Saturday - Mar 6, 2021

Home / Draft / NFL DRAFT TOP 5 BY POSITION: Defense


Everyone knows about the top picks at each position. But what about other players teams can target later in the draft? Here I will lay out my Top-5 for each position. Now for the defense.

EDGE Rusher

  1. Nick Bosa, Ohio State
  2. Josh Allen, Kentucky
  3. Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
  4. Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
  5. Brian Burns, Florida State

Best: Nick Bosa, Ohio State

Nick Bosa is the best player overall in this entire draft. He does everything exceptionally well. He can use speed or power to get after the quarterback and is quite polished with his hand use at this stage. He also has very good power to play the run as well. He has the ability to excel multiple roles in multiple defenses. It’s not crazy to think he could end up better than his brother, Joey Bosa, who is already a budding star in the NFL.

Safest: Josh Allen, Kentucky

I don’t think the gap between Bosa and Allen is as big as many people think. Allen is arguably more explosive, but doesn’t have as much play strength as Bosa. Every time I watched Kentucky this past season, any time the defense needed to make a play Allen was the one to make it. Every single time. Allen profiles best as a stand up outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme due to his athleticism, but he can also excel with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end in a 4-3 defense. He is a different style player as Bosa, but just as good in my eyes. The difference that makes him safer in my eyes is that lack of injury history on Allen’s end.

Boom-or-Bust: Rashan Gary, Michigan

If you read my position evaluations for offense, you know that there were multiple positions where I struggled to find true “bust” potential. That is not the case with this EDGE class. I actually struggled to narrow this choice down to one. Rashan Gary ends up being the choice for me here though. He has prototypical size and is an excellent athlete. Based on that alone is why he is a projected high pick and has the “boom” potential. But the lack of college production bothers me. He finished his entire three-year career with 9.5 sacks at Michigan. To put that in perspective, Josh Allen had 17 sacks just this past season as a senior. If Gary couldn’t figure out how to finish at the quarterback in college, how is all of a sudden going to figure it out in the NFL against better offensive lineman?

Sleeper: Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion

I was able to see Ximines live at the Senior Bowl in January. He was able to do more than hold his own despite being from a small school. He has enough athleticism to get the job done on the edge and shows solid power to be a factor in the run game as well. Where he really impressed was with his pass rush moves and counters. He was very polished despite being a small school prospect. I think Ximines will start out as a good rotational player who will only get better as he learns how to take care of his body and adds a little bit more quickness. He is one of my favorite middle-to-late round sleeper prospects in this draft.

Interior Defensive Line

  1. Quinnen Williams, Alabama
  2. Ed Oliver, Houston
  3. Christian Wilkins, Clemson
  4. Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
  5. Jeffrey Simmons, Mississippi State

Best: Quinnen Williams, Alabama

Quinnen Williams is my second ranked overall prospect and pretty clear No. 1 interior defensive lineman in this draft. There were times he was outright dominant at Alabama last season. Williams has it all – elite first step quickness, a solid array of rush moves and power at the point of attack as a bull rusher or a run defender. You also never have to question the motor of him either. All this in one of the youngest players in the draft. To already have his floor at that level, takes his ceiling off the charts. I would not argue with anyone who has him ranked as their top player in the draft. He is good enough to warrant that consideration.

Safest: Christian Wilkins, Clemson

It always seemed like Christian Wilkins was always overshadowed by the immense talent at Clemson. And now he is being overshadowed by the immense talents of Williams and Oliver. That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he ends up having the longest career out of all the defensive tackles. He was productive from the moment he stepped on campus at Clemson due to his quickness, pass rush skills and relentlessness. I wouldn’t bet against him now.

Boom-or-Bust: Ed Oliver, Houston

I really like Ed Oliver’s game and think his style of play is perfectly suited for today’s NFL as an elite interior pass rusher. He is an absolutely insane athlete for the position. I mean he put up some comparable athletic numbers to some top running backs and wide receivers! That being said, he is definitely on the smaller side for a defensive tackle and that is why he is the biggest bust candidate in my eyes. How well can his body hold up against NFL offensive lineman? He already suffered a major injury this past season at Houston.

Sleeper: Trysten Hill, Central Florida

Does someone who didn’t start any games last year count as a sleeper? Because that’s what Hill went through this past season despite probably being the best defensive lineman on the roster for Central Florida. He has good burst and quickness at the snap. He is also relentless as a pass rusher and in pursuit. He doesn’t have polished hand technique and needs to learn to read plays better. If he can develop those skills at the next level, Hill will become a starter in no time.

About Nicholas Perlich

Nick is our NFL Draft Specialist and breathes all things draft.