Who are some of the ten best devy defensive ends for this upcoming season? Could any of them become the next top-three pick in the NFL Draft?
Over the past few years, defensive ends have blossomed with big names such as Chase Young, Nick Bosa, and Myles Garrett. We also have players such as Maxx Crosby and Brian Burns that are starting to make a name for themselves as well. Defensive ends in fantasy football are just as prominent as the running backs. If you look over the past few years, defensive ends are the first IDP position off the board. The position is top-heavy with players, as mentioned earlier, like the Bosa brothers, Garrett, and Danielle Hunter. So when it comes to the next wave of defensive ends, everybody wants to find that ‘next’ guy. There are a few guys on the list below that can fill that role if they keep racking up the highlight reels in college. COVID-19 has affected the 2020 college football season, and unfortunately, we won’t be able to see some of these guys play this year. Instead, they will be training or whatever they are doing to get ready for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE Oregon
Career Stats: 35 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, three pass deflections
If anybody on this list has the chance to become a top-five pick in the draft, its Kayvon Thibodeaux. He was the second-ranked overall prospect (#1 defensive end) coming out of high school. The sophomore had a very productive freshman season with the Ducks. He was fourth in the PAC-12 with nine sacks and was second in the PAC-12 with 14 tackles for a loss. Thibodeaux did most of his damage over the last six weeks of the season. He has many ways to beat offensive linemen and get behind the line and make plays, which makes him unique. If a running back gets past him, he can close with speed and get the tackle. The Ducks’ defense has made some huge strides this year and added more talent. This could give Thibodeaux a bit more freedom to make offenses a bit more jittery and increase his already high draft stock.
Gregory Rousseau, DE Miami
Career Stats: 59 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 15.5 sacks, one pass deflections, two forced fumbles
I was very excited to watch Gregory Rousseau perform this season and see what he could do. Unfortunately, we will not be able to see him play this year due to COVID-19 and him sitting out the season getting ready for the draft. Was his 2019 season the player he could be? It’s hard to tell, but if he is, he will be a top 15 if not a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft and probably one of the top defensive ends taken. Rousseau finished 2019 second in the NCAA with 15.5 sacks, only behind Chase Young. Coming out of high school, he was only a three-star recruit. Rousseau knows how to get himself out of blocks and make the play. He has plenty of weapons in his arsenal to succeed. However, he spent most of his high school career as a wide receiver and safety, so he is pretty new to the position. Rousseau did suffer a fractured ankle in his freshman year, which led to his red-shirt season. It will be a disappointment we won’t be able to see what he can do in 2020.
Carlos Basham, DE, Wake Forest
Career Stats: 145 tackles, 31 tackles for a loss, 14.5 sacks, seven pass deflections, three forced fumbles
Carlos “Boogie” Basham was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. He is on three national watch lists this year. Basham made a considerable jump in the 2019 season, with 57 tackles and ten sacks, jumping his draft stock. Basham is a balanced defender, solid in both run stop and pass-rushing. He needs to get a bit more fluid, especially when in pass coverage. Basham does have a high motor and will be in on every play. He doesn’t take plays off as you see some players do. He takes the right angles and doesn’t overshoot, which helps him rack up tackle numbers. His repertoire is robust and can help get him into the game. Basham could be a day two pick in 2021.
Quincy Roche, DE Miami
Career Stats: 137 tackles, 39.5 tackles for a loss, 26 sacks, five pass deflections, five fumble recoveries, six forced fumbles
That Miami defensive line was supposed to do big things in 2020. Well, without Rousseau, the defensive line took a huge hit. Quincy Roche, who played at Temple for the past three years, amassed 137 tackles, 39.5 tackles for a loss, and 26 sacks for the Owls. He can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4, so he is very versatile. There will be a learning curve in moving from Temple to Miami but he should be able to take care of his own. This year could dictate where he is going in the NFL draft. Without Rousseau, he will have to do a lot by himself. After some of the tape I watched, he doesn’t have a high motor and doesn’t like to get involved in every play. There are still flaws in his game, but if he can work on it at the next level, Roche can get himself into a day one or early day two pick.
George Karlaftis, DE Purdue
Career Stats: 54 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, two pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble
Here’s another true freshman that made an impact in 2019 and can only hope to make his stock go up in 2020. George Karlaftis still has some strides to make, but from what he showed this past year, he can do it. He is quick off the line, disrupting the offense, but still can learn a few things. As a true freshman, he was seventh in the Big 10 with seven sacks and third with 17 tackles for a loss. Karlaftis’ game still needs to be polished but coming from a sophomore that is expected. His frame allows him to be able to play in a 4-3 or a 3-4. Karlaftis is in play for the Big 10 defensive player of the year, along with Zach Harrison and Aidan Hutchinson.
Aidan Hutchinson, DE Michigan
Career Stats: 81 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, six pass deflections, three forced fumbles
Aiden Hutchinson was a four-star prospect (sixth in defensive ends) coming out of high school before he signed with the Wolverines. He played in all 13 games and started seven of them in his freshman year. Hutchinson was only able to muster 12 tackles and one for a loss. In his sophomore year, he took a big step for the Wolverines, amassing 69 tackles, ten tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks. Hutchinson is very versatile and can play everywhere along the defensive line making his value a bit higher in fantasy. He has good quickness to get back inside and get into the backfield, disrupting the play. The biggest knock on Hutchison is his lack of experience. It could hurt his stock a bit if there is no college football season.
Xavier Thomas, DE Clemson
Career Stats: 60 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, four pass deflections
Xavier Thomas was the third-ranked player coming out of the IMG Academy. He played in all 15 games in his freshman year, finishing the season with 33 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks. Thomas’ sophomore more was on track to eclipse 2018 but ended up only playing in 12 games due to injury. Looking to make a jump in draft stock for the 2021 NFL draft, his junior season has already been cut short by COVID-19 and strep throat, which caused him to lose a bunch of weight. Thomas will red-shirt this year and come back in 2021. He still has the skill-set and frame to be a top NFL draft pick but will need to prove that on the field when the time comes.
Nolan Smith, DE Georgia
Career Stats: 18 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, one pass deflection
Nolan Smith was the number one overall recruit in 2019. He played in 11 games but with only 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Smith can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4. He has the frame to bulk up and be more suited as a defensive end. The combination of Smith’s speed and quickness give him surprising speed to run through defenders. When rushing the passer, he has an incredible bend, which helps him get outside and around the tackles. Smith will pair up with Monty Rice, who was the Bulldogs leading tackler in 2019, which should give him more opportunity to succeed.
Zach Harrison, DE Ohio State
Career Stats: 24 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks
Another Ohio State defensive lineman. Zach Harrison has some big shoes to fill. However, on that note, he has had the chance to learn from the best. Having appeared in all 14 games for the Buckeyes. He did most of his damage over the last five games of the season. Harrison has an ideal defensive end frame and should be able to keep the weight he has and keep his speed. His speed is one of his best traits. Harrison is ready to chase down the ball carrier and make the play. He is still raw, but another season in college should help him increase his draft stock for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Jayson Oweh, DE Penn St.
Career Stats: 25 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, seven sacks
If you want a guy that has a high motor and won’t quit on any plays, then Jayson Oweh is your man. He won’t stop and will try to get his hands in every play and clean up. With Yetur Gross-Matos gone, Oweh should be able to start and bump up his draft stock. If the college season doesn’t play this year, it could hurt his draft capital and could fall further in the draft. Oweh needs to build up his strength to avoid getting bullied around by the offensive line. He has the potential to be a day one pick.