Who are the best defensive ends coming into the 2018 college football season? Here are the projected 30 top players.
Preview 2018: Top 30 Defensive Ends
Based on projections for this college season – and not necessarily based on pro talent and potential – here are the 30 best defensive ends coming into the season.
30. Jaelan Phillips, Soph. UCLA
Call this a protection, because he’s not quite there yet. Part defensive end, part outside linebacker for new head man Chip Kelly, the 6-5, 255-pound tweener will grow into a major NFL prospect with his speed and upside. The former super-recruit showed flashes of something special with 21 tackles, 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss in just seven games.
29. Kevin Strong, Sr. UTSA
While he might not be another Marcus Davenport, the 6-4, 285-pounder will still be a major force for another fantastic Roadrunner defense. Steady over the last three seasons, he has 82 career tackles with 6.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. Now this is his defensive front.
28. Greg Reaves, Jr. USF
Okay, fine … so he’s really more of a linebacker. But he works like an end at times as a dangerous pass rusher. The academic all-star and former walk-on turned it on once he got more of a chance under the new coaching staff, making 51 tackles with four sacks and 14 tackles for loss.
27. Anthony Nelson, Jr. Iowa
At 6-7 and 271 pounds, he’s built like a tackle playing on the end, too. An all-star on the field and in the classroom, he’s a tough guy against the run with 41 tackles, and at his size, he’s still active enough to get behind the line with 7.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss.
26. Daelin Hayes, Jr. Notre Dame
Tremendously athletic, the 6-4, 264-pounder overcame the shoulder problem he suffered late in his high school career to see a little time right away as a freshman. And then he started to turn it on as a sophomore, making 30 tackles with three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.
25. Jonathan Ledbetter, Sr. Georgia
With the right NFL size and the skills to fit in any system or style, the 6-4, 277 pounder came up with his best season so far, making 38 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. He’s not a pure pass rusher, but he can get behind the line.
24. Jabari Zuniga, Jr. Florida
There’s a chance he blossoms into an unstoppable superstar under the new coaching staff and the new defensive scheme. The 6-3, 246-pound tweener will work in a variety of ways, and he should become a pass rushing terror, coming off a 34-tackle, four-sack, eight tackle for loss season.
23. Jordan Brailford, Jr. Oklahoma State
After a decent first season, he got hurt and missed all of 2016. He came back roaring, earning All-Big 12 honors making 57 tackles with five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Not huge, the 6-3, 250-pounder makes up for his lack of bulk with incredible quickness.
22. Ben Banogu, Sr. TCU
The former ULM transfer was fantastic in his first season with the Horned Frogs, earning All-Big 12 honors making 49 tackles with 8.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. A tweener, he’s 6-4, and 249 pounds, but he’s an end in the Horned Frog system.
21. D.J. Wonnum, Jr. South Carolina
The all-star in the classroom has been a big-time producer on the field, too, as the best returning player on a strong Gamecock D. The 6-5, 258-pounder is a dangerous pass rusher with 57 tackles, six sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
20. Reggie Walker, Jr. Kansas State
A huge producer from the start, he turned in 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss as a freshman, and he kept it all going with 36 tackles and two sacks with six tackles for loss. The 6-2, 246-pounder might not have cranked up the stats he did in his first season, but he was keyed on more. The respect was there to earn All-Big 12 honors, anyway.
19. Shareef Miller, Sr. Penn State
A big, tough end, he’s not necessarily a speed rusher like most of the top defensive ends coming into the season, but he’s a good enough player in the backfield to get steady pressure. He finished with All-Big Ten honors, making 37 tackles with five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. This year, he has to be the veteran rock up front early on.
18. Jaylon Ferguson, Sr. Louisiana Tech
The pro scouts like him a whole lot more than this – and for good reason. The 6-5, 269-pounder has been a terror behind the line in all three of his seasons, making 122 tackles with 27.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss. He can stop the run, but at the next level, he’ll be a pure pass rusher.
17. Cece Jefferson, Sr. Florida
Is everything okay after his offseason shoulder surgery? Yeah, he’s supposed to be all back and fine for the start of the season. The 6-1, 242-pounder should fit in a variety of roles once he’s back, doing far more in the new 3-4 scheme after finishing fourth on the team with 47 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.
16. Anfernee Jennings, Jr. Alabama
The big-time production hasn’t come yet for the outside linebacker/pass rushing end, but it will. The 6-3, 262-pounder has the right pro size and the phenomenal athleticism to make the next-level types drool. First, he has to get past the knee injury suffered in the CFP win over Clemson. He made 41 tackles with just a sack and six tackles for loss, but again, the numbers are coming.
15. Oshane Ximines, Sr. Old Dominion
One of the nation’s best pass rushers you probably haven’t seen. He’s been a force over his first three seasons, cranking up 21 sacks, 33 tackles for loss, and 118 tackles. More disruptive than ever, he’s also responsible to seven forced fumbles in the last two years. At 6-3 and 247 pounds, he can work as a linebacker or an end. No matter where he plays, he’ll be in the backfield.
14. Carl Granderson, Sr. Wyoming
Despite a monster high school career, he was all but ignored in the recruiting process. Now he’s on the verge of becoming a relatively high NFL draft pick, with 6-5, 261-pound size and the speed to fly into the backfield. Coming off an injury, he roared as a junior with 77 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss with two picks.
13. Joe Jackson, Jr. Miami
A long, lean, explosive 6-5, 265-pound force behind the line, he was amazing as a true freshman – coming up with 31 tackles with 8.5 sacks – and kept it all going, rolling up 59 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore. The future high draft pick should do even more on another amazing Hurricane D.
12. Brian Burns, Jr. Florida State
A next-level super-recruit for Florida State, he played the part as a freshman with 9.5 sacks, and he kept it going last season with a great all-around season. The 6-5, 231-pounder made 48 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Way too quick, when he’s on, he’s unblockable.
11. Landis Durham, Sr. Texas A&M
The former linebacker moved to defensive end last year, and the results were fantastic, finishing with 56 tackles, a team-leading 10.5 sacks, and 12 tackles for loss as a key part of a devastating group of pass rushers. The 6-3, 255-pounder now gets to be the man for the new coaching staff to work around.