2015 NFL Draft – Early Prospect Watch – Defense Edition

Connor Rogers takes an early look at some of the top defensive prospects entering the 2015 NFL Draft.

New York Jets fans might groan at the thought of selecting another defender in the first round, but these prospects are still worth keeping an eye on as the team continues to struggle. These are not necessarily the best players at their perspective position, but notable names that could draw interest from the Jets scouting department. Let’s take a look…

Defensive End / Outside Linebacker: Randy Gregory, Nebraska

The 6’6, 240 pound Gregory was excellent as a Sophomore in 2013, notching 10.5 sacks while contributing to 19 tackles for a loss. While his stats jumped out on paper, he was still an extremely raw prospect that struggled getting off blocks with his hands at times. This year, he’s taken a huge step:

Enter 2014, where Gregory has been flat out dominant. He is the type of pass rusher that teams have committed to triple teaming, allowing his fellow defensive linemen 1 on 1 match ups week after week.
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Gregory has 5.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries, an interception, and a forced fumble in 2014. He’s shown the ability to defend the outside and inside run, while also chasing down ball carriers 15-20 yards down the field at times (think Sheldon Richardson at Missouri). I would be shocked if he is not a top 10 pick on April 30th.

Middle Linebacker: Eric Kendricks, UCLA

The fifth year senior and brother of Eagles’ linebacker Mychal Kendricks is a perfect fit at 3-4 inside linebacker. His lateral ability is impressive for a linebacker, as he has consistently displayed that he can blanket running backs in the flats. He also moves well in zone coverage, with a high IQ to read where the QB is aiming to find the ‘soft spot’ on the field.

As a run stopper, Kendricks plays at his best going downhill. He anticipates where the hole is for the runner and plugs into the gap quickly. On the outside runs he gets to the sideline quickly. The only knock on him is that he is a bit light at 230 pounds and has battled various ankle and shoulder injuries in college.

Cornerback: Marcus Peters, Washington

Unfortunately Peters was dismissed by Washington this week after an argument with a coach. This was not his first clash with the Huskies coaching staff, leading to him being cut from the team.

On the other hand, when he is focused and on the field he is one of the best cornerbacks in college football. At 6’0, 190 pounds he has the make up of a physical, man to man, shutdown defensive back. He uses his hands at the line and tangles with receivers inside 5 yards more often than not.

Peters led the Huskies with three interceptions on the season. Although there will be questions about his character, he is the best this draft class has to offer at the cornerback position from a talent perspective.

Follow Connor Rogers: @CRogers_NFL