2019 NFL Draft: Three Defensive Players to Watch


It’s nigh impossible to figure out the best prospects entering the 2019 NFL Draft, unless, of course, you’re picking players like Nick Bosa or Ed Oliver. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of both players, but this defensive player class is going to be extremely talented.

Whether you want a guy from Alabama or Boston College, there’s going to be a player that you think can be really good at the next level. The following players are three players that I’ve studied since January of this year: Lavert Hill, Germaine Pratt, and Bobby Okereke.

At this point in time, it’s hard to predict what rounds these players will go in, but they’re incredibly talented and certainly have the chance to emerge in the first or second day of the 2019 NFL Draft, though they’ll have to stay productive and prevent any off-the-field issues. Let’s dive into some of the their strengths and weaknesses as we continue to prepare for the upcoming college football season.

Lavert Hill, CB from Michigan 

One of our favorite players for this 2018 season is Lavert Hill from Michigan. He’s terrific in many of the core attributes of a great man-to-man cornerback. His backpedal is smooth and he does a nice job turning upfield and getting in the hip pocket of the receiver. Without question, he’s sticky in coverage, and the way he flips his hips is what makes him so special.

Last year, the 5’11 177 pounder had 24 total tackles, seven pass deflections, and two interceptions. With only 13 games played in his two seasons at Michigan, the junior should have a breakout season in 2018. He should start every game and, more than likely, he’ll lock up on number one receivers all across the country

He’ll enter the 2018 season on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list. There’s a clear reason why he’s considered one of the best defensive backs in the country. In 2017, he made Second Team All-Big Ten. If you haven’t watched him yet, Hill is a name to circle and pay attention to for this season and beyond.

Germaine Pratt, LB from North Carolina State

Pratt is one of the 51 linebackers in the country placed on the Butkus Award watch list, and out of any of the linebackers, I expect his draft stock to skyrocket the most. Listed at 6’3 and 240 pounds, he’s got the change of direction skills to play anywhere. I love the way he scrapes, but his range and speed to cover backs out of the backfield are incredible.

Every year with the Wolfpack he’s improved, but last year his production doubled from the year before. He had 69 tackles (5.5 tackles for loss), two interceptions, and two pass deflections. The senior linebacker converted from the safety position, so his coverage ability will be evident.

He needs to improve on shedding blocks and has to come under control more consistently, but with some refining of his tools, he can be one of the best linebackers in the country. With four defensive linemen getting drafted from the 2018 NFL Draft, the defensive production has to start somewhere. I fully expect Pratt to be the leader and top contributor on this defense for the upcoming season. Don’t be surprised when his name fills the stat sheet and his refinement as a linebacker improves on a weekly basis for the Wolfpack. 

Bobby Okereke, LB from Stanford

Not only has this redshirt senior made the Butkus Award watch list for best linebacker in the country, he also made the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list for best defensive player in the country. At 6’3 and 232 pounds, Okereke has the size and length to play any linebacker position.

Personally, I like him as a WILL linebacker, where you can rush him off the edge or get him in space to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. His ability to move laterally plus his range gives him the chance to make plays all over the field. He reads well, and whether he’s filling or scraping over the top, he’s destined to be in on the play.

There are times when he doesn’t shed blocks and will take them head-on. Finding ways to beat blocks from offensive linemen who attack the second level is an area in which he’ll need to improve. Last year, he was honorable mention for the All Pac-12. He tallied 88 tackles (8.5 tackles for loss), four sacks and an interception. Don’t be surprised when he makes first-team All-Pac 12 and takes another step towards becoming a more complete linebacker. 

National Scout for Cover 1. Host of Cover 1 | The NFL Draft Podcast. NFL Draft Enthusiast. X's and O's. Heard on ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio.