NFL Draft Position Rankings 1.0: Defensive Linemen
By Jim Johnson
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Ranking the ACC, SEC, Sun Belt, and SoCon 2017 NFL Draft prospects.
The 2017 NFL Draft is just a couple of months away and, as always, the bulk of the top talent is coming out of our coverage area -- the ACC and SEC (with some Sun Belt and SoCon players as well) -- so I will be releasing fluid position rankings throughout the run-up to April 27th. This ranking only includes players from teams that we cover, meaning some of the major players from the other conferences will not be included. Curiously, the rankings wouldn't look much different even if they were, though.
1. Jonathan Allen, Alabama
The perfect defensive lineman for the modern game. Can lineup as a three-technique on first and second down, and move inside in obvious passing situations. Very advanced as far as hand usage, with a wide array of pass rush moves. Moves faster than his five second 40-yard dash would suggest in the open field. Some people question how he'll do when not surrounded by so much superior talent, but his leadership ability and physical tools make him look like a future pro bowler.
2. Caleb Brantley, Florida
Another guy with the athleticism to play end in a 3-4 and the strength to move inside on passing downs or play a traditional tackle postion in a 4-3. Guesses snap counts, which is a blessing and a curse. When he gets it right, it's over, but he also jumped offside at least 10 times in the past two seasons. Got to rotate in and out because of Florida's depth, so there are questions about his stamina. Still, the talent is there to help out early.
3. Montravius Adams, Auburn
Ran one of the fastest 40-yard dashes amongst true defensive tackles. Explodes off the line of scrimmage. Works well into the gaps. Thick lower body offers great leg drive. Very good run stopper, with limited ability as a pass rusher. Some scouts questioned his competitveness after occassionally loafing in 2015, but there was notably more consistent effort this past year. A disruptive force attacking the gaps.
4. Davon Godchaux, LSU
Godchaux may have slipped from the general public's conciousness, simply due to the depth of front seven talent in this class. However, he has started, and always produced, his entire career at LSU. Granted, some of that production came against lesser competition. Sets a strong edge and has great feel for double teams, although he doesn;t always have the mass to deal with them. Could be a very solid tackle in a 4-3.
5. Carlos Watkins, Clemson
Heads-up player with great awareness -- recognizes screens early and disengages to get up and bat balls when he can't get to the quarterback. Should adapt well to NFL schemes having played in Brent Venables very advanced defense. Good lateral agility. Top heavy, better put in work on leg days. Well-rounded, but not great at anything.
6. Deangelo Brown, Louisville
Arguably one of the most underrated players in the draft. May very well have the most playing strength in the defensive line class. Tenacious. An elite run stopper. Lacks the ideal height for the postion. Has a clear ceiling on his usefulness as a pass rusher. A physical freak, albeit with some limitations. Success will be largely scheme dependent.
7. Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama
The quintessential Alabama interior defensive lineman. Powerful initial punch, with his long arms, allows him to control offensive linemen. Fiery competitor, doesn't take plays off and gives maximum effort on every rep. Was never the focal point of an opposing gameplan because of Alabama's talent. Should be able to help out right away.
8. Nazair Jones, North Carolina
Great run stopper. Engages with a strong punch at the point of attack. Good technique as far as hand placement, most of the time. Good timing to disengage and make tackles. Not very quick on his feet. Sub-par instincts. Can get lost at times. Lack of pass rushing prowess will hurt his stock, but could be a good pickup if the right team finds him.
9. Tueni Lupeamanu, Idaho
Makes an awful lot of tackles for a defensive lineman. Not as tall as one would like for a 3-4 end. Needs to add mass to be a true 3-4 tackle. Fits best as a 4-3 tackle. Disruptive force as a run stopper. Could offer some roster flexibility with his history as a fullback.
10. Dee Liner, Arkansas State
Yet another versatile defensive lineman. Can set the edge as three-technique, but was actually more productive in the interior. Worries about the lack of production before he left Alabama for Arkansas State could be a cause for concern. Most positionally fitting name of all time.