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Top Five 2020 NFL Draft Prospects- Defensive Tackle

Updated on March 24, 2020
Ty Tayzlor profile image

TT is an online writer with over eight years of experience writing about sports and pop culture.

These guys will be brought in to plug up the hole in the defensive line and be a forceful run stopper. Today I rank the top five defensive tackle prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.

1. Derrick Brown- Auburn

Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

Bio: The U.S. Army All-American Bowl Defensive Player of the Year and the Georgia Sports Writers Association Player of the Year as a high school senior, Derrick Brown played in all 13 games as a true freshman at Auburn. As a senior, he garnered first team AP All-American and first team All-SEC honors and was a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy after posting 55 tackles, tying for the team lead with 12.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles, and four pass breakups.

Strengths: Elite combination of athleticism, size, and strength. Able to play along the line in 4-3 or 3-4 schemes. Determined competitor and plays with urgency. Quick awareness off the snap and gets into blockers frame with a burst. Fast and strong enough to embarrass reach blockers. Quick initial punch forces offensive linemen into recovery mode. Able to handle double teams to allow linebackers to roam free. Enough power and shed skills to maintain control at the point of attack. Short area quickness for a wider tackle area from the initial gap. Speeds up rush attacks with movement and strength. Powerful swim move to disrupt blockers punch and get them off balanced. Powers through redirect blocks on inside moves. Respected leader. Was named to the SEC's Student-Athlete Leadership Council in 2017 and won the 2019 Lott IMPACT Trophy, which goes to the defensive player who has the biggest IMPACT (Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity.)

Weaknesses: Inconsistent pad level due to average knee bend. Doesn't have the stride quickness upfield to play in gaps. Plays in front of his toes, causing balance issues against offensive linemen on the move. Keeping hands and feet synced as a rusher needs work. Could be quicker getting into his rush technique. Stiff hips limit rush dexterity inside the pocket.

Pro Comparison: Fletcher Cox

Projected Round: 1

Possible Landing Spot: Carolina Panthers

2. Javon Kinlaw- South Carolina

Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

Bio: After spending his freshman season at Jones County Junior College, Javon Kinlaw transferred to South Carolina in 2017. By 2018, he was the Gamecocks co-Defensive MVP with 38 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, and five pass breakups. As a senior, he earned first team AP All-America and first team All-SEC honors with 35 tackles and six sacks.

Strengths: Intimidating build with elite physical tools. Muscle packed with long arms and good lean mass. Tenacious bull rusher. Powerful burst demands a double team to stall pocket from collapsing. Heavy and fast to immobilize blockers. Good club move to get past the opposition. Dangerous first step. Good lateral quickness to get past reach blocks. High motor, capable of extended snaps. Hinders pass protection on tackle twists. Length and strength to occupy and shed blocks. Unique size offers sheen and position versatility.

Weaknesses: A hair slow getting off the snap. Play style lacks control, efficiency, and technique. High cut and straight legged into contact. Struggles to handle down blocks and hold his ground. Loses leverage and balance when's sliding as his pads get turned. Inconsistent hand placement to control blockers. Utilizing bull rush rather than counter and spin move when needed. Erratic base and balance when attacking blocks. Production didn't match his dominance at times.

Pro Comparison: Chris Jones

Projected Round: 1

Possible Landing Spot: Cleveland Browns

3. Ross Blacklock- TCU

Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU

Bio: After redshirting his first year at TCU, Ross Blacklock earned Freshman All-American and Big 12 Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year honors after posting 27 tackles, 6.5 for loss, and two sacks while starting all 14 games. In 2019, he garnered first team All-Big 12 honors while recording 40 tackles, nine for loss, and 3.5 sacks.

Strengths: Extremely agile and athletic in short areas. Dropped 25 pounds prior to 2019, which helped his production. Keeps knees bent and pads low. Fiery initial quickness. Locates and splits double teams. Leverage and leg drive to dip under and power through edge blocks. Pass rush instincts of a defensive end. Always moving as a rusher. Elite lateral quickness and change of direction to become a dangerous disruptor. Adjusts speed to get blockers off balanced and loosen the edge. Hands are fast with impressive swim move. Nearly impossible for a single blocker to mirror. Relentless motor as a pass rusher. Comes from an athletic family. His father, Jimmy, was a star basketball player at the University of Texas and toured with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Weaknesses: Lowers head into double team blocks. Inconsistent as a two gap lineman. Has an issue with keeping his pads level on the move. Hand placement and shed angles need improvement. Gets pushed around by strong guards and centers. Too often ends up on the ground. A strong punch will hinder his rush momentum. Couldn't convert quarterback pressures into sacks consistently. Missed all of his redshirt sophomore campaign due to a torn Achilles.

Pro Comparison: Sheldon Richardson

Projected Round: 1-2

Possible Landing Spot: New England Patriots

4. Leki Fotu- Utah

Leki Fotu, DT, Utah
Leki Fotu, DT, Utah

Bio: Despite playing just one year of high school football, Leki Fotu was named first team All-Utah prior to joining his home state school. By his junior year, he was the fulltime starter and earned first team All-Pac 12 honors with 33 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks. In 2019, he garnered first team All-Pac 12 and third team AP All-American honors with 29 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two pass breakups.

Strengths: Mammoth frame with well distributed weight. Thick lower half and long arms. Good motor from practice to games. Single blockers won't generate much movement on him. First punch delivers disrupting blow into blockers frame. Ideal hand placement with great arm extension. Above average athlete with range to play along the defensive line. Awareness and hustle to hinder zone schemes. Built for two gap, but has played in slanting fronts. Size and strength to drive through linemen and into the backfield. Good tenacity as a former rugby player.

Weaknesses: Still fairly raw. Sluggish out of his stance and into technique. Lacks upfield quickness to disrupt in gaps. Plays with narrow base for someone in size. Inconsistent footwork against double teams. Pad levels rises when working on slants. Won't be much of a threat as a pass rusher. Doesn't have fluid feet to win as a rusher. Must be more of a pocket disruptor rather than ride blocks as a bull rusher.

Pro Comparison: Eddie Goldman

Projected Round: 2

Possible Landing Spot: Pittsburgh Steelers

5. Raekwon Davis- Alabama

Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama
Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama

Bio: As a true freshman at Alabama, Raekwon Davis played in seven games as a reserve. He became a playmaker as a sophomore, earning first team All-SEC honors with 69 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and a team high 8.5 sacks while becoming known nationwide by registering 10 tackles, two sacks, and an interception in the Crimson Tide's two playoff wins.

Strengths: Elite combination of height, weight, and length for a defensive tackle. Ideal two gap man who knows how to set the edge. Good knee bend and leverage. First punch is fast and powerful. Imposes his will on blockers with force. Plants his feet into the ground to fend off double teams. Rarely gives ground to power. Serviceable range to chase down ball carriers. Good timing from punch to tackle. Bull rush tactics overwhelm weaker guards. Loosens blockers edge with strong hands. Gets around blocks with smooth arm moves.

Weaknesses: Big drop in production from sophomore campaign. Movements are long and ineffective. Loses track of the ball. More if a two gapper rather than consistent playmaker. Wore out and broken down in the second half of the 2019 LSU game. Will collapse pocket rather than get to the quarterback as a rusher. Long strides with slow feet on pass plays. Hasn't developed a rush attack or go to moves. Pursuit lacks control, which lead to broken tackles and missed sacks. Maturity has been an issue in the past according to coaches and scouts.

Pro Comparison: DeForset Buckner

Projected Round: 2-3

Possible Landing Spot: Seattle Seahawks

Other Notable Prospects

Neville Gallimore- Oklahoma

  • Terrific initial quickness, doesn't use length to his advantage

Davin Hamilton- Ohio State

  • High hustle player, poor recovery speed

Justin Madubuike- Texas A&M

  • Strong and wide base, lacks sustainable speed

Jason Strowbridge- North Carolina

  • Good hands and speed, tweener build

Robert Windsor- Penn State

  • Great balance, poor discipline in run game

Rashard Lawrence- LSU

  • High energy and tough, struggles with double teams

James Lynch- Baylor

  • Aware and disciplined, lean frame

Josiah Coatney- Ole Miss

  • Good ball tracker, average anchor

Benito Jones- Ole Miss

  • Good upper body strength, squatty frame

Darrion Daniels- Nebraska

  • Great size and length, just a pocket pusher

Raequan Williams- Michigan State

  • Keeps pads low, Lacks mass to handle double teams

Larrell Murchison- NC State

  • Tough mentality, small body

Benning Potoa'e- Washington

  • Versatility across the line, work in progress

Jordan Elliott- Missouri

  • Great physical tools, too many bad habits

Carlos Davis- Nebraska

  • Good awareness of blocking schemes, short arms

John Penisini- Utah

  • Wide lower half, poor rush plan

Broderick Washington- Texas Tech

  • Great work ethic and leadership, average change of direction

McTelvin Agim- Arkansas

  • Thick base, needs to get stronger

People's Poll

Which defensive tackle will have the most success in the NFL?

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