Packers 2016 Draft: Ranking the top-25 defensive linemen

Boston College Eagles quarterback Jeff Smith (5) scrambles away from Louisville Cardinals defensive end Sheldon Rankins (98).
Boston College Eagles quarterback Jeff Smith (5) scrambles away from Louisville Cardinals defensive end Sheldon Rankins (98). /
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Looking at a deep class of rookie defensive linemen, which prospects make up the top-25?

The 2016 defensive line class is so deep that it’s inevitable several first-round prospects will still be available on the board when the Green Bay Packers pick 27th in the NFL Draft.

Last year, 26 interior defensive linemen were selected on draft weekend, including four in the first round, and this spring, the 2016 group could very well exceed that number.

With eight first-round grades, this year’s defensive line crop is laden with top-end talent, and although it’s unlikely all eight will be selected on the first day, it’s reasonable to assume teams selecting near the end of the first round with a need at the position will have plenty of options come draft day.

The Packers could benefit from such depth. They go into the draft at the end of this month with defensive line as one of their top needs on the roster–a need only exacerbated by the early retirement of veteran nose tackle B.J. Raji.

Even though the Packers recently re-signed Letroy Guion and locked up Mike Daniels for the foreseeable future, Green Bay still needs more young talent to provide a consistent presence on their defensive front.

Mike Pennel will serve a four-game suspension at the start of the 2016 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Datone Jones is making the switch to edge rusher, and Josh Boyd is coming back from a season lost to injury.

It’s easy to see why so many project the Packers to select one of the top defensive linemen in this class with one of their first picks. They could also double-down on the position and draft a defensive lineman with one of their mid or late round picks for extra reinforcement.

There are plenty of players to like at the position at each stage of the draft.

While last week I previewed the inside linebacker class, today I’m going to provide my take on the top-25 interior defensive linemen in the draft.

I organized the prospects in four tiers to get a better sense of how they stack against each other. The first tier being elite prospects with first round consideration, the second tier early round prospects, the third tier mid-round guys, and the fourth tier late round role players.

Also, keep in mind I’m projecting the prospects that would play defensive line in the Packers 3-4 system, so players projected as 4-3 defensive ends, like Joey Bosa, will be in my edge rusher rankings.

Next: Tier 1: First-Round DLs