2018 NFL Draft: Top 10 Defensive Sleepers
By Michael Stewart @golderbad
Introduction: Keeping up with last week’s addition of offensive sleepers in the draft; we now focus on the defensive side of the ball and I have collected my top 10 defensive sleepers who I believe will not only make an NFL roster, but be a major contributor in their first season.
* Kentavius Street (DT/DE) 6’3/285 North Carolina State: Street strength is off the charts, 700 lbs squat (without knee raps), cleans 400 lbs and bench presses 475 lbs. Now a players physical strength doesn’t always translate into a prospect who play football; however; Street can play inside or outside along the DL and has a high motor and plays mean. Lacks the athleticism of his teammate Bradley Chubb, which is not a knock on Street who ran a sub 4.6 forty yard dash. Worth taking in the 6th round and give him time to adjust to the overall NFL game.
* Nyles Morgan (ILB) 6’1/245 Notre Dame: A key component to the Notre Dame defense’s 4-2-5 defense, Morgan has been a team leader for much of his college career. However, he was stripped of his captain’s C before his final game, something he will have to explain during interviews with teams. A “move forward” linebacker that shows superb recognition skills for where the play is going, and a determined and effective tackler. May best fit with a 3-4 defense as the inside linebacker that controls the gaps, allowing the other inside linebacker to make plays.
* Kameron Kelly (CB) 6’2/195 San Diego State: A big, physical defender with the confidence and ball skills to be a difference maker in the NFL. Kelly played three seasons at cornerback before switching to safety last season. His size and length will have teams hoping he can move back to the corner position at the pro level to play against bigger and more physical receivers.
* Siren Neal (S) 6’1/206 Jacksonville State: After a position change coming into the 2017, Neal has shown that he is the type of versatile defensive back / linebacker prospect that defensive coordinators need to limit matchup problems. An aggressive and technique sound tackler, he excels near the line of scrimmage, but has also shown some solid cover skills. Can play nickel, outside corner, safety, and linebacker in the right defense. Possesses all of the “super safety” skills needed in today’s NFL, but is fairly limited playing deep coverage.
* Chad Thomas (DE) 6’5/278 Miami: Thomas has exceptional measurables and will be a draft process / NFL Combine stand out prospect. The body frame to speed ratio along will get the attention of scouts, and his explosion numbers (vertical + bench reps + broad jump) could be off the charts. The issue with Thomas is going to be his consistency. At times he looks like an early first round prospect, and then disappears for long stretches of games, and over the course of multiple games.
* PJ Hall (DT) Sam Houston State: A small school standout, P.J. Hall has been terrorizing offensive backfields all year long, often attracting triple teams to just keep in contained. While first getting success with a bull rush move that offensive linemen that he faced couldn’t contain, as he garnered move attention from double and triple teams, has worked on his technique and has shown better footwork and a variety of pass rush moves. Played most of his career undersized as an NFL DT, but has added enough good weight and hasn’t lost a step to compete for a roster spot as possibly a three technique if he can show that he has explosiveness needed for that position
* Jeremy Reeves(S) South Alabama: Reeves is a prodigiously productive defensive back, Reaves is always around the ball, making tackles, getting interceptions, or breaking up passes. A running back in high school that switched to defense because he was too easy to tackle, he started to excel once he was the one initiating contact. Fast, agile, and with a solid frame that could stand to use more bulk. A reliable and willing tackler, he is a versatile safety prospect that won’t be exposed in coverage or close to the line of scrimmage
* Matthew Thomas (OLB) Florida State: Thomas has the height and speed that will entice teams to draft him in the late rounds with the hopes of developing his game. Is a high potential prospect with rare open field explosiveness for a linebacker along with good height and the opportunity to pack on more muscle. However, doesn’t flash on tape and hasn’t made many eye opening plays through his time at Florida State.
* Kemoko Turay (DE) Rutgers: Turay is oozing with upside thanks to his physical tools. He has the ideal frame, long arms, athleticism and technique. Turay is the king of prospect any team would covet in the later rounds and develop.
* Tre Flowers (S) Oklahoma State: Flowers has long armed, tall safety prospect with good overall football instincts. Sees plays quickly and closes on receivers in time to make plays on the ball. Not very fluid in open space and lacks the necessary strength to be a productive tackler. Could put on strength and work on agility to improve draft stock.
Final Thoughts: There will be a lot of players chosen in the later rounds that could make an impact with their respective team. The NFL seems to have more players in the draft that fall into this category more than any other sport for some strange reason.