NFL Draft Notebook: Kalen DeLoach, Jaylan Ford and Josh Proctor lead All-Underrated Defense

In this week's NFL Draft Notebook we name our All-Underrated defense, review some of the trades made last week, and much more.

Kalen DeLoach
Kalen DeLoach / Michael Chang/GettyImages
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Earlier this offseason NFL Draft Notebook released their All-Underrated Offense and now it is time to look at what player made the defensive squad. This group is led by the most athletic linebacker in the 2024 NFL Draft Kalen DeLoach. Jalyen Ford is another draft prospect who is being overlooked despite being the first Longhorn linebacker since 2011 to have back-to-back 100-tackle seasons. The secondary is headlined by Ohio State’s Josh Procter who had the best season of his career this past fall.

In addition to naming out All-Underrated defensive this week’s NFL Draft Notebook also reviews some of the more interesting trades made this offseason and much more.

All-Underrated Defense

DE: Xavier Thomas, Clemson

A player who has had average production but could make more of an impact in the NFL is Xavier Thomas of Clemson. Over the past two seasons, he has a total of just six tackles for loss and five sacks. Although he did lead Clemson this season with 21 quarterback pressures. While his on-the-field production won’t impress scouts he does have the raw tools to develop into a quality pass rusher. His most impressive trait is his quickness off the ball, and he also shows good agility overall. If he can stay focused on healthy and focused in the NFL look for him to have a long career in the NFL.

DT: Justin Eboigbe, Alabama

2023 was a breakout year for Alabama’s Justin Eboigbe who posted a career-high seven sacks after only having two sacks during his first four seasons with the Crimson Tide. He also was stellar against the run this year grading out with an 86.4 run defense grade by Pro Football Focus. As a pro prospect, he is a versatile defender who could see time at either defensive end or defensive tackle. He also plays with a non-stop motor which helped him get several coverage sacks this year. Look for him to be at least a rotational defensive lineman as a rookie.

DT: Khristian Boyd, UNI

A player who was snubbed from the NFL Combine this year is UNI’s Khristian Boyd. Boyd saw his NFL Draft stock skyrocket after a strong East-West Shrine Bowl, where he dominated Power Five competition. This week highlighted his strong play against the run which is something he also did well for the Northern Iowa Panthers. In 2023, he was named a third-team All-American and led all FCS defensive tackles with 40 pressures. As a pro prospect, he is good sized defensive tackle who holds up very well against the run and plays hard down after down.

"I just love to work. Playing at Northern Iowa we may not have all the resources but working under Coach [Mark] Farley and Coach [Bryce] Paup, those are old school dudes that always had that grit and toughness that ultimately shaped me as a player."

Khristian Boyd via The Draft Network

DE: Brennan Jackson, Washington State

A player you can count on giving it his all on and off the field is Washington State’s Brennan Jackson. This work ethic has allowed him to pile up some pretty impressive stats over the past two years including 24.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks, He was also named to the All-Pac-12 second team both seasons. In addition to his non-stop motor Jackson will also bring an explosive first step and someone who easily gets off blocks to his next team.

OLB: Kalen DeLoach, Florida State

A player who impressed me at the East-West Shrine Bowl is Kalen DeLoach. At this event, it was easy to see he was the most athletic linebacker at the event and one of the more athletic players at his position in the NFL Draft. He does an excellent job of changing directions in space, and his outstanding agility allows him to hold up well in coverage. He also has impressive speed, allowing him to play sideline to sideline against the run.

MLB: Jaylan Ford, Texas

Jaylan Ford was named my sleeper middle linebacker going into the season and he earns that award again after a strong 2023 season. This season he became the first Longhorn linebacker since 2011 to have back-to-back 100-tackle seasons. Over that same time frame, he also has accounted for 20.5 tackles for loss and six interceptions. Despite this strong production and the fact that he is one of the better coverage middle linebackers in the 2024 NFL Draft, he is still considered a late-round draft pick by most draftniks.

OLB: JD Bertrand, Notre Dame

Notre Dame'a JD Bertrand might not have the best measurables coming in at only 6-foot-1 and posing just average speed. However, he is one of the smarter linebackers in the 2024 NFL Draft. He does a great job of diagnosing plays which has helped him lead the Irish in tackles each of the past three seasons. He also has good versatility and could play either inside or outside linebacker at the next level.

CB: M.J. Devonshire, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh cornerback M.J. Devonshire was one of my biggest sleepers going into the 2023 season, and people are still overlooking him. This is hard to understand as he had another strong season for the Panthers being named to the All-ACC team and leading the ACC in pass breakups (1.17 per game) and interception return yards (115), while ranking second in interceptions (0.33 per game). He also has the tools to play in the NFL. He has long arms which helps him in both press coverage and when it comes to breaking up passes. He also has loose hips and had one of the best 3-cone times at the NFL Combine. Despite all this, he is still viewed as a seventh-round or undrafted free agent prospect by most drafniks.

S: Jay Stanley, Southern Miss

A player who will likely go undrafted but could be a find as an undrafted free agent is Southern Miss Jay Stanly. Stanly has been a ballhawk the past two seasons having picked off a combined eight passes and causing six fumbles. Despite this production, he was not invited to the NFL Combine and has not drawn a ton of NFL interest.

S: Josh Proctor, Ohio State

A player who had a breakout season this year is Ohio State’s Josh Proctor who at least doubled his previous season high recording 47 tackles, four tackles for loss, and nine pass breakups. He also has the tools to be a quality strong safety in the NFL including being an aggressive downfield tackler, having loose hips, and good size. If he can remain healthy he should see significant time in the NFL despite being a late draft pick.

Josh Proctor
Josh Proctor / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

CB: Dwight McGlothern, Arkansas

One of the corners with the best ball skills in the 2024 NFL Draft is Arkansas’s Dwight McGlothern. McGlothern has led the Razorbacks in interceptions each of the past two seasons picking off three passes this year and collecting four interceptions in 2022. In addition to being able to consistently get his hands on the ball he also has the length NFL coaches like. He measured in at 6-foot-2 with 30.5-inch arms at the NFL Combine, and this combination should allow him to thrive in press coverage. One more positive with him is his high football IQ, especially in zone coverage.

NFL Draft news and notes

Packers looking at running backs: Even though the Green Bay Packers signed Josh Jacobs in free agency, they are still looking at running backs in the middle portion of the 2024 NFL Draft. General Manager Brian Gutekunst attended the Wisconsin Pro Day last week to get a close look at Badgers running back Braelon Allen. They have also shown a strong interest in Clemson’s Will Shipley.

Bears trade: One of the more interesting trades happened this past weekend when the Pittsburgh Steelers sent a sixth-round pick to Chicago for quarterback Justin Fields. While this was very little to give up for the dynamic Fields, it is also noteworthy that the sixth-round pick the Bears got was in 2025. One of the reasons for this is that the 2024 NFL Draft class is thin on day three, and next year’s draft will hopefully provide more depth.

Vikings trade: The other big trade that recently went down is the Houston Texans trading out of the first round giving the Minnesota Vikings the 23rd pick. This now gives Minnesota two first-round picks, and enough ammunition to move up and select either Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy or possibly North Carolina’s Drake Maye. The top teams that would likely trade out of the top five are the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Chargers.

Best fit in a 3-4 defense: According to Colorado State defensive end Mohamed Kamara most teams are viewing him as a 3-4 outside linebacker. This doesn’t come as a big surprise since he is on the smaller side weighing in at 6-foot-1 and 248 pounds at the NFL Combine. He also played in a 2-point stance most of his career with the Rams. A couple of teams that have shown an interest in him are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, and Cincinnati Bengals.

NFL Draft stats of the week

4: In my March draft board that was released earlier this week four of my top five players were pass catchers.

4.39: Clemson’s Will Shipley 40-yard dash time at his pro day

38- UNI DT Khristian Boyd did 38 reps on the bench press. This would have been the second best mark at the NFL Combine.

4.28: The unofficial 40-yard dash time of Fresno State cornerback Carlton Johnson at his pro day.

2025: With us nearing the end of the 2024 NFL Draft, look for notes on the 2025 class to be included in future editions of this article.

70 to 13: That is the touchdown to interception ratio of South Dakota State quarterback Mark Gronowski going into his senior season. Look for him to be one of the top small-school quarterbacks in the 2025 NFL Draft.

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