NFL Draft Countdown
2024 NFL Draft Articles

The Freshmen Are Coming (Defensive Edition)

Maason Smith, LSU - Freshmen

Last week, I covered the Offensive side of the 2024 NFL Draft eligible class (new mock to release on Monday). If you have been frequenting the site since we relaunched, you know I always have an eye on the future (not many others are willing to do 2023 and 2024 mock drafts). Get ready for the defensive side of the ball this time!

EDGE

Maason Smith, LSU

Smith has been an impressive and versatile piece for the Tigers. Though he has missed the last few games with injury, the 5-star recruit has flashed that ability. He looks a bit slimmed down from his high school days and is finding pass rush ability with his strength and explosive speed. If he keeps developing, his massive size off the edge could be pretty unique for the NFL and puts him at the top of the class for now.    

 

Honorable Mention

Collin Oliver, Oklahoma State

 

Defensive Line

Tyleik Williams, Ohio State

The high end 5-star DLine guys haven’t gotten too much playing time. Surprisingly, Williams got more time than the top DL of the class at Ohio State in J.T. Tuimoloau. Both players have done well, but Williams 5 sacks are pretty astounding for a true freshman on one of the best teams in the country. Though much of it has been in blowouts, Williams will have a good shot to take over Haskell Garrett’s positon next year. 

 

Honorable Mention

J.T. Tuimoloau, Ohio State

 

Linebacker

Eric Gentry, Arizona State

The true freshman LB group hasn’t done much this season, but 3-star Gentry has been dynamic playing sideline to sideline. With 39 tackles this season and 3 TFL, he has been a rotational player who is getting more work as the season goes on. His game against Oregon State was his best trying to hold down that run game. Though a bit undersized, he is a freshman name to know moving forward.

 

Honorable Mention

Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson

 

Cornerback

Denzel Burke, Ohio State

Sevyn Banks was supposed to be the Ohio State stud CB this year, but Burke took that #1 role as a true freshman and ran with it. His Pick-6 against Rutgers was the first flash, but consistent coverage and tackle ability since then has shined week in and week out. Burke is big and can jam at the line like past 1st round OSU CBs, so expect him to be a high pick in 2024.

 

Honorable Mention

Tyreek Chappell, Texas A&M

 

Safety

James Williams, Miami (FL)

It is rare for the top recruit to be the top emerging player as a freshman, but Williams is it. With Bubba Bolden missing game, Williams has had to fill in and it has been an improvement for the defense. He picked off Kenny Pickett to help the Hurricanes get the win over Pitt, and is flashing high end athletic ability. The size and speed combo is off the charts for the next in a long line of great Miami defenders.

 

Honorable Mention:

Andrew Mukuba, Clemson

Calen Bullock, Southern Cal

 

Follow Shane for more @ShanePHallam and see his work here 

 

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