I know not a lot of people have time to look over the draft class in its entirety, and tend to rely heavily on other peoples evaluations for draft day. I usually sneak in time during my workday to look over guys and try to get a feel for the good, the bad, and the outstanding. I am no professional scout, and so I can be downright wrong for many many guys. I will say, that I have a knack for identifying good defensive players (specifically d-line and OLB) and good RB talent. I have been learning the QB position for a few years now, and feel like I have a decent eye for it, but alas I am not exactly the greatest at figuring out who will transition and who will not. With QB's it is simply to complex of a position for me to see the difference between what skills are most important to identify and which ones are secondary or tertiary skills that can be overlooked predraft. I'll give it a shot, but I am very much a novice with that position.
Today I was looking over some defensive guys in general. I did a handful of six round mock drafts and have identified a number of defensive players who are worth pointing out. Some we may know, some we may not. So without further ado, here is my early look at defensive standouts going into the 2023 draft.
Jalen Carter: He is a day 1 starter at either a 3-tech or 5-tech defensive line position. Honestly, his size, speed, power, and technique are phenomenal. He is holding down the top spot defensively this year, and it probably won't change. He could very well be taken first overall and be justified.
Myles Murphy: To my eye Murphy is much closer to being a 1b to Carter than a lot are giving him credit for. He doesn't necessarily have the same size and power, but he has more athleticism and is this years freakish player, similar to last years Travon Walker. Similar to Walker, Murphy also has a really strong supporting cast, so part of his success could very well be that he didn't face the same number of double and triple teams that Carter did. That to me is the dividing point. Murphy is less position versatile as well. He is slightly smaller than Carter. He is the perfect size for a specific 5-tech d-lineman at the next level, but has immediate all-pro talent at the NFL level there.
Isaiah Foskey: This is higher than most other people have Foskey, but I've seen enough, and feel fully confident in putting him high on my defensive list. His size is perfect for a hybrid 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE. He could be a three down player for a team in year one. He is very fast for being 6'5" and 260lbs. He is best from a standing position but definitely has the power and pass rushing acumen to play with his hand in the dirt. Plus, most importantly, the guy is a winner. He has a track record for multiple years of being above his peers. Given that Atlanta will be picking in the 9-13 range, this should be the most targeted player for this team.
Siaki Ika: Another player that is too high for most lists, but once again I've seen enough to put him here. Jordan Davis from last years draft was a Albert Haynesworth clone, Ika is a Vince Wilfork clone. The guy is just a donut shy of 360lbs, but plays 75 pounds lighter than he really is. It is wild to see him pass rush like he does. His size, speed, and athleticism allows him to be extremely position versatile. His size says he is a true 3-4 NT, but in reality he is an NFL ready 0-tech all the way to 5-tech. Plus, he doesn't wear out as easily as Davis did. He is a very rare 3-down nose tackle, similar to Wilfork, and is a legit first round talent. He may get pushed to the second round, and if that happens Atlanta should target him. A serious argument could be made that if we pick Foskey earlier in the first round, we trade up in the late first to get Ika, and immediately install two very high-end players in the first round of the draft.
BJ Ojulari: Similar to Foskey, he is a hybrid 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE player. He has a similar skillset and size. He is 10 pounds lighter than Foskey, and that does seem to affect his run defense game, but he is a tenacious pass rusher. He has quality length, and a soft skill that I personally noticed on the games I watched was that he has great discipline. He gets overwhelmed with double teams and bigger OT's, but when he is told to set the edge for the run, he does just that. When told to go get the QB, once again, he does just that. You can literally watch him hold back just enough to pressure the passer, but not open up the edge for a possible QB run. He is smart and a team player. He is another first round worthy player.
Calijah Kancey: Mark my words, this guy is going to fly up draft boards once draft season picks up steam. He somehow isn't being considered on the same level of Murphy or Ika, but what I watched on some game films astounded me. Kancey has a downright ELITE first step. This might be overplaying it a bit, but his initial burst off the line reminds me of Aaron Donald coming out of college (Donald came out of Pitt as well). They even have a similar build. Kancey is almost specifically a 3-4 DE, but is still an every down guy. He lacks size for a true 4-3 DT, and length to be a true 3-4 OLB. His ability to get into the backfield is one of the best in this class. I have watched him split double teams very similar to our own Grady Jarrett, but have better speed once in the backfield. He runs down RB's and QB's regularly. From what I have looked into his biggest drawback is his length. His is a bit of a tweener. Too small for a 4-3 DT role, but too big for a 3-4 OLB role. His arm length isn't ideal for even a 3-4 DE but his burst off the line and natural pass rush ability allow him to succeed anyways. He is a little raw still, which means he could actually could get significantly better, but it might mean he has a slow start at the next level, but epitomizes the "high floor, high ceiling" draft prospect.
Bryan Bresee: Bresee is definitely a quality DT/DE hybrid player. He is the teammate to Murphy (listed above), and they have a very symbiotic relationship. Murphy is dominant, so Bresee doesn't catch nearly the double teams he would on another team, but Bresee himself is good enough that teams definitely do not overlook him. To me he is a back end first round talent, more than likely high-end second round guy. He doesn't have that elite athleticism that scouts like to see, and he has an injury history. His powerful hands, and quality football knowledge mixed with above average athleticism and high motor make him seem like a guy who will transition well, but you take Murphy away and give him better o-lineman to face and I think he struggles much more than he has. His NFL transition takes a little longer than the other names on this list.