Defensive tackle is one of my favorite positions to scout and watch for fun. The battle between massive men in the trenches isn’t just about pure strength. Those battles are filled with so much nuance and skill that it is like watching “dancing bears”. Some of the physical feats that these men can pull off while weighing over 300 pounds are just astounding to me.
We were spoiled by a truly special group of defensive tackle prospects last year headlined by two top-10 picks in Quinnen Williams (Number 3) and Ed Oliver (Number 9). My final big board for the 2019 draft class included nine defensive tackles in the top 60 and twelve in the top 100. I knew there would be a drop off this year after last season, but somehow I was still disappointed in what I saw from most of the players I watched for the 2020 class.
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Raekwon Davis, Senior, Alabama
Here’s a list of Alabama defensive lineman that either plays defensive tackle or are hybrids between the edge and the inside drafted since 2011. Marcell Darius, Tim Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, Da’ron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Quinnen Williams, and A’Shawn Robinson. That’s a list of some really productive players all coming from Alabama. Raekwon Davis is next in line to continue this tradition of Alabama defensive lineman being great NFL players. Davis would have been a first-round grade for me last year but chose to go back to school. Davis is refined technically with his hand usage and pass rush moves. He’s a very smart player who understands blocking schemes and how to shoot gaps in order to disrupt plays. I saw him win with some bend on the inside as well which points to a lot of upside as a rusher. Davis is a rare player where not only does he have a high floor but also has a high ceiling that can be developed. I watched tape of Davis from 2017 and 2018 and saw a good amount of improvement in his pass rush plan. He still has a little ways to go in that area, but if he improves again during the 2019 season we could be looking at him as a lock to be picked in the top-10.
Derrick Brown, Senior, Auburn
Similar to Raekwon Davis, Derrick Brown had a good amount of hype around him as a draft prospect during last year’s college football season. Brown was ranked as a first-round pick by ESPN’s Mel Kieper Jr for a good chunk of the season. To say the least, I was coming into Brown’s tape with a certain level of expectations, and he just didn’t meet them. However, I don’t think Brown is a bad player or anything since he comes in at number two on this list. There are flashes of dominance from Brown when he’s able to pin his ears back and rush the quarterback. You can see the natural strength and athleticism that would point to a first-round type of player. The issue for me was that he’s a little too inconsistent with those flashes of dominance. His hand placement can come and go at times. When he gets off the ball quickly and wins with his first pass rush move it’s quite pretty. With that said, his pass rush plan is something that also comes and goes. Brown has all the natural tools to be a highly regarded prospect when the draft rolls around, but I need to see more consistency in his technique and pass-rush plan for that to happen.
Rashard Lawrence, Senior, LSU
If you couldn’t tell there is a pretty big gap for me between the number one and number two players on this list. Well, there is also a pretty sizable gap between the number two and number three player on this list. Although, Lawrence has some intriguing traits that I think are worth buying into at this point in the process. His first step off the snap and just overall quickness on the inside is very appealing in pass rush situations. He’s got a good snatch and rip move that typically gives him inside leverage which he uses to get to the quarterback a lot. My issues with Lawrence are centered around his play against the run. I thought he was a little light in the pants and didn’t have a great anchor. Sometimes he would stray from his gaps and that lead to some pretty big runs right where he was supposed to be. He needs to do a better job of shedding blockers in the trenches while also staying home in his gap. I’m excited to see Lawrence play in 2019 because a lot of his mistakes at this stage are very fixable.
Javon Kinlaw, Senior, South Carolina
Speaking of players who have tremendous upside as a pass rusher but struggle against the run we have Javon Kinlaw. Kinlaw comes in a 6’6 and it’s easy to see his natural length show up on tape. As a pass rusher, he does a great job getting off the ball quickly while using his long arms to put offense lineman back on their heels immediately. The first rep on the thread below is a great example of what I just described. Kinlaw has a nice swim move in his arsenal of pass rush moves as well. It’s rare to find rep against the passing game where Kinlaw doesn’t at least disrupt the integrity of the pocket a little bit. The problem comes when he’s asked to defend the run, and it’s not pretty. Kinlaw is listed by South Carolina at 302 pounds, but man, he gets thrown around on the inside like nobodies business. There are way too many reps where Kinlaw is getting pushed a couple of yards off the ball or getting sealed off allowing the running back to run right through where he was supposed to be. He needs to develop some kind of reliable anchor during the 2019 season in order for him to be in the top-50 conversation when the draft rolls around.
Jordon Scott, Junior, Oregon
Mister Scott is a thick young man in the middle of the Duck’s defense. Oregon has him listed at 6’1 and 329 pounds. Wanna talk about stout in the middle? Scott is almost impossible to move out of his gap and has plenty of natural strength to control the lineman in front of him. One of the things that sold me on Scott was his first step quickness. For someone that weighs 329 pounds, he’s got some real explosiveness to his game. My big hang up with Scott is that I think he’s a true “zero technique”. The zero technique refers to a player who lines up directly over the center and that is losing some value at the NFL level right now. Like I said earlier, Scott’s quickness is very intriguing so if he can put together a season that includes like 5.0-6.5 sacks he will shoot up this list as someone I think can be used in more ways than he was in college.
Number 6: Robert Landers, Senior, Ohio State
Number 7: Raequan Williams, Senior, Michigan State
Number 8: Leki Fotu, Senior, Utah
Number 9: Lorenzo Neal, Senior, Purdue
Number 10: McTelvin Agim, Senior, Arkansas
Number 11: Benito Jones, Senior, Ole Miss
Number 12: Neville Gallimore, RS Senior, Oklahoma
Number 13: Marvin Wilson, Junior, Florida State