This is the final installment of a position-by-position preview of the 2018 NFL Draft. Previous installments were on running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive tackles, interior offensive linemen, cornerbacks, safeties, outside linebackers, inside linebackers and defensive tackles.
Overview: The 2017 NFL Draft was, for all practical purposes, defined by defensive ends. It began with the Cleveland Browns making Texas A&M's Myles Garrett the top overall pick and proceeded to see five other players at the position, plus two outside linebackers, selected in the first round.
This year's draft, which is expected to be defined by quarterbacks, doesn't come close to boasting that level of defensive end talent – or superior edge-rushers overall for that matter.
It has at least one that's exceptional, North Carolina State's Bradley Chubb, and a couple of others that likely have first-round grades. After that, there's a cluster of solid defensive ends who should be taken in the middle rounds on down.
"I think the (edge-rusher) class is down this year," NFL Network's Mike Mayock said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I thought it was up last year. I think people saw this coming a little bit and went heavy on the edge-rushers last year." Grade: C+
The best: Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State. No one in this class even comes close. Even with all of the discussion about quarterbacks and sensational Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, Chubb is mentioned as possibly the best player in the draft. He could very well be selected No. 2 overall by the New York Giants, who have a need after trading Jason Pierre-Paul to Tampa Bay. That assumes the Browns, who are again picking at the top, will go QB this time.
At 6-foot-4 and 269 pounds, Chubb has the size – along with considerable athleticism, strength and nonstop effort – to continue to dominate in the NFL as he did in college. In 40 career games, he has 198 tackles, including 54.5 for loss and 25 sacks (with 10 in each of the last two seasons).
Under Chubb's "Weak Points" in Pro Football Weekly's 2018 Draft Guide, former NFL scout Greg Gabriel says, "Really none, unless you want to nitpick, in which case he doesn't have a twin brother."
"I feel like I’m the best player," Chubb said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I’m not going to say one person’s better than me. There are a lot of great players. Saquon Barkley put up ridiculous numbers (at the Combine). Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, all the quarterbacks you’re hearing about, lot of great players. I just feel like I’m up there at the top."
Bills view: The Bills' pass rush could use all of the help it can get. The free-agent addition of Trent Murphy should provide an upgrade, but it's only a start. The Bills haven't gotten nearly enough out of Jerry Hughes the past three seasons. Shaq Lawson hasn't come close to making the impact he should as a 2016 first-rounder, and there aren't any other difference-makers at the position.
The Bills would figure to have to at least give some thought to selecting a defensive end in the first round, at 12 or 22, even though quarterback and inside linebacker are also priorities.
Carrying a big chip: Marcus Davenport, of the University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA), is widely seen as one of the better ends in the draft. The former wide receiver is a raw, but highly talented prospect.
Asked if the fact he doesn't come from a Power 5 school motivates him, Davenport said, "What motivates me is really when people say the wrong name. They say UTEP. I go to UTSA. But, yeah, that’s a little bit of motivation. I’ve always got a chip on my shoulder."
Sleeper: Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest. He isn't particularly fast or explosive, but shows superb instincts and techniques. Ejiofor also helps himself by being a voracious studier of game tape.
"In terms of film study, it's something I'm really strong on in preparing for our opponents," Ejiofor said. "There's a lot I like to study, starting off with the offensive formations, so you know what to expect. From there, it's studying the offensive linemen in terms of how they set, whether they're an aggressive setter or a passive setter, and seeing their stagger to see how I'm going to attack them that week."
TOP 10 DEFENSIVE ENDS
1. Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State. 6-4, 269. Although he had 22 tackles for loss as a junior, he learned he'd have likely been a second-round pick last year so he stayed in school.
2. Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio. 6-5, 259. He holds UTSA career records with 22 sacks 38 tackles for loss.
3. Sam Hubbard*, Ohio State. 6-5, 270. After converting from a high school safety and lacrosse recruit, he gained 40-plus pounds and finished his college career with 29.5 tackles for loss, including 17 sacks.
4. Arden Key*, LSU. 6-4, 238. As a true sophomore in 2016, he set an all-time LSU single-season sack record with 16.
5. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma. 6-1, 243. Having not been used much as a pure pass-rusher in college, he needs to develop more pass-rush moves and do a better job of disengaging from blockers.
6. Rasheem Green, USC. 6-4, 275. Able to play in a variety of positions on the line, he grabbed the attention of the NFL with 10 sacks through the second half of his final collegiate season.
7. Da'Shawn Hand, Alabama. 6-3, 297. He is immensely talented and capable of making a huge impact in any scheme, but questions linger about the consistency of his effort.
8. Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest. 6-4, 264. Brothers are named Prince, Kingston. Parents named them as a nod to their royal ancestry in Nigeria.
9. Kemoko Turay, Rutgers. 6-4, 252. Nearly half of his 15.5 career sacks (7.5) came in his freshman year in 2014.
10. Jalyn Holmes, Ohio State. 6-4, 283. He played in 49 career games, but made no starts through his first three years and finished with only four career sacks.
Story topics: 2018 NFL Draft