With anticipation building for the start of the 2019 college football season, so is the hype for top prospects across the nation. Everyone and their mother knows how talented defenders like Isaiah Simmons, Grant Delpit, Derrick Brown, Chase Young, AJ Epenesa, and others are. So I want to focus this article on a couple of defenders who have a chance to rise exponentially this year, but are nowhere near mentioned in the same breath as the prospects above. While I don’t believe any of these three prospects will be drafted as high as the players I mentioned, I think they all have the traits to be NFL starters. So without further ado, here are three defensive prospects who need more love from the draft community, ahead of college football season.
Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State
At just about 6’0 with a 180-pound frame, Arizona State cornerback Chase Lucas will not wow any scouts strictly from the eye test, physically. However, it is his attention to detail and cornerback-specific traits that make him stand out as a prospect on film. His ability to stay patient, both at the LOS and from Off, is something you rarely see with young cornerbacks. He is a reactionary athlete with the foot quickness/COD skills to mirror and match receivers step for step, a competitive, disruptive player at the catch-point, and does not shy away from contact in the run game. Other than his size, I don’t have a major qualm with Lucas’ film. His eye discipline, footwork, and competitive toughness are all next-level ready, so it’s just a matter of time before people start catching on to his skill set.
Carter Coughlin, EDGE, Minnesota
I am shocked that Minnesota’s Carter Coughlin is not among the top pass rushers being talked about in the potential 2020 NFL draft class. This dude can get to the quarterback, plain and simple. He has the lower-body flexibility and explosiveness to naturally bend, dip, and flatten to the quarterback. On top of his athleticism, he has shown a wide array of pass rush moves, stacking together plans of attack with quick, active hands. As a pass rusher, Coughlin has the production to match his talent, and I believe he still has a lot of untapped potential as a sack artist. Against the run, Coughlin has experience as both an edge and off-ball linebacker. To me, he is a longer version of Genard Avery, who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns last year. Avery fell to the fifth round, but his strong performance as a rookie indicates his value should have been near the top 50. Coughlin has that same sort of versatility and pass rush profile as an EDGE prospect.
Hamsah Nasirildeen, LB/S, Florida State
At 6’4, 220 pounds, Hamsah Nasirildeen is Florida State’s version of Isaiah Simmons as a big, long, linebacker-safety hybrid on the defensive side of the ball. Simmons gets a lot more hype because of his athleticism and production, but when you look strictly at the traits, there shouldn’t be a huge gap between him and Hamsah Nasirildeen. There is a play against Boston College on Nasirildeen’s tape where he came all the way across the opposite side of the field to chase down and intercept an attempted crossing route, showing off his unique range that is made by those huge, long strides. With his combination of length, speed, and a natural nose for the ball, Nasirildeen possesses all of the tools as a raw, chess-piece defender. Like Simmons, Florida State is experimenting with him at both safety and linebacker, as he primarily played a box safety role for the Seminoles in 2018. He has the stopping power of a linebacker, but the true cover skills, specifically in Man, of a nickel starter. Nasirildeen’s potential is unlimited, but he needs to speed the game up in his head before taking the next step.