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NFL Draft Analysis

NFL Draft rankings: Interior Defensive Line

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: April 15, 2022, 9:26 pm ET

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Rankings below based on 96 draft-eligible FBS interior defensive linemen in my database with PFF grades. Note: Sub-division players not included in rankings below.


1. Jordan Davis | 6063/341 | Georgia

DOB: 01.12.00

RAS: 10

*PFF grade: 9

*PFF run D: 7

*PFF pass rush: 39

*PFF tackling: 2

*Note: All rankings are based out of 96 draft-eligible FBS iDL.

A planet-sized athletic mutant. Incredibly, Davis didn’t start playing football until his sophomore year of high school after focusing on basketball during his childhood. Owing to his late start, Davis was viewed as more of a curiosity than a sure-thing by recruiting services, garnering only a three-star designation. Nevertheless, he drew numerous Power 5 offers by those interested in a shot at developing his size/athleticism package into a fully-fledged player.

Davis became one much sooner than anyone could have expected, contributing immediately at Georgia. He was a part-time starter as a true freshman, and a good one, earning Freshman All-American accolades. By 2020, he was a Second Team All-American, and for his salvo in 2021, Davis was a unanimous First Team All-American while winning the Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy. He finished ninth in the Heisman voting. 

Davis then went to Indianapolis and put on one of the great shows in NFL Combine history, running a 4.78 forty at 341 pounds en route to the second-best RAS score (regardless of position) in history. His worst test was an 88th-percentile vertical jump.

On the field, he’s impossible to block one-on-one. Davis has herculean play strength and doesn’t move unless he wants to move. He's a linebacker’s best friend who stops the feet-churn of both double-teaming blockers, creating Suez Canal blockages where the hole was supposed to be. Impossible to dislodge, never loses his feet. Reliably drops ball-carriers once he sheds. Per PFF, Davis missed zero tackles the past two seasons.

While he profiles as one of the best run-stoppers to enter the NFL over the past decade, Davis is an average pass-rusher. He’s a north-south load, of course, but Davis also moves directions like a semi-truck, and he fritters away leverage by playing high. Davis can get winded in the second-half of games and is best used as he was at Georgia, getting rotated off the field in third-and-long situations.

But due to his special ability to wreck running games and make opponents’ play-calling more predictable (you avoid running inside against Jordan Davis if you know what’s best for you), Davis is my iDL1. 

Comp: Haloti Ngata


2. Devonte Wyatt | 6027/304 | Georgia

RAS: 9.58

PFF grade: 1

PFF run D: 6

PFF pass rush: 3

PFF tackling: 35

Prototype three-technique with a lightning-quick first step. Wyatt wins reps in the instant after the snap, touching and steering offensive linemen before they can do anything about it. Don’t be fooled by his mere five career sacks: At Georgia, Wyatt was sometimes asked to occupy or divert offensive linemen to open gaps for blitzing linebackers.

His game took off in 2021 with first-team All-SEC honors as part of Georgia’s title team. Wyatt’s a high-energy player with a motor that revs for days, but his athletic gifts didn’t always shine through earlier in his career. Last year, we saw more instances of Wyatt using his flexibility and lateral agility to distort and contort into the backfield. Once freed, he closes on the ball ferociously, harassing passers and chasing ball-carriers down the line. Uses those long arms to disrupt if he can’t get home – Wyatt deflected two passes and blocked a kick last year.

In the pre-draft process, Wyatt impressed with a 4.77 forty en route to a 9.58 RAS composite. There is more potential laying dormant within him. Wyatt’s pass-rushing game is mostly based on athleticism at this point. Developing a full arsenal of counter moves when his initial plan is foiled will lead to even more disruption. And while he closes as quickly as any interior player in the class, Wyatt has a tendency to fly in hot, leading to four missed tackles last year. He can also be taken out of run plays with double-teams. 

But his combination of size, twitch, effort, and first-step explosion is the best in the class. Wyatt’s a top-20 overall prospect who will present a puzzle immediately for NFL interior lineman as a gap-shooting three-technique.

Comp: Tommie Harris


3. Perrion Winfrey | 6035/290 | Oklahoma

DOB: 08.15.00

RAS: N/A

PFF grade: 83

PFF run D: 93

PFF pass rush: 9

PFF tackling: 92

Winfrey was unblockable at the Senior Bowl. Several times, he drew “oohs” and “awwws” from the assembled throng after a dominant rep in one-on-ones or team drills. This is what I wrote leaving the second day of practice.

Winfrey lacks bulk, but don’t mention that without mentioning his prodigious, freakish length. He has a 7'0 3/4" wingspan that, in conjunction with his quickness off the snap, makes him a menace for interior players to deal with. Winfrey’s ropey arms have defibrillators attached to them. It is next to impossible to breach his reach and get under his pads. Gleeful gap-shooter who lives in the backfield. Collected TFL like quarantine NFTs, posting 17 over two years across only 20 starts. 

I wouldn’t call Winfrey chicken-legged, but he’s got a thin lower-half. North-south explosion doesn’t translate to east-west twitchiness. Since he's a hittable target, would like to see him play lower. When Winfrey doesn’t beats interior players to the spot, or when he doesn’t steal their frame with his reach, he can be easily discarded from a play. He's like an athletic, heavy-handed UFC middleweight who is three inches taller than the rest of the division, but with a glass jaw.

At Oklahoma, Winfrey was a feast-or-famine sizzle player. At the Senior Bowl, it was all feast. In Norman, Winfrey was the NT in a 3-3-5 system, much like Ed Oliver was at Houston. Remember how much production that system pilfered from Oliver in college? In the NFL, unleashed as a three-tech and left to his own devices, Winfrey’s game will play up.

Comp: Darnell Dockett


4. DeMarvin Leal | 6037/284 | Texas A&M

DOB: 07.01.00

RAS: 7.44

PFF grade: 36

PFF run D: 45

PFF pass rush: 19

PFF tackling: 55

Explosive and versatile. The former five-star recruit wins with his first-step and Gumby-like bend. Started 29 of 35 games on campus and was an immediate difference-maker, piling up 25 TFL. Jimbo Fisher trusted him implicitly, moving Leal around the formation like a veteran. Versatility could come in handy in the NFL, where Leal could be kicked outside on early downs. 

Hustle player who will run ball-carriers down upfield. Deep grab-bag of pass-rushing moves for a young player. Displayed advanced ability to decipher an offense’s intentions in an instant for a youngster as well, rarely fooled by misdirection and often in the right spot. Light-footed big man who can get offensive linemen teetering and finish the job with a swim or club.

Leal’s game is absolutely going to play as a pass-rusher inside at the next level. But while his run defense is more palpable on the edge, this area is never going to be a strength. His anchor is as light as his feet. The concern is that his collegiate versatility is lost in translation and he becomes an NFL tweener, without the muscle for inside run defense or the length and twitch to threaten as an outside pass-rusher.

But a smart defensive coordinator should have as much fun with Leal as Jimbo Fisher did, moving him up and down the line as the situation dictates and maximizing his ability to create havoc.

Comp: Chris Jones


5. Travis Jones | 6043/327 | UConn

DOB: 10.15.99

RAS: 9.4

PFF grade: 3

PFF run D: 2

PFF pass rush: 11

PFF tackling: 37

Jones flew a little under-the-radar at UConn, but popped at the Senior Bowl, where he threw around offensive linemen like discarded toys. His game is quickness off the snap and Aaron Judge power. Innate play recognition, always seems to be flowing towards the play-side, like a soccer goalie who never guesses wrong on penalty kicks. 

Blessed with a 6'9 1/2" wingspan, Jones uses every inch of it, latching onto offensive linemen and locking them out, making it impossible to get into his pads. Jones drops the anchor against double-teams, which are necessary if you’re planning to test one of the gaps around him. Bull-rusher who can push linemen into the quarterback’s lap. 

Jones will need to add to his pass-rushing arsenal to level-up that area of his game at the next level. Improving his hand usage after initial contact would aid in that pursuit. But it’s unlikely that Jones ever develops into a plus pass-rusher because he plays high and labors to change directions. Even so, due to his potential run-game dominance – ala A'Shawn Robinson – Jones is worth a Round 2 investment.

Comp: A'Shawn Robinson


Best of the rest…

 

6. Phidarian Mathis | 6042/310 | Alabama

DOB: 04.26.98

RAS: N/A 

PFF grade: 11

PFF run D: 16

PFF pass rush: 15

PFF tackling: 7

Comp: DaQuan Jones


7. Matthew Butler | 6037/298 | Tennessee

DOB: 06.10.99

RAS: 7.3

PFF grade: 20

PFF run D: 21

PFF pass rush: 27

PFF tackling: 31

Comp: Sheldon Day


8. Neil Farrell Jr. | 6041/339 | LSU

DOB: 09.09.98

RAS: 0.85

PFF grade: 2

PFF run D: 1

PFF pass rush: 10

PFF tackling: 32

Comp: Jonathan Hankins


9. John Ridgeway | 6052/320 | Arkansas

DOB: 05.07.99

RAS: 4.72

PFF grade: 65

PFF run D: 50

PFF pass rush: 69

PFF tackling: 28

Comp: Harrison Phillips


10. Kalia Davis | 6010/302 | UCF

RAS: N/A 

PFF grade: 4

PFF run D: 3

PFF pass rush: 50

PFF tackling: 86

Comp: Trysten Hill


11. Eyioma Uwazurike | 6060/313 | Iowa State

DOB: 05.06.98

RAS: 6.51

PFF grade: 12

PFF run D: 13

PFF pass rush: 23

PFF tackling: 3

Comp: Foley Fatukasi


12. Jayden Peevy | 6053/308 | Texas A&M

DOB: 09.03.99

RAS: 4.27

PFF grade: 13

PFF run D: 8

PFF pass rush: 46

PFF tackling: 78

Comp: Vernon Butler


13. Thomas Booker | 6035/302 | Stanford

DOB: 11.11.99

RAS: 9.88

PFF grade: 96

PFF run D: 95

PFF pass rush: 66

PFF tackling: 45

Comp: Eddie Vanderdoes


14. Otito Ogbonnia | 6037/323 | UCLA

RAS: 4.79

PFF grade: 35

PFF run D: 51

PFF pass rush: 14

PFF tackling: 64

Comp: Carl Davis


15. Zachary Carter | 6042/282 | Florida

DOB: 04.07.99

RAS: 8.1

PFF grade: 14

PFF run D: 35

PFF pass rush: 6

PFF tackling: 52

Comp: Charles Omenihu


16. Haskell Garrett | 6021/300 | Ohio State

DOB: 05.04.98

RAS: 4.56

PFF grade: 26

PFF run D: 33

PFF pass rush: 41

PFF tackling: 60

Comp: Larrell Murchison


17. Curtis Brooks | 6020/287 | Cincinnati

DOB: 02.06.98

RAS: 9.52

PFF grade: 5

PFF run D: 36

PFF pass rush: 1

PFF tackling: 39

Comp: Justin Madubuike


18. Noah Elliss | 6042/351 | Idaho

RAS: N/A

PFF grades: N/A (FCS)

Comp: Danny Shelton


19. Matt Henningsen | 6033/289 | Wisconsin

RAS: 9.33

PFF grade: 19

PFF run D: 4

PFF pass rush: 80

PFF tackling: 11

Comp: Joe Gaziano


20. D.J. Davidson | 6035/328 | Arizona State

RAS: 4.09

PFF grade: 22

PFF run D: 15

PFF pass rush: 36

PFF tackling: 42

Comp: Tedarrell Slaton


Thor's recent NFL Draft work:

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is NBC Sports Edge’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!