2018 NFL Draft: Defensive preview

The NFL Draft is finally here and multiple former Seminoles are hoping to hear their names called at the podium. Nine of those players, Derwin James, Tarvarus McFadden, Auden Tate, Josh Sweat, Derrick Nnadi, Ryan Izzo, Matthew Thomas, Jacob Pugh, and Rick Leonard, attended the NFL Combine in early March.

The combine produced positive news for James, Sweat, Thomas, and Pugh. The results were mixed for McFadden, Tate, Nnadi, and Izzo. Leonard didn’t have a very great performance in the event.

Guys like Ryan Green and Ermon Lane are also still fighting to keep their dreams alive. They weren’t invited to the combine but they’ve been participating in workouts and visits with teams. Green recently visited Tampa Bay while Lane visited Miami. Trey Marshall also has an outside shot of latching on with an NFL team. Jalen Wilkerson and Nate Andrews could impress teams with their athleticism.

These are where the former Seminoles on the defensive side of the ball are currently projected to go and what the top analysts are saying.

Derwin James

Position: Safety

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 215 pounds.

College stats: 186 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 3 interceptions

Combine results: 4.47-second 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical jump, 132-inch broad jump, 20 bench press reps

Scout’s outlook: “Possesses the desired physical traits and mental makeup of an All-Pro safety who has the ability to not only set a tone but change the course of games. Although James is extremely athletic and talented, he still has room for improvement as a run defender and in coverage. James’ talent is best utilized in an active, attacking capacity in a robber role or near the line of scrimmage, where he can support the run, blitz and handle physical coverage responsibilities.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Draft projection: First Round


Josh Sweat

Position: Defensive End/Outside Linebacker

Measurables: 6-foot-5, 253 pounds

College stats: 138 total tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks

Combine results: 4.53-second 40-yard dash, 39.5-inch vertical jump, 124-inch broad jump, 4.28-second 20-yard shuttle

Scout’s outlook: “Sweat has the length, frame and athletic qualities to fit right in as a 3-4 SAM or rush linebacker, but he needs to go to school with a position coach or a talented veteran to help unlock his pass rush potential. Sweat’s initial quickness and issues with contact balance could hinder his ability to play with his hand down. He has the ability to become a decent NFL starter, but there is a wide disparity between his ceiling and floor thanks to concerns surrounding the current and future health of his knee.” — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Draft projection: Third-Fourth Round


Derrick Nnadi

Position: Defensive Tackle

Measurables: 6-foot-1, 310 pounds

College stats: 165 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 3 forced fumbles

Combine results: 5.38-second 40-yard dash, 25 bench-press reps, 27-inch vertical jump, 96-inch broad jump, 8.15-second 3-cone drill, 5.02-second 20-yard shuttle

Scout’s outlook: “It’s hard to find “bad tape” for Nnadi. While NFL teams may see an undersized 4-3 nose tackle with limited pass rush value, I see a player with good power at the point of attack who can dislodge from single blocks and make plays. Nnadi has a good motor, active hands and enough pass rush ability to cause problems for blockers up front. Nnadi has the physical tools to play in one or two-gap schemes and has NFL starting ability.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Draft projection: Fourth-Fifth Round


Tarvarus McFadden

Position: Cornerback

Measurables: 6-foot-2, 205 pounds

College stats: 53 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 8 interceptions, 16 pass deflections

Combine results: 4.67-second 40-yard dash, 38.5-inch vertical jump, 121-inch broad jump

Scout’s outlook:Press corner with long arms and disruptive qualities but lacking in foot quickness and makeup speed. McFadden put together a highlight reel of impressive interceptions with NFL-caliber ball skills, but his ball production dropped sharply this year. On top of that, his 4.68 forty at the Combine seemed to prove what the tape showed regarding his long speed or lack thereof. McFadden has cover talent, but may be forced into a zone scheme to cover up for his speed concerns. McFadden will need to tighten up his coverage technique and become a much better tackler in order to find meaningful snaps as a pro.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Draft projection: Fifth-Sixth Round


Matthew Thomas

Position: Outside linebacker

Measurables: 6-foot-4, 219 pounds

College stats: 191 total tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks

Combine results: 4.58-second 40-yard dash, 41.5-inch vertical jump, 131-inch broad jump, 6.85-second 3-cone drill, 4.28-second 20-yard shuttle

Scout’s outlook: “Thomas is lacking in many of the areas teams covet in linebacker play. His instincts are poor, he doesn’t always play with a competitive demeanor, he’s not a downhill player and he lacks play strength and productivity for the position. However, Thomas does possess a long frame with outstanding play speed and the potential to make plays. It’s his athletic traits and “potential” that will give him a shot as a WILL linebacker who will need to excel on special teams to stick with a team long-term.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Draft projection: Sixth-Seventh Round


Jacob Pugh

Position: Outside Linebacker

Measurables: 6-foot-4, 246 pounds

College stats: 108 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 2 interceptions

Combine results: 4.65-second 40-yard dash, 38.5-inch vert, 122-inch broad jump

Scout’s outlook: “Pugh is a long, strong-side linebacker for 4-3 defenses with below average strength but solid pursuit speed. Pugh needs a strong lead-up to the draft because his tape is uneven and his career production has been unimpressive. There are some traits to work with, but finding the right positional fit may be a challenge.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Draft projection: Priority Free Agent


Trey Marshall

Position: Safety

Measurables: 6-foot-0, 217 pounds

College stats: 135 tackles, 1 sack, 6 pass deflections

Combine results: DNP

Scout’s outlook:Marshall doesn’t have instincts, ball production or cover talent, but he’s an aggressive tackler with the ability to help support the run as a box option. Marshall could be a Day 3 selection if his height, weight and speed all check out. He has the speed and demeanor of a core special teamer and could find a roster spot if he can convince a team that he can be serviceable as a backup safety.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Draft projection: Seventh Round-Priority Free Agent


Jalen Wilkerson

Position: Defensive End/Tackle

Measurables: 6-foot-5, 283 pounds

College stats: 21 tackles, 0.5 sacks

Combine results: DNP

Scout’s outlook: N/A

Draft projection: Undrafted Free Agent


Nate Andrews

Position: Safety

Measurables: 6-foot-0, 206 pounds

College Stats: 189 tackles, 2 sacks, 8 interceptions, 13 pass deflections, 2 touchdowns

Combine results: DNP

Scout’s outlook: N/A

Draft projection: Undrafted free agent


Ermon Lane

Position: Safety/Wide Reciever

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 215 pounds

College stats: 50 tackles, 1 interception, 4 pass deflections, 27 catches for 486 yards (18 YPC), 1 touchdown

Combine results: DNP

Scout’s outlook: N/A

Draft projection: Undrafted free agent

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