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Ohio State’s 2018 defensive line will be better than 2017’s

No need for a special Rushmen package when every player could be a Rushman.

Illinois v Ohio State Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Earlier I wrote about the concept of above-replacement level talent — not just good, or really good, players, but elite players.

Football Outsiders tracks an NFL stat called Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, or DYAR, that measures this. Essentially, “a player’s true value can then be measured by the level of performance he provides above that replacement level baseline.” Ohio State’s “replacement level baseline” is already above almost everyone else’s in the country — the Buckeyes were second in total team talent last season to just Alabama (and likely will be in 2018 too). But it’s still important to recruit and identify players that exceed even Ohio State’s own replacement level baseline — truly dominant players that can take over games.

In short, that’s why Ohio State’s defensive line could be even better in 2018. That’s despite losing at least three starters to the NFL from a line that ranked:

  • 1st overall in adjusted line yards against the run
  • 10th overall in stuff rate
  • 19th in adjusted sack rate
  • 1st in defensive line havoc rate

No matter how you look at it, Ohio State’s defensive line was elite last year. And now the team is left with just three scholarship defensive ends with any experience.

But the thing is that the returning talent is at a totally different level. As Nick Bosa recently said, “I think it could be the best pass-rushing unit ever.” I think he could be right.

Here’s last year’s starting defensive line:

2017 Defensive Line

Player Position 247 Composite
Player Position 247 Composite
Sam Hubbard DE 0.923
Jalyn Holmes DE 0.965
Tyquan Lewis DE 0.8978
Nick Bosa DE 0.9965
Tracy Sprinkle DL 0.8594
Dre'Mont Jones DL 0.941

And here’s a projected 2018 line, assuming Antwuan Jackson Jr is second-team (and not an OR player):

Projected 2018 Defensive Line

Player Position 247 Composite
Player Position 247 Composite
Chase Young DE 0.9957
Jonathon Cooper DE 0.9811
Nick Bosa DE 0.9965
Robert Landers DL 0.8719
Dre'Mont Jones DL 0.941

Next year’s defensive line, even if the experienced depth at defensive end is thin, is outrageously talented. Potentially best-in-the-country talented. Here’s how they compare:

Comparing 2017 to 2018 defensive lines

Stat 247 Composite Avg
Stat 247 Composite Avg
2017 starters: 0.9305
2018 starters: 0.9572
2017 grads: 0.9146
2018 players on two-deep: 0.9595
2017 DEs: 0.9456
2018 DEs: 0.9911

As you can see in the chart above, the talent level was already ridiculous, but now every single starter could be among the best in the country.