1. Christian Barmore, Alabama | 6’4/310
Comp: Marcell Dareus
A consensus four-star prospect, Barmore was rated the 16th best interior defensive lineman and fifth overall recruit in the state of Pennsylvania from the 2018 prep class according to the 247Sports composite rankings. The Philadelphia native was a two-way player in high school, shuttling between offensive guard and defensive tackle while helping to propel Neumann Goretti High School to an 11-1 record en route to an appearance in the Pennsylvania state semi-finals.
Surprisingly, Barmore wasn’t on the radar of the Power Five through his first three high school seasons, only receiving scholarship overtures from Morgan State, Buffalo and Temple heading into his senior year. With little interest outside of the tri-state region, Barmore actually committed to hometown Group of Five program Temple on June 19, 2017.
However once Barmore started dominating as a senior it didn’t take long for the blue bloods to take notice. Offers from notable institutions such as Georgia, Florida and Oregon flowed his way in early October, leading him to decommit from Temple on October 6, 2017 and reevaluate his collegiate options. Soon thereafter, Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, Miami and South Carolina came knocking, with Barmore ultimately committing to Alabama during the early signing period on December 20, 2017.
He redshirted as a freshman in order to get acclimated to the speed and pace of the college game before joining the defensive line rotation in 2019, logging 269 snaps while drawing just one start against FCS opponent Western Carolina. He didn’t really hit his stride until the last few games, logging a game-high of only 16 snaps through his first six games against SEC competition while performing well on a per-play basis but lacking volume.
HC Nick Saban started showing more confidence in Barmore starting in Week 12 against Mississippi State, when he recorded 38 snaps and rolled that positive momentum over to the Iron Bowl, logging 43 snaps, four Hurries, two tackles and two stops against Auburn while earning a crisp 82.2 overall game grade from PFF.
In Alabama’s bowl game against Michigan, Barmore registered a season-high 58 snaps as he gained valuable experience that served to prepare the pocket-wrecking IDL for a heavy workload in 2020. However it was against the Wolverines where Barmore finally met adversity, as he had some trouble freeing himself up in one-on-one situations and got moved off his spot too frequently.
Here’s a play where Michigan RT Jalen Mayfield gets his hands on Barmore and controls him, as the stocky defensive lineman struggles to escape from Mayfield’s grasp. You even see Barmore visibly express frustration once the play concludes. The Wolverines consistently out-leveraged Barmore at the point of attack and stifled his bull rush.
Overall, Barmore was one of the most productive interior linemen on a part-time basis in the country, earning a sparkling 88.1 pass rush grade along with an 87.8 overall defensive grade (11th best in country). However he still had to prove that he could hold up to the rigors of a full allotment of plays as a starter against SEC competition.
One of the most pervasive critiques of Barmore stems from him having just one season of starting experience at the collegiate level, while not really dominating bell-to-bell for the first half of Alabama’s 2020 schedule. His ability to collapse the pocket was always evident, but the Alabama lineman was being used primarily on passing downs in the first half of the year. Essentially being pigeon-holed as a situational pass-rusher instead of an every-down havoc creator. This is evidenced by Barmore being on the field for only 67 rushing snaps over the fist six games of 2020 compared with 153 passing down reps, and only two sacks with fifteen QB pressures according to PFF.
Even during a relatively inconsistent first-half of 2020 Barmore flashed major league potential, unleashing the fury on Georgia C Trey Hill (6’4/330) on this play:
On the back-nine of the 2020 campaign Barmore started putting all his physical tools together and closed with an impressive six-game set that culminated in him winning defensive MVP of the National Championship Game.
His production numbers are prolific, as Barmore leads all Power Five defensive tackles with 65 QB pressures over the last two seasons and 39 pressures in 2020, along with a 13.3% run stop rate and an absurd 19.5% pass-rush win rate according to PFF. Keep in mind, 25 of those pressures and 6.0 sacks came during Alabama’s championship stretch run.
For some perspective on how dominant Barmore was in the CFP, here’s a consecutive two-play sequence from their playoff contest against Notre Dame where he terrorizes A quality collegiate guard in Tommy Kraemer (76.5 Offensive Grade from PFF) on first a pass play, then a run play which forces a punt:
Barmore’s hands are so quick Kraemer can’t lay a glove on him and is left flailing on the ground. Credit the Philadelphia products incredible get off here as well, as he disengages and still has the athleticism to re-route and clip the heels of QB Ian Book before he darts for a first down.
The Alabama lineman improved his technique significantly, long-arming OLs holding the point of attack on run plays. The difference in his Michigan tape to Notre Dame over the course of just one season is stark. He’s noticeably more stout and difficult to move against the run and can lineup anywhere from 0-5 technique. Has rare outside speed and can be devastating on stunts, as this play against Arkansas shows:
Huge frame and naturally gifted athleticism make his bull-rush and Club/Rip moveset a devastating combo that helped Barmore tear through SEC offensive lines in passing situations. Get off is lightning and sudden, best of the 2021 crop in my opinion. He ran a strong 4.93 40-yard dash at the Alabama pro day, A mark that happens to match the 2010 combine time of former Alabama DL who he is often measured against, Marcell Dareus. Barmore is one of the rare defensive linemen in this class that projects as an immediate three-down IDL at the NFL level, but will have to avoid taking plays off to reach that plateau.
The slow start, inconsistent effort and one season of starting experience are the scouting communities’ knocks on Barmore. However his young breakout age and noticeable technical growth from 2019 to 2020 lead me to believe Barmore can reach his lofty physical potential.
2. Levi Onwuzurike, Washington | 6’3/295
Comp: Leonard Williams
A former four-star recruit from the football hotbed of Allen, TX, Onwuzurike’s high school team ranked fourth nationally in the end of year 2014 USA Today rankings. Earned Dallas Morning News All-Area Defensive Player of the Year accolades in 2015 on an Allen HS team that finished 14-1 with a final overall ranking of 20th in the country.
Scout.com rated Onwuzurike as the 12th best defensive end in the country while 247Sports ranked him as the 21st weak side defensive end. A widely sought-after prospect, he received offers from perennial upper echelon Power Five programs like Georgia, Oregon, Michigan, Oklahoma, Miami and Oklahoma State, but stressed the desire to attend college away from home as a motivating factor behind his enrollment at UW.
Can still control blocks in running situations despite lack of bulk for nose tackle duties. First step is sudden and explosive, but needs to learn to capitalize on his fast twitch athleticism. Can get driven past the pocket when he goes too fast and loses leverage. Most snaps at NT, kind of miscast. Is at his best when he’s crashing in from the three-tech, using his hands and speed to cross the face of the opposing guard and blow up plays.
Electric burst off the line, but lacking high end sack production despite causing 57 quarterback pressures over his last two seasons. Received elite 90.8 PFF defensive grade in 2018 over 391 snaps. His grade dipped to 82.5 in 2019 as he adjusted to the heavier workload. Would have likely benefited from the extra year of development for evaluation purposes as he only has one year of starter reps to draw from and could have used a bounce back 2020 to push him into first round consideration come April.
Deploys grip and rip, swim and spin moves depending on the situation. Good motor, constantly chasing down plays. Logged 184 snaps at nose tackle, a task he would be ill-suited for at the NFL level. Could be stronger with his fame, as his speed game won’t work without power at the NFL level. Has a tendency to get stuck on blocks when opposing linemen get hands on him. Needs to work out of those situations through better technique. He should have a backup plan in mind when his first move doesn’t land.
A good example of this is on this two-play sequence against Cal, where Onwuzurike (#95) gets turned around one the first long gain by Chris Brown and then gets controlled on the next play as Brown breaks the run in his lane.
Shows good instincts in identifying where run plays are designed and slipping blocks to fill gaps. Can smell out and disrupt a screen pass. In the play below, he shows good situational awareness by peeling off his pass rush and sprinting to the flats to make the play. Notice how fast he gets there once the read is made, rare acceleration out of a 293-pounder. Also included is a run play where Onwuzurike bursts through the line to bring down the Boise State ball carrier from behind.
Tendency to play high on the rush, exposing his chest to opposing lineman’s hands. He needs to work on pad level since he won’t be able to shed hands as easily on Sundays. Has a tendency to rely on superior quickness instead of using proper hand technique.
After not playing for 402 days due to his opting out of the 2020 season, Onwuzurike attended Senior Bowl practices and shined against the best prospects of the 2021 draft class. Here he is giving projected Day 2 selection, Oklahoma C Creed Humphrey, hell on this rep:
Attended two days of Senior Bowl practices before bowing out for the game due to an undisclosed injury. In eight one-on-one reps, he posted a 50% win rate and +2.5 grade from PFF. Tellingly, he only posted a 33% win rate from the NT position (2-for-6), but dominated both of his reps from the three-tech DT spot he is best suited for.
Onwuzurike recorded a strong 4.85 40-yard dash at his pro day workout that was NFL Scout timed. Other notable measurements include 33” arms, a 30.0” vertical and an impressive 29 bench press reps.
Onwuzurike could stand to add a little weight to play inside, but in my opinion he is the next most projectable IDL after Barmore when it comes developing into an impact three-tech who can slide from 0-5 when called upon. If used correctly, I feel like Onwuzurike has the upside to occupy an NFL starting slot for several years.
3. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa | 6’3/313
Comp: Tommie Harris
Though well regarded as a high school prospect, Nixon opted to enroll at Iowa Western Junior College in order to raise his grades and recruiting profile. The move succeeded, as he received a scholarship offer from none other than Alabama in October of 2017. However Nixon credited Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz driving out to present his scholarship offer in person in the midst a driving snowstorm as being the deciding factor in his commitment to the Hawkeyes.
The Kenosha, WI product was considered a three-star prospect and the 12th ranked defensive tackle from the 2017 JUCO class according to 247Sports. Nixon took a redshirt in 2018 before working his way into the Iowa line rotation in 2019, recording 22 stops and 21 overall pressures to go with 3.0 sacks and a 76.9 defensive rating according to PFF.
His 2020 got began loudly as he annihilated Purdue in the opener, recording seven pressures, four stops and a sack, before delivering a monstrous three sack performance against Northwestern in his second contest. Nixon gained instant notoriety recording 4.0 sacks and 10 pressures in the first two games of 2020, laying the foundation for his All-American nomination.
The remainder of his season was marred by some periods of inconsistency, with Nixon only recording 1.5 sacks and 11 pressures over his final six contests last year. In a somewhat telling stat, he recorded 5.0 sacks against Northwestern and 3.0 sacks against everyone else over a two year span.
As an example, here’s a stretch of plays from Iowa’s game against Nebraska that resulted in a touchdown for the Cornhuskers. Nixon gets stood up too easily and doesn’t fight to disengage.
He will sometimes slide from left to right in order to improve his pass rush angle, but Nebraska OL Matt Farniok finishes off the drive by getting his hands inside Nixon’s shoulder pads and neutralizes him at the point of attack as the NU running back shoots through the gap for the touchdown. That video is a good example of how Nixon can get caught playing high in pass rush situations and sometimes struggles to overpower larger linemen as his most effective interior pass moves center around his exceptional let’s himself get blocked at times.
Nixon can struggle to control point of attack and shed blockers, lacks the kind of power to be a consistently effective bull rusher. It’s that lack of raw power that makes him a bad fit for A-Gap work at the NFL level, though he lined up there occasionally in college. Has the potential to be a very effective three-tech that is at his best when crashing in from an angle as opposed to eating double-teams at nose. Advanced anticipation abilities show up on tape, as he consistently identifies play direction early on to help him gain a situational advantage. Effective chasing down plays from backside due to speed.
Quick feet allow him to utilize a slide step on the snap to keep opposing linemen off balance. Active hands compliment his agility and help him to get the upper hand off the snap. He wins with speed and suddenness more often than brute strength. Exceptional get off and balance help him to gain upper hand on opponents and cause havoc in the backfield.
On the next play against Northwestern, Nixon steps right and uses the guard’s momentum to his advantage by employing his powerful grip to toss aside the off balance blocker, allowing him to fill the running lane and execute a textbook 1-on-1 form tackle.
A former two-sport high school athlete who lettered in for four years in basketball and can still dunk, this play is a good example of how Nixon utilizes what he considers a “Euro-step” type move, jabbing left before giving aforementioned Nebraska OL Matt Farniok the old ole’ to deftly evade the massive lineman’s grasp and make the stop.
His pro day results confirmed Nixon’s explosive traits, as he recorded a blazing 4.90 40-yard dash and similarly impressive 4.70 shuttle. In totality, Nixon’s 8.40 Relative Athletic Score ranks as the third highest rating in the 2021 IDL class and bodes quite well for his success profile.
Nixon flashes these types of quick-twitch plays that have scouts salivating often, it’s just a matter of stringing them together and putting a complete game performance together. The athletic Iowa DL’s sky-high potential should command an early Day 2 selection.
4. Tommy Togiai, Ohio State | 6’2/300
Comp: Derrick Nnadi
Togiai was a heralded four-star recruit rated as the third best defensive tackle and 55th overall player from the 2018 class according to 247Sports. He attended Highland HS in Pocatello, ID where he earned Gatorade Idaho Player of the Year accolades in addition to being a three-time, first-team all-state selection.
Tommy didn’t need a redshirt season to acclimate to the speed of the college game, playing in 13 games and logging 121 snaps while recording 10 tackles, seven stops and two pressures as a true freshman. He played a similar part time role in 2019, logging 247 snaps in 14 games and 10 stops, earning a 77.8 run defense grade from PFF. However he was largely ineffective rushing the passer, creating just three QB pressures in 120 pass rushing reps.
Turn the page to 2020 and Togiai was noticeably more productive on a per rush basis, recording 24 pressures in only 189 passing snaps last year. For comparison, Big Ten DPOY Nixon recorded 21 QB pressures in 478 snaps. His 16.1% pass rush win-rate according to PFF illustrates how dominant he was on a per-play basis. It’s a testament to Togiai’s coachability that he was able to hone a particular area of his game so well in the span of one offseason.
Prefers to latch onto a blocker to drive and control them with superior inside hand position rather than to slap them away. Deploys an aggressive bull rush in passing situations and doesn’t have a wide array of moves to draw from. Excels at pushing interior pocket and then capitalizing when the edge rush forces the quarterback to step up in the pocket.
Here are a pair of pass rushing snaps from Ohio State’s game against Northwestern. In the first, Togiai fires off the ball and gets right up into the chest plate of NW guard #66 Nik Urban and bulldozes him several yards into QB Patrick Ramsey who makes an excellent throw.
On this next play, Northwestern center Sam Gerak (#62) slides over to block Togiai 1-on-1 in a passing situation. Togiai opts to meet Gerak head on, and takes advantage of the lineman’s still unanchored posture by running Gerak upfield before ripping his hands away and making a dash for QB Ramsey.
Despite having improved drastically from 2019 to 2020 in the pass rushing realm, few would argue that Togiai’s calling card is his effectiveness against the run. A thick, well developed trunk and low center of gravity allow him to generate push and stonewall opposing guards/centers. In 2020 he recorded 13 stops in 102 rushing snaps according to PFF, who awarded him an 87.8 run defense grade which ranked as the 10th highest mark in the country.
He’s constantly in motion and fighting to make a play, rarely takes snaps off and plays with such balance that it’s hard to drive him off his center. Togiai gave a pair of strong collegiate linemen in Cade Stewart (#62) and Matt Bockhorst (#65) hell all game in the trenches and was a central factor in the Buckeyes holding Travis Etienne to just 32 yards rushing. This extended clip from Ohio State’s CFP game against Clemson illustrates how difficult to restrain Togiai is in running situations. His presence in the middle was sorely missed in the CFP Championship game against Alabama.
Where Togiai runs into trouble is, his relatively short, stocky 6’2 body can lead to him getting overpowered by larger offensive linemen who can match his strength and latch on. Sometimes lacks the technique and length to keep longer offensive linemen off of him, so he is forced to rely on high motor. Size makes him likely pigeon-holed as a three-technique, which is a common refrain among IDL’s from this class. Has still only logged 659 snaps in three years, including a high of 291 in the shortened 2020 season.
His raw strength was on display at his pro day workout, with Togiai churning out 40 reps of 225 pounds.
Still very raw from a developmental perspective, needs to develop more moves to create consistent pressure. Though admittedly unpolished as a rusher, Togiai has the tools to improve in this department with more technical refinement at the next level.
5. Alim McNeil, NC State | 6’2/320
Comp: Malcolm Brown
McNeil was a consensus four-star recruit and 18th rated defensive tackle who could have gone to just about any school he wanted, receiving offers from Penn State, Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, Clemson and Virginia Tech. However the Raleigh, NC native eschewed the opportunity to play at a more high profile institution in favor of staying close to home and attending NC State.
A talented baseball player in high school, McNeil hit .355 as a senior and was a three-year all-conference honoree on the diamond. Despite his gigantic 280-pound stature at the time, McNeil possessed the requisite quickness to play both linebacker and running back in high school, cashing in 40 career touchdowns as a rusher.
His advanced agility for his size helped McNeil transition to the collegiate game seamlessly, earning freshman All-American accolades from 247Sports. He was freed up to create disruption from the three-tech, logging only 29 of his 410 snaps from the nose tackle position. As a result McNeil registered his highest single season total in pressures, with 20, while tying his single season best mark with 19 stops and posting 3.0 sacks.
Sophomore year he bulked up from 300 pounds to 320 to endure the rigors of lining up on ball as a 0-1 tech nose tackle, a role he would occupy for the remainder of his Wolfpack tenure. McNeil thrived as a stout, block-eating enforcer who holds his ground and clogs run lanes while also possessing the requisite quickness to push the pocket and cash in secondary sack opportunities. He recorded an impressive 5.5 sacks and 28 tackles on the year, capping off a standout year by humbling a quality UNC interior offensive line to the tune of 5 tackles and 2.0 sacks in the season finale.
In 2020, McNeil was just as productive as his breakout 5.5 sack performance from a year ago, but serving as a double-team stacking, run-stuffing nose tackle instead of a pocket crasher. He lined up far less frequently from the 1 or 3 tech spots where he can attack with angles more effectively. Ruthless on run plays, McNeil is rarely driven backwards and is violent with his hands, as his sky-high PFF run grade of 92.1 will attest.
Here is a two-play sequence from their 2020 game against Virginia Tech where McNeil first uses his quick feet and balance to dart through the gap and string out Khalil Herbert. On the next play he fires off the snap, immediately establishes dominant hand position and burrows Virginia Tech OL Brock Hoffman into the backfield before ripping his hands away and pursuing the ball carrier.
On this next play set McNeil gets double-teamed on a designed run, however he anchors down and maintains his leverage while closing off his gap and making the play on D’Eriq King. He then manhandles Miami C Corey Gaynor, forcing RB Cam’Ron Harris to bounce the play outside.
McNeil excels as a gap-plugging interior defender who can hold the point of attack and drive opposing linemen into the backfield on run plays. He is one of the few athletic IDLs in this class that is strong and thick enough to handle early down nose tackle work. His pass rush value stems from his combination of strength, balance and power rather than an array of moves. Utilizes a strong bull rush, superior hand position and a deceptive first-step to gain an advantage before using his strong lower body to generate push.
He could use more nuance as a pass rusher and is a bit too stout to be an immediate heads-up starter. However with more polish and a couple of tools to draw upon McNeil could be a valuable gap filler and a menacing run defender at the NFL level. He has the advantage of being a solid, athletic nose tackle prospect in a three-tech heavy class.
6. Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA | 6’2/280
Comp: Justin Tuck
The brother of former Bruins star Owa Odighizuwa, Osa arrived in Pasadena with a three-star billing and a two-sport background. You see, Osa won three Oregon state heavyweight titles and was rated as the number one wrestler in the country by multiple scouting outlets according to The Oregonian. Here is a video of a tournament semi-final bout from his Senior year.
It’s easy to see how his strength and technique could translate to the gridiron. Though he gave up wrestling and has steadfastly maintained that his number one priority is preparing to play in the NFL, it’s not hard to imagine Odighizuwa pursuing a career in the Octagon once his football days wrap up.
Amazingly, despite being rated as the third best prospect in the state of Oregon and 48th overall defensive tackle recruit in the country according to 247Sports, Odighizuwa was not as widely recruited as a player of his stature normally would be, as most schools focused their resources elsewhere due to the perception that he was locked in to play with his brother at UCLA.
An extremely versatile player, Odighizuwa lined up anywhere from 0-5 technique, which is a testament to his herculean strength at 280 pounds. Not a lot of players his size can stack defenders like he can, but it’s hard to imagine he lasts at nose tackle much longer. Gets off the line quickly and utilizes an iron grip on his push/pull move when engaged, violently jerking the opposing lineman in an effort to jostle himself free when rushing the passer. Watch Odighizuwa deploy his length to hold USC G Jalen McKenzie at bay, then pull him off balance like they were in a hockey fight on this QB pressure:
His pugnacious burst off the line opens up room for him to change pace with a shimmy-shake, stutter-step move while incorporating good head movement and active hands to gain an advantage. His game tape shows a nice array of different pass rush tools, here he knocks away the hands of ASU G Henry Hattis and brandishes a nifty swim move to free himself and chase down the quarterback for a sack:
Had a great showing at the Senior Bowl, giving Oklahoma C Creed Humphrey, Alabama G Deonte Brown and UWW G Quin Meinerz all they could handle in 1-on-1 drills and posting an overall win-rate of 45% over 22 snaps. In 11 of those snaps he lined up at three-tech where he posted a 55% win rate and impressed with his fast twitch abilities and unusual power from his 280 pound chassis.
At his pro day, Odighizuwa measured in at 6’1.5”, 282 pounds with 10 ⅜” hands and an eagle-like 83-inch wingspan. He didn’t run the 40-yard dash due to a hamstring injury, but still posted respectable marks with a 7.58 3-Cone drill, 4.50 shuttle run and 25 bench reps of 225 pounds. His best testing moment came when he recorded a 120” broad jump that would have ranked as one of the very top scores of the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine defensive line group.
Odighizuwa’s main problem is that he’s a tweener who is a hybrid three-tech/defensive end who is likely too light to play inside and lacks the necessary bulk to sustain blocks against NFL sized offensive linemen. He attacks at blockers off the snap with a tenacity befitting his wrestling lineage. His versatility should help him stick on an NFL roster since he can play multiple positions if called upon, but lacks one overriding spot that he fits at naturally.
7. Jay Tufele, USC | 6’3/305
Comp: Chris Hovan
A former heralded four-star recruit who ranked as the third best DT in the 2017 high school class, Tufele was a 2017 All-American Bowl selection before embarking on a notable three year career at USC. He was very productive, but not consistently dominant, in his lone year of starting experience before opting out, recording 42 tackles, 26 pressures, 26 stops and 4.5 sacks in 672 snaps, mostly lining up at three-tech.
Adept at utilizing lateral head and body movement off the snap in passing situations to keep blockers off balance, then slapping their hands away and swimming past them en route to the quarterback. His approach is similar to the series of jukes and hesitations J.J. Watt employs on the edge, but in shorter intervals due to his inside positioning. You see a good example of this technique against Notre Dame center Ja’Mion Franklin, #55, as Tufele (#78) shuffles his feet before ripping past Franklin on the left with a crisp swim maneuver.
Anticipation and get-off on his bull rush sets up a thunderous club move where Tufele pops his hips and dislodges the opposing lineman from his stance so he can make a play.
His excellent contact balance and athleticism is a potent tool that allows the stocky IDL to victimize guards who aren’t anchored to combat his bull rush with a swift thud from his dominant arm. He’s smart enough to have a plan every time he lines up to rush, but sometimes doesn’t have a backup if his first move falters.
A block spiller in the run game, Tufele is at his best when he’s crashing from the three tech and cutting off interior lineman to blow up run plays. Though tenacious in pursuit, he can get overwhelmed by double teams and blown off the ball in power situations. Will lose gap integrity when he picks a line and darts to it as opposed to reacting to the play.
A two-time All-Pac-12 selection with just one full year of starting experience, Tufele opted out of the 2020 season due to health concerns and to concentrate on NFL Draft preparation. His high motor, power and athleticism make him an attractive candidate for any team seeking out a three-tech who could develop into a starting caliber IDL if he can properly channel his physical gifts on a consistent basis.
8. Tyler Shelvin, LSU | 6’3/365
Comp: Brandon Williams
Finally, a good old fashioned, space-occupying nose tackle! Shelvin attended two different high schools while battling weight and academic issues as a youth. Despite the personal challenges, he was still rated as a consensus four-star prospect and number one overall recruit in the state of Louisiana from the 2017 prep cycle. Named a participant in the Under Armour All-America Game, the raw-boned Louisiana boy never wavered from his initial commitment to LSU despite a spirited charge from Nick Saban and Alabama.
What you see is what you get from the super-sized head-up nose tackle, he anchors his 350+ pound frame in the ground and essentially plays the role of Andre The Giant/The Big Show in every battle royal they’ve ever participated in. The giants take on a series of double teams before ultimately being thrown over the ropes by a pack of 10 people. Tyler Shelvin is the immovable object plugged square in the middle of the line who gets ganged-up on but is rarely budged.
This video highlights a few reps against Georgia where Shelvin demonstrates just how difficult it can be to harness him if you don’t commit two-blockers to him on run plays. Controlling the center with his hands before shedding him and making the stop, knifing through the combo block to force the running back to give ground, etc.
He is very fluid for a player his size and is cerebral in his approach to the run game. There isn’t a lot of value to him as a pass rusher, as he lacks the speed to challenge blockers off the snap and doesn’t have the stamina for a sustained rush. His feet and hand get out of alignment at times and he lacks the speed for lateral pursuit. But that’s not why you’re targeting Tyler Shelvin either.
On this play Shelvin fires low and locks out his arms to keep Auburn C Kaleb Kim at bay while he roots himself and waits for the ball carrier to pick a line. Once the runner commits, he disengages and makes the play. It’s telling how calm his demeanor is through the whole exchange, Shelvin is in total control the whole time.
He’s a one-dimensional, two-down anchor that is as stout as they come while being unusually nimble for his mammoth stature. Just don’t expect him to push the pocket as he recorded just nine quarterback pressures in 393 career pass rush snaps according to PFF. Shelvin has all the traits you need to be an asset as a head-up run stopper so long as he is properly motivated.
9. Marvin Wilson, Florida State | 6’3/310
Comp: Derrick Brown
A premium five-star recruit, Wilson was rated the number one prospect in the state of Texas, sixth overall nationally from the 2017 freshman class and 171st all-time according to 247Sports. Assumed role as locker room leader and tone setter, was vocal in refuting a claim HC Jay Norvell made about addressing racial tensions across the country with the team. Voted team captain as a senior and started a financial literacy oriented youth charitable venture.
Wilson played sparingly in 2017 as a true freshman before breaking out as a sophomore, registering 553 snaps, 34 pressures, 25 stops, 42 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 12 games as he earned honorable mention All-ACC recognition. He didn’t miss a beat in 2019, becoming one of only four defensive tackles in the nation to record two or more, 3.0+ TFL performances. A Bednarik Award semifinalist, his crowning achievement was a nightmare inducing 10 tackle, 2.0 sack evisceration of Louisville where he rag-dolled mountainous Louisville first-round pick Mekhi Becton. (Wilson #21 lined up over left tackle):
Exceptional hand strength and violent approach when getting after the quarterback. Brandishes a nice toolbox of moves, most notably a vicious grip and rip technique to dislodge himself from blockers. A downhill rusher with good closing speed and acceleration when running stunts to the outside. He showed a burst off the line in 2019 when Wilson appeared a little lighter that wasn’t quite there in 2020. It might be a case where he was a little too top heavy and could not regain his 2019 magic when he rang up 5.0 sacks as opposed to the single sack he put up in 2020.
Wilson drew accolades for a strong set of senior bowl practices where he held up well against Kentucky C Drake Jackson in 1-on-1’s. His pro day testing was decent, but didn’t show the kind of explosive athleticism Wilson flashed in 2019.
He posted sub-par marks with a 25.5-inch vertical jump (would have tied for worst among 2020 IDL), 4.91 shuttle and 23 bench reps. A 40-yard dash of 5.12 seconds was right about the median of 2020 combine IDLs while his 7.64 second, 3-Cone drill showing was the highlight of his testing performance. His 81 ½” wingspan certainly helps, but at the end of the day Wilson’s underwhelming 4.99 Relative Athletic Score projects him as roughly league average from a physical metrics standpoint.
Wilson spent four years at FSU under four different defensive coordinators. He was rotated around the line from 0-to-5, to his own developmental detriment. He will be best served as a 1-3 tech who plays in gaps, using his burst and pass rushing tools to wreck plays.
10. Jaylen Twyman, Pitt | 6’1/301
Comp: Mike Bennett
The Washington D.C. area three-star recruit, Twyman worked his way through the Pitt defensive line rotation before taking over as a full time starter in 2019 and subsequently opting out in 2020. He helped anchor a Pitt defense that allowed only 21.7 points and 107 rushing yards per game, a mark that ranked 11th best in the country. He was wildly productive during his one year run as a starter with a line of 41 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 36 pressures and 31 stops in 730 snaps.
He has a knack for being in the right position and anticipating where the play is going to be. I’m not sure if it’s a repeatable skill at the NFL level, but it’s uncanny how many of his 2019 sacks were the result of circumstance as opposed to execution. Here’s a sack against BC where he gets chipped and let go, where Twyman meets a soon to be run-over quarterback.
Would rather slide around a blocker than take his foe head-on. Twyman wants to keep his opponents hand off of him as opposed to leverage and control them. When power rushing, his go-to move is a quick push/pull that allows him to quickly shed his opponent. Possessing a fairly diverse pass rush move set, Twyman actually jumped and did what appeared to be a Superman Punch type motion in an attempt to throw the opposing guard off balance in his quest to the quarterback. It was not successful, but it was certainly entertaining.
Likes to work stunts and will patiently pick through the line for a lane. Sometimes flails when trying to circumvent blockers and gets knocked off his base. Is too small to bully, so he tries to win with misdirection and short area quickness. Tendency to play high off the snap and lack control on his pass rush. Doesn’t engage with power, short arms.
He could get swallowed up in run defense at the next level. His playing weight was in the 285-290 pound range, but he showed up to his pro day workout at 301 pounds. The extra weight showed, as his 5.39 40-yard dash was slower than any IDL who attended the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. He did manage to put up an incredible 40 bench reps and launched his way to a 32.5 vertical jump, but his speed numbers and Relative Athletic Score of 4.64 mean Twyman could lack the power and athletic traits to stick at the NFL level.
11. Bobby Brown, Texas A&M | 6’4/315
Comp: Tim Settle
Brown is strong at the point of attack like few others in this draft class, as his thickly packed 315 pound barreling figure is well suited to blow up any running plays that flow in his direction. Doesn’t have a blinding fast get off, but he uses his hands with ill intent and bucks just about any solo block thrown his way in run support.
The first-team All-SEC performer has the brute strength to be useful in passing situations, but lacks tact and nuance to his bull rush, grip and rip combination. Has unusual agility for his size and diagnoses plays well. Flashes stretches where he’s legitimately menacing. Plenty of strength to handle double teams and is rarely moved backwards. Here he is charging his way into South Carolina QB Colin Hill for the sack:
The problem is Brown is plagued with inconsistency, as he matches periods where he looks like the best player on the field with stretches of total irrelevance and lackluster effort. Rushes have a kind of clunky cadence to them, as Brown lacks a natural finesse and balance to getting after the QB. It seems as if he might simply enjoy the action coming to him in the run game as opposed to Brown having to go sniff out the action himself.
This ignominious moment encapsulates the Bobby Brown experience, flashes incredible potential and raw talent, then injures himself during the subsequent celebration.
Though still young at 21 years old, Brown is larger than most of the current defensive line class, and presents a more mobile alternative to Tyler Shelvin at the 0/1 tech while still having the quicks to to move over to three technique if needed. He deserves a look in the later rounds and has the kind of block-shouldered frame NFL teams can find an early down role for.
12. Marlon Tuipulotu, USC | 6’3/305
Comp: Foley Fatukasi
A three year standout for the Trojans who started 23 games, Tuipulotu is one more in a prestigious familial line of USC standouts that includes DT Fili Moala, S Talanoa Hufanga and his brother Tuli Tuipulotu. The first-team All Pac-12 honoree embraced an increased leadership role last season following teammate Jay Tufele opting out.
Tuipulotu brings a workmanlike disposition to the game while splitting his reps from zero-to-three tech. Plays with incredible strength and control as a determined run defender who is adept at exploiting edges and powering through blocks despite being undersized as a nose. Here is a quick highlight reel that shows Tuipulotu blowing through the Oregon line and creating havoc on multiple would-be run plays.
While he doesn’t have a wide array of ways to beat you as a pass rusher, Tuipulotu has the requisite torque in his engine needed to play off a sturdy bull rush and his active hands help him get into the body of his opposition.
He reportedly ran a 5.28 40-yard dash back in high school but begged off of doing so at his pro day workout. It’s generally a smart idea to leave teams guessing if you’re going to pop a bad number rather than stick a glowing red sign on you that causes some teams to pass out of hand. The rest of his testing numbers were pretty solid, pushing out 30 bench reps which would have ranked 4th from the 2020 combine IDL class and a swift 7.52 3-Cone drill..
Though he had some favorable moments, but ended up registering a disappointing 38% win rate in 13 snaps during Senior Bowl practices according to PFF. His frenzied pass rushing style lacks control but he’s so brutish strong at 303 pounds that he’s a handful no matter what. His ability to stack blocks and be disruptive from the zero tech will make Tuipulotu a valuable commodity wherever he lands.
13. Milton Williams, La Tech | 6’2/278
Comp: Turk McBride
Who doesn’t love an underdog story? Williams was a fairly unheralded two-star recruit who was basically invisible with a national ranking of 2,651th from the 2017 high school class, accepting his lone FBS scholarship offer to Louisiana Tech. Though he’s on the very-low side of the acceptable defensive tackle weight range, Williams has a rocked up frame and next-level athleticism befitting a player with his prep basketball background.
As anyone who read my tight end sleepers column knows, I love a converted basketball player. And the Crowley, TX product plays like a power five who understands how to post up on the interior and use proper footwork to create an advantage. He’s packed on functional weight since arriving on campus and utilizes an approach similar to Daviyon Nixon in that he shifts his balance quickly and attacks the pocket using basketball type jab steps.
Williams is very light for the position and though he uses leverage very well, he plays with so much speed that guards aren’t used to dealing with a player with his burst and agility. His 31.5” arm length are on the very short side for the position but sets up his rushes by attacking from different angles, as you see in this video:
He put on a show during his pro day workout as well, tipping the scales at 284 pounds while running a freakish 4.63 40-yard dash, 38 ½” vertical jump and a superb 4.33 shuttle. If that weren’t enough, Williams banged out 34 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, putting a bow on his eye opening workout performance.
Williams has a ton of potential and a frame that he could continue to pack weight onto. He reportedly put on 10 pounds last offseason at a private gym while quarantining by himself, so you know this young man is intrinsically motivated. I’d love to see him land on a practice squad for a year or two and get into a first class NFL training program that can mold his impressive physical gifts into a scary three tech.
14. Quinton Bohanna, Kentucky | 6’4/357
Comp: Ted Washington
So you’re an NFL GM, who has been tasked with finding a gargantuan nose tackle that can eat blocks and plug gaps, but Tyler Shelvin was taken too early for your tastes. Welcome to your fallback plan! Bohanna isn’t going to wow you with his get off or dizzying array of pass rushing weaponry. He is however a dependable and improbably nimble nose tackle who has been a starting caliber SEC player for four years in the middle of HC Bob Stoops’ stifling defense while earning 2020 second-team All-SEC recognition from PFF.
Football in the trenches is a rugged endeavor played by extremely large human beings. Not only does Bohanna have a frame of juggernaut-esque proportions, he still accelerates well off the snap and has enough balance to not overrun the play when he gains an advantage. Here’s an example of the big fella shooting the gap on a run play with cat-like instincts to pounce on the ball carrier.
There is a place in the NFL for Quinton Bohanna. I firmly believe we deserve to see this rhinoceros of a man two-gapping on our television screens during our autumn Sundays. I feel like Bohanna is the Jaelon Darden of the mammoth nose tackle marketplace – if you don’t want to pay sticker price for the name brand slot receivers (Toney/Rondale and Elijah Moore) there’s always Jaelon Darden in the fourth round who offers a similar skillset. Conversely, if you miss out on Tyler Shelvin early on, there’s always Bohanna lurking late on Day 3.
Best of the rest:
15. Darius Stills, West Virginia | 6’1/28
16. Khyiris Tonga, BYU | 6’3/324
17. Payton Turner, Houston | 6’5/290
18. Austin Faoliu, Oregon | 6’3/293
19. Naquan Jones, Michigan State | 6’3/339
20. Forrest Merrill, Arkansas State | 6’1/338
21. Ta’Quon Graham, Texas | 6’3/295
22. Mustapha Johnson, Colorado | 6’2/290
23. Carlo Kemp, Michigan | 6’3/287
24. Jordan Scott, Oregon | 6’1/345
25. Tedarrell Slaton, Florida | 6’5/360