2019 NFL Draft: Ranking all 25 defensive linemen to know, from Ed Oliver to Kyle Phillips
Here's a comprehensive examination of the 2019 draft class of defensive linemen
Impressively, the 2019 defensive line draft class lived up or, to some, exceeded the hype during the college football season.
Ed Oliver and Quinnen Williams are the headliners destined for the top 10, but be sure to note how many defensive linemen -- and we're talking defensive tackles or ends in a 3-4 alignment here -- are in the first two tiers below. Also of note ... a few of these prospects would benefit from a position change at the next level.
This is the eighth installment in a position-by-position breakdown of the rankings of prospects you need to know in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Instant high-quality starters
1. Ed Oliver, Houston
2. Quinnen Williams, Alabama
3. Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
4. Christian Wilkins, Clemson
5. Dre'Mont Jones, Ohio State
6. Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
7. Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
Take Aaron Donald and subtract some of his dazzling pass-rushing moves and a bit of his power. You now have Oliver, a insanely athletic, high-motor interior rusher who thrives as a run defender too. Williams is a blend of everything you want in a defensive tackle. He's somewhat compact, powerful, explosive, and his hands are wrecking balls on the inside.
Simmons' ACL tear will drop him in the draft. When healthy, he's a less explosive version of Williams with high-end hand work to defeat blocks and a large tackle radius thanks to his long arms.
Wilkins can literally man any spot and take on any role on the defensive line and thrive, although he probably won't ever be All-Pro caliber anywhere. But you want him on your team. Jones can get washed out in the run game at times because he has a tendency to not stay low, but goodness does he have loose hips and a wide array of pass-rushing moves. He's a hybrid nickel inside rusher.
Tillery has some Chris Jones to his game as a tall but high-energy, heavy-handed pass rusher. I'd just have liked to see more consistency from him. He had some disappearing acts in 2018, but his flashes are as good as any interior defensive linemen in this class. Watch out for his club move.
Lawrence looks like an out-of-date block-eater at nose tackle. He moves like he's 30 pounds lighter and doesn't stay glued to blocks thanks to seriously powerful, active hands.
Solid starters / valuable role-players
8. Rashan Gary, Michigan
9. Renell Wren, Arizona State
10. Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois
11. Terry Beckner Jr., Missouri
12. Gerald Willis, Miami
13. Cortez Broughton, Cincinnati
14. Daylon Mack, Texas A&M
Gary was miscast as an edge rusher at Michigan. Get him on the outside shoulder of guards and let him attack with his elite explosiveness. His pass-rush move arsenal is far from being complete however. Wren is a versatile, long-limbed defender who wins with his length and first step.
I'm pretty sure Saunders was created in a lab. He does things 99.999% of 320-pound humans cannot do. He knows how to use his hands and definitely utilizes his extreme athleticism to his advantage. He does have a tendency to stand up and get complacent in his rushes from time to time.
Beckner is a refined block-disengager with good burst who has trouble sustaining speed through the play. Willis shoots gaps with the best of them and destroys the opposition's inside run game. He needs to play lower more consistently and use his hands as a pass rusher as well as he does against the run.
Broughton is the sleeper of the group with amazing burst off the ball, high-end speed-to-power conversion, and fluid hips. He played out of position on the edge in 2017 but erupted with 18.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks on the inside in 2018.
Mack is a thick, talented mover for being 320-ish pounds. He has a stupidly strong bull rush and, as a senior, was freed from eating double teams at the nose tackle spot and flourished. Not a ton of pass rush from him, but he will push the pocket.
Talented project-y types capable of early flashes
15. Trysten Hill, UCF
16. Armon Watts, Arkansas
17. Daniel Wise, Kansas
18. Kevin Givens, Penn State
19. Michael Dogbe, Temple
20. Dontavius Russell, Auburn
21. Ricky Walker, Virginia Tech
Hill is a young battler -- turns 21 in March -- who taps into every ounce of his ability on every snap. Plus burst off the ball. Some pass-rushing moves, and the speed, athleticism, and wherewithal to chase down runners from the backside.
Watts is a new-age inside rusher who'll face problems against big, powerful guards but will also glide past some of them with his long arms and light feet. Wise is another one playing way out of position on the edge in college. He's a bendy athlete for being 6-foot-2 and over 280 pounds but lacks in the pass-rush move department. Givens is a well-rounded player with requisite athleticism who needs to play lower to generate more leverage. He possesses a respectable collection of block-shedding moves that must be utilized more frequently in the NFL than they were in college.
Dogbe is an roller-coaster of a player. On one series, he's unblockable thanks to a strong punch and counter or a lightning quick first step. The next series, his motor idles, and he's stuck to every blocker that touches him.
Russell is a modern nose tackle with some twitch to his fire hydrant frame and a fair amount of pass-rushing moves for his position. Walker is a springy mover who often deploys his hands en route to the backfield. While there's not a standout trait with him, there's definitely pass-rush ability to his game.
Worthy of a roster spot
22. Greg Gaines, Washington
23. Byron Cowart, Maryland
24. Isaiah Buggs, Alabama
25. Kyle Phillips, Tennessee
Gaines and Cowart are polar opposites. The former is a short-armed scrapper with limited athleticism. Cowart is a borderline freaky athlete who really only wins by exploding off the snap.
Buggs played on the edge at Alabama but looked extremely stiff there. Get him inside where he can get upfield and use his heavy hands to clog running lanes. Much of the same is true for Phillips. While he'd be somewhat of an undersized defensive tackle, his long arms and dynamic burst can generate pressure against slower guards at the NFL level.
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