Trench players: Offensive tackles, interior offensive linemen, interior defensive linemen and edge defenders.
Some of the players included in this list aren’t best fits as trench players, but they have a chance to be one at the next level. Most of them are players who are off the ball linebackers. They are graded as edge defenders for the purpose of this list.
30: Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech
Clark came from an air raid system with very basic pass protection. His system doesn’t translate to the NFL at all, but he has the physical tools to play left tackle as a professional. He doesn’t just have insane length with 36″ arms, but he has an anchor, too. The issue is, his feet are so bad that he rarely gets to display that anchor.
29: A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
We overrated his talent because he blocked a field goal against LSU. If he didn’t play for Alabama, how high is he ranked? Robinson doesn’t do anything really well. He’s being hyped as a high-upside guy, but at the end of the day, he’s a pretty middle of the road 5-technique defensive end. He’s going to be a solid run defender in the NFL, but how valuable are those players?
28: Charles Tapper, EDGE/DL, Oklahoma
27: Austin Johnson, DL, Penn State
One of the few interior defensive linemen who can actually take on a double-team. Of all of the nose tackles in the class, he may be the most underrated. Very good run defender, just don’t expect him to make any contribution as a penetrator. Historically, these guys are second-round picks.
26: Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Maryland
A very underrated pass-rusher. Ngakoue might stick as a Sam linebacker for some teams, but he could play 3-4 outside linebacker in he NFL. In that “Jack of all trades, master of none” category. Poor man’s Anthony Barr makes sense as a comparison to me.
25: Jordan Jenkins, EDGE, Georgia
Quietly, Jenkins is a talented pass-rusher. Unlike Leonard Floyd, Jenkins actually played a pass-rushing position for Georgia last season. He might be considered as an off the ball linebacker, but he has enough talent that you want to try him out on the edge to begin his career. He’s never going to be an elite player, but he could be a consistent 4-3 defensive end, living off of his get-off.
24: Kevin Dodd, EDGE/DL, Clemson
I think Dodd’s been slightly overrated due to his postseason play. He went toe-to-toe with Alabama’s worst starter, who didn’t get any help from a tight end because the Crimson Tide kept throwing to O.J. Howard for explosive plays. Dodd is a long run-first defender who could be a fine 4-3 strong-side defensive end. He might be able to play 5-technique in the NFL.
23: Andrew Billings, DL, Baylor
How high do you take a defensive tackle whose best trait is his upper body strength? He’s not long enough to play 5-technique. He’s not explosive enough to be more than a two-down 3-technique under tackle. He’s a decent nose tackle who is very young. Projecting him to be more than that, though, is simply a prayer.
22: Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State
Jones broke out as a freshman, but had a sophomore slump in 2014. He reemerged as Mississippi State’s top defender as a junior, resulting in an early declaration from the former blue chip recruit. He’s going to be a solid 5-technique at the next level, where he’s best suited to avoid double-teams. His junk fell out at the combine.
21: DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon
Buckner is very long. Buckner is very good against the run. Buckner doesn’t have the explosiveness to be a star one-gap player at the next level. That’s not what makes a top-10 pick. J.J. Watt, Fletcher Cox and Muhammad Wilkerson were all talented physical athletes coming out of college. The only poor athlete on paper who is dominating at the 5-technique position, at least to the point where he’s meeting the expectation of a top-10 pick, is Calais Campbell. Leonard Williams was regarded as the best prospect in the draft last class. On draft day, he fell to the sixth overall pick, beyond where just about anyone though he could slip. Buckner is being viewed as a second-tier player, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he wasn’t taken in the top-10.
20: Cody Whitehair, IOL, Kansas State
Whitehair was a left tackle for Kansas State, but at 6’3″, he’s likely going to have to transition to guard at the next level. He started that move at the Senior Bowl, where he looked like one of the two best interior offensive linemen at the event, along with Stanford’s Joshua Garnett. With his feet, you’d have to imagine that a zone blocking team would highly covet the lineman.
19: Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA
Clark is one of my favorite prospects in this draft. He’s not very consistent, but his flashes are up there with some of the best nose tackles in recent memory. He has a bull rush that will keep him on the field for three downs, which is usually a knock regarding the nose tackle position. He can play nose tackle, nose guard or 5-technique.
18: Leonard Floyd, EDGE, Georgia
He’s the second-coming of Dion Jordan, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. Many said Jordan needed to be an off the ball player in the NFL, but the Miami Dolphins stuck him as a defensive end. Floyd moved from a pass-rusher to true linebacker last season, and he was better for it. Floyd needs to be a situational rusher who catches tackles off-tempo. He’s too high coming across the line of scrimmage, and he doesn’t do a good enough job of getting his cleats back into the dirt to holdup with NFL offensive tackles for 60 minutes.
17: Noah Spence, EDGE, Eastern Kentucky
We thought that Spence could have saved this edge defender class, but his combine-pro day combination ended the talk of him being a top-10 selection. His off-field issues may or may not be a concern on draft day, as he was suspended twice at Ohio State due to ecstasy, leading to a ban from the Big Ten. At Eastern Kentucky, he beat down Kentucky and FCS opponents. At the Senior Bowl, he did well in the second and third practices of the week. He may end up as a number one pass-rusher on a roster, but he’s never going to be “the guy” that defensive coordinators have to plan against, judging by the evidence of how successful “tweeners” test on paper. His run defense is why he’s a better fit in a 3-4 defense.
16: Jason Spriggs, OT, Oklahoma
Everyone’s going to call him a poor man’s Lane Johnson, and I’m not opposed to agreeing. A dancing bear type who could be a starting left tackle in the NFL. If nothing else, he provides the upside of a top-five right tackle. The difference between he and Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley is much closer than Stanley and Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil.