2017 NFL Draft Position Rankings: Defense

Oct 8, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) tackles Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) during the first quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s my most recent look at the 2017 NFL Draft Position Rankings on the defensive side of the ball.

The 2017 NFL Draft Position Rankings on defense is where you want to look to see the majority of elite talent in this draft. There are 8 defensive players within the top-10 players on my 2017 Big Board. This includes the top-5 ranked players.

Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers, Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams and Reuben Foster are all day-1 starters. They all also have the talent to make a major impact the second they step on the field.

Garrett and Williams’ ability to create pressure on the quarterback is a highly coveted skill set. This is why Garrett is my top overall player and best bet to be the No. 1 overall pick. Those teams in need of pass-rushing help will find plenty of options.

Auburn’s Carl Lawson, UCLA Takkarist McKinley, Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot, Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker and Tennessee’s Derek Barnett could hear their name called in round one.

The cornerback position doesn’t feature a top-10 prospect but has a ton of depth. We could see as many as 8 cornerbacks selected in the 1st round. This is the position that should dominate the middle of the first day.

Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) celebrates his sack of Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight (8) during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports


1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

2. Tim Williams, Alabama

3. Carl Lawson, Auburn

4. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

5. Dawuane Smoot, Illinois

6. DeMarcus Walker, Florida State

7. Derek Barnett, Tennessee

There’s a ton of pass rush talent available in the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s possible that we see as many as 4 players off this list come off the board within the first 10 picks. Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett is a strong candidate to be the top overall pick.

Garrett is by far the safeties and most talented player in this draft class. He features the speed, strength and non-stop motor needed to consistently get pressure on the quarterback. This is a well-rounded prospect who also holds up against the run.

Tim Williams is a speed demon coming off the edge. He has done a lot of damage throughout his college career despite only seeing action on a part-time basis.

Takkarist McKinley has made a huge jump up draft boards this year, but it’s more than warranted. He’s an elite athlete who has the long arms needed to keep blockers off his frame. McKinley plays with a lot of tenacity and is always pursuing the football.

Dawuane Smoot is more of a traditional defensive end who does a little bit of everything. He’s still developing as a player but does have a lot of upside. The same upside tag can be placed on DeMarcus Walker.

Barnett is a unique prospect who lacks the ideal measurables but is highly productive. He’s wins more because of his brain and ability to develop a game plan.

Nov 26, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) grabs Auburn Tigers running back Kamryn Pettway (36) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line

1. Jonathan Allen, Alabama

2. Malik McDowell, Michigan State

3. Vita Vea, Washington

4. Caleb Brantley, Florida

5. Carlos Watkins, Clemson

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen is the standout among the defensive line prospects. He’s a physical force who can dominate against the run, but also generate pressure on the quarterback. His production level over the past two seasons has been remarkable.

Allen is the mix for the No. 1 overall pick and someone who shouldn’t slip outside the top-5. His ideal fit is with a team looking to employ him at the 5-technique position. However, he’s a rounded enough player to fit in any defense.

Malik McDowell has had a down season thanks to injury problems. However, he remains a highly rated prospect based on his overall career. McDowell possesses excellent size, raw power and the athleticism to be a dominate presence along the defensive line.

Vita Vea is a nose tackle who excels at clogging the middle of the defense. He gets a value boost thanks to his ability to also make plays away from his frame. Vea isn’t just someone who occupies space as he can also disengage and register the tackle.

Carlos Watkins is as physically talented as any player on this list. However, he lacks the consistency needed to be an early 1st round pick.

Sep 17, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Dedrick Mills (26) scores a rushing touchdown against Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) and cornerback Tre Herndon (31) in the third quarter of their game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Yellow Jackets won 38-7. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


1. Reuben Foster, Alabama

2. Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt

3. Jarrad Davis, Florida

4. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee

5. Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State

Alabama’ Reuben Foster is a game changer who always around the football. He’s the leader of the Alabama defense as the guy who gets everyone in proper position and sets the tone. Foster is the type of linebacker who impacts all aspects of the game.

His athleticism allows him to remain on the field in passing situations and hold up in coverage. This 4-down ability makes him worthy of a top-10 pick and possibility even top-5 depending on team needs.

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Zach Cunningham doesn’t get a ton of media attention but screams potential. He’s a long and rangy linebacker who quickly closes on the football. Like Foster, he has the athleticism to hold up in coverage. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Cunningham seek into the top-15 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Jarrad Davis is a steady and reliable contributor. He’s another linebacker prospect who gets bonus points because of his coverage ability.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin plays like he’s been shot out of a cannon. He routinely makes proper reads and explodes to the ball carrier. Reeves-Maybin is a bit undersized but fits recent trend of smaller linebackers in the NFL.

Jan 2, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones (26) attempts to intercept a pass intended for Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Desmond Roland (26) during the first half in the 2015 Cactus Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports


1. Sidney Jones, Washington

2. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

3. Jalen Tabor, Florida

4. Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson

5. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

6. Desmond King, Iowa

7. Tre’Davious White, LSU

8. Gareon Conley, Ohio State

9. Jourdan Lewis, Michigan

10. Adoree’ Jackson, USC

The 2017 NFL Draft cornerback group is extremely deep and highly talented. Sidney Jones is my top rated corner based on his overall skills set and ball skills. It’s his ability to create turnovers that sets him apart from the rest of the group.

Jones not only features excellent hands but also the aggressiveness and awareness to jump routes.

Marshon Lattimore is only a redshirt Sophomore, but has already established himself as a top-end cover guy. He the size, fluidity and speed needed to be a true lockdown cornerback. This is someone who’s more polished than his experience would suggest.

Cordrea Tankersley is one of my favorite players in the entire draft. I love his size and toughness at the position. However, it’s his ball skills and tracking ability that makes him special. This is someone who’s capable of hauling in a lot of interceptions.

SEC cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Tre’Davious White are battle tested veterans. They are also good athletes that have as much upside as they do experience.

Nov 19, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Zander Diamont (12) is sacked by Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) in the second half at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports


1. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

2. Jamal Adams, LSU

3. Malik Hooker, Ohio State

4. Eddie Jackson, Alabama

5. Marcus Maye, Florida

Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers is a highly-touted player who routinely makes game-changing plays. He’s the definition of a hybrid player who has experience playing safety, linebacker, running back and returning kicks.

The issue is that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where he fits in the NFL. It’s going to take a very creative defensive coordinator to maximize his skills. However, Peppers is that rare talent that’s nearly impossible to pass on.

Jamal Adams isn’t far behind Peppers as a prospect. He is an in-the-box safety who excels at supporting the run. This is a big-hitter who quickly closes on the ball and covers a ton of ground. He’s a tone setter who makes plays all over the field.

Adams also does a solid job in coverage and has the range needed to play some centerfield.

Malik Hooker is a redshirt Sophomore who could use another year of seasoning. However, he has enough raw talent to be a 1st round pick in this year’s draft. It’ll be interesting to see if he decides to leave early.

Eddie Jackson is an experience veteran whose draft stock will drop a little because of an injury during the season. However, he is still a starter in the NFL and should make a quick transition.

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