NFL Draft: Top Five Defensive Linemen
Jeremy Ganes, Derek Heid, Logan Dolby and Jack Flanagan discuss the top defensive linemen in this year's NFL draft:
Heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, the interior defensive linemen are one of the most talented groups. A great defensive lineman in today’s NFL can not only get pressure on the quarterback, but can also play the run just as effectively. This year’s draft class is full of players who can do both of those things, and make an immediate impact on their new team.
5. Dexter Lawrence - Junior - Clemson
At Clemson, Lawrence’s ability to bull rush was what made him stand out. His quick first step and powerful rush toward the quarterback consistently created havoc in opposing backfields. His power translated to the run game as well, where Lawrence showed he was more than capable of taking on multiple blocks before finding the ball carrier. Lawrence’s short-area quickness was also a strength of his. Lawrence missed his team's final two games in the College Football Playoff after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, and whether or not if affects his draft stock remains to be seen.
4. Christian Wilkins - Senior - Clemson
Lawrence’s teammate and friend at Clemson, Wilkins shows incredible positional versatility on the defensive line. He excelled when used as a three-technique, one-technique and as a nose tackle in college. Wilkins shows great raw power, and made his presence felt in very single game this past season. While Wilkins doesn’t have freakish athleticism, his quick first step off of the line of scrimmage paired with his strength makes him an instant starter in the NFL.
3. Jeffery Simmons - Junior - Mississippi State
Simmons has all of the ability in the world to be the best player in this position group. He is a force to be reckoned with when rushing the passer. Simmons’ unique combination of length, size and speed make him such a force when rushing the passer as well as stopping the run. Simmons also shows incredible versatility as a three-technique, one-technique, nose tackle and edge-rusher. Simmons wasn’t invited to the combine because of a domestic abuse case in 2016, but if he avoids trouble in the years to come, he can be a force on the defensive side of the ball.
2. Ed Oliver - Junior - Houston
Finally, one of the most heralded high school football prospects of the past few years has become eligible for the NFL Draft. Lined up mostly as a nose tackle at Houston, Oliver showed off his incredible athleticism and explosiveness. Even though Oliver was double-teamed, sometimes even triple-teamed, he continued to make an incredible impact in the trenches. Oliver’s quickness and ability to get to the football have been drawing comparisons to Aaron Donald, and while they may share those characteristics, Oliver’s small stature and lack of great balance was a problem for him in college. If he can can put on some more weight to create a better push against NFL offensive lineman, Oliver could become a Pro Bowl defensive lineman.
1. Quinnen Williams - Junior - Alabama
For as great of a positional group as the defensive lineman are in the upcoming draft, there is no doubt who the best is. With virtually no weaknesses, Quinnen Williams should be a top-three pick and a franchise-changing player. Like many of his counterparts on this list, Williams shows great versatility. Used mostly as a nose-tackle, Williams has an explosive first step and insane balance. Williams never gets pushed back, and his power and leverage help him get into the backfield consistently. But what makes Quinnen Williams one of the best defensive lineman prospects of the last decade is the use of his hands. These traits make Williams not only the top interior defensive lineman in the draft, but one of the best all-around players.
Jack Flanagan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.