In an effort to get through all of the positions before the draft, I’ll be just shortly naming some of the prospects to watch in this draft class, as well as some potential sleepers and maybe busts. This isn’t nearly as in depth as I’d prefer to go, but for the sake of getting them done, they’ll be pretty concise.
This piece will be dedicated to the interior Defensive Linemen, the 3-4 Nose Tackles and Five Technique Defensive Ends, as well as 4-3 Defensive Tackles. This year’s class is much deeper for the 4-3 teams as well as the 3-4 Defensive Ends, and it’s lacking a bit on girth in the middle for the Nose Tackles.
Top 4-3 DL Prospect: Michael Bennett Ohio State 6’2” 293
Michael Bennett was the inside disruptor that allowed Joey Bosa to have major success on the edge. Bennett wins by penetrating into the backfield and beating the Guards with quickness and explosiveness. Bennett can flourish and thrive in a system that puts him at 3 technique (outside shade of the Guard), and let him be disruptive and get up field. Bennett could work his way into the end of the first round.
Top 3-4 DL Prospect: Leonard Williams USC 6’5” 302
Leonard Williams may be the most talented player in this draft. He’s just 20 years old. He is a remarkable athlete for someone of his size. Williams’ versatility is one of his biggest strengths. He could easily play either a 4-3 Defensive Left End or 3 Technique. He could also excel in a 3-4 Five Technique role using his punch to allow him to two-gap and read and react to the play in front of him. Williams’ athleticism allows him to defeat interior linemen with quickness, but his size can also overwhelm Tackles on the outside. Williams should be a Top 3 pick.
Biggest Bust Potential: Arik Armstead Oregon 6’7” 292
Arik Armstead is one of the more remarkable athletes that’s come through the draft in quite some time. He’s a very impressive athlete for his size, and his size could allow him to be nearly unblockable. His explosiveness is very good for a man his size, and him being able to play outside with his frame makes things very difficult for the offense in multiple ways. However, he’s still very raw, and will need some development. He’ll be drafted in the first half of the first round, and off of potential that may be correct, but his production should be somewhere in the second round.
Biggest Sleeper: David Parry Stanford 6’1” 308
Parry is among the final wave of the very talented Stanford teams from a couple years ago. He’s among 6 Stanford defensive players looking to be drafted to join the other 6 players from those teams to reach the NFL. Parry won’t wow you on film, but he does all of the little things right. Like the Stanford players before him, he makes his mark with his instincts and toughness. He’s probably only a 3-4 Nose Tackle due to his shorter arms, but he was a cog in the middle of one of the country’s best defenses for the past three years. He also did very well at the Shrine All-Star game in January.
Small School Stud: Derrick Lott Chattanooga 6’4” 314
Lott offers intriguing upside, as he’s a pretty good athlete for someone with the frame that he has. His explosion is his best attribute, and if he can improve his hand use in order to disengage from offensive linemen, he can become a very good rotation Defensive Tackle in a 4-3 Defense. He could also become a serviceable 3-4 Defensive End as he possesses a frame very prototypical of that position. He’ll be a Day 3 pick.
My Interior DL Rankings:
- Leonard Williams (Any) USC 6’5” 302 Top 5
- Eddie Goldman (3-4) Florida State 6’4” 336 1st Round
- Michael Bennett (4-3) Ohio State 6’2” 293 1st Round
- Arik Armstead (3-4) Oregon 6’7” 292 1st Round
- Danny Shelton (3-4) Washington 6’2” 339 2nd Round
- Carl Davis (4-3) Iowa 6’5” 320 2nd Round
- Malcolm Brown (4-3) Texas 6’2” 319 2nd Round
- Jordan Phillips (3-4) Oklahoma 6’5” 329 2nd Round
- Henry Anderson (3-4) Standord 6’6” 294 3rd Round
- Marcus Hardison (4-3) Arizona State 6’3” 307 3rd Round