2017 NFL Draft Mid-Season All-Americans - Defense


2017 NFL Draft Mid-Season All-Americans - Defense


This Mid-Season All American Team only includes draft eligible players with the selections being made with an eye towards those that have improved their draft stock for the 2018 NFL Draft by performing beyond what NFL Teams and analysts expected. It also includes players who have maintained high draft grades despite inconsistent play.  Even though this Mid-Season All-American Team follows Week 7 it is because most teams have only played 6 games through Week 7 due to open dates.  For instance 38 of the 64 teams in the Big 5 Conferences only played their 6th game during Week 7 and it was similar for the teams from the other 5 conferences. There is also BYU which plays 13 games as well as a few teams such as Miami and Florida State that had games postponed due to hurricanes. 


See the 2017 NFL Draft Mid-Season All-Americans - Offense



BRADLEY CHUBB - 6-3 275 - SR. - N. C. STATE - his positive play should have been what he would be remembered for in the 27 - 21 upset victory over Florida State wherein he had 7 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 2 Tackles for Loss, a Forced Fumble and Recovery.  However, he foolishly spit on the Seminoles logo after the game and this has distracted from his performance on the field.  In addition to the above stats he also had some hits on the QB just after the throw and hits take a toll.  He has also shown that he can play off a block and close on the ball carrier.  While he doesn't seem to have that explosive 1st step, he is quick off the snap and is effective by being able to use his hands while simultaneously keeping his feet moving to work around the blocker, being relentless and utilizing moves to get to the QB, which is somewhat similar to Joey Bosa. He is also strong in the run game.  Chubb did not stand out in the opening day loss to South Carolina but has been outstanding in the wins over Florida State and Louisville.

AUSTIN BRYANT - 6-4 265 - JR. - CLEMSON - hampered by foot surgery in 2016, Bryant has become a force on one of the top two defensive lines in the country.  His athleticism is apparent in viewing Clemson games as well as his football ability.  After 6 games he leads the team with 5 Sacks with an additional 6 Tackles for Loss, 5 QB Pressures, an Interception and is second on the team with 28 Solo Tackles, quite a feat for any DE, especially on a team with other outstanding defensive lineman and all-star linebackers.

CHRISTIAN RECTOR - 6-3 275 - REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE - USC - only a 3* recruit who mostly saw Special Team duty prior to this year and still hasn't been a starter, he has forced NFL teams to take notice as after 7 games he has 17 Solo Tackles 6.5 Sacks, an additional 1.5 Tackles for Loss, 3 QB Hurries, 2 Fumble Recoveries and 2 Forced Fumbles and has outdone the starters with the 6.5 Sacks being amongst the leaders in the country.



TAVEN BRYAN - 6-4 291 - JRr - FLORIDA - perhaps no player has had as big a breakout game in 2017 as Taven Bryan had in the Gators hard fought loss to Texas A&M.  Bryan was raised in Wyoming and recruited to Florida by former Coach Will Muschamp as a developmental defensive lineman as he only played in the offensive line in high school.  Along the way he showed signs but was slow to develop and at times frustrated DL coach Chris Rumph. But going into this season players and Coaches were hopeful that he was going to put it all together and have a breakout year.  Nicknamed the Wyoming Wild Man and drawing comparisons to J. J.Watt for his weight room exploits and athleticism, but not yet his football ability, he was drawing favorable comments from Coach Jim McElwain, "This guy is arguably the best athlete on our football team" and from teammate Keivonnis Davis "He's a beast, like he's a real-life beast.  He's a monster.  I tried working with him over the summer, but I was sore the next day.  He's a monster.  It's crazy." Defensive Line coach Chris Rumph said "He's freaky now.  If he can put it all together he can be something special.  His size and skill and assets are incredible.  They are off the charts.  He can go down as one of the really good players that have come out of this program."  And from former Florida Defensive Coordinator and current Temple head coach Geoff Collins, "I always thought that he had J.J. Watt-ish ability.  He's a physical freak, and he's gotten better every single day.  He's an NFL player now with room to get better.  It's a scary thought."  Having got off to a decent start in 2017, he took his game to another level against Texas A&M.  What I noted from the game were a Sack, a half Sack, a Tackle for Loss, and two Tackles at the line of scrimmage or maybe a 1 yard gain, along with numerous pressures when he would just burst through the line of scrimmage with a low hard charge to which he seemed like a "heat seeking torpedo" and that is because he charged through low and blew things up when he got there.  Still learning the DT position, he has a lot to work with as his take off, explosion, strength and athleticism were all on display against the Aggies.  And since he played with such an all out effort, I was surprised to see him on the Punt Coverage unit where he showed his agility and ability to break down by making a tackle on Christian Kirk.  One thing that Coaches will work on is that he often picks a side and take himself out of the play.  On a negative note for the Gators, another emerging star, Edge Rusher JORDAN SHERIT sustained a hip injury which required surgery and finishes his career with the Gators.

MAURICE HURST -  6-2 280 - SRr - MICHIGAN - known for having the quickest first step in the country, Hurst uses that to create disruption while spending time in his opponent's backfield.  In 2016 Hurst was not a starter in any game yet had 4.5 Sacks and an additional 7 Tackles for Loss and 7 QB Hurries, which are incredible numbers for a substitute DT. After 5 games in 2017 he doesn't have any Sacks but has 5.5 Tackles for Loss, 2 QB Hurries and a Forced Fumble. These stats are modest especially compared to 2016, but Hurst's penetration ability disrupts plays and forces them elsewhere.  Being undersized at 6-2 280 is a liability but his style of play is similar to Aaron Donald, listed at 6-1 280 who is considered the best DT in the NFL. And while Hurst is not the prospect that Donald was coming out of college, the comparison is made to show that undersized players with outstanding ability can play in the NFL.



MALIK JEFFERSON - 6-2 240 - JR. - TEXAS - much has been expected of this former 5* recruit and while he has performed well, he hadn't yet reached superstar status but his play in 2017 has shown improvement in run play recognition and as a blitzer.  More comfortable in his current Rover position than as an ILB in 2016, his production is good but still has the potential to be better.  With his great quickness and speed he might best be used as an Edge Rusher in either a 4/3 or 3/4 defense.

UCHENNA NWOSU - 6-2 240 - SR. - USC - he had to be convinced to play football in high school as basketball was his first love but he made the switch and is now happy about it as his intense and fiery play has made him a prospect as an Edge Rusher.  He uses his quickness to blow by blockers and his hands to play off blockers and has made QBs aware of his presence even when he can't get to them as is evidenced by his 8 Passes Broken Up and 6 QB Hurries.  He does have 1.5 Sacks and another Tackle for Loss, but it is his 8 Passes Broken Up that has USC DBs upset as he has tipped a number of passes that they thought could have been picked off.  One area to be improved upon would be tackling as he has fallen off of a couple of tackle attempts but his strength as an Edge Rusher is a priority for NFL teams which should result in a Day 2 or early Day 3 draft selection.

LEON JACOBS - 6-2 245 -SRr - WISCONSIN - because of position changes and injuries it has been a long journey for Jacobs to become a starter in a position where the Badgers are loaded, but Jacobs has endured and was recently the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his play against Purdue.  Jacobs hits a ton and is athletic enough to rush the passer or drop into pass coverage.  His teammate and fellow OLB, GARRET DOOLEY - 6-2 246 - SRr - has 5.5 Sacks and 3 additional Tackles for Loss after 6 games and also deserves recognition.



DEVANTE DOWNS - 6-2 245 - SR. - CALIFORNIA - missed his senior year of high school with a knee injury and not real comfortable at OLB, he has found a home at ILB in Cal's new 3/4 defense.  Twice named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week so far in 2017, he leads the Golden Bears in Solo and Total Tackles, has 3 Sacks, and an additional 2.5 Tackles for Loss, 2 Interceptions, 4 Passes Broken Up, 2 Fumble Recoveries and 2 Forced Fumbles; which can be described as active.  When watching a Cal game he appears to be omnipresent as he is involved in plugging the running game and helping in pass defense. On a negative note, he did go down with an injury in the 3rd Quarter of the Bears 37 - 3 upset win over No. 8 ranked and previously unbeaten Washington State, which will sideline him for the rest of the year.

JOSEY JEWELL - 6-0 236 - SRr - IOWA - there was some thinking that Jewell, despite having natural instincts and read and react ability, might be somewhat limited as an athlete much the same way as super productive Tyler Matakevich from Temple was and who is now a backup ILB with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  But Jewell seems to be more athletic than Matakevich in the quickness and change of direction categories and in addition to his run stopping production he has an Interception and 4 Passes Broken Up after 6 games this season.  And while his stats to date are impressive, they have been somewhat limited by an ankle injury and a targeting call for which he claims that he should have know better.  Jewell is the leader of the Hawkeye defense and while Matakevich was a 7th Round Draft Choice Jewell, should be in the 3rd or 4th Round range.

T. J. EDWARDS - 6-1 244 - JRr - WISONSIN - second on the team in Solo Tackles with a Sack and 3.5 Tackles for Loss while also coming up with 2 Interceptions and 2 Passes Broken Up. Edwards stands out on a Badger defense which is hard to stand out on as there are so many good Linebackers.  He has lost some time due to a targeting call, which has impacted his statistics, but this is a player who has been developing and is now a force in the run game and in helping out in pass defense.



JOSH JACKSON - CB - 6-1 192 - JRr - IOWA - While Iowa LBers Josey Jewell and Ben Niemann received much acclaim for the Hawkeyes 24 - 3 win over Wyoming, I thought that CB Joshua Jackson was the one who improved his draft stock more than anyone else.  He had his first start in last season's Outback Bowl only because of injuries to the first and second stringers but this year the starting spot was all his and in the opener against heralded Wyoming QB Josh Allen Jackson played a huge part in helping to stymie Allen.  He was in on a number of tackles, covered well, had a Pass Breakup and an Interception.

DENZEL WARD - 5-10 191 - JR. - OHIO STATE - not having started in any game prior to this season Ward has become another Buckeye first round possibility with his coverage skills and production as after the first 7 games he has 15 Solo Tackles, 2 Tackles for Loss, 1 Interception and a whooping 9 Passes Broken Up.  With his elite speed, Ward's lack of height his only negative which may relegate him to playing Nickel Back.



MINKAH FITZPATICK - 6-0 201 - JR. - FREE SAFETY - ALABAMA - Fitzpatrick has played both CB and FS at Alabama but this year the coaching staff figured that he would be more valuable at FS and this coincides with what NFL teams are doing, which is putting more of a premium on Safeties with the thinking that they can help out in so many areas rather than being restricted to covering one player or one particular area.  An example of this would be in the Texas A&M victory where Fitzpatrick had 3 Solo Tackles, 2 Assists, 1 Interception, 1 Pass Broken Up and 1 Forced Fumble.  He has awareness, anticipation, ball skills, closing speed and range all of which he puts to use in patrolling the secondary and helping out in run support.

RONNIE HARRISON - 6-2 214 - JR. - ALABAMA - being rated the top Strong Safety heading into the season, Harrison has been terrific in the Tide's first 7 games and leads the team in Solo and Total Tackles and has 2 Sacks, 2 Interceptions and 2 Passes Broken Up.  His reputation as a big hitter is well founded and he did knock Florida State QB Deondre Francois out for the season.  Having nice size and speed for the position as well as the ability to play the run and the pass, makes for a first round draft choice.

DESHON ELLIOTT - 6-1 210 - JR. - STRONG SAFETY - TEXAS - this former 4* recruit had only one start prior to this season and he has emerged as one of the top Safeties in the country. He has twice been named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week and has 5 Interceptions in the first 6 games and whenever you watch a Texas game he is making plays all over the field.  Going from one start to certain All-Conference honors is such a huge Stock Up boost so as to earn Mid-Season All-American honors.  His Texas teammates, Cornerbacks HOLTON HILL and CHRIS BOYD have also had outstanding 1st halves in 2017.  Oklahoma State is up next so we will find out how they hold up against the Mason Rudolph/James Washington onslaught.

JUSTIN REID - 6-1 204 - JR. - STRONG SAFETY - STANFORD - Reid received pre-season All-Conference mention but has taken his game to another level this season as after 7 games he leads the Cardinal in Solo Tackles with 28, has 3.5 Tackles for Loss, 3 Passes Broken Up, 1 QB Hurry and is tied for the lead in the country with 5 Interceptions.  You expect a Strong Safety to be a strong tackler but to lead the team indicates a special player who also exhibits Free Safety skills as a ball hawk. 

EVAN WORTHINGTON - 6-2 200 - JRr - STRONG SAFETY - COLORADO - after seeing little playing time in 2014 and 2015, he was suspended for the 2016 season.  He returned in 2017 and had to prove himself to the coaching staff and teammates and he has by displaying the talent that he has always had.  He secured the starting SS position and got off to a fast start and now after 7 games he leads the team in Solo Tackles with 32 and also had 3 Tackles for Loss along with 3 Interceptions and 4 Passes Broken Up, all of which shows that he can play the run and the pass.  In 2017 he changed his name from Evan White and now has a son and Coach McCartney says it's amazing what a little maturity can do.  McCartney also claims that he is showing versatility along the lines of NFL Draft Choice Chidobe Awuzie, except that Worthington cannot play CB like Awuzie but can play Nickel and both Safety positions.


See the 2017 NFL Draft Mid-Season All-Americans - Offense