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An Early Look at the 2019 NFL Draft: The Year of the Trenches

Shortly after the draft, analysts and experts take an early look at the next crop of elite NFL prospects coming out of college. Next year has sparked more interest and excitement than previous years and the reason being is that the 2019 draft appears to be loaded with top tier defensive and offensive linemen. If you need a reference of just how talented this group is take a look at my first 2019 NFL Mock Draft, where 7 of the first 10 picks all play either defensive or offensive line. So let’s take a look at who is being considered part of this historic class of lineman:

 

Clelin Ferrell – Photo Credit: fitsnews.com

The Clemson Four:

The Clemson Tigers have emerged as one of college football’s powerhouses. In 2017, coach Dabo Swinney and the Tigers avenged their 2016 national title loss against Alabama, cementing themselves as a top-tier program. Clemson has produced great pros and has even been referred to as WRU for consistently sending receivers to the next level. (DeAndre Hopkins [RD 1], Sammy Watkins [RD 1], Martavius Bryant [RD 4], Charone Peake [RD 7], Mike Williams [RD 1], Deon Cain [RD 6], Ray-Ray McCloud [RD 6]) However Clemson might earn the title of DLU after the 2019 NFL Draft.

While it seemed like Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant would all turn pro in 2018, they decided to all return to the Tigers. Not to mention DT Dexter Lawrence (who may be the best of the four), who is also set to return to Clemson. All three prospects that were considering the 2018 Draft had the upside to be first round picks, but their stock wasn’t solid. Another year at school to improve, dominate as a unit, and win another national championship ultimately led the Tigers’ defensive linemen to stay put.

Now, all of college football needs to be on their toes as the Tigers essentially have an NFL defensive line playing for them this season. The draft is a year away, but based on their 2018 draft stock, the expected performance in the 2018 CFB season, and the upside and potential each player possesses, it may be safe to lock in the Clemson Four as 2019 first round picks. At least one player from the defensive line will come off the board in the top 10.

 

Nick Bosa – Photo Credit: saturdaytradition.com

The Other Bosa:

Most people know Los Angeles Chargers stud defensive end Joey Bosa for being dominant at Ohio State and excelling thus far in the pros, but many don’t know about his little brother, Nick. While Joey Bosa was preparing to leave Ohio State for the NFL, the Buckeyes were preparing to bring in the #3 overall player in the country, the other Bosa. Nick Bosa was far more known throughout his recruitment thanks to his brother, and of course the relationship with the OSU staff made it fairly predictable that one day Nick would continue the legacy at Ohio State.

He came out high school more athletic and polished than his brother and it shows as he has made an immediate impact since stepping on campus. Some view him as the best prospect in this draft simply because he plays like his brother, but better. Everything Joey does, Nick could do at a younger age, leaving many to believe his ceiling is higher than his older brother’s. Arguably the most underrated aspect of Nick Bosa is who he is off the field. We saw this with Saquon Barkley in the 2018 NFL Draft, a high character guy who does and says all the right things. Nick Bosa the player is potentially the best talent in the draft, but Nick Bosa the person is even better, and that is what makes him special and the early favorite to be the top pick next spring.

 

Rashan Gary – Photo Credit: the franchise.com

The Michigan Man:

Rashan Gary was the top prospect coming out of high school in 2016. He starred at Paramus Catholic in New Jersey, the same place where former Michigan LB/S/KR/PR/RB Jabrill Peppers played his high school ball. That connection combined with former Paramus Catholic coach Chris Partridge leaving to be a positional coach at Michigan made it safe to say that not many people had doubts about where Gary would play in college.

Gary has certainly lived up to the expectations at Michigan, showing his versatility by playing DE or DT and dominating everywhere he plays. A leader on the Michigan team, Gary is back for his junior season, which is expected to be his final one in Ann Arbor. It’s more likely that Gary becomes a DE at the next level, but he has been the best player on the Michigan defensive line every year he’s played on the team, with the exception of Taco Charlton. Gary will have to compete with the likes of Ed Oliver, The Clemson Four and Nick Bosa to be the top defensive lineman selected in this class. Even if he falls out of the top 5, it won’t be because of lack of talent.

 

Ed Oliver – Photo Credit: draftblaster.com

The Local Hero:

Ed Oliver could’ve gone to any school in the country. The #4 player in the class of 2016 had considered powerhouses like Texas and LSU, but ultimately it was Tom Herman’s Houston Cougars that landed the 5 star DT. Since his first day on campus, Oliver has been dominant and proved that if you’re really talented, it doesn’t matter what school you go to. Oliver has already declared for the 2019 NFL Draft, unofficially of course, and he’s already being called the top DT in class. Furthermore, he’s my number #1 rated player in the class of 2019. Oliver should continue to build on his sophomore campaign where he had 73 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 2 forces fumbles. I think he’s got the best floor of the 2019 prospects, making him the safest pick and one of the early favorites to be first off the board.

 

Greg Little – Photo Credit: yardbarker.com

The Big 3:

Washington’s Trey Adams, Ole Miss’ Greg Little, and Alabama’s Jonah Williams appear to be the consensus top tackles in next year’s class. Trey Adams was arguably the top OT in the 2018 class until he sustained a season-ending injury. After seeing his stock begin to plummet, he made the wise decision to return to school. Adams should return to his normal form and prove to NFL GMs that he is worthy of being one of the more elite tackles in the 2019 class.

However, players like Greg Little and Jonah Williams emerged as top tier tackles as well. Little was the #2 recruit coming out of high school and has been solid throughout his entire career with the Rebels. Another strong season against elite SEC talent should land him in consideration to be the top tackle off the board in 2019.

Arguably the best OT of them all is Alabama’s Jonah Williams. Williams brings versatility as he can play on the left or the right side. He played RT in the 2016 season before moving to the left side in 2017 to replace Cam Robinson. He could very easily emerge as the top tackle in this class when it’s all said and done. Regardless of who comes off the board first in 2019, one thing is certain: all of these tackles have potential to be top 10 picks and though the defensive line class is deep, the offensive line class shouldn’t be slept on.

 

Joe Jackson – Photo Credit: zimbio.com

Other Notable Lineman that could be 2019 First Rounders:

  • David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin
  • Connor McGovern, OG/OC, Penn State
  • Martez Ivey, OG, Florida
  • Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
  • Sam Mustipher, OC, Notre Dame
  • Raekwon Davis, DE, Alabama
  • Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State
  • Joe Jackson, DE, Miami
  • Jefferey Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
  • Terry Beckner Jr., DE, Missouri

 

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