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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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2024 NFL Draft: Ranking every first round-graded defensive player

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Sports writer Mathias Cubillan ranks a deep group of first-round-level offensive linemen in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft. (Photo via Jonathan Moreau/Creative Commons)

In an NFL season that had its lowest scoring numbers in years, a premium has been placed on athleticism and versatility on the defensive end. While the 2024 NFL Draft class does not have any true blue chippers on defense, these are the top-end prospects who deserve to go Day 1:

1. Byron Murphy II, defensive tackle, Texas
Pro comparison: Ed Oliver

At 6-foot-1 and only 297 pounds, Murphy is an undersized but explosive defensive tackle. He played next to fellow draft prospect T’Vondre Sweat in the middle of a dominant defensive line for the Longhorns.

Murphy’s blazing 4.87 second 40-yard dash shows what he brings to a defense. Murphy should line up as a three-technique and win with his explosive first step. While he does have the functional strength to hold his ground in the run game, Murphy’s lack of size likely limits his ceiling.

2. Laiatu Latu, edge rusher, UCLA
Pro comparison: Matthew Judon

Latu took a long and winding road to put himself in a position to be a first round draft pick. Forced into a medical retirement from a neck injury suffered playing for Washington, Latu transferred to UCLA, where he was able to get back onto the field for the Bruins.

Latu is not a supreme athlete for the position, but he has a killer instinct. With a seemingly never-ending bag of tricks, Latu throws waves of pass rush moves at tackles to get to the quarterback. Latu’s instincts and motor sense mean that he is always around the ball, even when UCLA occasionally asked him to drop into zones. His medicals could scare some teams off, but pass rushers this skilled are usually big time contributors in rotations.

3. Terrion Arnold, cornerback, Alabama
Pro comparison: Jaylon Johnson

Arnold is an outside cornerback that plays with an edge and a soundness in his technique that is uncommon for a college corner. A smooth athlete that glides around the field, Arnold has the hips to mirror receivers and run with them downfield.

A 4.51 second 40-yard dash is nothing special, and Arnold is not even six feet tall, but he plays clean and rarely gets beat over the top. Arnold plays hard coming downhill and takes great angles to make plays in the quick game. He needs to compress the space he gives up in off-man, but his issues are all coachable for a young player.

4. Quinyon Mitchell, cornerback, Toledo
Pro comparison: Charvarius Ward

Mitchell is an elite athlete with so much dip on his chip. Despite being a small-school prospect, Mitchell matched up well against Marvin Harrison Jr. and was among the best players on the field at the Senior Bowl.

Mitchell is very experienced in quarters and off-man and can shoot out of his stance to close on the ball. Highly competitive and willing to get his nose stuck in, Mitchell does not back down from competition. Mitchell is inexperienced in press (but checked the box at the Senior Bowl) and needs to improve route anticipation, but the athleticism and mentality will translate to the big leagues.

5. Jared Verse, edge rusher, Florida State
Pro comparison: Marcus Davenport

A member of the 13-1 Seminoles’ defense, Verse was the proverbial straw that stirred the drink as the biggest disruptor. Verse is the best edge rusher in the class at converting speed to power. With incredible flashes littered through his film, the defensive end has reps when he leaves carnage in his wake with his raw strength.

His lightning quick first step allows him to gain ground quickly, even if his pass rush repertoire needs work. Verse has strength to hold his ground in the running game, but his eyes can drift and he can get duped by creative offensive schemes.

6. Dallas Turner, edge rusher, Alabama
Pro comparison: Odafe Oweh

Turner is a premier athlete with the versatility to rush from a two-point stance or put his hand in the dirt. Turner often uses his explosive first step and long arms to convert his speed into power to go through a tackle’s outside shoulder.

He needs to add counter moves to his bag when this fails, and he can too often get caught unprepared. He does not have enough sand in his pants to hold up in the run game and will need to get stronger to be an every-down player in the pros. Turner was good dropping into zone coverage due to his velvety movement skills, making me wonder if he can be used in a more hybridized role, a la early-career Haason Reddick.

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