For the past year, and some change, everyone with a draft pulse talked about the potential in this defensive line draft class and there’s little question that there’s more depth at this position than any other on the defensive side of the ball in 2019. But, like all the defensive units in this draft class, plenty of defenders have something to prove in some way, shape or form in Indianapolis. Here are those that I think could move around draft boards as the “answers” to these “questions” are revealed.
Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver - “...and the scale says what?”
Oliver will probably come in around 280 lb. That’s not tremendous. It’s not a red flag. It honestly can be both. I get the feeling teams know exactly what he is and at what weight he plays best - no more than 280 lb., light and agile, violent and active. Once his weight is confirmed teams will need to get comfortable with what exactly to do with him, where does he play on a regular basis? Unfortunately, I can’t name one interior defensive lineman under 290 lb. and that’s an issue. Listen, I watch quick, agile 300+ lb. defensive linemen get moved off the ball in this league with regularity. Oliver is a special player, but it’s hard to fight the laws of nature and a 280 lb. interior defensive lineman will be an issue at some point. When it’s time for Oliver to weigh-in, all eyes/ears will be perked up, no doubt.
La. Tech edge Jaylon Ferguson - “So, baby, how bad is it?”
Ferguson, college football’s all-time sack leader, was uninvited to the Combine then he was invited then he was invited for appetizers. Honestly, I don’t even know where it stands for Ferguson at this point, but teams need to know that the previous off-field incidents are not indicative of his overall character before writing his name on a draft card. The incident in question apparently happened four years ago while he was a freshman at La. Tech. Given the way teams comb through prospects’ history, that incident demands explanation. Especially if it was worse than we all know or have been led to believe. Ferguson will have to answer that question honestly and then prove to a team that it’ll never be an issue again.
Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker - “What’s the watch say?”
It’s clear. For Baker to be a top 20 player in this draft, Monday’s stopwatches will tell the whole story. If he runs in the low 4.4 range, he’s a lock for the first round (unless something in his medicals/past character arises out of the blue). If he’s in the mid-high 4.4 range, it may be enough to lock up a first round spot. If he runs in the 4.5s or worse, then teams might see “zone corner” (not that there is such a thing, really). Corners in past years have been able to run in the 4.5s, with amazing change of direction times and explosive drill times, and still gotten the call in the first round. But, those are rare. Furthermore, the one question about Baker this entire year/offseason is whether he’s truly fast enough to run with receivers in the league. He’s got the attitude and demeanor of a south Florida defensive back (he’s from Miami Northwestern High School) so teams that need a cornerback will be hoping/praying for a nice 4.43 on Monday.
Florida State edge Brian Burns - “Can you move like an outside linebacker?”
The more I think about Burns, the more I wonder whether he’s going to hold up successfully against the run. College run and Pro run games are diametrically different, from a scheme standpoint, sure, but in a more “that’s a really big tight end about to block me” sort of way. Burns will get an early baptism in that way. As such, he must move to a full-time 3-4 outside linebacker spot, so he’s going to have to prove he can drop, move, redirect out in space. If he can prove that to the scouts/teams, his stock should shoot up, given how skilled he is in getting to the quarterback.
Texas cornerback-soon-to-be-safety Kris Boyd - “So, how about some safety drills?”
Let me be real clear, Boyd would never play cornerback for my team. Ever. I know he has the dimensions and may have the straight line speed, but he’s not an NFL cornerback. There’s value, no doubt, just not at that position. So, safety? Yes, safety. Given the fact that he has cover experience, it would make some sense in quarters or man coverage on inside receivers and he could play the middle of the field well with his range.
Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye - “What’s the 40 time?”
I didn’t put Oruwariye in the Harris 100 as he was one of the final seven or eight prospects left off. Listen, he’s got size. He’s strong. He’s polished. He’s earned All-B1G honors. I saw him at the Senior Bowl and was unbelievably impressed with how good he looked on the hoof. But, I did not like him in coverage at all. He seemed to lack an extra gear to stay matched with receivers in coverage. And, I wanted to love him, oh I really wanted to, but I didn’t. That said, if he runs a 4.4 at his size, he’s going to get some added attention to say the least.
Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence - “Straight up, did you know what you were taking?”
Lawrence failed a drug test prior to the Tigers semi-final playoff game against Notre Dame and subsequently missed the national championship game against Alabama. Those would’ve been two huge games in Lawrence’s evaluation given the competition level of those two squads. So, why? What happened? Lawrence’s interview will be as important as his showing on the field in drills and the sort.
Michigan Edge Chase Winovich - “Are you an elite athlete? Show us.”
There are so many compelling aspects to Winovich, on and off the field, and I really gave him strong consideration for Harris 100. I love the way he constructs his rush strategy. He really has a plan for attacking the quarterback. He’s tough, relentless and plays his a-- off. But, he seems to lack the true athletic traits that a team wants in its edge rushers/outside linebacker types. If he tests well, especially in the 3-cone and short shuttle drills, he could really change opinions, especially mine. I want him to, honestly, as I really like him as a player, but ultimately, I think the lack of elite traits on the edge could force him into day three.