Chubb at No. 2 over­all.

3. Jets: They’ve had one dou­ble-fig­ure sack sea­son in the past four, and that player (Muham­mad Wilk­er­son) is no longer on the team.

4. 49ers: The Nin­ers don’t gen­er­ate enough pres­sure in a divi­sion where the quar­ter­backs will make you pay dearly if you don’t dis­rupt their tim­ing.

5. Pa­tri­ots: The Su­per Bowl loss was fur­ther ev­i­dence that New Eng­land doesn’t have enough elite de­fen­sive tal­ent, es­pe­cially up front.

De­fen­sive end Bradley Chubb blends on-field pro­duc­tion (20 sacks past two sea­sons), size and im­pres­sive com­bine num­bers. JEREMY BREVARD/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

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