Alabama’s Jonathan Allen leads the way
1. JONATHAN ALLEN
Alabama, 6-3, 286 There’s no doubt who tops this list. Allen has it all: production, versatility, size, athleticism, speed, and he should be a starter with whoever drafts him from Day 1. He arrived at Alabama as an outside linebacker. Though his role shifted, the skills stayed the same. As a senior in 2016, Allen won the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, both of which celebrate the best defender in college football. He recorded two first-team all-SEC placements, and leaves Alabama second in program history for sacks (281⁄ 2). There may be some concern about his size at the next level, but Allen’s unique talent to rush the quarterback and stop the run should make him a Top 10 draft pick. At the NFL scouting combine, previous shoulder surgeries got a closer look and may give teams some pause about his long-term disability Allen, however, said in a press conference in Indianapolis that he has “no concerns at all” about the issue.
2. CALEB BRANTLEY
Florida, 6-3, 307 He is closer to the prototypical size NFL evaluators look for in the position, but the big question on Brantley is whether he could handle the full load of an NFL season. The Gators rotated their defensive linemen, so Brantley – while one of the stars of the group – stayed fresh and wasn’t a three-down player. The potential, however, is there. Brantley is explosive out of his stance, and commanded double-team blocks at Florida. He may not have posted eye-popping sack totals, but Brantley showed several different pass rush moves – his initial push to the chest of linemen is the most lethal – and at the very least, should be able to disrupt the timing of opposing NFL offenses.
3. CHRIS WORMLEY
Michigan, 6-5, 298 The biggest asset Wormley brings is experience and leadership, as his coaches at Michigan have gushed about the three-year starter’s character. At his size, Wormley is athletic enough to flash explosiveness and speed off the snap, as seen by his first-team, all-Big Ten 2016 season in which he recorded nine tackles for loss and six sacks. The one glaring issue Wormley suffers from is a motor that sometimes shuts down. But because of his physical
gifts, Wormley could eventually step in as a starter.
4. LARRY OGUNJOBI
N.C. Charlotte, 6-3, 305 Ogunjobi is a player who has huge potential, but is more of a project. He’d be bestserved by diving into a strict weight-training program in the NFL to add some strength to his frame. Because he doesn’t have ideal size, he’ll need to fine-tune his technique, so he should benefit from coaching at the next level. Ogunjobi first played football as a high school sophomore, so he’s still a little underdeveloped. That also means his ceiling could be skyhigh.
5. MALIK MCDOWELL
Michigan State, 6-6, 295 He could be ranked much higher, and would be, if not for two things. He has experience in playing multiple positions along the defensive line, but he still hasn’t fully grasped the intricacies of tackle. Second, he relies far too much on his athleticism to make plays, compromising his form. That may have worked at times at Michigan State, but in the NFL, McDowell will need to show more consistency in his technique. His dip in production in 2016 (34 tackles, seven for a loss, and 1 1⁄2 sacks) may have been due largely to an ankle injury, but he could have the frame to become great. It will take work, however, to get there.
6. DALVIN TOMLINSON
Alabama, 6-3, 310 It shouldn’t be a surprise to see two Alabama tackles in the Top 6 here. The Crimson Tide constantly churn out elite-level defensive players. Tomlinson is much more of a run-stuffer than a pass-rushing Dtackle. He’s not going to blow past linemen off the snap, but uses his strength and leverage to occupy blockers very well. Tomlinson has torn his anterior cruciate ligament in both knees, but because of his size and understanding of complex defensive front Alabama coach Nick Saban used, he could find playing time as a rookie in the right system.
7. JALEEL JOHNSON
Iowa, 6-3, 316 After coming on strong in his final two years with the Hawkeyes, especially in his senior season this past fall, Johnson has shot up several draft boards. He earned a first-team, all-Big Ten selection in 2016 after leading Iowa in sacks (71⁄ 2) and tackles for loss (10). The one thing NFL coaches are going to love about him is that he doesn’t give up on plays. Johnson, though, he could still work on keeping his frame lower to the ground to maximize his leverage against blocks.
8. ELIJAH QUALLS
Washington, 6-1, 313 A first-team all-Pac-12 season in 2016, including a solid showing against Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal, helped secure Qualls’ place among the top defensive tackles in the draft. Despite his size Qualls flashes athleticism and an ability to stuff the run along the interior of the defensive line. The concern with Qualls is that he needs to redistribute his weight, and that he sometimes takes some plays off. But if surrounded by the right coaching staff at the next level, Qualls could become an early-down contributor as a rookie.
9. MONTRAVIUS ADAMS
Auburn, 6-4, 304 A three-year starter for the Tigers, Adams’ best asset may be a thick and powerful lower body that helps him drive into linemen and disrupt the timing of both rushing and passing plays. His junior season underwhelmed, but he bounced back with a strong 2016 (43 tackles, eight for a loss, four sacks) that showcased much more consistency. His athleticism isn’t among the top for other players at the position and likely won’t be one to generate much pass pressure, but he has the potential – and size – to become a steady run-stuffer.
Alabama’s Jonathan Allen is expected to be a top 10 pick with his ability to stop the run and rush the quarterback.
Florida’s Caleb Brantley has shown the ability to be a pass-rusher.
Michigan State’s Malik McDowell played multiple positions along the defensive line, but will likely be a tackle in the NFL.
Larry Ogunjobi could be a project.