2020 NFL Draft Top Defensive Linemen
1: Derrick Brown - Brown is an elite defensive tackle prospect who is the best prospect at his position in several years, and is a top five talent in this draft. Brown anchors well and uses his strength to move and shed blockers. He pays at a high effort constantly and is rarely out of position. He's been a three year starter for a top 5 defense and has allowed others around him to prosper due to his gravitas on the field. He is a diligent worker off the field who has a reputation for being an excellent leader. He should be off the board in the top four - seven selections depending on how many folks trade up for quarterbacks.
2: Neville Gallimore - I have Gallimore as my second ranked defensive tackle because his tape is cleaner than anyone other than Browns. He is a quick, gap penetrating 3-technique tackle that uses his speed and athleticism to beat blocking schemes. His consistent effort and high energy playing style makes him more difficult to defend and he makes a number of plays because of that. He looks like a top twenty five choice to me.
3: Jovan Kinlaw - Kinlaw looks like an all world defensive tackle on occasion and a practice team scrub other times. His athleticism is obvious but so is his poor technique. Kinlaw plays high and off balance frequently and can be turned by offensive linemen out of gas and away from the pass rusher. His upside is obvious but he will frustrate NFL coaches that demand consistency. He needs to go somewhere with a strong veteran culture on the defense in order to help him evolve into a consistent menace. He should be a first round draft pick.
4: Raekwan Davis - Once known as the largest man playing high school football Davis has had a rather quiet career in Tuscaloosa. in 2018 he did a lot of the dirty work that allowed Quinnen Williams to thrive but Davis did not thrive in 2019. His technique is solid and he rarely gets embarrassed but he rarely makes plays which is odd considering his pedigree. He disappears from games for long stretches. Davis should be a top fifty selection based on his size and pedigree alone but he's likely to wind up as an occupier of blockers for his future teammates.
5: Justin Madabuike - Quick first step: plays with great leverage and stays low. Strong at the point of attack. Capable of anchoring against double teams and holding his position. Uses his hands to keep offensive lineman off his body. Doesn't escape blocks particularly well; Inconsistent penetration and can get attached to blockers too frequently. Gets turned away from his gap. Overall a prospect with a lot of upside. Early second round pick.
6: Ross Blacklock - Blacklock has a lot of fun tape to watch. He's a quick burst - high energy player that can disrupt a passing offense with penetration. He does a good job anchoring and consistently using proper hand technique against the run and shows the ability to come off blocks and make plays. He's also capable in pursuit. He struggles coming off of pass blocks and tends to allow the offensive linemen to get too close to him. He has some attributes that NFL teams covet and with experience he should be able to improve on his weaker points. He should be a second round pick.
7: Richard Lewis - Lewis is a former 5 star recruit that was a huge part of LSU’s historic 2019 season. Lewis has some scheme versatility and can play end in a 3-4 alignment or tackle in a 4-3. It’s easy to see his strength and athleticism on tape. He uses his hands to control blockers and move them out of his way. He does play too high on occasion and is frequently a step slow to react, and while that is something that can be learned, it will be a major impediment to playing time in the NFL. Because of that he carries a late second - early third round grade.
1: Chase Young - Like Brown Chase Young is an elite level talent and is a top five player in this draft class. His pass rushing ability off the edge is unparalleled this year. He has incredible length and plays with excellent speed in pursuit. He needs to do more work in run support, but that's not what he'll be drafted to focus on. He will likely be the first non quarterback selected, somewhere between picks two-five overall.
2: AJ Epensa - Unlike Young, Epensa is a fairly classic 4-3 base end. He is a solid, if unspectacular, pass rusher who also holds up well versus the run. He can be lazy with his technique on occasion which allows offensive linemen to stay on him longer but he shows the strength to shed blockers and hold his ground. His effort is solid throughout the play and he will get a lot of sacks simply because he plays to the whistle. He is unlikely to be a dominating pass rusher but he looks like the kind of guy that will get eight to ten sacks a year for a decade.
3: Yetur Gross-Matos - Quick first step and great balance. Uses his hands to keep offensive linemen off his body. Can make plays to the outside or inside of the tackle. Quickly diagnoses the play and moves with little wasted effort. Doesn't hold up well against power run blocking and can be easily moved. Gross-Matos is an intriguing prospect and should be a top twenty five selection.
4: K'Lavon Chaisson - As of now Chaisson is a one trick pony who beats offensive linemen with speed. He shows an incredible burst and can shoot gaps inside the tackle. His pursuit speed down the line is fantastic. He struggles against good offensive tackles though and did nothing against the better tackles he faced. His speed is enticing enough that he'll be a top twenty five selection though.
5: Marlon Davidson - Davidson is more of a base end than many of the other highly regarded prospects, but his game is consistent enough to make him a fringe first rounder prospect. He demonstrates good playing strength, a high motor, and an excellent mentality off the field. While he isn't the most athletic prospect he was a five star recruit who stared as a true freshman, through his senior year in the SEC. He has a very high floor and should be able to play immediately in a number of schemes, even if his ceiling isn't as high as many of his peers. Top forty choice with a chance to go in the high twenties.
6: Curtis Weaver - Weaver is a good athlete who has nice length. He is a high effort player and has a quick burst off the ball which allows him to get penetration when he rushes from a 3-point stance. He is just a guy when asked to play in coverage and he rarely makes plays in pursuit. He plays high and will struggle getting off blocks in the NFL but he has a good motor and is more than capable of getting to the quarterback. He'll be an early second round choice.
7: Terrell Lewis - Lewis is an exceptional athlete who is probably best suited to playing as a rushing linebacker in a 3-4 defense, or in a wide nine set (similar to what the 49ers use.) He uses his speed to get tackles off balance and then his strength to knock them out of his way. He can function in space on occasion and shows exceptional closing speed in pursuit. Once engaged he has a hard time coming off of blocks and offers little resistance in the run game. He tends to over run the passer in an effort to get around offensive tackles. While he feasted on lesser competition, against highly regarded tackle prospects he was relatively quiet. I am not as high on Lewis as others are because he doesn't make plays against top competition despite his athleticism. He should be a mid-late second round selection based on this.
8: Julian Okwara - Okwara is a highly touted prospect in draft circles but his game tape raises some questions. Okwara is a god athlete with plenty of speed and quickness and he has flashes the potential to win with both a bull rush and speed to the outside but he disappears against the more talented players, has a hard time coming off blocks, and gets handled by tight ends frequently. He looks like he needs more time to develop which is why I think he will fall to the second half of the second round.