Ranking the NFL draft prospects: Defensive linemen
The Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn assesses the top defensive linemen in the NFL draft April 27-29. Included is each player’s height, weight, 40-yard time and projected round.
1. MYLES GARRETT, Texas A&M (6-4½, 270, 4.64, 1): “It’s a no-brainer,” said one scout. “If Cleveland doesn’t take him they should be kicked out of the league.” Third-year junior led the DEs in the vertical jump (41 inches), broad jump (10-8), bench press (33 reps) and Wonderlic intelligence test (31). “When that guy came down the assembly line it was a special day for the Almighty,” said another scout. “He was feeling real good about what he was doing. You do see some lapses but I do think he will live up to the A&M tradition of Von Miller. If Ziggy Ansah is a 5 on talent level, this guy’s a 6. We’re talking a whole different level.” Finished with 145 tackles (48 ½ for loss), 32 ½ sacks and seven forced fumbles. “Straight-laced,” said a third scout. “Well-liked. Motor doesn’t always run hot. Deep thinker. Into jazz.” From Arlington, Texas. “He leaves a lot to be desired,” a fourth scout said. “He’s a good athlete but there are stretches of him not being productive. He’s not really a tough guy. He’s a flash player. I don’t think he plays hard. He’s got burst and speed but I’d take (Joey) Bosa.”
2. SOLOMON THOMAS, Stanford (6-2½, 272, 4.70, 1): Third-year sophomore. “Reminds me of John Randle,” said one scout. “Quick and active, strong and powerful.” On the short side to play 5-technique and lacks bulk for 3-technique. “He’s a little bigger and probably more explosive than Brandon Graham,” said a second scout. “He’s not Aaron Donald but he’s like that. He will win with his quickness and his movement.” Finished with 101 tackles (25 ½ for loss) and 11 ½ sacks in 27 games. “Jonathan Allen is a steadier player but he’s more of a big-play guy,” said a third scout. “He’s an intense and relentless competitor. Makes plays when you have to make plays. He has great measurables, and he backs that up.” Team captain scored 24 on the Wonderlic. “He’s a can’t-miss guy,” said a fourth scout. “People worked him out at linebacker. Love that dude. This kid knows how to play the game.” From Coppell, Texas.
3. MALIK McDOWELL, Michigan State (6-6½, 297, 4.87, 1-2): Third-year junior. “Classic boom or bust,” one scout said. “You turn on the Notre Dame game this year and a couple others and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ He showed you everything you want. Then he decided to go through the motions.” Long arms (34 ¾ inches), big hands (10 ½) and a Wonderlic of 15. “Tremendous athlete,” another scout said. “He’s got a very narrow stance he got knocked around (in). Can be undisciplined. He’ll go around blocks. He’ll guess. He needs the right attitude to complete his package.” Played well in 2015 but was awful in ’16. Finished with 90 tackles (24 ½ for loss) and 7 ½ sacks. Played extensively at NT in 2015 but projects more to 3-technique or 5-technique in the NFL. “He’s freaky talented,” said a third scout. “All you’ve got to do is put on the national semifinal game last year and he kicked the crap out of Alabama up front. Watch Notre Dame this year. He knocked the crap out of their linemen. He was unbelievable. But there are some really bad games where he checked out. Now the character, he’s got bust written all over him.” From Detroit.
4. TACO CHARLTON, Michigan (6-5½, 274, 4.83, 1-2): Played through an ankle injury in 2016, his first as a starter. “He appeared on the scene for just one year,” said one scout. “I don’t know where he’s been. I don’t think he could stand up. More of a down guy. He did have a good year but we’re a little nervous about him.” Some 3-4 teams feel he could play OLB. “For what we’re asking, (yes),” a second scout said. “His 40 time was not good but there are games this guy can do whatever he wants as a rusher. I entertained the thought of him being the best rusher in the draft. There’s times this guy one-arm bull-rushes guys and just humiliates them. He’s tall, but he can bend and get low.” Playing DE, finished with 94 tackles (27 ½ for loss) and 18 ½ sacks. Wonderlic of 22. “Reminded me of (Cameron) Heyward, the kid from Ohio State that Pittsburgh took in the first (2011), but he’s better,” a third scout. “More movement skills. No, no, no, no, noooo, you would be doing him and your defense a disservice at outside backer. There’s no way he can play up.” From Pickerington, Ohio.
5. JORDAN WILLIS, Kansas State (6-3½, 255, 4.56, 1-2): Three-year starter at DE. “He’s a 4-3 D-end who has all the athletic skills to stand up,” said one scout. “More in the mode of a Charles Haley how he rushes the passer. He’s got power, technique and sneaky athleticism.” Finished with 114 tackles (40 ½ for loss) and 26 sacks. “His floor is very good and not a bad ceiling,” said another scout. “I’d play him as a 4-3 end but he could play in the 3-4 if he had to. Neat thing about him, he’s a package. Can play on all three downs. Very good with his hands. Rushes with a plan. Got enough twitch to win the one on one. On first down he’s a really good leverage player. Not a wow guy but a really good player.” From Kansas City. “He’s wound a little tight but he worked out like a gem,” said a third scout. “High character guy.”
6. TIM WILLIAMS, Alabama (6-3, 243, 4.66, 2): Designated pass rusher for the Crimson Tide (34 games, two starts). “Hell of a rusher,” said one scout. “Wins with get-off and bend and technique. He can get skinny. Not a total liability against the run but lacks size, strength at the point of attack. He’s always going to struggle against the run and some of the dropping stuff from overall intelligence and awareness.” Finished with just 57 tackles (30 for loss) and 20 sacks. Wonderlic of 20. Admitted having failed drug tests. “Doesn’t take care of his body,” a second scout said. “His problem is he’s a (expletive) weight-room guy and he smokes too much. He’s light in the (expletive), but at least he is powerful for a light in the (expletive) guy. He ran 4.7 but plays like a 4.5 guy. He can bend, and all those guys at Alabama are so good with their hands.” Short arms (32 ¾), small hands (9 ¼). “Dynamite pass rusher but I don’t trust him off the field as far as I can throw him,” said a third scout. “He’s selfish. I don’t think he really likes football. I don’t think that’s good.” From Baton Rouge, La.
7. TANOH KPASSAGNON, Villanova (6-7, 286, 4.80, 2): Two-year starter at DE in a 3-4. “I compared him to Julius Peppers, the basketball player that’s still raw,” said one scout. “He could turn out to be the best of all of them because of his height, arm length (35 5/8), hand size (10 5/8). This would be like an Al Davis pick.” Compared by one scout to Sean Jones, the Raiders’ second-round pick from Northeastern in 1984. “Sean Jones had some stiffness,” the scout said. “This guy is a lot more athletic. He and Myles Garrett might be the two best athletes of the group.” Finished with 105 tackles (37 ½ for loss) and 22 sacks. “You want a small-school guy to at least flash at the Senior Bowl,” said another scout. “He definitely did that. You can’t draw them up any better than the way he looks.” From Ambler, Pa. “Man, I think he’s a long ways off,” a third scout said. “He’s huge but the instincts are off. Not a natural football player.”
8. DeMARCUS WALKER, Florida State (6-3½, 281, 4.94, 2-3): Third leading sacker in Seminoles’ history. “He’s a technician who wins with effort and toughness,” said one scout. “Reminds me a little bit of Trey Flowers. Not very athletic but knows how to play.” Finished with 179 tackles (41 ½ for loss) and 28 ½ sacks, including 16 as a senior. “When they put him inside in subpackages as a 3-technique he beat a lot of bad offensive linemen with a swim move,” a second scout said. “He’s not big enough to play inside.” Doubtful, too, if he can play OLB. “He had a ton of production but he’s a limited athlete,” a third scout said. “Kind of won more with toughness than anything else. I didn’t see the pass rush transferring to the NFL.” From Jacksonville.
9. TARELL BASHAM, Ohio (6-3½, 268, 4.74, 3): Played 50 games for the Bobcats at DE. “He’s got something to work with,” said one scout. “Got a little bit of pass-rush juice. Good effort. Just a little raw.” Might be able to play OLB. “He did a lot of settling and reading more than attacking,” said a second scout. “He’ll need an awful lot of technique coaching (but) he has the tools to be a base end.” Finished with 152 tackles (38 ½ for loss) and 27 sacks. “Little immature,” said a third scout. “Kind of coasted. What’s his commitment going to be like? Yeah, he’s a good kid, but is he going to respond to being in the NFL on a daily basis? Or is he going to revert to, ‘I’m the best guy on a (expletive) team?’” From Rocky Mount, N.C.
10. DaWUANE SMOOT, Illinois (6-3, 262, 4.80, 3): Played considerably better as a junior than as a senior. “Thought he’d be better this year,” said one scout. “Little bit of an underachiever.” Projects as a RE in a 4-3 or OLB in a 3-4. “Explosive, plays hard, aggressive,” said a second scout. “More effort than speed. Savvy rusher. Slippery. Can be physical in the run game and bend the corner. Blue-collar kid with a blue-collar game.” Finished with 137 tackles (38 ½ for loss) and 16 ½ sacks. “He’s a fluid enough athlete (for OLB),” a third scout said. “If you don’t mind your outside guy being stiff he can do it. Just kind of an up-field rusher.” From Groveport, Ohio.
OTHERS: Carl Lawson, Auburn; Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M; Derek Rivers, Youngstown; Fadol Brown, Mississippi; Isaac Rochell, Notre Dame; Deatrich Wise, Arkansas; Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic; Keionta Davis, Tennessee-Chattanooga; Avery Moss, Youngstown; Garrett Sickels, Penn State; Bryan Cox, Florida; Ifeadi Odonigbo, Northwestern.
MCGINN'S DRAFT SERIES: Position-by-position analysis, rankings
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1. JONATHAN ALLEN, Alabama (6-2½, 285, 5.01, 1): Started 38 of 50 games on a great defense. “Prototype 3-technique,” one scout said. “He’s a beast in that gap. Good enough pass rusher. He can strike you, control the line of scrimmage, find the football and throw you. He’s a man. Very fundamental player.” Finished with 152 tackles (44½ for loss) and 28 sacks. “He’s not athletic,” a second scout said. “He’s got good hips but he doesn’t have speed. He’s good instinctively, plays hard and you can’t move the dude. His lower half is tree trunks.” Several teams have major reservations about his surgical shoulders. “If he passes your medical … but a fantastic kid,” a third scout said. “Awesome football player. Probably the most versatile defensive lineman I’ve ever done in terms of position flex.” Wonderlic of 27. “You just wonder if he can manhandle people like he did in college,” said a fourth scout. From Leesburg, Va. Added a fifth: “Hell of a player but an Alabama beat-up guy, I’m telling you. There’s a lot of them beat-up. He’s a sure thing if he holds up medically.”
2. CHRIS WORMLEY, Michigan (6-5, 297, 4.85, 2): Started 30 of 51 games. “Just very bland,” said one scout. “There’s no flash. He’s got a solid floor but the floor and the ceiling are almost touching each other. A by-the-numbers guy. There won’t be a lot of production. You’re just going to get a solid player. A guy like that can get overdrafted based on his position and the intangibles. Normally a guy like that you look at in the fourth, fifth rounds. (Jared) Odrick was a much better player.” Finished with 123 tackles (33 for loss) and 18 sacks. “Without question, he’s an impact run defender,” said a second scout. “He’s the kind of personality you could develop. I think you see a lot of try-hard stuff. He’ll be a guy that will fight hard to try to get better.” Has played DE and DT. “I don’t know if he’ll ever go to a Pro Bowl but he’ll be a great starter for like 10 years,” said a third scout. “There’s just no wow other than you have to stop and realize the kid is 300 and he runs 4.77. Moves like a basketball player. You want him to play a little more angry but that’s just not who he is. Always in the right place.” Wonderlic of 29. From Toledo, Ohio.
3. DALVIN TOMLINSON, Alabama (6-3, 311, 5.16, 2): Probably the best NT available. “He’s one of the best interviews I’ve done in the last 10 years,” said one scout. “He got accepted to Harvard. That was one of his offers. He’s a three-time state wrestling champion in Georgia. His dad died when he was 5 and his mom died when he was 17. Kind of a great story.” Had to wait his turn, eventually starting as a senior. “Just a lunch-pail, tough, strong, gives-it-his-all every-play guy,” said another scout. “He’s had the knees but they (team doctors) say he’s fine.” Tore both ACLs in 2012-’13. Finished with 122 tackles (10 ½ for loss) and four sacks. Didn’t work out well. “Old-school classic nose,” said a third scout. “Reminds me a lot of Aubrayo Franklin. He’s one of the toughest guys ever to come through that school. He’s a grown man. (Jarran) Reed is better. More length, height, faster. Very similar style of play.” Wonderlic of 25. From McDonaugh, Ga.
4. CALEB BRANTLEY, Florida (6-2½, 306, 5.15, 2-3): “Of all the DTs, he probably is the best pass rusher,” said one scout. Fourth-year junior with a Wonderlic of 29. “He’s lazy,” said another scout. “Guy doesn’t always play hard. He’s got some penetration. Got some dog in him. He’s a definite potential bust guy.” Finished with 80 tackles (20½ for loss) and 5½ sacks. Involved in a bar altercation April 13 in Gainesville but after investigation one team has cleared him of wrongdoing. Weighed 330 out of high school in Crescent City, Fla. “Wasn’t in real good shape at pro day,” said a third scout. “He doesn’t bring it all the time. You’re going to have to kick him in the (expletive).” Much more interested in shooting gaps than anchoring against double teams. “I didn’t like his style of play,” said a fourth scout. “I didn’t like his toughness. He’s not that big. Doesn’t play heavy.”
5. MONTRAVIOUS ADAMS, Auburn (6-3½, 304, 4.88, 2-3): Three-year starter played much better as a senior than ever before. “Played with a lot more passion this year,” said one scout. “He was a dog a couple years ago. Can be disruptive if you just say, ‘Go.’ Never going to be a dependable, consistent player because of lack of instincts and the stiffness.” Rapid takeoff as a 3-technique somewhat reminiscent of how ex-Packer Jerel Worthy played at Michigan State. “Worthy’s a better player,” said another scout. “Montravious can run in a straight line but he’s stiff in the lower (body).” Started 36 of 52 games, finishing with 151 tackles (21 for loss) and 11 sacks. “Not a great run defender,” said a third scout. “He’s got strength. He just has not learned how to take on doubles and know when they’re coming.” From Vienna, Ga.
6. LARRY OGUNJOBI, Charlotte (6-2½, 304, 5.01, 3): Started 46 games, most often at NT in a 3-4. “He is an athlete for sure,” said one scout. “Got great takeoff, great quickness, really good kid. He overthinks a lot of stuff. He’ll get pushed around at the point of attack when you have to two-gap. Plays hard.” Wonderlic of 36; considering medical school. “He’s talented, really talented,” another scout said. “There’s some issues with the shoulders, no doubt about it.” Had labrum surgery on each shoulder. Finished with 217 tackles (49 for loss) and 13 sacks. First Charlotte player to appear in the Senior Bowl. “If he’s focused, he can jolt you and shed you,” said a third scout. “But quite often he gets hung up on blocks. He will be a project.” From Greensboro, N.C.
7. EDDIE VANDERDOES, UCLA (6-3, 303, 4.98, 3-4): Top-ranked defensive lineman in the nation as a freshman from Auburn, Calif. Came off a broken foot to start alongside Kenny Clark in 2014 and again in the ’15 opener before suffering a torn ACL. “Everyone there (UCLA) thought he was better than the guy Green Bay drafted (Clark),” said one scout. “He came back last year (’16) and he’s lazy and got to 340 and was sluggish. Then he goes to the Senior Bowl and he’s 310 or whatever and played good. Not sure what you’re going to get with him. He was kind of entitled at UCLA. They let him get away with anything he wanted. Wasn’t really coached well. He’s a big athlete. You’re betting on the come.” Finished with 126 tackles (13 ½ for loss) and four sacks. Baseball pitcher in high school. “He can be dominant with his flashes,” another scout said. “He’s just not consistent. He was coddled there. It’s a matter of getting around people that won’t take his little sob story about how his hangnail hurts or something and pressure him into playing. He’s a first-round talent.” Wonderlic of 20.
8. JALEEL JOHNSON, Iowa (6-2½, 316, 5.27, 3-4): Two-year starter. Mediocre spring workouts didn’t help his cause. “He has feel, plays with leverage, stacks O-linemen and then disengages,” said one scout. “I just liked him as a run player. I don’t think he plays on third down. Tested poorly. He’s a nose. In the right system I could see him starting.” Hold-the-fort type NT. “Good hand placement,” another scout said. “More of a bull rusher. He’s not an agile guy.” Finished with 112 tackles (18 for loss) and 12 sacks, including 7½ in 2016. Played at Montini Catholic in suburban Chicago.
9. NAZAIR JONES, North Carolina (6-5, 304, 5.11, 3-4): Longest arms (34⅞) and biggest hands (10⅞) of the DTs. “He’s non-typical of a lot of North Carolina defensive players in that he’s tough, plays hard and is a good worker,” said one scout. “They have a history of finesse guys and good athletes. He was the opposite. Great kid. Really liked his interview.” Diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome when, at 16, he woke up one morning and couldn’t walk. He told teams it’s incurable, but with weekly medication he has played without incident. Finished with 146 tackles (22 for loss) and five sacks. “He’s pretty good hand controlling his area and, with a head of steam, can roll up a blocker and get to the quarterback,” said another scout. “There’s enough there that he’s going to be a pretty damn good player.” From Roanoke Rapids, N.C.
10. DAVON GODCHAUX, Louisiana State (6-3½, 305, 5.19, 4): Third-year junior declared a year early with 34 starts in 37 games. “He’s late off the ball a lot this year,” said one scout. “Got good size. He’ll flash.” Overcame a harrowing upbringing in Plaquemine, La. The type of player some scouts root for. “There’s a lot of bad stuff that’s been around him in the past,” said one. “The fact he’s gotten where he is now should be a credit to him.” Finished with 145 tackles (19 for loss) and 12½ sacks. “Two-gap interior guy,” said another scout. “Not going to give you much pass rush but can hold the point.”
OTHERS: Elijah Qualls, Washington; Carlos Watkins, Clemson; D.J. Jones, Mississippi; Treyvon Hester, Toledo; Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State; Ryan Glasgow, Michigan; Grover Stewart, Albany (Ga.) State; Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, Southern California; Jarron Jones, Notre Dame; Tanzel Smart, Tulane; Josh Tupou, Colorado; Charles Walker, ex-Oklahoma.
D.J. Jones, NT, Mississippi: Nonqualifier out of Greenville, S.C., who helped East Mississippi win two national junior-college championships. Backed up at Ole Miss in 2015 before starting at NT last year. Disruptive and strong (28 reps on the bench), but also short (6-0 ½, 316) and short-armed (32 ½ inches).
Grover Stewart, DT, Albany State (Ga.): Massive (6-4½, 334) interior player from the Division II ranks. Visited a ton of teams this spring after flashing in the NFLPA all-star game, running a 5.17 40 and bench-pressing 30 times. He also amassed 27 sacks in four seasons. Don’t be surprised if he sneaks into the fourth or fifth round.
Packers' Pick to Remember
Cletidus Hunt, DT, Kentucky State: Third-round pick in 1999. Was a fixture at 3-technique from 2000-’04. His Journal Sentinel grades were C-plus in 2000, C in ’01, B in ’02 and ’03, and C-plus in ’04. GM Mike Sherman signed him to a six-year, $25.35 million deal in March 2003. Limited by tendinitis in both knees, Hunt was cut by GM Ted Thompson on Sept. 3, 2005 and never played again. He finished with 17 sacks.
Quote to Note
AFC personnel man: “One thing about Michigan guys. Michigan people have always been tough. There’s very few people that have come out of Michigan that aren’t tough. It’s just the mentality of the program since (Bo) Schembechler.”