Saturday, April 21, 2018
Sports

2018 NFL draft countdown: Projecting edge rushers

We're 10 days away from the NFL draft in Dallas. Here's what I'm reading:

• Though the Bucs signed Vinny Curry and traded for Jason Pierre-Paul, they still could be in the hunt for an edge rusher. The consensus among scouts is that Bradley Chubb is the best in this year's draft class. One advanced metric disagrees.

Football Outsiders' SackSEER projections, which are based on a series of factors that are historically correlated to NFL success, give the edge to Marcus Davenport. The model forecasts 25.9 sacks through five seasons for the defensive end out of Texas-San Antonio. He's expected to come off the board in the middle of the first round, so he could be in play for the Bucs if they trade down from their No. 7 slot.

"Davenport had a strong combine workout, running the 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.58 seconds with a strong broad jump," said Nathan Forster, the creator of SackSEER. "Davenport also had a slightly above-average passes defensed rate. For a player slated to go in the teens (instead of the top five), Davenport sure looks impressive."

Chubb ranks second in the SackSEER projections (24.6 sacks), Harold Landry third (22.6), Sam Hubbard fourth (18.1) and Josh Sweat fifth (17.5).

This year's projections support what many draft analysts have claimed about this class of edge rushers: It doesn't feature as many top talents as years past.

In 2017, the SackSEER model had a clear preference for Myles Garrett (31.9). T.J. Watt (26.5), Tyus Bowser (26.5), Derek Barnett (25.5) and Solomon Thomas (24.2) also ranked high.

Leonard Floyd (26.9) led the way in 2017, followed by Joey Bosa (26.8), Emmanuel Ogbah (25.6), and Shaq Lawson (22.9). SackSEER projected 20.8 sacks for Noah Spence, whom the Bucs selected at No. 39.

• You've heard Shaquem Griffin's inspiring story, but his rise to draft prospect is about more than guts and guile, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated writes. Breer wanted to learn about Griffin the football technician, so he asked for a one-on-one lesson.

• The Times' Rick Stroud has posted mini Q&As with some of the more notable draft prospects, including Chubb, Davenport, Derrius Guice and Saquon Barkley.

Mock draft roundup

• ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay each go three rounds in their latest mock drafts, making picks based on what they think is best for each team.

Kiper's picks for the Bucs: Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick at No. 7 and UTEP guard Will Hernandez at No. 38.

McShay's picks for the Bucs: Fitzpatrick at No. 7 and USC running back Ronald Jones II at No. 38.

Peter King and Breer mock up four ways the first 12 picks could unfold. In each scenario, the Bucs land a defensive back. Fitzpatrick was the pick three times, and Florida State safety Derwin James was the pick once.

Luke Easterling of Draft Wire projects that the Bucs will take James at No. 7 and Georgia running back Sony Michel at No. 38.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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