1. Sheldon Rankins (Louisville): He’s definitely a guy to watch for as he continues to climb up many people’s draft boards. Rankins will normally line up in the “A gap” and shows his strength to take on multiple blockers. He can also display the lateral quickness to stunt and loop around the line and can close in on guys in the pocket. He has a relentless motor meaning he is always on the move and does whatever it takes to chase the ball-carrier. He started all 13 games last year for Louisville and recorded 58 tackles, 13 of those for loss and six sacks. I remember watching his tape at the senior bowl this past January and he was unblockable due to his powerful hands to drive offensive linemen back and quick release off the whistle.
2. Jarran Reid (Alabama): He seriously considered entering the draft in 2015 but elected to return back to Tuscaloosa and it paid off. His draft stock has grown considerably and to top it all off, he was a part of a national championship team. He was the anchor of Alabama’s defense. He attacks with strong power and coordination at the point of attack and he changes direction very well for a man of his size. When he comes to tackling, he wants to really bring it to the ball-carrier as he looks to punish and drives himself into the tackle and finishes through the whistle.
3. Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss): There was much hype surrounding him as he was the consensus top recruit out of high school. Due to some inconsistency, he didn’t really live up to it bit when he showed flashes of what he’s able to do, the ceiling is high. He has a tremendous skill set for his size. At 6’3 and 294 pounds, he has above average athleticism, he uses lower body fluidity to skirt blockers and shift in different directions. He plays very low to the ground and uses leverage to beat blockers. He has a versatile skill set to play inside on the defensive line and outside on the edge.
4. A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama): He fits the description of most defensive tackles in the game today. He’s well-built, has a powerful core and limbs to simply control the point of attack. He’s not a pass rusher, he’s what I call a “pocket pusher”. He doesn’t have the speed to get after the quarterback necessarily, but he can still effect the pass and collapse the quarterback’s pocket. He has very strong ball awareness as he uses his big hands and long arms to get up in the air and swat the football down. He shows great hip flexibility and body control to work in between tight spaces to make tackles.
5. Andrew Billings (Baylor): He’s a hometown kid that went to Baylor and had success. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen claimed that Billings was one of the best players that he’s ever coached against. That’s some high praise from a coach in conference. He’s a true load in the middle that shows brute power to engage in physical battles with blockers and toss them to the side. He’s often considered a mismatch by the opposing coaches because he’s so difficult to block.