Season 18 Draft Defense Preview

LightningDragon · November 27, 2023


By: Cole Mantell (@lightningdragon)

For longtime viewers, graduating at the end of your CFSL career wasn’t always the end of the story. For many players, the opportunity to continue onto the Pro League was a key part of their stories and something many players would look forward to. While the Pro League is not returning this offseason, a new similar idea will.

Starting this offseason, experienced members will get together for the CFSL Draft. In this event, 21 NFL teams will draft players from the CFSL graduation list onto their current teams. That means that GMs will participate in the draft finding players to add to the current roster on the day of the draft.

For this series to prepare you for the said draft, we will be looking at each position group available to our GMs. They are sorted as QB, HB, WR, TE/FB, DE, DT, OLB, MLB, CB, FS, SS, and K. For each group, we’ll grade each player in the position group by tiers. Specifically, we’ll look at them in how likely they are to be drafted and where. This is the table showing how each tier is graded. This is the companion article looking at the defensive side of the ball, as well as special teams.

Tier 11st Round Talent
Tier 22nd-3rd Round Talent
Tier 34th-6th Round Talent
Tier 47th Round Talent or Undrafted

Keep in mind for these tiers that there are only 21 spots in each round. Therefore, while it will not work out perfectly in this series, there should be only around 20 to 30 total Tier 1 players, at least in theory. Also, keep in mind that while there might be 10 awesome players in a position group, only so many NFL teams might need a Quarterback right now, for example. That does affect how many players are graded in Tier 1. So without further ado:

Defensive Ends

Tier 1: Valentino Villarreal, Laci White, Jay Gates, Ezra Rogalski, George Yost, Cillian MacBride

Tier 2: DeAndre Gross, Houston Kai, Mikie Gold, Muhammad Smith, Scott Reichle, Mike Donlin

Tier 3: Jimmy McKirdy, Dior Washington

Tier 4: Rex O’Brien, Joshua Bolton, Jaiden Carter

There is a good argument this is the strongest position group in the class. It was so strong I had to separate DEs and DTs for this series. This will be a historic graduating class at defensive end, with some possible future CFSL Hall of Fame players in Tier 1. While any of the six in Tier 1 can be a game-changer for an NFL team, the debate will be on whether White, Gates, or Rogalski go first.

Moving down this historic list, names such as DeAndre Gross, Scott Reichle, and Mike Donlin jump out as possible underrated picks in the making as the draft moves along. Needless to say, if you are an NFL team looking for help with the pass rush, this is the draft class for you.

Defensive Tackles

Kentucky DT Israel Jordan Ward knocked the ball out for a strip sack.

Tier 1: Pierce Parker, Israel Jordan Ward, Hiro Nakajima

Tier 2: Collin McDowell, Jeff Knight, Shane Lloyd

Tier 3: Jordan Baker, Kade Padgett, Mo Hart

Tier 4: Fetu Apatu, Daniel Winston

While I am not rating the defensive tackles in this class quite as highly as the defensive ends, there still is some standout talent among this group. Israel Jordan Ward leads this position as the overwhelming favorite to be the first DT taken. I’d wager he goes in the Top 10. Nakajima and Parker are also favorites to go in Round 1 given their contributions to playoff teams.

Tier 2 and Tier 3 were the hardest to differentiate any position group for these DTs. All six of these players could go as high as Round 2 and as low as Round 6. Even Apatu and Winston, while not as productive in the CFSL, could see their names rise. With only 11 total true DTs in the draft, needy teams can and might start a run at the position. That pressure could also push someone like Shane Lloyd, for example, into the 1st Round as well.

Outside Linebackers

Florida LB Tymundus Bell making the interception over the middle.

Tier 1: Tymundus Bell, JW Eibeck

Tier 2: Henry Pate III, Wesley Bellomy, Blake Grant, Devin Rudisell

Tier 3: Tyrell Kross, Thomas Schultz, John Smith

Tier 4: Haisten Kai

Once again, while originally I intended to include linebackers as one whole unit, there were simply too many great players to fit into one ranking. For the outside linebackers, this class is led by Tymundus Bell. One of the only CFSL LBs to ever win Defensive Player of the Year, he is surely going to make an impact at the next level and will be a high pick. Under the radar, however, JW Eibeck is not far behind in career tackles and was a force for the Illinois Fighting Illini. Both should be first-round picks this season.

Moving past them, we have a group in Tier 2 who all can jump into Round 1, but for different reasons might have to wait before hearing their name. Tier 3 and Tier 4 were pretty close in talent, with many of the later guys in this group having some good numbers or highlights, but not enough to vault them higher into consideration. This is another position where if an NFL team is looking to find a difference-making OLB early, they might have to reach a bit.

Middle Linebackers

Alabama LB Ryan Schultz taking Friedman down for the sack on the blitz.

Tier 1: Ryan Schultz

Tier 2: Wes Finy, JayCee Newton, Ryder Mears, Maverick Rivers

Tier 3: Jason Porter, Troy William, Luke Davis

Tier 4: Andrew Cannedy

Ryan Schultz leads this group and it isn’t particularly close. He graduates with almost 100 more tackles than the next-best MLB. No one in this class has more career tackles. That doesn’t necessarily mean he will be the first defensive player off the board, but there is a good chance he will be.

Behind him, all four of Finy, Newton, Mears, and Rivers were excellent for their respective teams and could jump into the first round. Look at Maverick Rivers in particular who could go higher. That is especially true if a team misses out on Schultz early and needs an MLB. Moving down the list, some sneaky good picks could be Troy William or Luke Davis in the later rounds. Almost everyone in this group this season had at least a hundred tackles and plenty of big plays.


Oklahoma State CB Rishaun Rylan deep in coverage laying out for the one-handed pick.

Tier 1: Rishaun Rylan, Alexander Kirsch, Shawn Adams, Trevor Austin, Darian Conner

Tier 2: Gerald Pope, Noah Shaikh, Zay Martinez, Luca Hudson, Brady Boutwell

Tier 3: Maddie Wine, Silus Riggs, Cletarius White, Wrangler Brown

Tier 4: Hershel Duke, Ted Zelenock, Kenneth Narwick

This season’s cornerback class is both deep and talented. However, unlike most defensive positions this season, no one player jumps out and is the best in the position group. You could argue any of the five CBs in Tier 1 are the best, and be right. You could also argue any of said five are a lock for the Top 15 or drop out of the first round entirely. This might’ve been the most difficult position to group for these reasons.

I think even if you don’t go for one of the top five, there is still plenty of talent later in the draft as well. Almost any of the names up to Tier 3 I could see a team reaching for in the late first or into the second round. Conversely, with so many quality names teams could also wait and still get a great guy later, which might push some guys back. This will be the position group that is the hardest to predict this season in the draft.

Free Safety

Florida FS Tyrone Wysinger tight in coverage on the outside to snag the interception.

Tier 1: Tyrone Wysinger

Tier 2: Kaz Allen, Ed Lott

Tier 3: DJ Hanson, Jordan Lyall, Adam Sala, Deuce Palmer

Tier 4: Rich Johnson, Kendrick Jarrett, Frank Mason, Ray Baker

Free safety is a weird position group this season for NFL scouts. You have Tyrone Wysinger, easily the best in the group and a surefire first-rounder. Outside of him? Lots of guys who you don’t know where to place. Kaz Allen and Ed Lott were both big contributors to their teams and should be near the top of the list for teams who can’t grab Wysinger. Outside of those two, there are a bunch of guys in Tier 3 and even Tier 4 who can be big contributors, but haven’t shown enough in the CFSL to warrant a higher placement here. Guys like Adam Sala or DJ Hanson in particular are guys I can see being drafted much higher than their tier indicates here. As for Wysinger? He is easily the best safety in this class and the only guy I project as a safety going into the first half of Round 1.

Strong Safety

Georgia SS Zach Knight went above the receiver to make the deep interception.

Tier 1: None

Tier 2: Zach Knight

Tier 3: Jakoby Cobb, Brandon Catchings, Damelo Butler, Colby Ray Walker

Tier 4: Brandon Daniels, Rolf Altmann, Daxton Moore

Strong safety is also going to be weird to scout this season. Much like free safety, it is going to be a tough ask to draft many of these guys early. Unlike free safety, there is no Tyrone Wysinger running around to be a slam-dunk first-rounder.

Zach Knight is a level above the rest of his position group in this class, but I don’t know if he is a surefire first-round pick. He easily could jump there however if a team late in the first is looking for a strong safety specifically. After Knight, all four of Cobb, Catchings, Butler, and Walker also had excellent careers and could jump into Tier 2 territory. So while this class does feature relatively fewer safeties than say, linebackers, there still is plenty of late-round gem potential here.


Tier 1: None

Tier 2: None

Tier 3: Waylon Wright, Salvador Cruz, Pacer Smith Miller

Tier 4: Alexi Kear, Preston Rhude, Luca Rivers, Hugo Calderon, Guy Blewitt, Freddie Franklin

No, I don’t think any kickers are going to be first-rounders this season. Yes, even as a Buccaneers fan. Jokes aside, this is a solid class of graduating kickers. While there shouldn’t be any consideration of drafting a kicker higher than a mid to late-round grab, there are three that stand out.

Waylon Wright, Salvador Cruz, and Pacer Smith Miller all have the accuracy and volume of kicks to show they are pro-ready. The rest of the kickers listed lacked one of those two things at a high level. I don’t see more than five kickers being drafted period, but you never know. Of course, different rules and different conditions mean that the transition from the CFSL to the pros might be the hardest for the kicker. GMs beware, as this might be the hardest position group to predict going into the NFL.


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