Creating the perfect SEC defensive end for 2019
The SEC always seems loaded along the defensive line, and that will once again be the case in 2019.
Several talented players will be returning to the conference this fall, especially at the defensive end position. A handful are potential first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
However, only the best of the best are included in this mashup of elite skills. So, who has what it takes to be part of the perfect SEC defensive end for the 2019 season?
Here’s who we’d pick:
Speed: Jabari Zuniga, Florida
Jachai Polite led the Gators in sacks last year, but Zuniga is going to be the star this fall. He recorded 6.5 sacks, 11 tackles for a loss and 45 total tackles in 2018 and should only get better.
When working from a 3-point stance like Zuniga also does, it’s important to get off the line quicker than the offensive lineman. As you can see here, Zuniga is great at that, and has a solid spin move and impressive strength, too:
Big time play by Jabari Zuniga to explode out of his stance, swim past his man and get the sack of Nick Fitzgerald. pic.twitter.com/NBCFN3EV3s
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) September 29, 2018
Zuniga could work his way into the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft with a big 2019 season, and his quickness is a big reason for that.
Strength: Raekwon Davis, Alabama
No, Davis didn’t have the best 2018 season. Projected as a potential first-round pick, he struggled, recording only 1.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for a loss. The good news is he returned to Alabama for his senior season.
At 6-7 and 315 pounds, Davis is an absolute beast who still has all of the tools that made him so hyped last offseason. This play from the College Football Playoff title game against Georgia a couple of years ago shows what he’s capable of:
Raekwon Davis days until Alabama beats the hell out of Duke pic.twitter.com/60V9a1HCH1
— 🅱️🅰️Ⓜ️ (@big__bam) May 24, 2019
If he can return to that form in 2019, NFL teams will jump at the chance to pick him in the first round of the 2020 draft.
Run-stuffing: Rashard Lawrence, LSU
At 6-3 and 315 pounds, Lawrence is exactly what you need at defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. His ability to hold his own allowed guys like Devin White to have plenty of room to make tackles.
His own numbers — 54 tackles (10 for a loss) and 4 sacks — weren’t too shabby, either. Lawrence spends some time on the interior of the defensive line, but with Tyler Shelvin seemingly set to man the nose tackle position this fall, Lawrence could spend more time on the edge.
Pass-rushing: Nick Coe, Auburn
Among all returning defensive linemen, Coe had the most sacks, recording 7 in 2018 despite missing time with injuries. Coe also had 26 tackles, more than half of which (13.5) were behind the line of scrimmage.
He’s still raw and needs to work on some moves, but when you’re able to beat a double-team (and a hold) like this, it’s scary for quarterbacks:
Nick Coe fights through a double team to register his 3rd sack of the game pic.twitter.com/dgNtb5OVNc
— Power of Dixieland (@PwrofDixieland) October 20, 2018
With fellow defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson taking some of the pressure off him, he should have plenty of chances to get after the passer this fall.
Versatility: DJ Wonnum, South Carolina
Health will be key for Wonnum, who only appeared in 4 games in 2018 while battling injuries. However, in 2017, he was a rising star, recording 57 tackles (13 for a loss) and 6 sacks.
He can line up at defensive end or he can rush the passer as a linebacker. And, if necessary, he’s big enough to line up in the middle of the defensive line and get a rush that way, too.
Wonnum’s versatility makes South Carolina’s defense much more dangerous, so if he can stay healthy, it should help that unit take a step forward this fall.