Christian Wilkins*, 3-4DE, Clemson
Height: 6-4. Weight: 310. Projected 40 Time: 5.00. Projected Round (2018): 1-2. 9/23/17: Against Louisville, Wilkins caused some disruption while making one tackle. He put together a strong game against Auburn with a handful of tackles and two sacks. In 2017, Wilkins has 12 tackles with 2.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks.
9/1/17: Wilkins played well for Clemson in 2016 as part of a tough defensive line that controlled the point of attack. The sophomore recorded 48 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and 10 passes batted. Wilkins made 33 tackles and two sacks as a freshman in 2015. He has a nice skill set with upside.
Wilkins had to play a lot of defensive end last year because of injury. He displayed a nice ability to play there, but his NFL home is on the inside. As a pass-rusher, Wilkins was able to get after the quarterback with pressure coming around the corner. He looked the most dangerous when lining up over guards and firing past them to cause disruption in the backfield. While he played a lot of end, at his weight, Wilkins really doesn't have edge rusher speed for the NFL. He will have to rush from the inside as a pro, but that is his natural position anyway. Wilkins was a solid run defender, too. He has a strong, thick lower body to hold his ground at the point of attack.
Trenton Thompson*, 3-4DE, Georgia
Height: 6-4. Weight: 295. Projected 40 Time: 5.00. Projected Round (2018): 1-2. 9/23/17: Thompson notched three tackles and one for a loss against Samford. Thus far in 2017, he has totaled 12 tackles with three for a loss. Sources say that Thompson is a definite first-round talent, but they want him to play more consistent football. They also say his body type is a little odd for a three-technique and his body type fits a 3-4 defense end better.
9/1/17: Thompson really improved throughout the 2015 season and started to flash a special skill set. The sophomore totaled 56 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and a pass broken up. Thompson ended his junior year in superb fashion by dominating the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against TCU, recording three sacks.
One of the hardest things to find for a NFL defense is an interior defensive lineman capable of being a steady pass-rusher. Thompson is that rare kind of defender as he has a lot of ability to get after the quarterback. In the pass rush, he is a fast interior defender who routinely fires by guards to collapse the pocket. Thompson can bolt by guards, can use his speed to loop around the line on stunts, and can close on the quarterback in an instant. Thompson is very fast at firing his gap to create disruption in the backfield with an impressive ability to redirect to chase down quarterbacks and running backs. The speed also extends to run defense, as he can flow down the line to get in on tackles near the line of scrimmage.
Vita Vea*, 3-4DE, Washington
Height: 6-5. Weight: 332. Projected 40 Time: 5.20. Projected Round (2018): 1-3. 9/23/17: This year, Vea has nine tackles with a sack.
9/1/17: Vea was a load at the point of attack for Washington in 2016. On the year, he totaled 39 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, one force fumble and two passes batted. Vea has a serious combination of size, length, strength, and quickness at the point of attack.
For the NFL, Vea projects as a heavy nose tackle who can be tough at the point of attack. He is a big, thick and strong. Vea can use his size and strength eat up blockers and generally holds gap integrity. He has a quick burst off the snap, and there are times where his size, power, and quickness overwhelm smaller interior linemen. Vea is at his best when he tries to bull his way into the backfield to cause disruption. With his upper body strength and the power in his base, Vea can push off or through blocks. He has a good motor and gives a second effort, too.
Vea needs to show improvement in the pass rush during 2017. The junior needs to develop some pass-rushing moves to go with his bull rush. He has to become more consistent in creating pressure and laying hits on the quarterback in order to be a highly in-demand draft prospect. Otherwise, he could be viewed as just a nose tackle.
Bradley Chubb, 3-4DE, N.C. State
Height: 6-4. Weight: 275. Projected 40 Time: 4.80. Projected Round (2018): 1-2. 9/23/17: Chubb notched two tackles and .5 sacks versus Furman. Against Marshall, he had one sack, three tackles for a loss and seven tackles. Chubb has 14 tackles with 5.5 for a loss, 1.5 sack and one pass broken up on the year.
9/1/17: Chubb was a tough defender for the Wolfpack in 2016, totaling 58 tackles with 22 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one pass batted. As a sophomore in 2015, he collected 5.5 sacks. Chubb has scheme flexibility along with a nice combination of size, speed, and instincts at the point of attack.
Andrew Brown*, 3-4DE, Virginia
Height: 6-4. Weight: 285. Projected 40 Time: 4.72. Projected Round (2018): 1-2. 9/23/17: This season, Brown has seven tackles with two for a loss and a forced fumble.
9/1/17: Brown is a sturdy defender at the point of attack and impressed last year. Scouting sources say that Brown has a first-round skill set entering the 2017 season. In 2016, he totaled six sacks, 13 tackles for a loss and 38 tackles. Brown has good size to be a base end with quickness and athleticism to get after the quarterback.
Duke Ejiofor, 3-4DE, Wake Forest
Height: 6-4. Weight: 270. Projected 40 Time: 4.73. Projected Round (2018): 1-3. 9/23/17: Ejiofor is off to a good start with two sacks and eight tackles so far in 2017.
9/1/17: Ejiofor goes under the radar playing at Wake Forest, but he was a real force in 2016. On the season, Ejiofor totaled 10.5 sacks, 50 tackles, four passes broken up, forced fumbles and one interception. He had 4.5 sacks as a sophomore.
Jerry Tillery*, 3-4DE, Notre Dame
Height: 6-6. Weight: 310. Projected 40 Time: 5.20. Projected Round (2018): 4-6. 9/23/17: Tillery is up to 16 tackles with one sack in 2017. He's played well for Notre Dame.
9/1/17: Tillery had 37 tackles with three tackles for a loss in 2016. The sophomore played better than the numbers illustrate and caused some havoc at the point of attack. Tillery has the skill set to develop into more production in 2017 and maybe 2018.
Da'Shawn Hand, 3-4DE, Alabama
Height: 6-4. Weight: 273. Projected 40 Time: 4.84. Projected Round (2018): 6-FA. 9/23/17: Hand has five tackles thus far. Scouting sources say that Hand is just a guy. They have him as a late-rounder or undrafted free agent.
9/1/17: Hand has never lived up to the hype after being the No. 1 recruit in the nation coming out of high school. He was more of a rotational player for Alabama in 2016, but he was playing better late in the season. Hand totaled 21 tackles and two sacks in 2016. With Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson and Ryan Anderson all moving on to the NFL, Hand should take on a bigger role as a senior. As a sophomore in 2015, he totaled 16 tackles with three sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss.
Kahlil McKenzie Jr.*, 3-4DE, Tennessee
Height: 6-3. Weight: 325. Projected 40 Time: 5.17. Projected Round (2018): 6-FA. 9/23/17: So far in 2017, McKenzie has 13 tackles.
9/1/17: A pectoral injury limited McKenzie to only half the season in 2016. As a freshman in 2015, McKenzie flashed with 24 tackles and a sack. He has to stay healthy and produce as a junior.