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Prospect Rankings: Front 7

by Josh Norris
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

I have not watched every player in college football, so this list will be updated as the season goes along. Draft-eligible players are at least three years out of high school. Enjoy, and feel free to comment below or to me on Twitter. These rankings will be kept to front seven players until I am comfortable discussing more defensive backs. The snap count percentages are available thanks to PFF College.

For the offense, click here.


Edge Rushers


Ranking Edge Snap % (Games)
1 Joey Bosa, Ohio State 80.3% (7)
2 Shaq Lawson, Clemson 69.8% (7)
3 Noah Spence, EKU N/A
4 Carl Lawson, Auburn 32.9% (1, inj)
5 Kemoko Turay, Rutgers 31.7% (7)
6 Shawn Oakman, Baylor 69.7% (6)
7 Shilique Calhoun, Michigan St 95.3% (8)
8 Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State 74.3% (7)
9 Carl Nassib, Penn State 71.7% (8)
10 Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech 84.5% (8)
11 Jordan Jenkins, Georgia 67.9% (6)
12 Charles Harris, Missouri 84.2% (8)
13 Kyler Fackrell, Nevada 96.7% (7)
14 Kamalei Correa, Boise State 64% (8)
15 Dawuane Smoot, Illinois 72.5% (7)


To simplify it, there are two ways to win as an edge rusher: Speed to bend/turn the corner, and explosion to power. Very few can do both, but recognizing where an edge rusher wins is critical. And make sure he’s not just running around heavy footed college offensive tackles… Joey Bosa is outstanding. He is explosive and presses blockers back or uses strength to shed. I bet he is a #ForcePlayer by qualifying with jumps. Do not expect a bendy, speed rusher… Shaq Lawson has the potential to win in both areas, explosion and speed. He gave Ronnie Stanley a tough matchup and has flashed in plenty of other games… Noah Spence might have been dismissed from Ohio State, but he is displaying a ton of talent at EKU. He is dominating, with plenty of explosion. Who knows how the NFL will perceive his previous transgressions, I can’t answer that, but the talent is absolutely there to warrant an early selection… Carl Lawson returned Saturday against Ole Miss. He mainly lines up over the right tackle but also sees time inside. He dealt with a hip injury this season and a torn ACL last year… It is astonishing that Rutgers is only using Turay on 30 percent of the school’s defensive snaps. He is arguably their top defensive player. But hey, it is Rutgers… I know everyone is kind of hopping off the Shawn Oakman wagon. I’m not, when realistic expectations are applied. He can be a productive power rusher in the NFL… Shilique Calhoun playing 95 percent of Michigan State’s snaps this season is utterly ridiculous… Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib are kind of opposites on the prospect spectrum. Ogbah is considered “upside” with flashes, and Nassib mainly wins with effort. I’ll be more intrigued based on his athletic testing… Jordan Jenkins is very aggressive on the edge, overpowering hesitant offensive linemen.

Defensive Linemen

Ranking DL Snap % (Games)
1 Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss 54.4% (7)
2 Andrew Billings, Baylor 66.1% (6)
3 Jonathan Allen, Alabama 39.3% (8)
4 Jonathan Bullard, Florida 67.7% (7)
5 DeForest Buckner, Oregon 76.6% (7)
6 Kenny Clark, UCLA 80.7% (7)
7 Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech 75.3% (8)
8 Jihad Ward, Illinois 79.2% (7)
9 Sheldon Rankins, Louisville 80.1% (7)
10 Austin Johnson, Penn St 73.4% (8)
11 Anthony Zettel, Penn St 70.4% (8)
12 Adolphus Washington, Ohio State 82.2% (8)
13 Jarran Reed, Alabama 53.9% (8)
14 A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama 62.5% (8)
15 Maliek Collins, Nebraska 86.4% (8)
16 Sheldon Day, Notre Dame 84.3% (7)

This is a very talented group of interior defensive lineman, and we haven’t even seen how well they test... Robert Nkemdiche fits an upfield, explosive style of interior defensive linemen. He would have to move further away from the center if he gets drafted to a two gapping team, but his skills would be maximized in a one gap scheme. Nkemdiche can be highly disruptive… Andrew Billings is a monster on the interior. Do not pigeonhole him solely as a run stuffer. Billings plays in the opponent's’ backfield and can move for a big interior lineman… Jonathan Allen has played in the backfield more than any other Alabama DL this season (maybe not statistically, but from what I’ve watched.) In fact, I think A’Shawn Robinson has disappointed and Jarran Reed is good at what he does, but line of scrimmage run stuffers aren’t always viewed as must have commodities… I know everyone is saying DeForest Buckner is a better prospect than Arik Armstead. I’m not sure about that. Buckner is very stout against the run but has a ways to go as a pass rusher. He wins with power and length in that area… Kenny Clark can be unblockable at times, with Pac-12 offensive linemen unable to handle his power for an entire game. Playing on 80 percent of the school’s snaps is also impressive for an interior lineman… Get to know Vernon Butler from LaTech. He plays with the control and awareness that many players from bigger programs do not. He knows how to win with his hands… I’ve been told that NFL scouts really like Illinois’ Jihad Ward, who plays on the edge a lot for Illinois. He likely fits best in an odd man front in the NFL… Sheldon Rankins will be viewed as undersized, but at the very least he can be a pass rushing or disruptive role player. That’s a very solid floor… The Penn State duo of Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel is intriguing. Johnson has had an outstanding season, mainly playing close to the center. Zettel has not been as impactful, but I still like what I’ve seen, especially last season… I keep seeing Sheldon Day listed among the top interior players. I like parts of his game, but think he is a lesser version of “heavy” Will Sutton.


Ranking LB Snap % (Games)
1 Myles Jack, UCLA 86.6% (3, inj)
2 Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame 91.7% (7)
3 Darron Lee, Ohio Srare 88.1% (8)
4 Reggie Ragland, Alabama 83.2% (8)
5 Leonard Floyd, Georgia 80% (7)
6 Anthony Walker, Northwestern 92.1% (8)
7 Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee 92.1% (7)
8 Kentrell Brothers, Missouri 96.8% (8)
9 Su'a Cravens, USC 76% (8)
10 Scooby Wright, Arizona 47.3% (2, inj)
11 Montese Overton, ECU 77.7% (8)
12 Kendell Beckwith, LSU 85.4% (7)
13 Joshua Perry, Ohio State 78.6% (8)
14 Skai Moore, South Carolina 96.3% (7)
15 Reuben Foster, Alabama 64.5% (8)
16 Taylor Young, Baylor 78.2% (6)

It is no coincidence that Linebacker and Running Back are the most talented positions in college football. The two overlap in terms of frame and athleticism. There are so many quality linebacker prospects, here are a few… Myles Jack is injured and already entering the 2016 NFL Draft. I’m not the person to answer injury questions. Jack is so fluid and moves with ease. In fact, UCLA asked him to cover in the slot or out wide in some matchups… Don’t get worked up about Jaylon Smith not being No. 1. The difference is minimal. Smith is more aggressive and violent when attacking ball carriers and blockers this season. We already know how athletic he is… Talking about athletic, Darron Lee will have that listed as a strength. It would not surprise me if Lee ends up as the best pro of these linebackers… Reggie Ragland is a crucial piece in the middle of Alabama’s defensive front seven. He flashes the skills of an all around linebacker… Leonard Floyd is a unique player on this list. Floyd previously saw snaps as a rush linebacker, but is now more of a base linebacker and impressing in that area. He could be the drop linebacker in an odd man front, a position that can be difficult to fill… Anthony Walker and Jalen Reeves-Maybin have been surprise standouts for me this season, knowing nothing about them prior to 2015 kicking off… Montese Overton is an athletic freak, and we have seen those types emerge as legitimate prospects after the Combine… Reuben Foster is a hammer in the middle and a focal member of Alabama’s special teams. He’ll be drafted for the latter at the very least.

Josh Norris
Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .