Jonathan Bullard, DE Florida
As Norton Jr. continues to shift Oakland’s defense into more of a hybrid scheme, it’s important for Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie to target versatile defensive linemen that can play several spots along the defensive line. Former Florida defensive end Jonathan Bullard can be just that.
Bullard, a three-year starter with the Gators, has experience playing both defensive end and defensive tackle in a 4-3 defensive scheme, as he saw a majority of his snaps within the interior in 2014 before being pushed to the edge at defensive end as a senior in 2015. At the next level, Bullard has the potential to dominate as a physical, aggressive edge-setter at defensive end on early downs, while he would be kicked inside in passing situations because of his upside as an interior pass rusher.
According to CFBStats.com, Bullard accumulated 66 combined tackles (17.5 tackles for loss) and 6.5 sacks in 2015.
Along the edge, Bullard is highly regarded for his ability to defend the run. He pairs excellent burst off the snap with a bully-type mentality that opposing offensive tackles often struggle to mirror. Bullard remains disciplined in his gaps and will rarely allow a running back to turn the edge on the outside, as he plays with great strength and hand technique to prevent being sealed off inside.
Though he is most successful against guards on the inside, Bullard is capable of beating offensive tackles to the quarterback when lined up at defensive end. He doesn’t have the elite athleticism or quickness to get by as a speed rusher, but Bullard’s bull-rush technique has proven successful despite him lacking perfect technique.
As a high-effort player, Bullard makes up for a lot of his technique flaws and lack of athleticism with his relentless pursuit of the football, and he will likely carry his effort onto the practice field in order to perfect his craft with better coaching at the next level.
“I just want to show them the type of guy I am and what I can bring to their team,” Bullard said in an interview with Panthers Senior Producer Mike Craft. “I’m a versatile (defensive) lineman. I can play inside or outside. I’m disruptive. I think I still have a long way to go with my career and can continue to get better. With some good vets and some good coaches, I think sky is the limit for me.”
With some of the veterans and coaches currently with Oakland, Bullard would be in a great position to succeed in the NFL. Early in his career, he could continue to develop as he rotates in with Mario Edwards Jr. and Dan Williams as both an edge-rusher and interior defensive lineman.
Though Bullard still needs to improve multiple levels of his game, he has the potential to effectively contribute within an already talented front seven in Oakland if he continues to learn how to better his abilities as an edge-rusher.