The position formally known as defensive tackle has quickly developed into something completely different over the years. It started with Warren Sapp bringing a unique penetration ability to the NFL at his size, and was cemented with the unfathomable impact that Aaron Donald has brought to the Rams since draft day 2014. Where we previously looked for simply massive humans to plug running gaps, we now look for guys who can make plays from the inside, get a quality pass-rush, and give opposing quarterbacks problems from the snap. In this class there’s a bit of the old-school, and a lot of the new school, and here’s my top 10 players in the 2020 NFL draft.
10) Jordan Elliott, Missouri
My biggest issue with Jordan Elliott is the inconsistency on tape, when he fires out low with great leverage he’s nearly un-blockable, the problem is you only get a couple of those reps per game. I know PFF loves this guy, and he has solid production over his two years starting at Missouri, I just need to see him do it at a more consistent level before I feel comfortable about it translating to the next level.
9) Leki Fotu, Utah
Throw away what you saw at the combine, this man is as strong as an ox on tape. Even against double teams, Fotu refuses to give up ground at the point of attack and swallows up potential alleys in the running game. You won’t ever mistake this guy as the penetrator that many teams are looking for nowadays, but if you’re looking for a Domata Peko type player who will play hard and plug running gaps, this is your guy.
8) Ross Blacklock, TCU
This guy can be a nightmare at times in one to one matchups because of his impressive leverage that he plays with. The Achilles injury that held him out in 2018 has to worry you a bit, but to his credit he came back with a strong 2019 campaign and should be locked into day 2 of the draft.
7) Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M
I loved watching Madubuike because it was hard to find a bad rep. He was one of the bigger combine winners, but I had him in my top 10 previous to Indy. He does play under 300 lbs, which can be worrisome against an NFL offensive line, but he’s shown his ability to get penetration with an impressive combination of athleticism and technique.
6) Rashard Lawrence, LSU
After three years of production at LSU, Rashard Lawrence somehow comes into the 2020 NFL draft under the radar. Besides his versatility and tape playing both inside and outside, he has shown a lot of impressive physical skills on tape. He uses his long arms better than most players his age to gain leverage at the point of attack and control the line of scrimmage. He’s a really intelligent player, who has shown his positional versatility over the years in Baton Rouge, and I think he could find a home just about anywhere in the NFL and be comfortable.
5) Marlon Davidson, Auburn
After playing most of 2019 on the edge at 6’3 300 lbs, it’s time for him to kick inside to best utilize his skill set. For someone that big he has incredibly nimble feet I would have loved to see him display in the 3 cone drill in Indy. His best fit is a penetrating 3/5-tech, but he can move all across your defensive line and produce.
4) Raekwon Davis, Alabama
It happens all the time, there’s a prospect that just has so many reps on film that we over analyze the bad and forget about the huge sample of good. Davis’s best film was in 2017, and his stats fell off a bit, but similar to Da’Ron Payne I believe it was more a result of what he was asked to do rather than a drop off in play. Davis is a guy who will hold his ground to plug running lanes, and uses impressive footwork to get penetration and cause havoc in the backfield. I have no problem seeing his skill-set translating to the NFL level and feel very confident about him being a plus starter for 2 contracts.
3) Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma
Neville Gallimore has been an absolute joy to watch in Norman. He uses his athleticism and super quick, violent hands to get, at times, effortless penetration. The biggest issue right now is getting caught out of position getting too deep into the backfield, but I’d rather teach somebody to dial it back than have to teach the unteachable ability to get into the backfield at the level he does.
2) Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
I think the gap between Kinlaw and Brown is closer than people think, that’s how good Javon Kinlaw’s tape is. His physical stature is impressive, and he uses it to his advantage, gaining leverage with his 35″ arms and throwing offensive linemen like rag-dolls to disrupt the offense. After an outstanding 2 year run at South Carolina and a dominate performance in his time at the Senior Bowl, Kinlaw has locked himself firmly into the 1st round.
1) Derrick Brown, Auburn
A man among children. If you want to see dominate IDL play, turn on Derrick Brown against LSU and watch him dog-walk potential 1st round pick Lloyd Cushenberry for 4 quarters. He is a physical specimen that made dominating SEC competition look easy for the last 3 seasons. We should be locking Derrick Brown into the top 10 of all of our mock drafts.