Each week, Sports on Earth is counting bottomward the best abiding academy football players at every position entering the 2017 season. These rankings are based on a aggregate of talent, accurate assembly and abeyant at the academy level. They are not NFL Draft rankings. This week, it’s the top 25 arresting ends and top 20 arresting tackles.
A Heisman Trophy champ and abounding added accomplished abhorrent players acknowledgment to academy football this season, but in the altercation for best all-embracing amateur in the nation, a case can absolutely be fabricated for a brace of green arresting tackles in Houston’s Ed Oliver and Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence. As we abide our preseason amateur rankings, those ascent superstars banderole our arresting lineman rankings, breach into the top 25 arresting ends and top 20 arresting tackles. Some players comedy both positions or a amalgam of the two, so they’re mostly disconnected by how they’re labeled on abyss charts. Either way, accede this a glimpse at the top 45 abiding linemen.
2017 Sports on Earth academy amateur rankings: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends | Linebackers | Running Backs
25. Justin Lawler, SMU. The Mustangs still ranked 10th in the AAC in yards per comedy accustomed aftermost season, but they fabricated advance by accent a abounding backyard off their average. Lawler is the amateur the Mustangs can body about for added progress, a 6-foot-4, 266-pound chief who has started the accomplished two seasons and acceptable first-team all-conference ceremoniousness in 2016 with 65 tackles, 15 tackles for accident and six sacks.
24. McTelvin Agim, Arkansas. A admired best recruit in the chic of 2016, Agim started the final bristles amateur of his apprentice season, ultimately recording 27 tackles and 5 ½ tackles for loss. The numbers were modest, but Agim should access into the spotlight as the ballast of new coordinator Paul Rhoads’ three-man front. The 289-pound Agim is accomplished and able and a able bet for a blemish green campaign.
23. Marlon Davidson, Auburn. With Carl Lawson gone, accession above baddest recruit is cat-and-mouse in the wings, accessible to become a brilliant at arresting end. Davidson had 38 tackles, six tackles for accident and four canyon breakups as a accurate freshman, starting all 13 games.
22. Brian Burns, Florida State. At 6-foot-5, 218 pounds, Burns absolutely has a lot of allowance to grow, but as a top recruit, he fabricated an burning appulse as a pass-rush specialist, cutting up 9 ½ sacks admitting accepting alone 24 tackles. Florida State will appetite him to add aggregate and become a added complete player, but he’s already a admired weapon, and he’ll be counted on added with DeMarcus Walker gone.
21. Andrew Brown, Virginia. The Mike London era concluded poorly, but he did leave abaft a few adeptness for Bronco Mendenhall, including a brace of best recruits from the chic of 2014 in assurance Quin Blanding and Brown. Both accept ashore about for their chief seasons. Brown’s abeyant has been apart by the new apprenticeship staff, as he showed flashes of that best aptitude as a inferior with 13 tackles for accident and six sacks at arresting end. Apprehend him to body on that achievement to become an All-ACC player.
20. Kylie Fitts, Utah. Fitts had three tackles for accident in aftermost year’s opener, alone to abuse his bottom in Anniversary 2 and absence the blow of the season. With top canyon rushers Hunter Dimick and Pita Taumoepenu gone, the acknowledgment of Fitts is huge, as he had seven sacks, four affected fumbles and 10 canyon breakups in 2015. A UCLA transfer, Fitts is set to re-emerge as one of the Pac-12’s top defenders.
19. Rasheem Green, USC. The 280-pound Green is a able amateur who can band up aloof about anywhere on coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s line. A best recruit in 2015, Green became a amateur aftermost division and put calm a arch green attack with a team-high six sacks additional 55 tackles, two affected fumbles and four canyon breakups. The backbone of the Trojans’ aegis should be the linebackers, but Green is a admired asset up advanced who can additionally ample amplitude and absorb blockers to chargeless up players like Porter Gustin.
18. K.J. Smith, Baylor. The Bears led the Big 12 in yards per comedy accustomed aftermost season, and Smith stepped up as the baton of a revamped line. He led the aggregation with 12 tackles for accident and seven sacks as a junior, finishing the division with 67 tackles and earning first-team All-Big 12 honors. Drillmaster Matt Rhule and coordinator Phil Snow congenital accomplished defenses at Temple, and Smith and linebacker Taylor Young will be counted on as the chief cornerstones of the new staff’s aboriginal Baylor defense.
17. Cece Jefferson, Florida. In 2015, Jefferson was one of the nation’s top recruits, baronial No. 7 all-embracing in the 247Sports blended rankings. Now, the Gators are counting on Jefferson to alive up to that announcement as they clean their aegis with so abundant aptitude gone to the NFL in the accomplished two drafts. A part-time amateur the accomplished two seasons, Jefferson has 59 career tackles and 15 career tackles for loss. Jefferson is a able amateur who can accelerate central and comedy some tackle, and the achievement is for a blemish division hasty the passer to advice anticipate too abundant of a declivity for the aggregation on defense.
16. Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State. Mike Leach’s abhorrent players are consistently abundant added acceptable to accomplish lists like this, but the Wazzu aegis has fabricated strides beneath coordinator Alex Grinch. The assemblage has a brilliant in Mata’afa, a second-team All-Pac-12 aces who accomplished his green division with 47 tackles and 13 ½ tackles for loss. The relentless, accelerated Mata’afa sets the accent for a aegis that should become added confusing in 2017.
15. Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech. Conference USA had alone one amateur with double-digit sacks aftermost season, and that was Ferguson, whose 14 ½ angry him for third nationally. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound inferior has 20 ½ sacks in two seasons, and he’s advancing off a astounding green attack — his aboriginal as a full-time amateur — in which he additionally had 49 tackles and four affected fumbles. Ferguson is one of the Group of Five’s top defenders and one of the best canyon rushers nationally, period.
14. James Looney, California. Looney, who transferred from Wake Forest aboriginal in his career, will accelerate from accouterment to end as a chief in the 3-4 aegis advantaged by new drillmaster Justin Wilcox and coordinator Tim DeRuyter. At 6-foot-3, 280-pounds, the able Looney is adapted for the role. In two years at Cal, Looney has a absolute of 89 tackles with 23 starts, developing into a bare appulse amateur for a aegis that has, to put it mildly, been clumsy to get stops. But don’t let Cal’s blah arresting after-effects fool you: Looney is the absolute deal, the amateur additionally amenable for finishing off the Golden Bears’ game-winning goal-line angle adjoin Utah.
13. Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Arkansas State. The all-embracing amateur of the year in the Sun Belt aftermost season, Rolland-Jones was a ascendant amateur off the edge, cutting up 57 tackles, 21 tackles for accident and 13 sacks. The 244-pounder Rolland-Jones enters his chief year with 44 career tackles for loss, as he’s been in the top 10 in the Sun Belt three years in a row in that category.
12. Josh Sweat, Florida State. It’s Sweat’s about-face to flash now. Brilliant end DeMarcus Walker is gone, abrogation Sweat as the standout at end, forth with accession arising brilliant in green Brian Burns. A top-10 recruit in the chic of 2015, Sweat had to backlash from a austere knee abrasion as a chief in aerial school. He’s been inconsistent in his aboriginal two years at Florida State, but he’s apparent big-time flashes, ultimately finishing aftermost division with 41 tackles and seven sacks. Sweat had 1 ½ sacks in anniversary of the final three amateur of 2016, and he should aggregation with Burns to anatomy one of the nation’s top end duos admitting the abandonment of Walker.
11. Dorance Armstrong, Kansas. The Jayhawks’ aegis accomplished ninth in the Big 12 in yards per comedy allowed, but the assemblage has fabricated advance and has a adventitious to be solid this season, acknowledgment abnormally to the arresting line. Armstrong, a 246-pound junior, bankrupt out in 2016 with 56 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and three affected fumbles to acquire first-team All-Big 12 honors. He’s bound become one of the nation’s best alarming players off the bend acknowledgment to his access and speed.
10. Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama. Heralded as the No. 1 all-embracing recruit in the chic of 2014 by Rivals.com — advanced of Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, Leonard Fournette, Deshaun Watson and abundant accurate stars — Hand has had to delay his about-face as allotment of the abundantly abysmal and accomplished Alabama arresting line. Now, with Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson gone, it’s assuredly time for Hand to footfall into a full-time starting role. It’s a aberrant trajectory; anywhere else, he would accept been accepted to comedy appropriate away, accustomed his best billing. At Alabama, he had 21 tackles and 3 ½ tackles for accident as a junior. But with the about-face in the Crimson Tide’s advanced seven, the time is now for Hand to emerge.
9. Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are advancing off their aboriginal basin division aback 2011, and while that about success, apprenticed by the defense, led to arresting coordinator Mike Elko actuality absorbed abroad by Notre Dame, the unit’s best player, Ejiofor, alone the NFL to acknowledgment for his chief division in Winston-Salem. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Ejiofor is a havoc-creating force at arresting end, advancing off a division in which he had 10 ½ sacks, four canyon breakups, two affected fumbles and an interception.
8. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State; 7. Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State; and 6. Nick Bosa, Ohio State. Bosa has the accepted name, Lewis is the ascendant Big Ten arresting lineman of the year and Hubbard has a adventitious to be as acceptable as either of them. Such is the abundance of aptitude accessible on the Ohio State arresting line, decidedly at end. Hubbard absolutely had a somewhat quiet green division — eight tackles for loss, 3 ½ sacks — that didn’t absolutely advance aloft the abeyant he showed as a freshman, but accomplish no mistake, his beam is acutely unlimited. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound inferior played assurance in aerial academy and has amazing versatility and athleticism. Lewis is the acclimatized veteran, the advantageous chief who had a team-high 10 ½ tackles for accident and eight sacks as a junior, additionally banishment three fumbles and breaking up two passes. Bosa went to Columbus with absurd shoes to fill, but he accustomed the comparisons to his brother Joey — aftermost year’s NFL arresting amateur of the year — by alike cutting the No. 97 jersey. Joey was a 6-foot-5, 278-pound best recruit who had 13 ½ tackles for accident as a freshman. Nick was a 6-foot-4, 270-pound best recruit who had bristles sacks as a freshman. The comparisons are absurd to avoid, but the adolescent Bosa has a beam as abundant as his brother’s and is set to accomplish a name for himself on his own as a abeyant All-American. Rank these three in whichever adjustment you please. They all accept All-America adeptness … and the fourth end, Jalyn Holmes, isn’t far off either.
5. Rashan Gary, Michigan. The No. 1 all-embracing recruit in the chic of 2016, Gary saw time in a rotational role as a accurate freshman. What was a awash arresting band makes way for Jim Harbaugh’s recruits now, and Gary will be advance into a ample role in which he’s accepted to become a star. The 6-foot-5, 287-pound Gary was a able monster in aerial school, and his amateur division — with 27 tackles and bristles tackles for accident — showed a amateur alone abrading the surface. With a beyond role as a green starter, apprehend Gary to become an All-Big Ten performer, and acceptable more.
4. Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss. A abounding amateur off the edge, Haynes is alone 225 pounds, but he fits the Rebels’ lean, fast and advancing defense. While the assemblage took a huge footfall aback aftermost season, Haynes continues to be a advantageous playmaker, with 24 1/2 career sacks afterwards he had 53 tackles, seven sacks, three affected fumbles and an interception as a junior. While undersized, Haynes is a agitating amateur whose activity is boxy for best academy tackles to consistently contain.
3. Clelin Ferrell, Clemson. The Tigers abide to crank out star-studded arresting curve beneath coordinator Brent Venables, and while the tackles are the bigger names on the 2017 line, Ferrell accepted backward in the 2016 division that he’s able of actuality in the All-America discussion, too. Afterwards redshirting, the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Ferrell started all 15 amateur for the civic champions, finishing the division with 44 tackles, 12 ½ tackles for loss, six sacks and two canyon breakups. Six of those tackles for accident came in the final the ACC appellation d and the two playoff contests. Ferrell’s job is fabricated easier by the absorption adherent abroad on the line, but his accomplishment set demands attention, too, and he was alone aloof abrading the apparent in his aboriginal year of activity aftermost year.
2. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State. The Wolfpack band has been underappreciated nationally, but that’s acceptable to change as Chubb emerges as a star. Chubb bankrupt into the starting calendar as a green in 2015 and became a second-team All-ACC amateur aftermost season, cutting up 21 ½ tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 57 tackles and three affected fumbles to advance a confusing aegis that was decidedly able adjoin the run. The 275-pound chief is a ample amateur who is the baton of what can be one of the nation’s top arresting lines.
1. Harold Landry, Boston College. Alike with coordinator Don Brown gone, the Eagles connected to acreage a arch aegis aftermost season. Cipher was added amenable for the defense’s achievement than Landry, a accomplished bend rusher who could accept angry pro but absitively to acknowledgment for his chief division and booty aim at All-America ceremoniousness for the additional year in a row. As a junior, the 250-pound Landry led the nation with 16 ½ sacks and seven affected fumbles, forth with cutting up 51 tackles and four canyon breakups, additional an interception. He has first-round NFL bend rusher accounting all over him.
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20. Justin Jones, N.C. State. The Wolfpack accept a rock-solid arresting band led by Bradley Chubb at end, with a arch accouterment bike featuring Jones and adolescent chief B.J. Hill. Either Jones or Hill could be listed here, but we’ll highlight the 300-pound Jones, who had 43 tackles and 6 ½ tackles for accident aftermost division for a aegis that was generally absurd adjoin the run and should be alike bigger this season.
19. Poona Ford, Texas. The Longhorns aegis was a disappointment aftermost year, but new coordinator Todd Orlando inherits affluence of talent, with the advanced in accurate beginning with potential. Ford drew babble reviews from drillmaster Tom Herman in bounce convenance — “fanatical, championship effort” — and the 5-foot-11, 303-pound chief is advancing off a division in which he accomplished fourth on the aggregation with 54 tackles.
18. Daniel Wise, Kansas. In accession to boasting a first-team All-Big 12 end in Dorance Armstrong, the Jayhawks accept an atonement acknowledgment best at accouterment who’s acceptable to become a first- or second-teamer as a junior. Wise had 38 tackles and 10 tackles for accident aftermost division — including three tackles for accident to advice activation the win over Texas. The 290-pound Wise additionally has three career blocked kicks, proving to be a confusing penetrator on the interior.
17. Will Geary, Kansas State. Geary sat out bounce convenance for claimed reasons, but the achievement is that the chief accouterment is accessible to go for the season. A first-team All-Big 12 aces in 2015, Geary was overshadowed by brilliant end Jordan Willis aftermost year, but with Willis gone, Geary and end Reggie Walker are accepted to be the leaders of this arresting front. The 298-pound Geary is a above walk-on with 30 starts and 16 career tackles for accident beneath his belt.
16. Kendrick Norton, Miami; and 15. R.J. McIntosh, Miami. It’s adamantine to accept one over the other. The Hurricanes are beginning with ascent stars in their advanced seven, and McIntosh and Norton accept become an accomplished inferior tandem. The 293-pound McIntosh had 47 tackles, 9 ½ tackles for accident and two canyon breakups aftermost season. The 312-pound Norton had 39 tackles and 10 tackles for accident and got a third-team All-ACC nod. They’re key cogs in what should be a agitating run defense.
14. Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State. Ohio State is absurdly abysmal at arresting end, which will absolutely be a stronger position than tackle, but the Buckeyes are, not surprisingly, still in acceptable appearance on the interior. The baton is Jones, a four-star recruit who emerged as an appulse amateur as a redshirt freshman, replacing the afflicted Terry Sprinkle aboriginal in the division and ultimately finishing with 52 tackles and four tackles for loss. Sprinkle is back, but Jones has one of the two starting spots bound bottomward and shouldn’t be disregarded as a ascent brilliant amidst all the adapted absorption adherent to the ends.
13. David Moa, Boise State. Recruited as a arresting end, Moa has become a force as an undersized adenoids tackle, listed at aloof 262 pounds. As a sopre, he was a first-team All-Mountain West selection, cutting up 8 ½ sacks and four canyon breakups. Moa confused abroad from the adenoids in the spring, but wherever he plays, he’s a adamant amateur who will be the brilliant of a Broncos aegis that allotment aloof four starters.
12. Greg Gaines, Washington. The 321-pound Gaines became a full-time amateur as a green in 2016, finishing with eight tackles for accident as an arising force forth a big, confusing arresting front. Gaines and Vita Vea accord the Huskies a brace of All-Pac-12-caliber 300-pounders on their line. Gaines is a concrete force adjoin the run in particular.
11. Steven Richardson, Minnesota. The Golden Gophers had a able run aegis and accomplished 14th in yards per comedy accustomed aftermost season, and conceivably cipher was added amenable for that achievement than Richardson. A 6-foot, 300-pound senior, Richardson has started 32 amateur over the accomplished three seasons, and now he’s one of the Big Ten’s top abiding arresting players, the centerpiece of what will be a new-look aegis afterwards he had a team-high 11 tackles for accident in 2016.
10. Harrison Phillips, Stanford. Injuries bound Phillips’ advance beforehand in his career — he absent about all of the 2015 division — but now he’s accepted to be the centerpiece of the Cardinal arresting band with Solomon Thomas gone to the NFL. The 285-pound Phillips emerged as a standout aftermost season, with 46 tackles and 9 ½ tackles for loss. Phillips is boxy and quick in the average of the Cardinal line, a arch amateur adjoin the run who can additionally accomplish plays as a canyon rusher.
9. Lowell Lotulelei, Utah. The adolescent brother of anatomy Utes standout Brilliant Lotulelei continues to excel on the autogenous of the Utes’ defense. The 310-pound chief absolutely went from first-team All-Pac-12 as a green to atonement acknowledgment as a junior, but while he’s never had huge numbers — 28 tackles, 8 ½ tackles for accident aftermost year — he’s been a force for Utah aback his apprentice year, accouterment the Utes with a big, concrete attendance to advice the ends actualize calamity off the edge.
8. Maurice Hurst, Michigan. Hurst has started alone four times in 33 career games, but he’s already fabricated a name for himself and now will get animated into a beyond role as Michigan says goodbye to Ryan Glasgow, Chris Wormley and others up front. The arresting band is still in abundant easily with players like Rashan Gary and Hurst, a 282-pound chief who had 11 ½ tackles for accident aftermost division for an accomplished Wolverines defense.
7. Derrick Nnadi, Florida State. With DeMarcus Walker gone, Nnadi is now the bright acclimatized baton of an absorbing FSU arresting line. The able 312-pound accouterment absitively to acknowledgment for his chief year afterwards a inferior division in which he bounced aback from aboriginal abate troubles to almanac 49 tackles and 10 ½ tackles for loss. Stout adjoin the run and additionally able to accord as a canyon rusher, Nnadi grew into a first-team All-ACC aces and can alike that achievement in 2017.
6. Vita Vea, Washington. The Huskies aegis has become a machine, churning out NFL-quality aptitude with an adeptness to reload. This year, the burden is on the arresting advanced to affluence the alteration of a new-look secondary. That will be easier with players like Vea, the 6-foot-4, 346-pound behemoth in the average who started alone bristles amateur aftermost year but was called second-team All-Pac-12 anyway, recording 39 tackles and sacks. With Elijah Qualls gone, Vea becomes alike added important as he anchors what can be one of the nation’s top advanced sevens.
5. Trenton Thompson, Georgia. Thompson withdrew from classes in the bounce while ambidextrous with a accept injury, but he’s accepted to balance and acknowledge the team, area he’s a key cog — conceivably with the accomplished upside — for a aegis that has a adventitious to become aberrant in Kirby Smart’s additional division as coach. Thompson was rated the No. 1 all-embracing recruit in the chic of 2015, and the 295-pound inferior is growing into the brilliant he was hoped to be, afterwards finishing third on the aggregation with 56 tackles and aboriginal with 9 ½ tackles for accident and bristles sacks — three of which came in a ascendant Liberty Basin performance.
4. Da’Ron Payne, Alabama. Yet accession best Alabama arresting band recruit blossom into a superstar. The 319-pound Payne flashed big-time abeyant as a rotational advancement in his apprentice season, again became a key allotment of a ascendant aegis as a amateur aftermost season. The stats don’t necessarily appearance it — 36 tackles, 3 ½ tackles for accident — but Payne’s job is to absorb the average at adenoids guard, a role he abounding admirably for a aegis that accustomed a paltry two yards per blitz attempt. The Crimson Tide accept to accord with a lot of about-face in their advanced seven, but Payne anchors a new-look assemblage that will still be as acceptable as any in the country.
3. Christian Wilkins, Clemson. Wilkins does annihilation Clemson needs him to do, whether it’s communicable a abysmal canyon from a punter on fourth bottomward in a playoff game, acting as a receiver and acquaintance in the red area or, added conventionally, lining up at either end or accouterment on the arresting line. As a apprentice tackle, Wilkins had 33 tackles. As a green end, Wilkins had 48 tackles and 13 tackles for loss. Now, the absorbing 310-pound inferior is accepted to about-face aback central with Carlos Watkins gone, teaming with Dexter Lawrence to anatomy a ascendant autogenous tandem.
2. Dexter Lawrence, Clemson. Already actuality floated as the abeyant No. 1 all-embracing aces in the 2019 NFL Draft, Lawrence instantly looked like an NFL amateur for the Tigers, acceptable arguably the best amateur on a star-studded arresting band as a accurate freshman. The 6-foot-5, 345-pound Lawrence is abundant added than a amplitude eater, as he accomplished the year with 62 tackles and 6 ½ sacks. He can beat opponents with his size, and he can beat them with his aberrant athleticism and quickness.
1. Ed Oliver, Houston. Oliver became the attenuate best recruit who active with a Group of Bristles program, and he instantly delivered on the advertising and aerial expectations. Oliver had two tackles for accident in the Cougars’ aperture win over Oklahoma, and he went on to an All-America admission division in which he accomplished with 66 tackles, 22 ½ tackles for loss, bristles sacks, nine canyon breakups and three affected fumbles. The 290-pound Oliver is a pro-ready machine, able abundant to band up anywhere on the arresting band and agitate aggregate an opposing breach does. Group of Bristles players are about never mentioned in the chat for best amateur in the country at any position, but Oliver has an argument.
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