NFL Draft 2019: Comparisons for the top defensive linemen, including why Ed Oliver is like John Randle
Plus the former Clemson star similar to Linval Joseph and a look at 2019's top defensive line prospects
When we look back on the 2019 NFL Draft, which kicks off Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee, it's my opinion that we'll remember it as an epic defensive tackle class. There are an unusually high number of top-end talents, but that's not the only reason. On Day 2 and 3, we're going to see some excellent value picks. A good defensive tackle (or two) can be grabbed by a lot of teams in this draft, and now it's time to place comparisons on some of the most highly sought after prospects at the position.
As for the actual draft, you'll be able to stream our live coverage right here on CBS Sports HQ (or download the CBS Sports app for free on any mobile or connected TV device) breaking down all the picks and everything you need to know during draft weekend.
NFL comparisons for draftees, it's important to remember, don't intend to guarantee a prospect will have the exact same career as his professional counterpart. In this series, I'll go through the top prospects at every position and give NFL comparisons -- some current players, some former. These comparisons are not based on size. They're almost solely stylistic.
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(Prospects are listed in the order they appear in my.)
Ed Oliver, Houston
NFL comparison: John Randle
I'm going with a throwback for Oliver despite his presence as a "new-age" one-gapper at the three technique position, charging through the outside shoulder of either guard. That's, at least, where I'd play him essentially all the time, despite varying suggestions as to all the types of roles he could assume -- and thrive in -- at the next level. The same was true for Randle. Kind of. With him though, as an undrafted free agent from Texas A&M-Kingsville, coaches initially didn't know where to play him. The two are almost identically sized, and once Randle was given free rein to attack inside at defensive tackle, he dominated for nearly a decade. Like Randle did, Oliver plays with otherworldly explosiveness and aggression. His quickness and loose hips translate to ridiculously low-center-of-gravity power.
Quinnen Williams, Alabama
NFL comparison: Marcell Dareus
Dareus was a little bigger as a prospect than Williams is now, yet the two Alabama stars have eerily similar skill sets. Like Dareus, Williams is a freak of nature athletically, given his frame. Scraping down the line of scrimmage is a piece of cake for him, and once he zeroes in on the quarterback, he has excellent closing speed. Dareus was the No. 3 overall pick in 2011, and it wasn't solely because he was big and athletic. He entered the NFL with a heavy-handed tool box of pass-rushing moves. Williams will do the same. That combination -- size, athleticism, strong hand work -- indicates Williams should acclimate to the pro game instantly and provide the team that drafts him a stellar run stopper and pass rusher.
Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
NFL comparison: Ndamukong Suh
Suh was a squeaky clean defensive tackle prospect, and he legitimately looked like a fifth-year NFL veteran playing against scout team offensive linemen during his entire stay at Nebraska. Simmons isn't quite as jaw-droppingly strong. He's in the Suh realm though. He physically overpowered most SEC offensive linemen he faced. His arms generate a ridiculous amount of power, and he can counter off his bull rush very well. Simmons is a plus athlete as well, with a large tackle radius. In short, he has the traits to excel as a pass rusher and as a run stopper. On the field, I think there's a legitimate argument for him being as good -- if not better -- than Quinnen Williams.
Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
NFL comparison: Chris Jones
I'll always remember ... Jones was invited to the draft in 2016 and was the last guy in the green room, who, after not being selected in Round 1, had the integrity to come back the following night and walk across the stage when the Chiefs picked him at No. 37 overall. I was among those who couldn't understand why Jones lasted until that pick. Tillery could land in a similar range but is a Jones replica. Incredibly tall and long for the defensive tackle spot with lead pipes for hands and surprising athleticism to win purely with physical abilities too.
Christian Wilkins, Clemson
NFL comparison: Larry Ogunjobi
Ogunjobi was a little lighter as a prospect than Wilkins is now. As Ogunjobi did at Charlotte, Wilkins had a long, illustrious career at Clemson thanks to a high motor, solid athletic traits, and the ability to defeat any type of block sent his way. Also, both players flourish in the trenches because they're country strong and aren't easily pushed off their foundation against the run. Like Ogunjobi has been in his first two seasons in Cleveland, I expect Wilkins to step in as well-rounded of a player as it gets at defensive tackle -- while maybe never being spectacular.
Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
NFL comparison: Linval Joseph
Somehow, many questioned Joseph's on-field strength against the run while at East Carolina, but he's been a rag-dolling behemoth during his time at the NFL level. Oh, and he did 39 reps on the bench at his combine. Despite being 6-foot-5 and nearly 330 pounds, Joseph was far from a stationary nose tackle prospect. He utilized his hands impressively and had rare athleticism for a pro his size, both of which allowed him to generate pass rush relatively often. All of that describes the even bigger Lawrence. His bull rush is stupidly powerful.
Dre'Mont Jones, Ohio State
NFL comparison: Kawaan Short
This one may seem strange, because Short today is one of the more prototypical one-gapping defensive tackles in football, with a compact frame, and Jones looks more like a defensive end who lived on the inside in college. But their styles are nearly identical. Both Short and Jones can win simply with their lightning-quick first steps but are masters with their hands when attacking upfield. Short, who weighed nearly 20 pounds more as a prospect than Jones did at the combine, was more stout against the run. Their strengths are the same.
Renell Wren, Arizona State
NFL comparison: Akiem Hicks
Hicks was a tall defensive line prospect who weighed over 315 pounds with scary explosiveness to either win with his burst off the ball or push offensive linemen back with an immense speed-to-power conversion. He wasn't a pass-rush move extraordinaire. All of that goes for Wren, a nearly 6-5, 318-pound, long-armed jolter on the inside with scary acceleration off the snap and top-end bull-rushing power. With hand-work development, Wren would be a Day 2 steal.
Cortez Broughton, Cincinnati
NFL comparison: Javon Hargrave
Broughton is the defensive tackle sleeper in this draft class. At 6-2 and just under 300 pounds, Broughton spent time on the edge at Cincinnati as a junior, with pedestrian results. In his senior campaign, he was plugged in at defensive end and erupted. Broughton has very loose hips, a dynamic first step that will seriously test NFL veteran guards, and he flashed unreal bend for someone his size. Broughton mainly wins with his twitch but is a high-motor player who can find ball-carriers down the line of scrimmage. He's a lot like Hargrave, a flexible, burst-reliant, smaller defensive tackle who's been an ascending player in Pittsburgh after being drafted by the Steelers in the third round in 2016.
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