Day Three Dream Team: Defense
By Simon Carroll
You build a team through the draft, or so the old adage tells us. And those that buy into this mantra will be the first to tell you that unearthing value in the mid to late rounds is the way to win championships. From Tom Brady to Richard Sherman, Jahri Evans to Adalius Thomas – day three of the draft is littered throughout history with star players who have helped their teams to Super Bowls.
With that in mind, I’ve attempted to build a ‘dream team’ for the upcoming NFL Draft of prospects who are likely to come off the board in rounds 4-7. This exercise will be split into two sections, with this second article focusing on defense:
EDGE: Patrick Johnson, Tulane
When it comes to day three prospects, the first thing you look for is traits, and Patrick Johnson has some attributes to his skillset that you just cannot teach. Quick as a cat off the line of scrimmage, the majority of Johnson’s wins come from his first step. At the point of contact he utilises his long arms to good effect, working around the edge and into the backfield. He has some work to do on his technique rather than leaning on his god-given athelticism, but not many pass rushers have this talent this far down the draft.
IDL: Bobby Brown, Texas A&M
One of my favourite players in this draft class, Bobby Brown was a bright spot in a rather weak position group. Brown has a strong anchor and is very difficult to manipulate for offensive linemen – he plays with excellent leverage and the power and accuracy of his first strike sees him dictate terms at the point of contact. He has the size to play nose or 1-tech, and if he can be more consistent with his effort levels he will prove to be an astute day three pickup.
IDL: Khyiris Tonga, BYU
A smart, cerebral defensive linemen, Khyiris Tonga is a run stuffing machine who can meet ball carriers coming through the line of scrimmage or scrape along the line and fins them turning the corner. Showcasing elite lower body strength, Tonga can two gap, maintain a block and shed to the football. Much like Brown his effort levels are inconsistent and he needs to develop his fundamentals. But in terms of sheer size and ability, Tonga fits the bill.
EDGE: William Bradley-King, Baylor
William Bradley-King might not be a household name, even by draftnik’s standards, but turn on the tape and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Starting out at Arkansas State, WBK tore it up, before transferring to Baylor and doing eactly the same in the BIG 12 – in testing COVID circumstances with a different scheme and no offseason program to help him acclimatise. He demonstrates a quick, aggressive get-off with good mobility and excellent pad height that sees him dip round the edge quickly and effectively. He’s a day three steal and will outplay his draft stock comfortably.
SLB: Amen Ogbongbemiga, Oklahoma State
Ultra-productive during his time in Stillwater, Amen Ogbongbemiga has a nose for the football. A slippery linebacker who refuses to get tied up by blocks, Amen is able to keep his pads clean and work his way to the ball carrier. He has the speed to offer blitz versatility and is forever meeting running backs in the backfield rather than letting them through the line of scrimmage. He needs to get on the weights, but he’s too much of a playmaker to not garner attention in the later rounds.
MLB: Erroll Thompson, Mississippi State
A bruising linebacker who recorded more than 300 tackles in four years in Starkville, Erroll Thompson is not a man you want to meet if you’re carrying the football. He takes a borderline sinister pleasure in hitting hard and leaving his mark, and his non-stop motor and full commitment rubs off on his teammates. If he was a little more athletic you could call him the next Vontaze Burfict, but as a downhill thumper and tone setter you can’t ask for more.
WLB: Tony Fields, West Virginia
Instinctive and intelligent, Tony Fields is a calculated reader of the game who shows good anticipation that demonstrates his work ethic off the field and in the film room. Undersized at 220lbs, Fields plays 20lbs heavier and throws everything behind his tackles, and he has the speed and tenacity to chase down plays, making him the ideal weakside linebacker on this day three dream team.
CB: Bryce Thompson, Tennessee
Having only played the cornerback position since he arrived in Knoxville, Bryce Thompson is one of my biggest sleepers in this draft. Considering his short time at the position he has phenomenal instincts and does nothing but make big plays, attacking the ball at the catch point. He needs to work on his technique and man coverage is sometimes not pretty, but in terms of upside the potential is off the charts.
FS: Damar Hamlin, Pittsburgh
Possessing the ideal size and length for an NFL safety, Damar Hamlin has the agility and instincts to carve out a career plying football on Sundays. He’s positionally versatile but I like hims best as a free safety where he can demonstrate his sideline to sideline speed and descend upon the catch point with a trademark aggessiveness. Sometimes he’s over eager to jump plays and can be manipulated by quarterbacks, but some exposire to the higher level should see him hone his craft and develop his understanding and decision making under pressure.
SS: Shawn Davis, Florida
Let’s get physical! Shawn Davis is a wind up and go, heat seeking missile of a strong safety who keys on to his target and runs right through it. I love the burst he has when he sees the play and where it’s headed – no heistancy, just tun on the jets and meet the football carrier with force. Not just a run stuffing box safety, Davis developed other facets to his game, recording five interceptions in his final two years in Gainesville. He has a tendency to overshoot his target on occasion and his determination to land a knockout hit can get him in trouble, but as a playmaking tone-setter he can be on the field all three downs for an NFL defense.
CB: Mark Gilbert, Duke
Mark Gilbert would have an NFL home already if it wasn’t for injury cruelly blighting his college career. A twitched up, highly reactive cornerback, Gilbert’s short-area athletic profile is bordering on elite. He reads the game so quickly and his click and close speed to the football is astonishing. In 2017, Gilbert recorded six interceptions and fifteen pass breakups in just thirteen games. Since then a myriad of injuries has meant he has played just four games in three years. If he can stay on the field, he could have pro bowl potential.
PREVIOUSLY THE FOUNDER OF NFL DRAFT UK, SIMON HAS BEEN COVERING COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND THE NFL DRAFT SINCE 2009. BASED IN MANCHESTER, SIMON IS ALSO CO-CREATOR & WEEKLY GUEST OF THE COLLAPSING POCKET PODCAST.