The defensive line portion of the combine workouts contain some of the most polarizing prospects in this year’s class. With nearly a dozen prospects a virtual lock for the first round, we are witnessing yet another year that is perceived to be loaded with pass rushers and interior defensive line talent. With the majority of the teams in the top 10 in desperate need for help up front, it wouldn’t be surprising to see many of those teams to address this position in the first round.
The talent at the position coupled with the lack of top end talent at both the quarterback and offensive tackle positions make this a perfect storm for the position group to set a record for defensive lineman in the top ten and possibly the first round. Let’s jump into a preview of those that are considered to be the top tier of players for this class:
Myles Garrett, Texas A&M, 6-4, 272, 35 1/4
Garrett is widely considered the top prospect in this draft and its easy to see why. He checks every box from a physical aspect and the hype surrounding him is supported by his play and production on the field. Garrett appears to be one of those elite prospects that comes around every few years, comparable to a prospect like Jadeveon Clowney.
Jonathan Allen, Alabama, 6-3, 286, 33 5/8
Allen is a versatile lineman that is able to use strength, leverage and quickness to be successful at ever position up front. He would have been a first round pick in last years draft, but choose to return to Alabama and by doing so has most likely worked himself into the top five, at least the top 10. Allen isn’t the type of edge rusher that will being leading the league in sacks, but he consistently makes plays and is an impact on nearly every snap.
Solomon Thomas, Stanford, 6-3, 273, 33
Thomas is being mocked consistently around the top 10-15 picks, but there have been reports lately that many NFL teams believe his size may be an issue. Those teams feel that at 6-foot-3 273 pounds, he may be a tweener stuck in between a 3-4 edge rusher, a 4-3 defensive end and 4-3 defensive tackle. He may need to gain some strength in his lower body, but Thomas is an exceptional player that could be a versatile asset at the next level.
Tim Williams, Alabama, 6-3, 244, 32 3/4
Williams is the type of speed edge rusher that teams have fallen in love with. He is explosive athlete with great bend, and has shown the ability to combine multiple pass rush moves. Once considered a potential top five-10 pick, questions about some off field incidence and questions versus the run have pushed him back anywhere from the mid first to early second.
Derek Barnett, Tennessee, 6-3, 259, 32 1/8
Barnett is a thick edge player that, unlike some edge rushers, is successful versus the run. He has some stiffness in his movement and appears to have some struggles with change of direction, but to me he looks like more of a fit at 4-3 defensive end. He’s not quite as long as you typically want for a 4-3 defensive end, but he appeared to be a little quicker off the ball with his hand on the ground.
Takkarist McKinley, UCLA, 6-2, 250, 34 3/4
McKinley is a player that has been gaining buzz of late for his burst and ability to change direction. His pass rush skill set is a bit raw but he’s got the motor that typically translates to a good worth ethic, so the hope is that he will continue to improve on his rush moves. With a deep class, McKinley could wind up anywhere from the mid first to early second.
Malik McDowell, Michigan State, 6-6, 295, 34 3/4
McDowell is a tall and long defensive end with excellent burst and quickness. He was moved to the interior for much of this past season but was much more successful at the end. He is raw and has some work ethic and consistency concerns, but McDowell’s ceiling has been compared to the likes of Mario Williams and Deforest Buckner.
Caleb Brantley, Florida, 6-3, 307, 32
Brantley is a freaky explosive one gapping defensive tackle that lived in the back field during the 2016 season. He choose to return to Florida following 2015 in a effort to become a more consistent player on a down to down basis, and it appears to have worked. While consistently disrupting plays, Brantley’s numbers on the season didn’t really reflect the type of impact he made. He missed some tackles and overran some plays which may be something of concern when looking at him as a prospect, but he should develop into an excellent player at the next level.
Taco Charlton, Michigan, 6-6, 277, 34 1/4
Charlton is another tall and long defensive end that gets very good extension and separation. He’s tough against the run and explosive off the ball as a pass rusher. He will need to continue to develop his rush moves, consistency and add some upper body strength, but Charlton appears to be another exciting end prospect with promising upside.