Sleepers and underdogs: Liam Jenkins’ top-5 NFL Draft crushes of 2019

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With the NFL Draft taking place tomorrow, it’s time to take a look at the players who for one reason or another, have become ‘Draft Crushes’ this offseason.

Maybe they had one highlight play that just left you breathless. Perhaps they play for the college you studied at, or sometimes, they just have an underdog story that resonates with you. Developing draft crushes is a risky business. Once you’ve climbed the hill, there’s no coming down and for every Leighton Vander-Esch and Marlon Mack, there’s a Kevin Hogan (sorry Kevin) and Donnel Pumphrey.

Here are the five players I’m willing to plant my flag at the top of the hill for in 2019.

Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

As far as impact players go, Christian Wilkins is among those with the highest ceiling. Bust potential is always higher at defensive tackle, but I feel it’s minimal here. He has the burst, athleticism and sheer explosiveness to compensate for the lack of length (33.5 inch arms, 6’3, 315 lbs) that is bizarrely mentioned so much. He’s got a strong arsenal of pass-rush moves, plays relentlessly and shoots gaps extremely quickly.

With 14 sacks, 16 QB hits and 40 QB pressures in 2 seasons at the highest collegiate level, Wilkins is technically ready to leap straight into a starting role if desired. Keeping his pad level low, he plays with enough agility to make an impact outside of his gap. Most impressively of all, he never takes a play off and would be dominant in most schemes.

So why is this first-round defensive tackle a draft crush? Well, after spending an unhealthy amount of time studying the film due to the link with the Eagles, I fell in love with just how athletic he is. A man his size should not bend like a defensive end or just throw centers aside like he’s ripping into a bag of chips. Wilkins is a fun character off the field (as showcased by that iconic split celebration after winning a Natty) and would just be a joy to watch at the next level.

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