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2018 NFL Draft Rankings: Top 5 Defensive Ends

Bradley Chubb

Bradley Chubb

The 2018 NFL Draft is set for April 26-28, so you still have time to get ready with the Athlon Sports 2018 Draft Guide. With 526 players ranked and needs outlined for every NFL team, it has everything you need.

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Here's a sneak peek at our top five defensive ends in this year's NFL Draft:

1. Bradley Chubb

COLLEGE: NC State

CLASS: Sr. HEIGHT: 6’3” WEIGHT: 275

STRONG POINTS: Chubb emerged as college football’s best edge player last season, a savvy pass rusher with traits that will translate to the next level. He’s a technician with a variety of moves, the best of which is a powerful bull rush. But he also shows very good hand use and can beat blockers with a variety of swipe and rip moves. As an athlete, he’s explosive and flexible, especially for a bigger edge rusher. He has the size and power to win at the point of attack, and he shows good get-off at the snap with the speed and flexibility to dip around the edge. He’s even better countering inside, exploding through gaps, and is nearly unstoppable on twists. His motor pushes him over the top. He is more than capable of setting the edge in the run game, overwhelming tight ends with heavy hands. He locates the ball well and does not get fooled by misdirection, and he’ll give plenty of effort chasing down the ball in pursuit. He’s also a fluid enough athlete that he wouldn’t have an issue transitioning to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

WEAK POINTS: He won’t be confused with Myles Garrett from a physical standpoint. Chubb is a good all-around athlete, but not the kind of explosive mover who can dominate purely on physical gifts.

SUMMARY: Chubb is arguably the best defensive prospect in this draft class, even if he doesn’t bring the overwhelming athletic gifts you usually find in an edge rusher who goes in the top five. His high-effort style of play, advanced technique and value as an edge setter mitigate any risk. He has All-Pro upside and will likely fall into the categories of good athlete and great football player.


FINAL GRADE: 1st round

2. Marcus Davenport

COLLEGE: Texas-San Antonio
CLASS: Sr. HEIGHT: 6’6” WEIGHT: 260

STRONG POINTS: He’s far from a household name after playing at a non-Power 5 school, but from a physical and athletic standpoint, Davenport is the most impressive prospect among this year’s edge rushers. He’s an explosive mover, with a rare blend of size — broad-shouldered and long-limbed — and flexibility. He can dip around the edge, and he flashes the closing speed to rack up sacks. His first-step quickness is often good enough to win almost immediately. As a run defender, he has the wide base and plays with the leverage and pure power to get it done setting the edge. He’s also relentless in pursuit, with the speed to chase down plays from the backside. Overall, his motor is outstanding. He mostly played standing up at UTSA and is athletic enough to hold his own if asked to drop into coverage as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

WEAK POINTS: He’s raw at this point, and he wasn’t often challenged enough by the competition he faced in college. Davenport uses his length and strong hands well, but his pass rushes tended to consist of running around or through people; that worked in college but won’t work in the NFL. How much trial and error will it take for him to get ready? He will have to get used to playing with his hand in the dirt, at least occasionally, after playing standing up for the most part in college.


SUMMARY: He will have to be coached up and carries significant risk because of it, but Davenport’s physical gifts make him the highest-upside pass rusher in this draft. He could probably step in as a pass-rushing specialist as a rookie and expand his role over the next two or three years.


FINAL GRADE: 1st round

3. Arden Key

COLLEGE: LSU
CLASS: Jr. HEIGHT: 6’6” WEIGHT: 265

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STRONG POINTS:

Key (above, right) has a blend of length, quickness and flexibility, and he can be utterly dominant at times. He explodes off the snap and has the ability to dip around the edge, and he shows the quick, powerful hands to win as a technician. He also has the closing burst to finish plays as a pass rusher. He has the tools to be an asset in the run game as well, wiry strong and able to anchor, and fast enough to chase in backside pursuit.


WEAK POINTS: He was wildly inconsistent during his time at LSU, and there are question marks surrounding Key’s motor and durability. He gained significant weight coming into the 2017 season and spent the year seemingly working his way back into shape. He’ll disappear for stretches, especially when defending the run, and his lack of bulk could give teams pause when it comes to putting him out there to set the edge.


SUMMARY: Key might be the biggest risk/reward pick in this draft — an elite pass rusher when he’s at his best, but his best showed up increasingly rarely at LSU.


FINAL GRADE: 1st/2nd round

4. Rasheem Green

COLLEGE: USC
CLASS: Jr. HEIGHT: 6’4” WEIGHT: 275

STRONG POINTS: Green played outside and inside at USC, and he was disruptive from both spots. He’s at his best shooting gaps as a pass rusher, exploding off the line of scrimmage and using his flexible body and heavy hands to squeeze through creases. He also has the wide base and core strength to set the edge as a run defender. He’s a relentless worker, a very good second-effort pass rusher.

WEAK POINTS: Green is not quite an edge burner, and he will do the bulk of his damage lining up inside as a pass rusher. Is he a tweener who can be exploited by double teams on runs when he lines up inside? He’s not a great pursuit run defender; he’ll give effort, but he lacks the speed and stamina to chase down plays.


SUMMARY: He could fit as a penetrating five-technique, or Green may be best used in a Michael Bennett-type role, playing end on early downs before kicking inside for passing plays. Either way, Green can get into the backfield and has star potential if used properly. 


FINAL GRADE: 1st/2nd round

5. Sam Hubbard

COLLEGE: Ohio State
CLASS: R-Jr. HEIGHT: 6’5” WEIGHT: 265


STRONG POINTS: Hubbard possesses good length and has a good get-off, and he also has one of the most polished pass-rush repertoires in this draft class. He has unveiled a variety of moves and is at his best countering back inside to get to the quarterback. He’s a high-motor pass rusher with good power, and he can win with second effort. As a run defender, he’s sturdy setting the edge and plays with tremendous effort when pursuing from the backside.


WEAK POINTS: He’s not an elite athlete, and he is a bit too stiff to consistently bend and dip around the edge. He played in a rotation at Ohio State, helping keep him fresh, and he also benefited from working a lot of twists and stunts to help him get into the backfield.


SUMMARY: Hubbard is a high-floor player because of his motor and polished technique, and he should stick as a capable starter as a 4-3 end. The question is whether he’ll be able to consistently create for himself, or whether he’ll be a capable run defender who needs some design help to get to the QB.


FINAL GRADE: 2nd/3rd round

Other defensive ends that could be drafted: Dorance Amstrong Jr., Kansas; Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest; Chad Thomas, Miami; Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State; Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama; Kemoko Turay, Rutgers; Kentavius Street, NC State; Jalyn Holmes, Ohio State; Josh Sweat, Florida State; Marcell Frazier, Missouri; Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State; Olasunkanmi Adenyi, Toledo; Joe Ostman, Central Michigan