Each day leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, I’ll break down one of my top 50 prospects. In some cases, we had to make tough omissions because of injuries, poor pre-draft workouts or incomplete information. For more complete scouting reports on all the prospects, check out the Pro Football Weekly 2018 Draft Guide, which is available for order now.
37. Ohio State DE Sam Hubbard
6-foot-5, 270 pounds
Key stats: Despite starting only 22 games for the Buckeyes, Hubbard ranks 15th all-time in school history in both quarterback sacks with 17.0 and tackles-for-loss yardage with 154. He contributed 29.5 total tackles for loss during his career and 116 tackles.
The skinny: High-school lacrosse star was set to attend Notre Dame for that sport, but Urban Meyer — after watching Hubbard play dodgeball, of all things — helped convince the high-school safety and linebacker (and 3-star football recruit) to give football a shot. Hubbard redshirted in 2014 as a freshman, spending time at tight end and linebacker before being moved to defensive line after putting on nearly 70 pounds after high school.
In 2015, Hubbard started the opener (for a suspended Joey Bosa) against Virginia Tech and then settled into a reserve role, earning Freshman All-America honors in a 6.5-sack season. Hubbard became a full-time starter in 2016 and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. In 2017, he was named second-team all-Big Ten (starting 8-of-14 games) in racking up 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. In his final game in the Cotton Bowl against USC, Hubbard had 2.5 sacks against Sam Bradford in a dominant performance.
Hubbard declared early for the 2018 NFL draft after graduating in December of 2017 with a degree in finance.
Upside: Best football is in front of him. Still learning the ins and outs of DL play but appeared to learn and improve incrementally each season under respected position coach Larry Johnson. Clean medical history — no major injuries and never missed time. Good natural instincts despite being relatively new to position. Nice awareness and ability to find the ball. Stays home nicely and plays his assignments soundly.
Active, strong hands — keeps blockers at bay nicely. Outstanding lateral quickness and change-of-direction skills. Terrific ankle and hip flexion. Manages to slip cut blocks skillfully while maintaining balance and keeping eyes on the prize. Effective on stunts and twists to beat interior blockers with quickness — including on this great example where Hubbard sells the outside rush, stunts inside and closes quickly on Darnold for the third-down sack:
Rushed from both sides of the ball in both two- and three-point stances. Also showed the ability to stand up and also drop into short zones and react quickly. Should be able to contribute on special teams readily — could make decent kick blocker with arm length, leaping ability and football instincts.
Played a variety of roles in defense run by former NFL coach Greg Schiano. OSU has produced a lot of ready-made talent in recent years, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Hubbard was a team captain and a favorite of both the coaching staff and his teammates.
Downside: Not yet a refined edge rusher — still learning how to finish. Might never be a 10-to-12-sack player in the NFL. Affected a lot of pass plays but was a step or two away from actually getting home. Can take long, wide arcs to the ball and run himself out of plays. Needs to develop countermoves — spin and swim need work, especially inside — and maintain a more direct path to the quarterback.
This play is a net positive because he pressures Penn State QB Trace McSorley and forces an off-target throw, but watch as Hubbard takes a false step outside when closing in and potentially missed out on a sack after beautifully spinning around OT Chasz Wright:
Still needs time in the weight room to develop and be able to hold up against stronger, longer-armed tackles. Can’t use punch as effectively against bigger, stronger men. Bull rush isn’t his strength at all (more effective when matched with tight ends, it appears). Gets “half-manned” too easily at times. Positions himself well and can string out plays and funnel them back inside, but still will need to set a harder edge against run plays.
Best-suited destination: Hubbard offers positional versatility for NFL teams — he could be a 5- or 7-technique rusher in a one-gap system or a standup linebacker for teams that run a two-gap defense, especially one that likes to send pressure or use zone blitzes frequently. Among the teams that could use his skill set especially well include the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans.
Quotable: “This last year, Coach Schiano took over the defense and he’s got a lot of tricks up his sleeves. He wanted to do a lot of things to switch up the looks. He used me and my versatility to be able to stand up, drop [and] rush from different spots. He wanted to give different looks and surprise offenses, and I was able to be the moving piece to do that. It also showcased to teams what I can do at the next level.” — Hubbard at the NFL scouting combine
Player comp: Mathias Kiwanuka
Expected draft range: Late first to early second round
50. Oregon RB Royce Freeman
49. South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert
48. LSU DE-LB Arden Key
47. Ohio State C Billy Price
46. Alabama S Ronnie Harrison
45. Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
44. Texas A&M S Armani Watts
43. South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst
42. UCF CB Mike Hughes
41. USC RB Ronald Jones II
40. Maryland WR D.J. Moore
39. UTEP OG Will Hernandez
38. Stanford DT Harrison Phillips