Ahead of the NCAA season, it’s time to introduce you to the top 10 players to watch for the 2024 NFL Draft. The mock draft gave you some insight. Let’s focus on defensive players together.
1. Jared Verse – Edge Rusher – Florida State
2022 stats: 47 tackles, 9 sacks
His academic career is already incredible. Coming from a 2nd division university (Albany), Jared Verse burst the screen during his only season at the highest university level with 9 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Had he made it to the 2023 NFL Draft, the Florida State player would have been a sure candidate for the first round.
Unfortunately, for NFL teams in need of a rusher pass, that hasn’t been the case. By returning to the Florida side, the player, also good at stopping the running game, hopes to boost his rating.
To hope to be a player in the top 10 of the NFL Draft 2024, he must improve a technique and a fluidity that can still be improved, especially in terms of tackles.
Jared Verse’s landmark game against LSU in 2022.
2. Dallas Turner – Edge Rusher/Linebacker – Alabama
2022 stats: 37 tackles, 4 sacks
After a season freshman impressive (8.5 sacks), the Alabama player disappointed in 2022. Like the entire defensive line led by Nick Saban. This year, it will be more closely monitored. It would therefore not be surprising if he suffered a double-take.
Athletic and possessing great agility, Dallas Turner is able to combine his speed with some power. For this, it will be necessary to improve a technique at the level of the hands which is still very irregular.
Knighted by Will Anderson Jr. during the latter’s draft, the pass rusher will have to show that he has the potential for a first round in 2023 to hope to be chosen among the first in the 2024 NFL Draft. Thus, he could perhaps do better than his former teammate, selected in the top 3 in the last Draft.
3. Kool-Aid McKinstry – Cornerback – Alabama
2022 stats: 35 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 15 deflected passes
5-star rookie in 2021, Ga’Quincy ‘Kool-Aid’ McKinstry is the main poster for the cornerback position in this NCAA 2023 season. Slender and with a very good understanding of the game, he is a cornerback specialist in marking individual.
In statistical production, he is not the most impressive but he uses his hands very well to avoid as many receptions as possible (15 deflected passes in 2022). Mc Kinstry has very good instincts in all types of coverage that the position may suggest.
Holder from his season freshman, Kool-Aid McKinstry will have to continue to be consistent, and a little more patient in understanding the layouts of his opponents. Thus, if all goes well, he can claim a selection in the 1st round of the 2024 NFL Draft.
4. Denzel Burke – Cornerback – Ohio State
2022 stats: 34 tackles, 5 deflected passes
Athletically, Denzel Burke is the best cornerback in the future NFL draft 2024. In 2022, his season has a taste of unfinished because he conceded nearly 8 yards per reception. Fortunately, this does not seem significant in relation to his intrinsic qualities, in particular an above-average football IQ.
Playing catcher in high school, he has good interception technique and impressive arm length. For opposing quarterbacks, throwing in his direction is going to be a risk.
However, he will have to improve his understanding of the defensive patterns and offensive routes that the receivers will offer him.
5. Bralen Trice – Edge Rusher – Washington
2022 stats: 39 tackles, 10 sacks
In 2022, the University of Washington pass rusher did more than confirm impressions from his 2021 season.
Indisputable holder within a promising defensive line on the Huskies side, the player distinguished himself during theAlamo Bowl in 2022, with 2 sacks on Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers.
Bralen Trice remains versatile, with a physique already developed (1.93m – 125 kg). From the snap, he can be explosive, and can be a threat to attacking players with his stature. If he wants to be selected in the 1st round in 2024, he will have to improve his technique at the level of the hands.
6. JT Tuimoloau – Edge Rusher/Defensive Tackle – Ohio State
2022 stats: 28 tackles (including 10.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, 2 interceptions (1 touchdown), 4 deflected passes, 1 forced fumble, 1 covered fumble
If the cornerback position has been mentioned with Denzel Burke, it is nevertheless the defensive line which will be the strength of Ohio State in 2023. JT Tuimoloau will be watched, as will his teammates Tyleik Williams, Michael Hall Jr. or Jack Sawyer , also eligible.
The Buckeyes player is powerful, athletic, and versatile. In the 2022 season, Tuimoloau did damage against Penn State. Indeed, he blackened the game sheet: 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble (and covered) and 2 interceptions (and 1 TD).
Its axis of development is game intelligence, without this its potential may be uncertain. The games he produces like the one he did against Penn State should be done consistently over a season. If he succeeds in this, the 1st round of the 2024 NFL Draft is within his reach.
7. Jeremiah Trotter Jr. – Linebacker – Clemson
2022 stats: 89 tackles (including 13.5 for loss), 6.5 sacks, 2 interceptions (1 touchdown), 5 deflected passes, 1 forced fumble
Yes, he is the son of former Eagles four-time Pro Bowler Jeremiah Trotter. In 2022, the Clemson player exploded. Holder and impactful, very good in coverage and an excellent blitzer, he totally satisfied Dabo Swinney, his trainer. He became one of the leaders of Clemson’s defense. His reference game is the ACC conference final against North Carolina, where he recorded 3 sacks.
Trenton Simpson left for the NFL, he will have to show leadership qualities and stay at the same statistical level. Captain in 2023, Jeremiah Trotter Jr. must allow the Tigers to regain the defensive base that they lacked in 2022. His duo with Barrett Carter, another linebacker eligible for the 2024 NFL Draft and potentially first-round selectable player, is intriguing .
8. Mason Smith – Defensive Tackle – LSU
2022 stats: injured
2021 stats: 19 tackles, 4 sacks
September 6, 2022 may have been the turning point of last season at LSU. Indeed, his defensive star, Maason Smith, broke his cruciate ligaments.
A native of Louisiana, the 5-star 2021 rookie approaches this 2023 season more motivated than ever, with a spirit of revenge. Athletic, he also has the explosiveness, technique and power to get rid of an offensive lineman, and thus stop the run. A combination that can remind Jalen Carter, drafted in the 1st round in 2023.
The 2023 season is therefore an opportunity for him to show that he has not lost his qualities. Intriguing potential, he will prove that his 2021 season at 4.5 sacks as a freshman was not a flash in the pan. This is good, it is in this area that he will have to progress.
9. Andrew Mukuba – Safety – Clemson
2022 stats: 53 tackles, 1 interception, 3 deflected passes
Born in Zimbabwe, Andrew Mukuba has been a starter in the Clemson defense for 2 seasons. He is a complete and efficient player despite a size below the average (1.80m). Andrew Mukuba has very good athletic ability and very good readings.
In 2023, amid a struggling Clemson defense in 2022, he’s expected to be everywhere and producing. He must prove that he has the soul of a defense leader. Faced with quality passers this season (Drake Maye, Jordan Travis, Sam Hartman), his ability to cover large receivers or tight ends must improve.
10. Javon Bullard – Safety – Georgia
2022 stats: 46 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 deflected passes, 2 interceptions
Georgia has become a reference in defense. The Eagles know something about it in the 2023 Draft. This time around, aerial coverage is in the spotlight. Aggressive and fast, Javon Bullard distinguished himself in the last university final with 2 interceptions. A final where Javon Bullard was logically elected defensive MVP.
Double university champion, he will have to gain power. Its other point of improvement is coverage against running. If he wants to claim a selection in the first round, he will have to improve these two weak points.
Other potential players: Michael Hall Jr. (DT, Ohio State), Leonard Taylor III (DT, Miami (FL)), Jer’Zhan Newton (DT, Illinois), Barrett Carter (LB, Clemson), Laiatu Latu (EDGE, UCLA), Kris Abrams-Draine (BC, Missouri), Tyler Nubin (S, Minnesota), Calen Bullock (S, USC), Kamren Kinchens (S, Miami (FL)), Cooper DeJean (BC, Iowa)