Whole Nine Sports

Top 5 Players from Non-Power 5 Schools (Defense)

As Draft Season continues to heat up, we look at players from schools of all shapes and sizes, well right now we’re looking at the smaller schools. For the sake of this article, we’re covering all schools that aren’t part of a Power 5 conference. Through each section there will be two sections, the first one will separate the top prospects at that position, the second one will be the next prospects.

Defensive Line

Ed Oliver, Houston

Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame

Trysten Hill, Central Florida

Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois

John Cominsky, Charleston

The non-Power 5 defense is surprisingly great. Ed Oliver is a top-10 talent in this draft class, which is saying a lot because by no means is this a weak class, especially at the top. Jerry Tillery should be a day 2 pick and an immediate contributor for an NFL defense. The talent drops off here, but that doesn’t mean the next guys are bad at all, these top 2 are just extremely good.

Trysten Hill isn’t a great pass rusher but he’s a pretty stout run defender that should be able to carve out a role for himself in the NFL, at least on early downs. Khalen Saunders may be more popular right now for choosing to stay at the Senior Bowl as opposed to going to see the birth of his child, which you can’t fault him when that child will have a better life because of that NFL money. He’s got a ton of athleticism and could develop into a solid contributor on the defensive line. John Cominsky is Division II All-American defensive lineman, he’s got some ability to rush the passer but he shines more defending the run and an early down role would be best for him in the NFL.

EDGE

Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech

Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion

Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois

Jamal Davis II, Akron

Corbin Kaufusi, BYU

If you call yourself “Sack Daddy”, you better be damn good at rushing the passer.  Jaylon Ferguson is damn good at it. Statistically, Jaylon Ferguson is the best ever at rushing the passer with the college record 45 career sacks. His power moves are second to none in college football. Oshane Ximines is a pure pass-rusher that’s also had a productive college career, finishing 8th in NCAA career sacks.

Sutton Smith begins the next tier of EDGE defenders on this list and he would be first or second if this EDGE group wasn’t getting first round hype at the top of the list, Smith is a an all-around defender that is going to need to pack on some weight if he’s going to want to produce in the NFL. Jamal Davis II is an energetic run defender that lacks technique when rushing the passer, but his hustle and effort should at least get him a camp invite, if not a late round selection. Corbin Kaufusi is an absolute mountain of a man, standing in at 6’9” and 275 pounds, Kaufusi has size like no other player in the NFL, he could struggle due to not having as low a pad level as NFL offensive linemen. Kaufusi also played offensive line at BYU so who knows, maybe the Seahawks will try to convert him back to an offensive lineman.

Linebackers

Khalil Hodge, Buffalo

Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame

Richard Olekanma, Toledo

Sione Takitaki, BYU

Ulysees Gilbeert III, Akron

When looking for the best tackling machine in all of college football, look no further than Khalil Hodge from Buffalo. Hodge has the instincts and technique to bring down any runner and he’s got the aggressiveness to shoot the gap without hesitation. Drue Tranquill is the perfect hybrid for today’s NFL. A former safety, Tranquill should be able to find a fit as a nickel linebacker in most NFL defenses.

Richard Olekanma is someone that I’ve been pounding the table for since day 1 and I’m not stopping now, the scheme versatile linebacker is one that’s good at everything but amazing at nothing and a lot of teams could his versatility at the next level. Sione Takitaki is another tackling machine here, he doesn’t excel at making stops in the backfield but he knows how to wrap up and bring down runners. Ulysees Gilbert III had very productive sophomore and junior years before dropping off a bit in his senior year but if a coach can get him back up to his previous level of play, they can find a late-round UDFA steal here.

Defensive Backs

Nasir Adderley, Delaware

Julian Love, Notre Dame

Rock Ya-Sin, Temple

Sean Bunting, Central Michigan

Blace Brown, Troy

Nasir Adderley is a versatile defensive back that has shot up draft boards over the past month with his strong showing at the Senior Bowl, even with a sprained ankle, he’s a potential first rounder. Julian Love would excel as a slot corner in the NFL and given how often teams play nickel defense now, he could find himself a great fit on a variety of teams. Rock Ya-Sin is super physical for a corner and could really bully the smaller receivers at the next level if he keeps it up.

Sean Bunting has good size for the NFL, has shown his ability to make a play on the ball, and isn’t afraid of getting physical in the run game, something that could set him apart from other mid-round corners in the draft. Blace Brown has been a bit of a late-climber lately as someone that started his college career as a wide receiver who then transitioned to corner, which explains why he’s so good at being a ballhawk, he’s also a high energy player who gets physical in the run game, what more could you ask for?