I need help. It’s taken me a long time and plenty of sleepless nights to admit this, but I absolutely, 100 percent need help. Professional help. And as Alex Hitchens says best, “I’m glad you can admit it, because generally that’s the hardest part”.
The potential 2019 SEC defensive line class is too expansive to be scouted by one man. I’m sorry.
First, it was just the cream of the crop on my radar. The big name prospects like Alabama’s Raekwon Davis, Auburn’s Derrick Brown and Dontavius Russell, LSU’s Rashard Lawrence and Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons. That group was significant enough, as Davis and Simmons should be Round 1 locks, and Lawrence and Brown are almost certain to come off the board by day two.
Then I looked deeper into the conference, and players like Alabama’s Isaiah Buggs and Missouri’s Terry Beckner stood out to me as well. Both looked like top 100 picks, despite Buggs relative lack of elite athleticism and Beckner’s extensive injury history. Buggs is a legitimate pass rusher with magnificent hands and power in the mold of Jon Allen, while Beckner flashes explosive penetrating quickness that could wreak havoc at the next level.
At Texas A&M, Daylon Mack was supposed to be one of the top interior defensive linemen in the SEC by his senior year, instead he might not even crack the top 10. His teammate Kingsley Keke, also a senior, has outplayed and outproduced Mack for the second straight season, showing improvement as a pass rusher which has helped result in five sacks this season. And right now, Keke isn’t even on the top 100 radar of most analysts. That’s how loaded this class is.
Two players have worked their way onto my board out of nowhere this season: Alabama’s Quinnen Williams and South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw. They are extremely different in playing style and physical build, as Williams stands 6-foot-3, 285 pounds and Kinlaw 6-foot-6, 305 pounds.
Williams is by far the better player, a top 10 overall type of prospect, who is enjoying a monster season at Alabama despite playing in a rotation. Kinlaw is raw and has flashes of brilliance, but is overall inconsistent and must be coached up to reach his peak at the NFL level. Still, when you look like this, your draft stock has a way of skyrocketing during the pre-draft process.
What a physical freak. Kinlaw has been just mildly productive this season with four tackles-for-loss and two sacks, but stats rarely tell the full story for interior defensive linemen. He has the physical and athletic profile that will interest NFL teams by at least day two of the NFL draft.
That’s 11 (ELEVEN!) names already, all certainly draftable players, the vast majority of which will hear their name called in the top 100 picks of the draft. We haven’t even mentioned players like Georgia’s Tyler Clark, Ole Miss’ Benito Jones and LSU’s Breiden Fehoko, all players with mid-round potential who could become solid starters in the NFL.
Arkansas’ McTelvin Agim, Auburn’s Andrew Williams and Marlon Davidson, Tennessee’s Shy Tuttle, Florida’s Khairi Clark, and Kentucky’s Adrian Middleton are all players I need to take a closer look at, but have consistently flashed when I’ve watched them this fall.
That’s 20 interior defensive linemen with a chance to make it in the NFL, all draft-eligible and from one, solitary conference. Craziness.
Buggs, Mack, Russell, Keke, Beckner, Middleton, Andrew Williams, Clark and Tuttle are all seniors, which means about half the class is definitely in. The high-value pieces like Quinnen Williams, Davis, Simmons, Lawrence, Kinlaw and Brown will all have tough decisions to make, but I think you’ll see most if not all head to the NFL after this season.
It’s a positional strength along the defensive line in one conference like I haven’t seen in quite awhile, even in an SEC that is always loaded with talent. But it’s also accompanied by a rare group of edge rushers that might even have more first round picks than the interior group by the time April rolls around.
Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat and Florida’s Jachai Polite are the top two SEC edges on my board, but Kentucky’s Josh Allen, Georgia’s Deandre Walker, Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor and Florida’s Jabari Zuniga could all be risers during the pre-draft process. Allen, Walker and Zuniga certainly pass the eye test, and are expected to perform well at the Combine as well.
In addition to the big names, Alabama’s Anfernee Jennings and Christian Miller have mid-round type of profiles, while Texas A&M’s Landis Durham, Florida’s Cece Jefferson, Georgia’s Jonathan Ledbetter, Auburn’s Nick Coe, South Carolina’s D.J. Wonnum and Vanderbilt’s Charles Wright are all worth keeping an eye on as day three prospects.
That’s 14 more legit prospects, with several of the top guys (Sweat, Allen, Walker) already seniors, while several others (Taylor, Zuniga, Jennings) are redshirt juniors expected to graduate. We could see eight or more edge defenders come off the board in the top 100, if all of them declare.
Do you understand now? One man can’t be expected to scout all of these guys by himself. The SEC is on another level of talent than every other conference in college football already, but along the defensive line, that gap becomes a canyon.
Prepare yourself for something truly special this April if all of these guys make the early leap to the NFL. And if your team needs defensive line help, you’re in luck. Also, come help me scout.