Ed Oliver, Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Devin White, among players to watch
Offense has come and gone for the 2019 NFL Combine. Now it’s on to the defensive side of the ball. The next group for Sunday includes edge rushers, interior defensive linemen, and off-ball linebackers. With a defense that ranked 24th in DVOA last season, there is not a level of the defense the Giants don’t need to upgrade this offseason.
2019 NFL Combine
Location: Indianapolis, IN | Lucas Oil Stadium
Time: 9 a,m.
Channel: NFL Network
Live Stream: NFL.com
Day 3: EDGE, Interior Defensive Line, and Linebackers
Again, before we get into who is going to be participating, we’ll take a look at which events matter for these positions. This graph below was shared by Brian Burke, now of ESPN. It shows the correlation between single event results and the Approximate Value (pro-football-reference’s attempt to measure seasons by a single metric) over the first three years of a career.
If the rumors about the Giants wanting to trade Olivier Vernon are true, the Giants are going to need some pass rushers. Multiple. With the talent in this class, there is going to be a good one available at sixth overall — though taking one there also means the quarterback question continues to go unanswered.
Last year the Giants took Lorenzo Carter in the third round after an impressive combine. By the look of the results, Carter looks a lot more like a James Bettcher influenced pick due to his similar scores to Hasaan Reddick, who was a first-round pick in 2017 for Bettcher and the Cardinals. Here’s what those prospects look like by their testing percentiles.
One of the problems with Carter was his pass rush production in college. He wasn’t used as a full-time edge rusher at Georgia, which led to needed time to develop more pass rushing skills. If the Giants are going to grab an edge rusher early, there’s like going to need to be athleticism and production. Luckily, there’s a lot of that in this class.
Chris’s pre-combine top-5:
- Nick Bosa, Ohio State
- Josh Allen, Kentucky
- Jachai Polite, Florida
- Brian Burns, Florida State
- Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Check out his full write-up here.
Prospects to watch:
Even if the Giants are in line for a top tier pass rusher sixth overall, it’s unlikely Bosa and Allen will be available. They’ll both test well and have great combines, but neither is likely to be a Giant.
The next group of Burns/Ferrell/Polite will be interesting to watch because they have the production to be worthy of the sixth overall pick and with good workout numbers, they could solidify that spot.
Then there’s the group who have good production and could become intriguing later options with good testing. Jaylon Ferguson (Lousiana Tech) and Sutton Smith (Northern Illinois) were two dominant pass rushers at smaller schools — 63 and 60 pressures in 2018, respectively, per Sports Info Solutions — and testing could help contextualize whether that type of production can translate to the NFL.
Ben Banogu of TCU is a name I continue to come back to as a late-round option. He had 63 pressures (tied for third in this class) and 30 quarterback hits (tied for first), but there have been some questions about his ability to bend around the edge consistently. Good testing could limit some of those concerns.
Interior defensive line
Weight and 40 matter for interior defensive linemen, but not quite as much as it does on the edge. The bench press has its highest correlation at iDL but still, at 0.34 it’s not incredibly strong. If you want strength, Dexter Lawrence of Clemson put up 36 bench reps — though you won’t see him in our top players because of the lack of pass rush ability. Ed Oliver started his expected good testing day early with 32 reps.
One of the positions of strength Gettleman had with the Panthers was the interior of the defensive line. It’s a position he hasn’t been afraid to draft aggressively. He took Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short in the first- and second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, though neither workout out at the combine, and brought in Vernon Butler with a first-round pick in the 2016 draft with Short and Lotulelei both still on the roster. Last year Gettleman doubled up later in the draft with BJ Hill in the third round and RJ McIntosh in the fifth. Bettcher’s one shot at a defensive tackle was a bet on talent and athleticism with Robert Nkemdiche, who came with off-field concerns.
Like what should be the case on the edge, there is likely to be a range of prospects who come in with good testing and college production.
Chris’s pre-combine top-5
- Quinnen Williams, Alabama
- Ed Oliver, Houston
- Christian Wilkins, Clemson
- Zach Allen, Boston College
- Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
Full breakdown here.
- Quinnen Williams
- Ed Oliver
- Jerry Tillery
- Christian Wilkins
- Charles Omenihu, Texas
Prospects to watch:
Zach Allen could be the perfect rotational piece for the Giants. He had snaps both on the edge and the interior for Boston College and brings the ability to rusher the passer (52 pressures per SIS) and defend the run (15 run stuffs and 15 tackles for loss) from both spots.
Isaiah Buggs was overshadowed playing next to Quinnen Williams but still had the ability to get in the backfield at one of the highest rates in this class. He put up 39 pressures (third in this iDL class) to go along with 13.5 tackles for loss and 16.5 run stuffs.
No position shows the 40 matters more — 0.86 correlation tied with cornerback and running back — and that helps with hitting holes and running sideline to sideline. That’s especially the case in a passing league when every off-ball linebacker needs to have some ability to cover.
Gettleman doesn’t have a long history of drafting linebackers. Luke Kuechly was in Carolina when he took over and instead of drafting one last year he traded for Alec Ogletree. All those linebackers, though, would suggest some element of speed is coveted.
Chris’s pre-combine top-5
- Devin White, LSU
- Joe Giles-Harris, Duke
- Devin Bush, Michigan
- Mack Wilson, Alabama
- Bobby Okereke, Stanford
Full breakdown here.
- Devin White
- Devin Bush
- Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington
- Bobby Okereke
- Joe Giles-Harris
Players to watch:
There is not a lot of depth to this linebacker class, so hoping for anyone to stand out will be positive. One player I have liked, Hawaii’s Jahlani Tavai, will not work out due to a shoulder injury. Without much depth, the testing for players like Burr-Kirven, Okereke, and Giles-Harris will be even more important.