NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
By Kevin Lyttle and Suzanne Halliburton
This year’s three-day draft begins Thursday in Arlington at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
Thursday: Round 1, 7 p.m.
Friday: Rounds 2-3, 6 p.m.
April 28: Rounds 4-7, 11 a.m.
TV: ESPN, NFL Network
ON THE CLOCK
April 19: Defensive backs
April 20: Linebackers
April 21: Defensive linemen
April 22: Offensive linemen
April 23: Wide receivers
April 24: Running backs
April 25: Quarterbacks
FIRST ROUND DRAFT ORDER
2. N.Y. Giants
3. N.Y. Jets
7. Tampa Bay
9. San Francisco
14. Green Bay
17. L.A. Chargers
23. New England
27. New Orleans
31. New England
DL FOCUS: BRADLEY CHUBB, NORTH CAROLINA STATE
The top pass rusher in this year’s draft has made quite an impression on one of the NFL’s elite sack artists.
“He’s Khalil Mack and Von Miller put together,” the Broncos’ Von Miller remarked in third person to Twitter. “I would love to have him on my team. You don’t come across guys like that often. Having the No. 5 pick — I hope we don’t have a high pick like that for a while — but if we could steal a player like that, I’m all for it.”
Strong words from the former Texas A&M standout and one of the best pass rushers in the business. Yet Chubb is considered good enough to go No. 1. Cleveland is more likely to roll with a quarterback, but can you imagine the Browns with a DE duo of Chubb and former Aggies star Myles Garrett?
Chubb accumulated 25 sacks, 36 QB pressures and six forced fumbles in three seasons with the Wolfpack and won the Bronko Nagurski (defensive player of the year) and Ted Hendricks (DE of the year) awards last year.
The cousin of Georgia running back prospect Nick Chubb could be the first non-quarterback selected, and teams like Chicago, at No. 8, could be interested in trading up for him.
What helps his stock is that he’s also a run stuffer and the talent pool is shallow on the D-line this year.
— KEVIN LYTTLE
WHO NEEDS A DL?
In order of bigger need — Bears (8), Redskins (13), Falcons (26), Jets (3), Buccaneers (7), Chiefs (54), Texas (68), Seahawks (18), Cowboys (19), Patriots (31), Chargers (17)
COWBOYS’ DL NEEDS
LOW: Dallas has patiently built a competent line, featuring breakout star Demarcus Lawrence, who racked up 14½ sacks last year. David Irving provided enough push from the DT spot to notch seven sacks. A 1-technique DT to compete with Maliek Collins as a run stopper would help, but that can be addressed late in the draft.
TEXANS’ DL NEEDS
MEDIUM: J.J. Watt is 29 and has suffered several serious injuries. If he can stay healthy, he’s still a serious force, but it might be time to start looking for the next disruptive force. RDE Joel Heath and NT D.J. Reader are just pluggers, and upgrades would be welcome at either spot, particularly the one opposite Watt.
THE FOUR BEST PROSPECTS
1. Bradley Chubb (North Carolina State): A relentless pass rusher who doesn’t ignore the run, the 6-foot-4, 269-pounder ranked fourth in the nation with 22½ tackles for loss in 2017 and added 9½ sacks and three forced fumbles.
2. Harold Landry (Boston College): Numbers were down last year because of an ankle injury, but his skills were on full display in 2016 when he registered 22 tackles for loss, 16½ sacks and an eye-popping seven forced fumbles.
3. Marcus Davenport (UTSA): Scouts see growth potential for the 6-6, 264-pound San Antonio native who delivered 17½ tackles for loss, 8½ sacks and three forced fumbles last year and is still learning his craft.
4. Vita Vea (Washington): The massive 6-4, 347-pounder is the only DT to make our list and is a boom/bust candidate because he’s still extremely raw. Evaluators point to his intimidation factor and bull-rushing ability.
OTHER BIG 12/STATE PROSPECTS
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Oklahoma): Excellent Senior Bowl pushed him up the draft boards. He’s viewed as one of the best pass rushers available and is probably a second-day selection.
P.J. Hall (Sam Houston State): He’s been one of the best FCS defenders the past three years, playing both end and tackle. He’s also adept at blocking kicks, with nine the past two years.
Poona Ford (Texas): Excellent run stopper. He also can block kicks. He doesn’t have the best size, which is why he’ll probably drop to the draft’s final day.
DL: 2017 FIRST PICK
Myles Garrett (DE);1/1st;Browns;Texas A&M
Played 11 games (injuries) with 9 starts, 7 sacks, 37 pressures
DL: 2017 BEST VALUE PICK
Mid-round gem had 8½ sacks and 59 pressures for Cincy