By John Clayton
This year’s NFL draft is loaded on defense. Even though quarterback Kyler Murray appears likely to end up as the first overall pick, the six best prospects in this draft might all be defensive front seven players.
Quality edge rushers and defensive tackles will be there for the taking throughout the first round.
Here is my list of the top 50 prospects in the 2019 NFL draft, based on conversations throughout the draft process with NFL coaches, scouts, executives and other evaluators.
1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State: Like his older brother, Joey Bosa of the Chargers, Bosa was a dominating defensive end at Ohio State. His last year lasted only three games due to injury, but he is considered the top player in the draft.
2. Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama: Williams is a dominating defensive tackle who had eight sacks and 19 and a half tackles for loss last year. Athletically, he’s freakish, running a 4.83-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-3, 303 pounds.
3. Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky: Allen offers just about everything you want in a playmaking defender. He can play outside linebacker in a base 3-4 defense and rush off the edge during passing downs. He had 17 sacks last year.
4. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: He was the first three-time All-American player in his school’s history. At 6-1, 287 pounds, he gets under blockers with his low center of gravity, and his reported 4.73 40 time from his pro day is excellent for his size.
5. Devin White, ILB, LSU: Since the combine, his stock has risen to the point that he’s a possible top-five pick. He started three years at LSU and has 4.42 speed, and he projects as a top-level inside linebacker and an ideal fit in a 3-4 defense.
6. Montez Sweat, DE/OLB, Mississippi State: He had a monster combine performance, running 4.41 at 6-5, 260 pounds and shooting his value into the top 10. He had 11 and a half sacks last year.
7. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma: At 5-10 1/8, Murray measured just tall enough to quiet most of his doubters, and now he’s in the running for the first overall pick. A Heisman winner with a strong arm and dynamic running ability, Murray is also a former first-round selection in pro baseball.
8. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa: One of two top tight end prospects from Iowa, Hockenson is a potential top-10 pick. He is a very good route runner in addition to being an excellent blocker.
9. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama: He played both tackle positions for the Crimson Tide, and was a rare freshman starter for Coach Nick Saban. He has great technique and the look of a longtime starter in the NFL.
10. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson: He dominated at defensive tackle for the Tigers, and is a three-time All-American. He can play end or tackle.
11. Andre Dillard, LT, Washington State: He wasn’t a highly regarded player coming out of high school, but he developed into one of the best pass blockers in college football. He’s a great athlete who improved his stock at the combine.
12. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: He’s a 6-3 pocket passer with a great arm, and is a very good decision-maker. Haskins was intercepted only eight times in 533 throws. Before Murray’s rise, he was considered best quarterback in draft.
13. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida: A three-year starter at 6-5, 312 pounds, he’s perfect for a team looking for a right tackle. His upside may be the highest of any blocker in this draft.
14. Devin Bush, LB, Michigan: He started three years at Michigan and could play well in a 3-4 defense or as a 4-3 weakside linebacker. He ran a 4.43 40, and he is really good against the run and can hold up in coverage.
15. Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan: He’s a two-year starter who could be a little bit of a gamble. He’s got the body to be a star pass-rusher at 6-4, 277, with 4.62 speed. But he only had three and a half sacks last year. Can he turn his potential into NFL production?
16. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson: He won the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s best defensive end, recording 19 and a half sacks last season. He’s done some good things when asked to drop into coverage.
17. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: Unlike some of the other top quarterbacks in this class, Lock was a four-year college starter. But there are inconsistencies in his throwing motion and questions about his accuracy.
18. Brian Burns, DE/OLB, Florida State: He might be a little undersized at 249 pounds, but he can rush as a 3-4 outside linebacker with great speed off the edge. He recorded 10 sacks and 15 and a half tackles for losses last year.
19. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU: More teams are looking for long, angular cornerbacks with speed, and Williams fits the bill. He’s 6-2, 185 pounds, runs a 4.4 40 and has 33-inch arms. He could be a shutdown corner.
20. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke: He started three years under Duke Coach David Cutcliffe, who is known for helping to develop Peyton and Eli Manning. But Jones completed just 60.5 percent of his passes last season.
21. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa: He’s the best athlete among this year’s tight ends, running a 4.5 40 at 249 pounds. He had 18 touchdown catches the past two years even though he shared the position with Hockenson. He has the ability to stretch the seam of a defense.
22. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington: He was one of the best coverage defenders in college last season, coming out of a Huskies program that keeps churning out NFL cornerbacks. The only knock against him is he’s 5-11 and not 6-1.
23. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia: Despite being 5-11 and 193 pounds, Baker plays the run well in addition to being excellent in coverage. He would fit well in a zone defense.
24. Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma: He projects as a guard or a right tackle. He’s a big blocker at 6-3, 329 pounds who can handle bigger defensive linemen.
25. Greg Little, OT, Mississippi: At 6-5, 310 pounds, he has good power and moves well with his feet, projecting as a future NFL tackle. He earned All-SEC honors last season, his third as a starter.
26. Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame: He is part of a recent trend in college football, in which coaches are putting their best athlete at defensive tackle and asking him to get to the quarterback as quickly a possible. He is an ideal fit as a three-technique tackle in the NFL.
27. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson: At 6-4, 342 pounds, he’s built like a perfect run-stopper, but he also offers great athletic ability, including 5.05 speed in the 40. Put him next to a quality interior disrupter and watch out.
28. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama: He’s a physical runner who loves to plow into defenders. Because he was in a rotation, he rushed for only 640 yards last year and only had 251 carries during his college career.
29. Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State: He is one of the fastest rising prospects in the draft. He moved over from tight end early in his career and started three seasons in college, displaying great technique and leadership ability.
30. N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State: His size — 6-2, 228 pounds — makes him a matchup nightmare for many cornerbacks, and he’s fearless catching passes over the middle. His speed is good enough (4.53 40), and he caught 78 balls for 1,088 yards last year.
31. Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State: He fits the prototype for a great outside receiver, at 6-5, 227 pounds with a 4.47 40. He needs to eliminate some drops, but he makes big plays, averaging 22 yards a catch last year.
32. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State: He might have been a top-five pick in the draft had he not torn his anterior cruciate ligament during his Pro Day in February. Like Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith in past years, he could become a second-round steal who develops into a Pro Bowl talent.
33. Taylor Rapp, S, Washington: He ran a disappointing 4.7 40 at his Pro Day, but Rapp is still considered the best free safety in the draft. He started for three years and has great range in pass coverage to go with great technique in run defense, always taking good angles to the ball-carrier.
34. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi: He was the star of the NFL combine after running a 4.33 40 and bench-pressing 27 reps of 225 pounds with his sculpted 6-3, 228-pound frame. But injuries forced him to miss 15 games in college, and his underneath route-running needs work.
35. Mack Wilson, ILB, Alabama: He didn’t get to start until his final year at Alabama, where he was great on special teams, but he has the potential to be a three-down linebacker if he can fine-tune his game in the pros.
36. Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State: A former track star with 4.33 speed at nearly 6-foot, 205 pounds, Campbell had two productive seasons for the Buckeyes, catching 90 passes last year.
37. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma: Hollywood Brown is the cousin of Oakland Raiders star wideout Antonio Brown. He’s only 5-9 and 166 pounds, but he’s productive (75 catches for 1,318 yards last season) and one of the fastest receivers in the draft (4.35 speed).
38. A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi: He was drafted as a baseball player coming out of college. He caught 85 passes for 1,320 yards last season and offers good size at 6-0, 226 pounds.
39. Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech: He’s a borderline first-round pick after recording 17 and a half sacks last season. He’s 6-5, 259 pounds, and has three years of starting experience.
40. Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State: He is one of the most accomplished blockers in the draft, starting four years and earning all-Big 12 first-team honors three times. He is better as a run-blocker than in pass protection.
41. Zach Allen, DE, Boston College: His stock took a hit with a slow 40 time at the combine, but he was one of the ACC’s top defensive playmakers and recorded 18 sacks in his career.
41. Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama: He has very good speed down the seem, averaging 16.1 yards on his 44 catches last season. He’s the son of former NFL first-round tight end Irv Smith.
42. Jachai Polite, OLB, Florida: He looked like a first-round lock until a slow 40 time and poor interviews at the combine sent his draft stock in the wrong direction. Still, he’s a very productive pass rusher who had 11 sacks last season.
43. Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College: A second-generation NFL lineman, he has a nasty blocking attitude and is versatile enough to play guard or tackle.
44. Rock Ya Sin, CB, Temple: His specialty is man-to-man press coverage, and he uses his hands very effectively. He transferred from Presbyterian to Temple, where he was a one-year starter.
45. Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware: He made the move from cornerback to safety last season, and he’s the perfect fit for a team looking for a single-high deep safety in cover-one or cover-three schemes. He’s the cousin of former Green Bay Packer great Herb Adderley.
46. Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington: A dependable tackle who never missed a game at Washington, he’s a borderline first-round pick but will likely go high in the second. He projects as an NFL right tackle at 6-7, 317 pounds.
47. Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina: Injuries slowed him early in his career, but he broke out for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns on 62 catches last season. He runs precise routes and is very physical at 5-11 and 214 pounds.
48. Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M: It’s a thin year at the center position, but McCoy offers a lot as a three-year starter with great leadership and smarts. He fits nicely for a team that wants to run the ball.
49. Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia: He switched from cornerback to safety last year and impressed coaches with his versatility. He has 4.44 speed, so he has enough range to play free safety, but his ability near the line of scrimmage also makes him a fit at strong safety.
50. Justin Hollins, OLB, Oregon: He is an intriguing edge rusher at 6-5, 248 pounds, and his stock has risen during the draft process. He played three years for the Ducks, and had six and a half sacks last season.