DE: William Gholston, Michigan State
FRX: No. 14 DE (No. 113 overall)
The name Gholston seems to come with a negative stigma in the NFL draft community, as a result of Vernon Gholston being a monumental bust after high expectations as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. That shouldn’t take away from his younger cousin, William, whose game has some similar qualities to Vernon, but who is a different player and person than his cousin.
Gholston is being projected as a Day 3 prospect by most draft prognosticators, but he deserves to be a Day 2 pick. Although inconsistent, he has displayed the skill set to be an impactful pass-rusher both off the edge and going inside, while his combination of size (6’6”, 281 pounds) and athleticism give him big potential as a defensive end.
Gholston has the athleticism to play on the edge in a 4-3 defense, especially as a run-stopper, but he may project best as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. Either way, he should start to draw consideration as early as the late second round, and would be a bargain on his raw talent and potential alone as a Day 3 draft choice.
DT: Bennie Logan, LSU
FRX: No. 10 DT (No. 103 overall)
In a loaded draft class of defensive tackles, there are many players at the position who fit the description of overlooked (Penn State’s Jordan Hill, Bowling Green’s Chris Jones, and even Alabama’s Jesse Williams and Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins come to mind), but one player who really deserves more attention than he has gotten through the draft process is LSU’s Bennie Logan.
Logan is one of the best interior penetrators among defensive tackles in the draft class, a very good athlete who is quick off the snap and has great movement skills. He is not one of the most powerful defensive tackles in the draft class, but he is a capable run-stopper and his ability to make plays at the line of scrimmage could make him a very good 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme.
He deserves to be a Day 2 draft pick in either Round 2 or 3, and would be a great fit as an interior pass-rusher for a team in a 4-3 defense such as the New England Patriots, who hold the No. 59 and No. 91 overall selections in the draft.
OLB: Jonathan Stewart, Texas A&M
Coming into the year, Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter was viewed as a potential first-round pick, but in their senior seasons, Jonathan Stewart was the Aggies’ best linebacker. Stewart was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and has not gotten much love from draft prognosticators, but he has the chance to be a very solid rotational linebacker at the next level.
Stewart is a good athlete who is very good at making stops in space. He is not an aggressive blitzer, but he is a sound tackler and he is effective at dropping back in coverage. At the very least, Stewart should be a solid backup weakside linebacker and a special teams regular, and could be a bargain as a Day 3 draft choice.
ILB: Kevin Reddick, North Carolina
FRX: No. 9 ILB (No. 108 overall)
Solid run-stopping middle linebackers tend to get overlooked in the modern draft process, as an emphasis has been placed on pass-rushers off the edge and playmakers in coverage. North Carolina’s Kevin Reddick falls in that category, but could end up being a bargain for a team if he falls into Round 3 or later.
There is nothing spectacular about Reddick’s game, but he is a very good run-stopper who has great instincts, tackles well and is good at making plays in space. While not a big playmaker, he is an effective blitzer into the backfield and he can ably cover tight ends and running backs.
He has starting ability as a 4-3 middle linebacker or 3-4 inside linebacker, and could also project to playing strongside linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
CB: Johnny Adams, Michigan State
In a deep class of cornerbacks, Michigan State’s Johnny Adams has faded from being projected as a high draft pick to a forgotten man in the cornerback class. While there are a good number of better cornerbacks than Adams in the draft class, he could end up being a bargain in the late rounds of the draft as a result.
He does not have great measurables, but he is a physical cornerback with good discipline and instincts, is a strong tackler and has good ball skills. He has some issues with hip fluidity, but with his playmaking ability, corner blitzing skills and physicality, he projects well as an NFL slot cornerback.
When the premier cornerback prospects are off the draft board, NFL teams would be smart to give Adams a close look as a player who should be able to come in and contribute quickly on both defense and special teams.
S: J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern
FRX: No. 9 S (No. 109 overall)
Coming from a small school, Georgia’s J.J. Wilcox has not gotten much attention among the top safety prospects in the draft class, but he has the potential to develop into a very solid starting strong safety.
Wilcox combines good size and athleticism, is an effective cover safety with good ball skills and playmaking ability, and is very good at coming up and making plays in run support. He remains raw having one played year of safety at GSU after switching over from the offensive side of the ball, but even so, he is a very good tackler and big hitter, and he uses his understanding of offensive concepts well in picking up receivers on routes over the middle.
Wilcox may not be an immediate starter, but he has high developmental potential and could end up sneaking into the draft before the end of Day 2, even above some of the bigger names more often projected there on draft boards.