With the draft getting closer and closer, here is a look at some of the impact players that will be in the trenches of the NFL this fall.
DeForest Buckner- 6’7, 291 Lbs., University of Oregon
Strengths- The reigning PAC 12 defensive player of the year poses great size and very long arms that should help him when hand fighting in pass rush. He is also very vestal and can play multiple positions along the defensive line. He was primarily an interior player at Oregon, but has the build of a defensive end. Buckner showed great quickness in his award winning season which allowed him to dominate centers and guards. He figures to be a great fit in a 4-3 scheme with his combination of speed and strength, as well as his versatility (even though the Ducks ran a 3-4). His go-to move is a quick spin move which he can do from both sides of the line. The move is very quick which makes it hard for linemen to get their hands inside on him.
Weaknesses- Buckner tends to play high at times, which can be expected due to his height. This can allow linemen to get underneath him and slow down his pass rush. He also appears to fall in love with his swim and a straight bull rush. Professional lineman can handle these moves better than those in college, so Buckner will need to expand his arsenal.
Projected Pick- Buckner will more than likely be taken in the first 7 picks of the draft. Teams seem to be wanting to play him as an end more than a tackle, which helps his draft stock. Buckner will be the second defensive lineman off the board (assuming Ohio State’s Joey Bosa is the first). He will be a steal for any team if he falls past Baltimore, who owns the number 6 pick overall. I believe that Baltimore is where Buckner ends up, and he will prove to be a great anchor for the Ravens front 7.
Browns Radar? – I do not view Buckner as a guy the Browns will be targeting. The only exception would be if they trade out of the number 2 pick. Buckner comes from a 3-4 defense, which is what the Browns run, but he does not appear to be on the radar of the team.
Sheldon Rankins- 6’1, 299 lbs., Louisville
Strengths- Sheldon Rankins is a big man, and he knows exactly how to be big. He was 299 pounds of brute force in the middle of the Louisville front line, showing great strength both in the pass and run games. The best thing that Rankins can do is take on a double team, which is essential for interior lineman. He also has good speed for a lineman (4.96 40-yard dash at pro day) which allows him to stunt well. This allows him to impact the game as a pass rusher.
Weaknesses- It’s a simple fact, NFL offensive lineman are very strong. If Rankins doesn’t expand his pass rush moves, he will learn this lesson very quickly. ACC pass rushers did not fare well against the powerful bull rush that Sheldon possesses. A good move for him to pick up would be a simple club and rip through, which is quick, simple, and can keep the shorter arms of centers from latching on to him.
Projected Pick- Rankins is very much a wild card when it comes to where he will be taken, which seems to be the case with interior lineman not named Ndumakong Suh. He possesses top 20 talent, but scheme fit could take over the minds of most teams (and rightfully so). I believe that the Colts will take Rankins with the 18th overall pick. The Colts have a lot of offensive weapons, so it makes sense to focus on the other side of the ball with this pick. Rankins will be a good piece for the Colts moving forward and could make an immediate impact.
Browns Radar? – The only way that Rankins could be an option for the Browns is if he falls to 32, which is very unlikely. He is a top 20 talent and will be drafted accordingly. The Browns also took Danny Shelton in last year’s draft, and despite struggles, is still the man in the middle.
Jarran Reed- 6’3, 307 lbs., Alabama
Strengths- Reed can best be described as a run game anchor. He is very good at clogging up gaps and taking on two blockers, which is vital for a defensive interior player in the NFL. When he gets his hands inside of blockers they cannot contain him. He was the perfect fit for the run stopping defense of Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.
Weaknesses- While he is so good against the run, Reed struggles against the pass. He does not have very good moves, including his bull rush. He also cannot string a series of moves together. Another major problem that occurred this past season is that he would get fatigued easily. He has a great motor early on, but as the series and quarters move on, Reed seems to fade. He is a great talent, but if he can only go 50%, that doesn’t mean much. He also tends to stay locked onto blockers because his moves aren’t good enough to disengage.
Projected Pick- I believe that Reed will slip a little in the draft due to his weaknesses. He is still an incredible talent, but has a lot of work to do. The Green Bay Packers need to replace BJ Raji who stepped away from football this offseason. Reed with the 27th pick would appear to make a lot of sense for both the Packers and Reed.
Browns radar? – Reed will not be a Brown. The Browns already have a big young interior player in Danny Shelton and will not be taking another one. Reed will go to a team with need at the position before the Browns come around at 32.
A’Shawn Robinson- 6’4, 307 lbs, Alabama
Strengths- The first thing that jumps off the tape when watching Robinson is the leverage he plays with. He has great hip action and is able to explode out of his stance. He also gets down the line exceptionally well and rarely allows an offensive lineman to cross his face. He was the perfect player to play beside Jarran Reed due to his ability to get to the passer. He has great pass rush technique and has a down right relentless motor. He also does an exceptional job of hand fighting to keep blockers hands off of him. He is also very good on stunts due to his freak athleticism and ability to navigate the holes in the offensive line.
Weaknesses- Robinson has a bad habit of playing high. He has often tries to let his athletic ability take over, which can allow blockers to get underneath him, and that is never a good thing when playing up front. Another thing that scouts are worried about is the lack of production that he had despite all of the athleticism that he possesses. It also would not hurt him to learn more pass rush moves, as offensive lineman seemed to pick up on his game plan early and often.
Projected Pick- Robinson has a ton of upside despite having some flaws. He is a raw player who could develop into one of the best interior defensive lineman in the game. His upside makes him a very enticing pick inside of the top 15. I believe that he ends up going 12th overall to the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have been lack-luster at best on defense the past couple of years, and could use someone with the upside of Robinson to be a potential star.
Browns radar? – Robinson will not be a factor for the Browns. He is not good enough to be taken number 2 and will not fall to 32. Even if he did fall to 32, it would be hard to justify taking any defensive interior player due to drafting Danny Shelton just a year ago.
Andrew Billings- 6’1, 311 lbs., Baylor
Strengths- Billings is a powerful, powerful man. He is an absolute load up front and can throw aside 300-pound lineman with ease. He plays low and explosive and can take on multiple blockers. He is very explosive and can get to the passer. He also plays with a very high motor and it shows that he loves playing the game.
Weaknesses- He does play low, but sometimes the way he plays low is a problem. He does it by leaning and can tend to overextend. It’s good to stay low, but if you lean too far, you can end up on the ground. Billings also struggles to react to plays that do not come directly at him. He does not get down the line well and also is not very good on stunts, specifically loops. This lack of movement can make him very one dimensional.
Projected Pick- Billings is a guy who will either go late in the first round or early in the second. He is a very good player, but his lack of mobility could be a turn off. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a great history of producing great defensive players. Billings could be their next breakout star if the Steelers take him with the 25th overall pick, which I believe they will.
Browns Radar? – Billings may be on the board still when the Browns make their second round pick. However, the position is one of the few positions that the Browns do not need. Even if he is still there, it is likely that the Browns will go elsewhere.