The O.U.T. List: Preseason Top Defensive Players For The 2020 NFL Season

Top Small School Defensive Talents For The 2020 NFL Season

Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships, and starts NFL careers.

Each year, NFL scouts look to build depth for their respective clubs. It takes special men to impose their will on their opponents to either stop them or make them not want the ball.

Last season, 83 Division II players were in the NFL, seven players shy from the start of the 2017 NFL campaign.

Defensive backs are normally the position that is sought after and last season reflected the talent pool that is needed in the league. And the lower level of collegiate football, including Division II, has the most value for the position.

CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 8, 2019: Defensive back J.T. Hassell #49 of the Cleveland Browns on the field in the fourth quarter of a preseason game against the Washington Redskins on August 8, 2019 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won 30-10. (Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

17 defensive backs, the most by position from the Division II ranks were on NFL rosters last season, including 12-year veteran defensive back Brent Grimes, who was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Indianapolis Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II became the highest paid slot cover corner in the NFL as he signed a four-year extension worth $30 million, which could max out to $36 million. And he is a product of Division II’s Valdosta State.

So, what does this mean? Small schools have value.

Last year’s O.U.T. List featured 46 defensive players. 11 of those players received camp invites and two players made NFL roster spots entering the 2019 NFL season in Florida Tech’s linebacker J.T. Hassell (Cleveland Browns) and Charleston, WV’s defensive end Kahzin Daniels (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

So, what does this mean for the O.U.T. List? It also has value.

Let’s see who has value at the start the collegiate season, in hopes of playing in the 2020 NFL season.


JOSHUA DONALDSON (BROCKPORT) – 6-0, 195-pounds – Pure-shut down corner. Great feet, decent hands, positions his body, instinctive, solid pad position for the position, discipline, confident, physical, high football IQ, polish.

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Luke Sennett/Google Images

LUKE SENNETT (BUTLER) – 6-1, 205-pounds – Second-Team All-PFL – fundamentally sound, good feet and hands, strong, love to hit, instinctive, quick, will sale his body, intense. He finished with 104 tackles in 11 games.

JEAN BAZILE (NORTHEASTERN STATE) – 5-11, 195-pounds – Earned All-MIAA Honorable Mention in 2018. Very instinctive, has a linebacker’s mentality, plays the run extremely well, physical, has a high motor, spirited, covers well (must turn his head around), balance, fundamentally sound in tackling. Finished with 99 tackles to lead the team.

ISIAH SWANN (DARTMOUTH) – 6-0, 190-pounds – Consensus All-American selection by the Associated Press in 2018. Breaks on the ball well, has good timing, patience, great hands, good feet, discipline, reads the quarterback well, smart, quick, aggressive. Finished with 39 tackles and nine interceptions, including 18 passes defensed.

MANNY PATTERSON (MAINE) – 5-10, 190-pounds – STATS FCS All-American First Team. Plays against the deep ball well, good feet, decent hands, plays with control, solid at man-to-man coverage, physical, strong. He finished with 47 tackles and three interceptions, including 25 passes defensed.

KERWIN MCELVANEY JR. (SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY) – 6-1, 195-pounds. Strong hands, quick, uses body well in coverage, good hands and feet, fiery, intense, turn hips well, solid closing speed, aggressive yet patience, gets his head around, has good speed.

ADONIS DAVIS (ABILENE CHRISTIAN) – 5-11, 185-pounds – Never gives up a play, patience, tracks the ball well, great closing speed, good hands and feet, cover well, did not shy away from contact, strong, uses body well. Finished with 26 tackles and four interceptions, including 15 passes defensed.

WILL WARNER (DRAKE) – 6-3, 205-pounds – Instinctive, savvy, great hands and feet, good vision, solid closing speed, playmaker, plays center field well, good help over the top. Finished with 45 tackles and eight interceptions (second best in the FCS), including 12 passes defensed.

Will Warner/Google Images

DAJOUR NESBETH (TENNESSEE STATE) – 6-1, 190-pounds – 2018 All-Ohio Valley Conference First Team. Smart, attacks the ball at highest point, covers a lot of ground, has fundamental qualities, quick, good speed, solid leaping ability, confidence, has swag. Finished with 58 tackles to lead the team (42 solos) and four interceptions, including 11 passes defensed – all in nine games.

JEREMY CHINN (SOUTHERN ILLINOIS) – 6-3, 212-pounds – FCS Preseason All-American Third Team. First-Team All-MVFC. High football IQ, athletic, good speed and hands, aggressive when needed, patience, physical, solid closing speed. Finished with 55 tackles and three interceptions, including 10 passes defensed.


ZACH HALL (SOUTHEAST MO. STATE) – 6-0, 238-pounds – 2018 Buck Buchanan Award Winner. 2019 Preseason Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Athletics Directors Association (ADA) National Defensive Player of the Year. Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Sure-tackler, good hands, solid pad level, finisher, fundamentally sound, aggressive, athletic, good lateral movement. Finished with 168 tackles.

Zach Hall/Google Images

JONAS GRIFFITH (INDIANA STATE) – 6-4, 250-pounds. FCS Second Team Preseason All-American. Explodes on impact, strong, fiery, confident, solid pad level, quick from sideline to sideline, good speed for position and size, gets good penetration, good hands. Finished with 132 tackles.

JEREMIAH CHAMBERS (ABILENE CHRISTIAN) – 6-2, 230-pounds. Team captain. Leader, seals the end well, disciplined, pure-tackler, strong, good speed from sideline to sideline, sheds blockers, can find a home on special teams, explodes from legs, patience. Finished with 113 tackles.

DOMINIC CIZAUSKAS (GLENVILLE STATE) – 6-2, 255-pounds. 2018 D2CCA All-Super Region 1 Second Team defense. Holds containment, patience, waits to play to develop before attack, solid tackler, good hands, good leaping ability for size, strong, great vision, leader. Finished with 134 tackles, including three sacks.

CHRIS HOAD (TEXAS PERMIAN BASIN) – 6-0, 228-pounds. The 2018 Lone Star Conference Linebacker of the Year and All-Conference First Team. High motor, smart, agile, instinctive, patience, committed, balance, shed blockers well, good feet, strong, aggressive. Finished third in the nation with 133 tackles, including 1.5 sacks.

TYLER THOMSEN (WAYNE STATE (NE) – 6-1, 220-pounds. All-NSIC South Divsion First Team. Third Team All-American. Quick off the snap, versatile, strong, instinctive, balance, strong hands, good feet, sound tackler. Finished with 120 tackles.  

DAKOTA DRISKILL (NORTHWESTERN OKLA.) – 6-0, 218-pounds. Strong, good feet, solid technique, good pad level, fiery, aggressive, understands angles well, can get to his spot to attack effortlessly. Finished with 120 tackles last season.

Jonas Griffith/Google Images

AUSTIN STEPHENS (MILES) – 5-11, 210-pounds. 2018 D2CCA All-Super Region 2 Football Team. 2018 SIAC Defensive Player of the Year. Reliable, leader, pure tackler, strong, smart, read quarterback well, good closing speed, understands angles, finisher, confidence, solid pad level. Finished wit 120 stops last year.

DEVON HUNT (SHAW) – 6-1, 220-pounds. Shaw’s All-Time leading tacklers. Solid against the run, excellent against the play-action, great feet, hard hitter, sound tackler, will sacrifice stats for a team success on a play, decent hands, great pad level, hit through the ball carrier, fast, patience, instinctive.

TADARIUS DAVIS (MISSISSIPPI VALLEY) – 6-0, 185-pounds. Can attack a play before it develops, strong, fast, intense, instincts off the chart, solid in drop back coverage, good closing speed, gets penetration, explode on impact. Finished with 101 tackles last year.


TOMAS WRIGHT (BRYANT) – 6-3, 250-pounds. 2018 All-NEC First Team selection. 2018 All-ECAC First Team selection. Calcaluted, Plays fast, comes off the snap quick, quick, agile, balance and control, sheds blockers, solid hand usage, consistent, powerful. Finished with 45 tackles, including 11 sacks and 17.5 stops for losses, and three forced fumbles.

Tomas Wright/Google Images

MAURICE JACKSON (RICHMOND) – 6-3, 279-pounds. 2019 CAA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. 2018 Associated Press Third Team All-American. 2018 All-CAA First Team. Has a high motor, infectious, tough, powerful, quick off the snap, finisher, balance and control, good feet, strong hands. Finished with 46 tackles, including 10 sacks and 15 stops for losses, and four forced fumbles.

DANIEL DELORENZI (COLUMBIA) – 6-2, 245-pounds. Fires on the ball, good leverage, strong, good hand usage and footwork, skilled, smart, Finished with 37 tackles, including eight sacks and 10.5 stops for losses.

KHRISTIAN TATE (GEORGETOWN) – 6-0, 295-pounds. 2018 All-Patriot League First Team. 2018 Preseason All-Patriot League. Elite speed for his size, quick off the snap, good footwork, solid hand usage, has balance and control, command double teams, do not take plays off, athletic, agile. Finished with 54 tackles, including 10 sacks, and 16.5 stops for losses.

MASON BENNETT (NORTH DAKOTA) – 6-4, 258-pounds. A mismatch against blocking running back, strong hands, solid hand usage, good speed off the edges, good leverage, savvy. Finished with 42 tackles, including nine sacks and 15 stops for losses.

MARQUES FORD (BETHUNE-COOKMAN) – 6-4, 265-pounds. 2018 MEAC First-Team All- Conference Defense. Fluent in his movement, cover space, solid hand usage, good feet, decent speed, but flies off the edge, good balance and control, good length, intense, strong, finisher. Finished with 42 tackles, including 8.5 sacks and 10.5 stops for losses.

SHA’HAUN WILLIAMS (NOTRE DAME (OH) – 6-3, 260-pounds. First team All-American. A FREAK, high motor, intense, great speed and technique, strong, athletic, agile, solid leaping ability for size, has balance and control, demands attention, can get to the quarterback, good leverage, explosive. Registered 68 tackles (49 were solos. 68 of his tackles were 24.5 stops for losses, included 20.0 sacks, four forced fumbles and two passes defensed. On special teams, Williams had a blocked kick.

Sha’Haun Williams/Google Images

DONDREA TILLMAN (INDIANA, PA) – 6-4, 265-pounds. Two-time All-PSAC West selection. 2018 All-Super Region One selection. Quick off the edge, good inside leverage and technique, instinctive, has control, good side step, smart, fundamentally sound, good leaping ability. Recorded 62 tackles, including 14.5 stops for losses and 12.5 sacks, forced two fumbles

JACOB PROTZMAN (WAYNE STATE, NE) – 6-5, 50-pounds. 2018 All-NSIC South Division Second Team. Fiery, intense, strong, high motor, good leverage, athletic, strong, workhorse, decent technique. Finished with 49 tackles, including 16 stops for losses and 10 sacks.

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