This is the fifth in a series of position previews for the 2020 NFL draft, which runs April 23-25. Today: defensive linemen. Read them all here.
THREE NAMES TO KNOW
DE Chase Young, Ohio State: The next defender in Ohio State’s parade of transformational edge rushers is so good that Washington most likely will stay put and select him second overall rather than give in to the offers from panicked teams looking to leapfrog each other in hopes of landing the second-best quarterback behind virtual No. 1 overall lock Joe Burrow. New coach Ron Rivera rides with Dwayne Haskins while boosting last year’s 27th-ranked scoring defense with another immediate NFL-ready pass rusher to go with 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat and tackle Matt Ioannidis.
DT Derrick Brown, Auburn: The best three-technique on the board probably won’t make it out of the top seven. Not with Carolina having a major need that Brown most certainly would fill. He’s the rare giant (6-5, 326 pounds) who doesn’t lumber around like one. His strength and size will stop the run en route to the quarterback. His speed and quickness make him a natural interior rusher. He had only four sacks last year, but he was one of the country’s more disruptive inside forces. With NFL coaching and dedication, he’ll continue to improve as an inside pass rusher.
DT Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M: Pro Football Focus has this huge John Randle fan going to the Vikings in the second round (58th overall). The 6-3, 293-pounder likens himself his idol, Randle, the Vikings Hall of Famer who set the bar for undersized tackles with nonstop motors. Madubuike had 40 pressures the past two years. And, as PFF noted, current Vikings three-technique Shamar Stephen generated only six a year ago. Madubuike met Randle at the scouting combine. Afterward, when reporters asked him how he compares to Randle, he said, “I’m quick, I’m powerful, I’m strong. I create pressure on the quarterbacks by the way I play.” Sounds like Johnny. But we’ll see.
DE Trevis Gipson, Tulsa: Last year’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year was Nick Bosa. A no-brainer No. 2 overall pick from Ohio State. The defensive rookie of the year runner-up was Maxx Crosby. A fourth-round pick from Eastern Michigan. A guy who had 7½ sacks in his last year as a MAC player and 10 sacks in his first year as an NFL player. Gipson has a similar Day 3 resume that could give some team a gem in the fourth or fifth round. The 6-3, 261-pounder had eight sacks last year and seven forced fumbles in his last two seasons.
A team strength for years, the defensive line lost two starters and its No. 3 end. And it could use an upgrade over Stephen at the starting three-technique. Other than that …. In their most significant move of free agency, the Vikings signed Michael Pierce to replace nose tackle Linval Joseph. At end, they have one of the league’s best defensive players in Danielle Hunter and one big question mark now that Everson Griffen and Stephen Weatherly are gone. Ifeadi Odenigbo turned heads last year with seven sacks as a situational pass rusher. But one can’t assume he’s ready to become an every-down player. There’s a chance 2018 fourth-round pick Jalyn Holmes could come alive and challenge Stephen or slide out to compete at end. But one sack in 11 games with no starts over two years doesn’t create much optimism.
VIKINGS' LEVEL OF NEED
High: With the 22nd and 25th overall picks, the Vikings probably will miss out on the top two edge rushers — Young and LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson — and the top two defensive tackles — Brown and Kinlaw. If they’re smitten with someone in the second tier, they might be able to trade down and still get an edge rusher like Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa or Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos near the top of the second round. They could target someone like Madubuike at 58 or hope they find another Hunter-like hidden gem on Day 3.