NFL Draft: Breaking Down the Top Defensive Line Prospects

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Penn State Nittany Lions defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (91). USA Today-Sports photograph


14. DaQuan Jones, NT, Penn State: 6-4, 322 (5.35)

Jones is one of the better nose tackle prospects in this draft. He has the size and strength to hold down the middle of the line and cover the “A” gap.

But Jones lacks the burst and quick twitch of top nose tackle prospects, like Nix of Notre Dame. Jones just isn’t an explosive athlete, but his ability to clog running lanes and take on double teams has a lot of merit in the NFL, especially for 3-4 teams like Green Bay.

Jones would be a good value pick in the third or fourth round.

(Draft Projection: Round 3)

LSU Tigers defensive tackle Anthony Johnson (90). Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

15. Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU: 6-2, 308 (5.24)

Johnson is an athletic defensive lineman who can play either tackle or end. He shows a good burst off the line and plays with good leverage, which helps him generate interior pressure.

Johnson is an intriguing defensive line prospect who needs to show more consistency. He isn’t particularly stout against the run and tends to get locked up with offensive linemen who don’t let Johnson beat them with quickness.

Johnson has a lot of upsid, but still needs to polish several parts of his game.

(Draft Projection: Round 3)

West Virginia Mountaineers defensive lineman Will Clarke (98). Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

16. Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia: 6-6, 271 (4.77)

Clarke is an athletic defensive lineman who is well-suited as a two-gap end in a 3-4 system.

Clarke does a great job holding the edge and sealing off containment against the run. He could add some bulk to help him hold up better against the bigger offensive linemen in the NFL without diminishing his athleticism as a defensive end.

But Clarke offers a unique combination of size and speed off the edge. Outside of two-gapping and holding the edge, Clarke can also get after the quarterback. He recorded six sacks and five quarterback hurries as a senior in 2013.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 3-4)

LSU Tigers defensive tackle Ego Ferguson (9). Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

17. Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU: 6-3, 315

Unlike his former LSU teammate, Anthony Johnson, Ferguson isn’t quite the penetrate and disrupt defensive tackle 4-3 teams desire.

Ferguson makes his living as a run stuffer and gap occupier. He shows some promise as a potential nose tackle but could also play end in a 3-4 defense, much like Johnny Jolly or B.J. Raji did last year.

Ferguson doesn’t demonstrate great quickness or burst off the line, but he’s a solid two-down player who can take on double teams and collapse the pocket with a powerful bull rush.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 3-4)

Princeton defensive lineman Caraun Reid (11)

18. Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton: 6-2, 302 (4.91)

Reid improved his draft stock with an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl.

He plays with good leverage and can use his quickness to make plays in the backfield, recording 19 sacks and 41 tackles for loss as a four-year starter at both nose tackle and defensive end in Princeton’s defense.

Reid could surprise some people at the next level, but he may not be an immediate contributor and will need time to develop his game in the NFL.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 3-4)

Tennessee Volunteers defensive lineman Daniel McCullers (98). Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

19. Daniel McCullers, NT, Tennessee: 6-7, 352

McCullers is a tower of a man and knows how to use his size to occupy space in the middle of the line.

He’s best suited at nose tackle and has all of the physical tools to be a dominate two-down interior lineman.

Weight concerns and questions about his work ethic have some worried about drafting McCullers too early in the draft.

McCullers does offer enough potential and intrigue as a two-gapping nose that a 3-4 team, like Green Bay, may just take a chance on him in the third or fourth round.

(Draft Projection: Round 4)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Cierre Wood (20) runs against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Ed Stinson (49). Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

20. Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama: 6-3, 287 

Stinson is a college 3-4 end who has the length to hold the point of attack on the edge.

Stinson isn’t a great athlete and seems limited in space. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, but he does have some merit as a run-stopping defensive end.

Stinson remains raw as a defensive line prospect, but with some time to grow, he may be an effective 3-4 end in the NFL.

(Draft Projection: Round 4)

California Golden Bears defensive lineman Deandre Coleman (91). Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

21. Deandre Coleman, DT, California: 6-5, 314 

Coleman has the size and ability to play as a either a 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end in the NFL.

Teams will like him because of this combination of size and solid football fundamentals. Coleman can hold his ground against double teams and has all the makings of developing into a solid two-down player in the NFL.

Coleman doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher and rarely makes impact plays, which hurts his overall draft stock.

(Draft Projection: Round 4)