Breakdowns

Top 15 Interior Defensive Line Prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft

Alabama’s Christian Barmore might be the only defensive tackle to hear his name called in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a number of interior defensive line prospects who will draw attention from teams. Here arethe 33rd Team’s top 15 IDL prospects:

 

1. Christian Barmore, Alabama, 6-5, 310

Elite lateral agility for a defensive lineman. First move is typically a lateral step and his game fits well with his agility as he is able to get blockers off balance and use leverage to push past them, use a good swipe to get their hands off of him, or cut back to get around them. Versatile piece along the D-Line. Great athletic ability in a towering frame. Standard play strength at the LOS is questionable but seemingly adequate as he rarely bull rushes and sets against his blocker. Only has 12 starts under his belt at Alabama, so his game is still understandably raw. His lateral agility and motor will give him the opportunity to contribute in the pass rush. Only knock is his lateral step sometimes exposes him to being washed in the run game, but often has the hands, leverage and agility to recover.

Pro Comparison: Akiem Hicks

 

2. Levi Onwuzurike, Washington, 6-2, 290

Disruptive IDL who can shed blocks and get up the field in a hurry against the pass. Very impressive athlete. Opted out of the 2020 season. Had a lot of pressures at Washington that should have been sacks if there had been better EDGE play. Sack production could increase at the next level when he has more help. Looked rusty in the Senior Bowl, as he only practiced one day and showcased his same movement skills but had trouble at the POA. Struggles to maintain his gap in the run game when teams attack him, as he is easily moved and cannot impact plays coming at him. The question becomes whether you can trust him on early downs to hold a gap in the run game or will Onwuzurike be a third-down-only type of player early in his career.

Pro Comparison: Robert Nkemdiche (on the field)

 

3. Alim McNeil, N.C. State, 6-2, 320

One or Zero Tech who can be an effective two-gap player in the run game. Able to push the interior of the pocket and function as a pass rusher. Makes the lives of EDGE and LB easier with his presence along the interior. Strong arms allow him to bench press center and his ability to shoot and extend his arms allows him to control the POA at the LOS. Limited usage at N.C. State — only played on 30% of their defensive snaps. Big question becomes how much will he be able to play at the next level. Has good athleticism for his size, and it is evident on the field due to the fact that he played running back and linebacker in high school along with rightfield for baseball during that time.

Pro Comparison: Vince Wilfork

 

4. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa, 6-3, 305

3 Tech who has played 0 Tech in the past. Strong lower build, questionable if he was playing at his listed weight of 305; looked smaller. Nixon had a breakout 2020, but it’s a small sample size of good play. Would fit well in a two-gap system, looks comfortable getting his hands in the chest of his blocker and diagnosing which gap to move into. Some pass rush upside when he uses short area moves to jump to gaps and swipe away blockers’ hands. Struggled against Minnesota. Nixon suffers from a severe learning disability that forced him to academically redshirt from Iowa as well as took him an entire season to understand the scheme and play calls. Drafting Nixon may require a year of patience if he struggles to adapt and learn a new system fast enough.

Pro Comparison: Sharrif Floyd

 

5. Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M, 6-4, 325

Brown shows great physical tools with a large frame and good length. When combined with his ability to play with leverage and his strong anchor, Brown is a natural run stuffer. He has 3-5 splash plays each game, showing an elite get off that he converts into an overwhelming bull rush. Brown has the floor of being an adequate run stuffer at the NFL level, but if you can get those 3-5 plays out of him every Sunday, he could have a great impact on an organization’s defense.

Pro Comparison: Grover Stewart

 

6. Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA, 6-2, 280

Elite length, potentially foretelling a move to a 3-4 DE. Flashed at the Senior Bowl against a very strong OL. Tale of two tapes. Either a disruptor from the IDL or someone who gets washed by technique at the POA. Has the natural athletic ability needed to make plays, but needs to become more consistent with his technique especially his hands. Has position versatility to play along any DL scheme, but the question is which Odighizuwa are you getting and how can you develop him into the best version of himself.

Pro Comparison: Mario Edwards Jr. / Owamagbe Odighizuwa

 

7. Tommy Togiai, Ohio State, 6-2, 300

A Gap IDL, plays with leverage and is able to fight through blockers to maintain and impact his gaps. Undersized prospect who can get handled with greater length at the POA. Limitations in the pass game make Togiai a better projection as an early-down-only player. Missed the 2020 national championship game against Alabama due to COVID/injury. PFF graded Togiai’s game against Clemson as the best game of his career, but this can be deceiving as his limited athleticism was on display in this one. He is really good at redirecting his opponent’s momentum along with the fact that he showed off some good agility. He also has really powerful hands and does a good job of gaining leverage. Doesn’t show great lateral quickness, but he is technically sound with good balance.

Pro Comparison: Timmy Jerningan

 

8. Tyler Shelvin, LSU, 6-3, 346

Traditional nose tackle. Opted out of the 2020 season, and it will be interesting to see what he weighs in at during LSU’s pro day. Not the smoothest player. Doesn’t rack up a bunch of pressures or tackles, but he does do the dirty work and does it really well. Great get-off at the LOS as he gets into the O-lineman and maintains his gaps while eating multiple blockers. Keeps LBs clean, understands how to use his hands to impact his ability to disengage, forces RBs to bounce or decelerate in the backfield. Not an every-down player in the NFL, but he could be very effective for a team in need of an early-down run stuffer. What you see is what you are going to get with Shelvin, and he should be effective on the first two downs.

Pro Comparison: Terrence Cody

 

9. Jay Tufele, USC, 6-3, 315

Opted Out in 2020. He is a raw prospect who would have greatly improved with another year in college. Has great movement skills and natural quickness in a body type designed for power. Needs to play with better leverage, pad level gets too high throughout the play and he loses his ability to play with power. Hand usage needs to improve so he can consistently win on pass rush reps. Very high upside on Tufele, but expecting him to come in and produce in year one may be a long shot.

Pro Comparison: Bennie Logan

 

10. Jaylen Twyman, Pittsburgh, 6-2, 285

Opted out in 2020. In 2019, was in the middle of a body composition transformation. Looked terrible at his Pro Day. Had a double-digit sack year in 2019. A large chunk of his production comes late in games or when his team needs to get off the field the most, high rate of pressures turned to sacks. Projects best as a 3 Tech in obvious passing downs, could be a liability in the run game. He did have success at a lower weight but was being thrown around along the IDL. Slender frame pass rushing specialist 3 tech.

Pro Comparison: Ross Blacklock

 

11. Marlon Tuipulotu, USC, 6-1, 308

Was asked to play outside of his strengths in 2020 to fill a need for the team. Tuipulotu in 2020 is not the guy we are wanting in the NFL — 2019 and earlier is who we are wanting to see come to rookie minicamp. The 4-3 defensive tackle who could play with angles and utilize his quickness to make defenders miss initially. Play strength is never going to be his best attribute due to him failing to utilize his frame in his initial get-off. He can make blockers miss and has natural movement skills as a very large athlete. These natural movement skills will interest teams and make them wonder if the Tuipulotu of the past can still play in the style he had success with at USC. Initial projection is a rotational 4-3 IDL who has pass-rushing opportunities. He will need to prove he can still play with the style he did in 2019 and 2018 in minicamp or he might not get an opportunity to make a roster spot for a team looking for his old game.

 

12. Ta’Quon Graham, Texas, 6-3, 290

Graham is a Lunch Pail prospect who plays with a high motor and impressive length. His experience and leadership at Texas will interest teams. Graham can be a player in the late rounds who can come in and contribute in a rotational 3-Technique in a 4-3 scheme. He has the ability to play on all three downs in the NFL and will thrive for a team looking to run a lot of games/stunts along the interior. May never become an absolute stud along the interior, but could add some nice depth as a developmental piece with nice length and ability to get out of his stance with explosiveness. Graham plays with maximum effort and leadership along the interior. His work ethic to add 35 pounds onto his frame makes a great case for the prospect to come in and put in great work to develop and add more pass rushing moves and learn how to contribute within a scheme.

 

13. LaBryan Ray, Alabama, 6-5, 295

Ray offers unique physical traits in his length and play strength that has shown flashes of why he was such a high recruit coming out of high school. Due to his injury history, he has been sidelined for a large majority of his college career, halting his ability to grow and develop as he constantly was in rehab. Having a healthy offseason combined with a healthy year of practice could be huge for his development and allow him to become the dominant player he has shown glimpses of. Ray initially projects as a late day 3 option or UDFA for a team willing to take a risk on a very low floor prospect who has a higher ceiling. May be able to offer versatility along the depth of a D-Line room as both a DE and IDL early in his career. Ideally, Ray earns a practice squad opportunity and has an opportunity to stay healthy and do some much-needed developing of his skill set.

 

14. Tedarrell Slaton, Florida, 6-5, 358

Best case scenario for Slaton is to receive an opportunity to have 5-10 snaps a game in a rotational 1-Technique on early downs, to truly get the most out of his physical gifts as a massive athlete with truly game-breaking ability when he gives complete effort. Will be a risk for any team that selects him, as there is no guarantee he will be able to give you the handful of reps that you are looking for at the next level. If his endurance improves and he is able to play like the freak he showcased in glimpses at Florida, then we could be talking about one of the more dominant interior forces in the NFL. Could be a late-round steal if a team is able to get the productivity he is capable of giving at the next level. Truly everything that Slaton struggles with comes from his inability to play at a high level consistently. At his size, obviously endurance will be an issue but if he could manage to put 2-3 good plays in a row together once every series, then a team will be willing to invest and pour into his development and help him get to a point to stay on the field longer for their program.

 

15. Marvin Wilson, Florida State, 6-3, 319

Marvin Wilson at the end of 2019 was a consensus top-10 pick heading into the 2020 season. Injuries, poor play, and an awful showing at the Senior Bowl have plummeted his draft value. Wilson is easily one of the biggest risks in the 2020 NFL draft, potentially with the lowest floor and highest ceiling. Selecting Wilson in the middle to beginning of day 3 offers one of two options: either get the guy from 2020, who potentially might not even make the roster, or get the guy we saw in 2018 and 2019 who had Top-10 pick IDL potential. If Wilson’s lack of production is tied to his injuries, specifically his knee injury, then it is possible that a season on a practice squad will allow his body to rest while he learns better technique and possibly returns to the Marvin Wilson of 2018 and 2019. The question then becomes if 2020 Wilson shows up to minicamp, how long does a team invest in him?

Scroll to the Top