Outside of Quarterback defensive line prospects are my favorite to watch. In this preview, we will be tackling (see what I did there) the guys who line up on the interior of the D-line known as defensive tackles. I’m one of those people who will argue that interior pressure on a quarterback is the most disruptive thing to an offense. Aaron Donald may not be in camp this year but when he does show up I highly recommend watching him play because he is not only the best defensive tackle but also the best defensive player in football. As for this year’s class, I think we might be in for a special one. This class includes many first round talents a bunch coming from the same school (Clemson). One small thing of note on these defensive tackle prospects the top one is a top 3 player in this entire class.
- Ed Oliver/ Houston
Remember about a sentence ago when I said that one of these defensive tackles is a top 3 player in the draft? Well, it is Ed Oliver, who declared for the draft at the end of last season leaving no mystery to if he was coming out or not. Oliver checks all of the boxes you could ask for in a defensive tackle. He is fast, strong, and smart. He has refined and mastered a variety of pass rushing moves that he uses to get to the quarterback. He creates that all-important interior pressure by using his tremendous strength to push the pocket back into the quarterbacks’ lap. My early comparison for him would be Aaron Donald except he his much bigger than Donald. Oliver is a complete player who can even line up at the defensive end spot because of his pass rushing moves. Oliver will be a top 5 pick next April.
- Raekwon Davis/ Alabama
Raekwon Davis is yet another Alabama defensive lineman who could go in the first round come April. Alabama has produced a first-round pick in every draft for the past couple of years and most of them have been productive. Davis popped on tape to me because of his pure power at the point of attack. He pushes back offensive lineman like nobody’s business collapsing pockets on quarterbacks. Davis also has a deadly swim move which he uses as his primary option to get to the quarterback in passing situations. Another thing I love about Davis is that he has shown some flashes of athleticism on screen passes and quarterback runs. I do have some minor concerns in his game starting with that he is not a huge threat on passing downs outside of that already mentioned swim move.
- Rashan Gary/ Michigan
Rashan Gary is a bit of an enigma in this class because he is so young and raw. With that rawness also comes flashes of huge potential that will make some scouts fall in love with him. Gary is an athletic freak who really flies around the field despite his massive size. He often finds his way into the backfield stopping running backs and sacking quarterbacks. He also shows the ability to run down screens from the backside which not only highlights his athletic ability but also his high motor. My concerns with Gary shouldn’t surprise anyone because they are the ones you have heard before. He needs to refine a lot of his technique and also needs to better learn how to identify what play the offense is running. Gary will be selected in the first round but how high will be determined by how much he progresses this season.
- Dre’Mont Jones/ Ohio State
Jones is actually someone I was surprised to see make so many impact plays when I turned on the tape to watch Nick Bosa ( we will get to him next time). Jones has the best first step of the players that I looked at so far this season. On almost every single play he gets a step on his opposing lineman and it is impressive to watch. I also like how he shows up on the stat sheet in both the passing and rushing game. Jones also looks like he moves well in space which I think is becoming more and more important in the NFL today. Something that bothers me about Jone’s tape is that he can disappear sometimes. He will go stretches without doing much of anything and then all of a sudden he will get back on track. Overall the biggest hole in his game is consistency so I’m hoping he can improve in that area this year.
- Dexter Lawrence/ Clemson
I’m sure some of you are surprised to see just one Clemson Tiger on this list. I’m also sure some of you are surprised to see just one Clemson Tiger this low on the list. After watching a lot of tape it is obvious to me that the Clemson line is a bit overrated. Look they are really good and their three starters will be top 50 picks but to think they will all go in the first round is a bit naive at this stage. With that said Dexter Lawrence is a solid NFL prospect who has a great pedigree. Lawrence gets solid push in the passing game and eats up blockers in the run game. His biggest asset is definitely his strength which is easy to see on his tape. Some of my issues with his tape are that he does not make many plays in the running game and he lacks creativity with pass rushing moves.