The Cleveland Browns hosted former Sam Houston State defensive tackle P.J. Hall for a pre-draft visit on Friday. Hall is the latest defensive tackle to meet with the team in the days leading up to the 2018 NFL draft.
Athletic Sam Houston St. DL P.J. Hall is visiting the Browns today. Insane production at SHS with 86.5 tackles for loss, 42 sacks and 14 blocked kicks.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) April 6, 2018
Cleveland has already held private workouts for potential early-round prospects Vita Vea and Maurice Hurst. The team also has a private visit scheduled with former Texas A&M defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson, and it has met with several other defensive linemen at the scouting combine and various college pro days.
Hall didn’t receive a combine invite, but the FCS standout impressed at Sam Houston State’s pro day and had eye-popping production in college, as ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler noted above.
Lance Zierlein, one of NFL Network’s lead draft scouts, said Hall is “Grady Jarrett all over again” and that he expects him to be a third or fourth rounder. Jarrett, another “undersized” defensive tackle picked in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, has done nothing but exceed expectations thanks to his power and work ethic. He finished with 39 quarterback pressures in 2017, which was the 15th most by an interior defender, according to Pro Football Focus.
Hall needs to rely on his determination and power if he hopes he can live up to that kind of comparison. It’s rarer that FCS players end up making an impact at the NFL level, let alone even make a 53-man roster—only 13 percent of the league on opening day last season were FCS alums.
Hall’s pass rushing skills may be exactly what the Browns covet, which will help them as they transition away from gap-filler nose tackle Danny Shelton, who they traded to New England this offseason. Whether or not they draft Hall may very well be determined by his visit, but it’s also out of their hands as they do not own a third-round pick. He could be available in the fourth round, but that’s far from a given, and they may address other more pressing needs with their three second rounders.
As the draft approaches, the Browns are seemingly honing in on two key need areas: defensive tackles and cornerbacks. We know they’re going to be taking a quarterback early, but they have eight other picks, so it wouldn’t be surprising if a few of them end up being defensive linemen and secondary players.