NFL Draft: Top Five Defensive Linemen
Joe Skinner, Pat Murphy and Hunter Pitcoff discuss the top defensive line/EDGE prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft class:
In a draft class dominated by skill position players, mostly based on an unusually high need at the top of the draft for quarterbacks, the deep class of defensive linemen has been largely overlooked. The class has a couple potential game-changers at the top with a good number of guys below who can come in and make a difference on whatever team they’re drafted to.
The top five defensive linemen in the class are as follows:
Bradley Chubb, DE (North Carolina State)
Chubb is the consensus best defensive player in this draft, and may be the best player in this draft overall. Standing at 6 feet 4 inches tall, 269 pounds, with a 36” vertical and a 4.65 40-yard dash, Chubb looks like a freak prospect on paper. In person, Chubb does not disappoint either. He has shown an ability to be as disruptive as any defensive lineman in recent memory at the collegiate level, he pursues the ball with incredible persistence, and has even shown the ability to drop back and do a decent job in coverage. The only knocks scouts have found on Chubb are his handwork and minor technical details in some of his lower body technique, both things that are easily fixable at the next level. He will be a beast.
Da’ron Payne, DT (Alabama)
For his junior year, Payne was asked to step in and takeover the role of inside playmaker on the Alabama defense after his predecessor, Jonathan Allen, left for the NFL. Payne was absolutely dominant in doing so, and made Crimson Tide fans forget about Jonathan Allen pretty quickly. Payne stands 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 311 pounds, but possesses elite athleticism given his size. Payne is probably one of the most cut 300-plus pound people you will ever see, and could even bench press 400 pounds in high school. Payne possesses all the technical ability you’d expect of an Alabama prospect, and though he has a few kinks to iron out, he should be an absolute terror to offensive lines from day one.
Vita Vea, DT (Washington)
Similar to Da’ron Payne, Vita Vea is very athletic for his size, and built like an absolute house. Vea could best be described as a bigger Da’ron Payne, but without the technical ability. Though he came from a strong Washington program, they pride themselves more on speed than anything else, and thus Vea may not have gotten the chance to perfect some things a lineman at a more hard-nosed program would have. Nonetheless, on his day, he can be as intimidating as anyone and has the potential to be a better pro than Payne and Chubb. Vea may sneak into the top 10, and with the right coaching, he could live up to his lofty potential. Not to mention his hair is incredible.
Sam Hubbard, DE (Ohio State)
Perhaps one of the more intriguing defensive line prospects in this draft is Sam Hubbard. Though Hubbard was probably Ohio State’s second-best defensive lineman behind Nick Bosa, he still promises to be a very effective pro. Hubbard was a young man who played safety in high school and had initially intended to play lacrosse at Notre Dame before Urban Meyer came calling. Hubbard has since added 70 pounds, become a defensive end and terrorized the Big Ten for three years. Hubbard has good size but won’t flash as an athletic pass rusher like some of the other guys above and below him on this list, but he will do his job consistently. If he adds a little more weight, his technique and effort should be enough to make him a very good player for many years to come.
Arden Key, EDGE (LSU)
This pick may be a surprising one, but if anyone watched Arden Key in his freshman and sophomore seasons, they would’ve thought he’d certainly leave early and be a top 10 pick after his junior season. Unfortunately for Key, shoulder surgery before the season and other small injuries during the year took him from being in the discussion for being the first pick in this draft to a name sitting at No. 8 in NFL.com’s EDGE position rankings. They could be right, but if not, the teams who wrote him off after his underwhelming junior season will be sorry. Key looks like a receiver, with great speed, athleticism and length. Had he stayed for his senior season, Key may have been able to play his way back into the top 10 and alleviate some concerns about his character. Nonetheless, his potential and unorthodox style could make him a scary pro if all goes as well as it could for him. He just has to want it.
Patrick Murphy is a freshman majoring in advertising and public relations. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Senior / Journalism
Hunter Pitcoff is involved in multiple clubs and organizations in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. He is the executive producer and an on-camera personality for Penn State Sports Night, the news producer for PSN News, and a member of the Centre County Report. Hunter holds a part-time live events support position with Penn State Athletics too. On top of that, he also does a weekly radio show with CommRadio called The Shootaround and hosts the podcasts “Ball Don’t Lie” and “Run N’Gun” with Penn State Sports Night. Hunter hopes to pursue a career in the sports media industry when he graduates in 2021.
Freshman / Broadcast Journalism
Patrick Murphy writes and does play by play for ComRadio, covering a variety of sports. He will look to get more play by play experience and eventually host a talk show.