NFL Analysis


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2024 NFL Draft: Ranking 7 Best Run Stuffers

Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Darius Robinson
Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Darius Robinson (6) and Missouri Tigers defensive back Daylan Carnell (13) celebrate during the first quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at AT&T Stadium. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

The 2024 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, so it’s time to look at some of the top traits of this year’s draft-eligible players. This article will focus on run stuffers.

They aren’t always media darlings, although Jordan Davis and T’Vondre Sweat could have something to say about that, but they are crucial to the defense's success. Players who can limit the number of yards gained up the middle, make plays in the backfield or force runs to the outside provide immense value and can completely alter how offenses attack. 

So, with that in mind, let’s examine the seven best interior defensive line run stuffers heading into the draft.

BEST Run Stuffing Defensive Linemen

Illinois Fighting Illini defensive tackle Jer'Zhan Newton
Illinois Fighting Illini defensive tackle Jer'Zhan Newton (4) sacks Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Ben Bryant (2) during the first half at Memorial Stadium. (Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)

7. Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois

Although Jer’Zhan Newton is known more for his pass rushing, he can also make plays against the run. He uses his shed ability (graded as a seven out of nine) and hands to work through opposing linemen quickly He isn’t higher because he tends to work laterally first, which can leave some gaps behind him.

Scouting Report Highlight:

“His lateral stoutness is sufficient, but he lacks the true size and length to consistently battle double teams. He relies more on winning 1-on-1 matchups where he can work around his opponent.”

>> READ MORE: Newton's Scouting Report

Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro (33) celebrates after a tackle against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium. (Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports)

6. Ruke Orhorhoro, Clemson

Combining solid play strength (graded six out of nine) and hand use with long arms, Ruke Orhorohoro is a menace on the interior.

His Adjusted Tackle Depth Plus (ATD+) of 144 — meaning his tackles are 44 percent closer to the line of scrimmage than expected based on his alignment — echoes his ability to get behind the line of scrimmage and make plays. His impact on the run game is so valuable that he projects as a starter at the next level, even without much pass-rush ability.

Scouting Report Highlight:

“When he gets his technique right, Orhorhoro gets his strong, heavy hands into the chest plate of the defender and can shed with ease.”

>> READ MORE: Orhorhoro's Scouting Report

Florida State Seminoles defensive lineman Braden Fiske
Florida State Seminoles defensive lineman Braden Fiske (55) reacts after a tackle on Louisville Cardinals running back Jawhar Jordan (25) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

5. Braden Fiske, Florida State

Even after transferring to a Power-5 school, Braden Fiske continued to play an impactful role. His ability against the run is predicated on his twitchiness and effort. He plays fast, allowing him to work through blocks quickly, especially on slants and stunts. While he doesn’t have the sheer mass of a few players on this list, he possesses NFL-level strength.

Scouting Report Highlight:

“His aggressive effort and burst allow him to close the gap to the ballcarrier quickly, and his tackling form limits yards after contact.”

>> READ MORE: Fiske's Scouting Report

Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman McKinnley Jackson (35) and South Carolina Gamecocks offensive lineman M.J. Webb (94) during the third quarter at Kyle Field. (Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports)

4. McKinnley Jackson, Texas A&M

Nose tackles don’t always get the love they deserve, but a true blockade in the middle of the line can wreak havoc on an offense’s plan. McKinnley Jackson is a load in the middle of the line, and his combination of mass, hands and motor make him a formidable run stuffer. When he plays with proper pad level, he is difficult to move and has heavy hands to disengage from blocks.

Scouting Report Highlight:

“When he fires out low, he uses heavy hands to control blockers before shedding them to make a play on the ballcarrier or force a bounce.”

>> READ MORE: Jackson's Scouting Report

Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Darius Robinson
Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Darius Robinson (6) looks on during the first half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. (Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

3. Darius Robinson, Missouri

Darius Robinson is a physically imposing defender with the length, strength and motor to cause serious disruption from the interior. His long arms and brute force can knock offensive linemen off-balance in the initial exchange, and his relentless pursuit allows him to cover a large area. His Run Defense Total Points Rating of 96 speaks for itself.

Scouting Report Highlight:

“He uses a quick, strong get-off to win at the point of attack, with long arms to set the edge and quick swim moves to work his way into the backfield.”

>> READ MORE: Robinson's Scouting Report

Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Leonard Taylor III
Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Leonard Taylor III (56) celebrates his sack in the second half against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. (Andy Lewis-USA TODAY Sports)

2. Leonard Taylor III, Miami

One of the more intriguing defensive tackles in the draft, Leonard Taylor III dominated our metrics. His ATD+ of 177 and his Run Defense Total Points Rating of 99 are first among defensive tackles.

The eye test matches the numbers, as he received a six out of nine rating for play strength and hand use. He uses his hand strength and natural athleticism to disrupt the run.

Scouting Report Highlight:

“He has shown his ability to get into the backfield quickly with a rip or a swim move to either finish a TFL or disrupt a run play.”

>> READ MORE: Taylor's Scouting Report

Texas Longhorns defensive lineman T'Vondre Sweat
Texas Longhorns defensive lineman T'Vondre Sweat (93) watches Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) before a snap during the Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff semifinals game at the Caesars Superdome on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

1. T’Vondre Sweat, Texas

While the rest of this list was hotly debated, the No. 1 spot was an absolute gimme. T’Vondre Sweat is a massive nose tackle who can completely alter how a team runs the ball.

He received seven out of nine grades in anchor/play strength, hand use and disruption as he moved his 366-pound frame into the running lane. It’s rare to see a player of his size move the way he does and make numerous plays behind the line.

Scouting Report Highlight:

“If left 1-on-1 on an inside run, Sweat can drive his man back into the run lane and clog the play up before it gets started.”

That’s the definition of run stuffer.

>> READ MORE: Sweat's Scouting Report

Honorable Mention

Justin Rogers deserves an honorable mention with the strength of an “Immovable object” combined with a six out of nine anchor/play strength grade. His on-ball impact wasn’t as great as the players on the list, and the metrics back that up.

Check out the Big Board to see where we rank these players and what we think of their NFL potential.

The article was written by Jeff Dean.