The 2017 NFL Draft presents one of the weakest defensive tackle classes in recent history, and NFL teams have varying rankings at the position. It also makes the position group one of the least predictable for draft weekend.
For this list of the top 10 defensive tackle prospects, Alabama's Jonathan Allen is not included, as he is graded as a defensive end by many teams. One of Allen's teammates is on the list, though, and is joined by a North Carolina lineman you should get to know.
10. DeAngelo Brown, Louisville
Brown is quick off the snap and usually the first to engage contact in the trenches. He needs to clean up his hand placement, but his heavy hands help him put linemen on skates and force the quarterback to break from the pocket or runners to change directions. Brown's inconsistent pad level is concerning.
A gritty run stopper on short-yardage situations and an underrated interior pass rusher, Brown has the potential to be a late-round steal, especially after not being invited to the Combine.
9. Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
Vanderdoes has a cabinet full of splash plays at UCLA to leave scouts yearning for what could be a first-round talent. He shows off a nice blend of athleticism and power that should consistently penetrate the pocket, yet that wasn't necessarily the case after his knee injury. He is at his best in the run game, as the 320-pounder powers through one-on-one blocks with violent and heavy hands to disrupt the interior.
He shows good technical work with good enough pad level to duck under less flexible blockers in front of him. His past knee troubles and increase in weight gain may be the cause of his drop in production and overall consistency, but if he can get back to the intensity of his early season showing in 2015, Vanderdoes could be the biggest steal in the 2017 NFL Draft.
8. Elijah Qualls, Washington
Qualls thrived at Washington using his athleticism to an advantage with his thick frame and impressive upper body strength. Though his bulky frame can be hard to handle, it also hampers him, as he stays cemented to blockers for too long. In one game Qualls will consistently show proper pad level and snap anticipation, and then the following game he will show the complete opposite.
Even with quick hands and play recognition skills, Qualls does not always affect the flow of play. He shows light feet but may be slowed down from some extra weight. He relies on a slow and ineffective spin move and can't consistently penetrate the pocket to be considered a pass rushing threat in the interior. His motor and overall athleticism is not in question, but his inconsistent pad level and erratic pocket penetration are concerning.
7. Malik McDowell, Michigan State
McDowell undoubtedly is a talented player. But other aspects of his evaluation are just as important to take into account. McDowell has questions about his effort and dedication on the field, as well as his attitude in the locker room. He was not well liked by teammates and coaches at Michigan State and apparently has a me-first attitude. Those questions will have to be answered.
McDowell has the athleticism to dominate as a pass rusher, as well as the nuance in his approach to have an alternative way to win when he can't with raw athleticism and strength. With McDowell's ability and versatility on the field, he has all the makings of a late-first-round pick. The personality questions likely will force him down the board, but he has the talent to change a team's defense.
6. Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama
Tomlinson's skill set and upside as a defensive lineman is predicated on his patience and control both initially off the snap and while engaged. His wrestling background shows up in his ability to move while engaged and in traffic, and his lateral control throughout his pursuit has allowed him great run game production.
He doesn't penetrate initially with quickness and can stay stationary at times, waiting too long to react laterally. He's extremely heady, as most Alabama defensive lineman are, and he keeps his hands active and focused on throwing lanes. He sheds with his hands and arms very well in space.
5. Jaleel Johnson, Iowa
Johnson is one of the players in this class who is easiest to project to the NFL. Johnson is a well-rounded player who doesn't have a glaring weakness in any one area. As a pass rusher, he wins primarily with initial quickness off the snap and a powerful bull rush. He can struggle if locked into a blocker too long and is unable to dominate them with power.
He will provide solid, reliable run defense and average-to-above pass rushing ability. His lack of athleticism could limit his ceiling at the NFL level, but Johnson is a good early-round prospect who will be able to make an immediate impact for a team.
4. Montravius Adams, Auburn
Adams will add the most to a team in the run game when playing with the proper pad level and aggressiveness. He shows off enough athleticism to be effective laterally and moves around obstacles to get to ball carriers. He has the natural skill set coaching staffs should be willing to mold and turn into a potential first round-caliber player.
His play recognition skills are average at best, and he will need to develop more intelligence in certain blocking schemes and how to disrupt them. Adams shows flashes of being an All-Pro-type defender but isn't consistent enough to chalk up some of his successes as strengths.
3. Caleb Brantley, Florida
Brantley wins with initial quickness at the snap and has the strength to bull rush guards in the interior. The quick and powerful run defender also comes with upside as a pass rusher. His ability to gain leverage with his pad level and quickness to get inside will often draw double teams.
He is missing the ideal length and closing speed as a pass rusher. If he can improve his pass rush arsenal and gain more finesse moves, Brantley could end up being a three-down lineman. For now, Brantley is the draft's best interior run stopper.
2. Chris Wormley, Michigan
Wormley provides high-level short area explosiveness, position versatility and penetrating value as an interior defensive lineman. Over the last two seasons, Wormely displayed great initial explosiveness and a low center of gravity through his engagement, and he has been able to generate force and disruption from multiple alignments.
He’s able to play away from his frame at a high level and finish as a tackler, and his versatility, coupled with confidence and body control in space, makes him a fringe first-round value and an expected immediate starter at the NFL level.
1. Nazair Jones, North Carolina
Jones has an ideal NFL body type. That, coupled with his ability to win in isolation, is the primary reason he deserves to be considered a top 100 prospect. Jones’ trunk offers remarkable stability off the snap and against double teams. His growth from a pure interior pass rusher to a run stopper to someone who can take advantage of one-on-ones has been impressive and speaks to his developed football IQ.
He needs to stay wide as he works upfield, and his lack of efficient hip bend limits how much growth he can have at the NFL level. His ability to win in isolation as a pass rusher is impressive, and NFL coaching should help him develop a larger repertoire of rush moves.