Studs & Duds - Reality Vs. Perception In A Loaded DL Class

Photo: Steven Erler-USA TODAY Sports

The many draft pundits out there, myself included, have sold to each and every one of you for months that this was a loaded defensive line class. That the talent was off the wall good and that it's a great year to need some horses up front.

Did we lie to you? Deceive you? Honeypot you? No. There was no honeypotting here to get you invested in this year's class.

But not every player that has produced fan-fare throughout the course of the 2018 summer, 2018 college football season and 2019 winter is going to meet lofty expectations. At some point this summer, fall or winter, I've lied to you about players I thought were good. The sum of the class? *Chef's kiss* But all parties involved? Not so much.

We're here to honor those who stood up to the challenge of lofty expectations this week on Studs & Duds.

STUD - Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

We entered 2018 not knowing much about Quinnen, other than he was the guy to step into some pretty accomplished shoes with Alabama's recent departures on the defensive line. Turns out he's better than all of them, who knew?! Quinnen stormed up our big boards here at TDN after not being ranked when we launched the site in August. No knee jerk reaction here, Quinnen has the goods and if he's not a top-5 pick next month, I'm all for helping to start the riot in Nashville.

DUD - Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

Simmons is a talented player, no doubt. But we've seen him tumble from a potential top-10 selection to a probably Day 2 selection, given his red tape. There's the assault incident from several years ago, plus the ACL tear he suffered in training...that's a lot of hoops to jump through in order to find your way among the top-32 selections. Simmons' talent? As advertised. His draft status? Not so much.

STUD - Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Wilkins got the "Mike McGlinchey and Derwin James" treatment. A flashy player is good early on in his career, remains good but gets pushed down in perception due to new, flashy toys but ultimately ends up being right where he should have been all along near the top of the class. Wilkins is my third rated interior defensive lineman and there's potential he's drafted as high as Buffalo at 9, Miami at 13 or Atlanta at 14.

DUD - Jachai Polite, DE, Florida

We had a fun ride, Jachai. Polite still holds a Second Round grade from me, but his red flags at this point would make me very leery to take him even that high in an actual Draft room. Sure, Polite may come in under NFL mentorship and get his head on straight and crush it. But he never had great tape against the run (in my opinion) and he's now endured the most disastrous pre-draft circuit of the season. Claiming coaches were picking on him at Combine meetings, showing up overweight and testing terribly is a bad way to line teams up to draft you.

STUD - Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan

I honestly feel like I owe Chase an apology. I wrote him a glowing film review and scored him in the Early Second Round tier on film...placement that puts him in the mid-20s on my 2019 big board, which is nearing completion.

But then I read my player synopsis and saw I used the phrase "overachiever", indicating that Winovich wasn't a very explosive/dynamic athlete and that he won with technique and football IQ. Now, he still wins with technique and football IQ, but he sure as heck isn't an average athlete. Winovich crushed his athletic testing, he's got a better ceiling than I'd given him credit for.

DUD - Small School Productive EDGEs

Small School EDGEs, party of three? Your table is now available.

Come on up here and don't be shy, Carl Granderson, Oshane Ximines and Jaylon Ferguson. Somewhere along the line, each of these three guys had received hype, even to the degree of top-50 prospects. And yes, the production they've put on the field needs to be acknowledged. They have some tools at their disposal. But each of these three carries a mid-Day 3 grade from me (either Round 5 or Round 6). Upside only takes you so far, especially when it turns out you're not athletic.

Written By:

Kyle Crabbs

Director of Content

Director of Content & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Draft Dudes podcast. Former NDT Scouting Overlord.