By now you’ve heard all about the top defensive prospects in this year's NFL draft, but there are 256 picks to be made and far more than just the Day 1 and 2 players to discuss.
Let’s talk about my favorite sleeper picks at each defensive position and give some attention to a few under-appreciated prospects that also deserve it.
Edge: Jonathan Garvin, Miami
Pass rushers with the traits Jonathan Garvin has are tough to find so I am confused as to why there isn’t more buzz around him. Garvin measures 6-foot-4 and 263 pounds, has 34-inch arms and logged a 36-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-5 broad jump. He’s an explosive pass rusher with good flexibility, length and strength.
His initial steps are capable of truly stressing blockers with the quickness and depth he can gain to create a half-man relationship and let his hands go to work. Garvin has the flexibility needed to bend and corner the outside hip of offensive tackles, and he closes in a hurry.
He is inconsistent and is still developing; Garvin doesn’t turn 21 until late July. His physical tools are impressive. He’s racked up 26 tackles for loss, 10 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles over the last two seasons. Garvin has the traits for those playmaking flashes to show up in the NFL.
Defensive Tackle: Broderick Washington Jr., Texas Tech
As I worked through the “bottom-of-the-barrel” defensive tackle prospects, I finally got to Broderick Washington Jr.’s tape and found someone who didn’t belong in the lower tier. It’s easy to fall in love with Washington’s play demeanor. He fires off the ball with a quick first step, low pads and active hands to create initial contact to control each rep. Washington has terrific lateral quickness and knows how to get to the edges of blockers. He’s flexible, powerful and capable of powering through gaps.
Washington has to fully develop his pass-rushing skill set but the tools are present. He played under four different defensive line coaches in college and in a variety of alignments; it’s understandable why Washington isn’t a finished product. As a two-time team captain, I’m excited to see how Washington’s game evolves in the NFL. He has a real shot at becoming a meaningful part of a defensive line rotation at the next level.
Linebacker: Logan Wilson, Wyoming
Logan Wilson is an afterthought when it comes to the discussion of the top linebackers in this class, but he shouldn’t be. He was a 52-game starter at Wyoming and is a fairly polished defender with good size, athletic ability and production that has a chance to be a top-100 pick.
Wilson came to Wyoming as a wide receiver, redshirted in 2015 and then started for four seasons at linebacker. He improved every season, showcasing strong tackling skills, physicality, range and downhill instincts. He’s still developing in coverage, but he has the physical tools to be effective. Some team is going to get a productive starter in Wilson, much later than some of the second-round possibilities at linebacker.
Cornerback: Reggie Robinson, Tulsa
Reggie Robinson was a safety in high school whose switch flipped during his senior season at Tulsa. He showcased a versatile coverage with outstanding ball skills. Robinson needs to polish up his technique but has the ability to execute in man, press and zone coverage. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds with 4.44-second 40-yard speed, Robinson has no physical limitations. He plays with an aggressive mindset in everything he does whether that is being physical in coverage, competing at the catch point or triggering forward against the run. His ball skills shined in 2019 where he was top-five in the FBS with 17 pass breakups to go with four interceptions.
Robinson improved throughout his college career and expect that to continue in the NFL. He’s an alpha on the football field that has a bright future as his technique improves.
Safety: Kenny Robinson, West Virginia/XFL
The NFL craves safeties that can play single-high coverage with range, ball skills and physicality. That’s Kenny Robinson.
Robinson is a ballhawk on the backend. In 20 starts at West Virginia, he racked up 14 pass breakups and seven interceptions in addition to some impressive plays on the ball during the brief XFL season. Robinson can cover considerable ground and even has situational man coverage ability from the slot. While he needs to clean up some tackling technique, he is physical and aggressive triggering downhill.
His dismissal from West Virginia due to athletic fraud is something that needs to be vetted, and he needs to polish up his angles, but Robinson has the makeup of an athletic starting free safety in the NFL that creates game-changing turnovers. That shouldn’t be slept on.