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New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Tackles
Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.
*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS
QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW
As previously stated, the unknown surrounding what the NYG defense will actually look like can make this position group look pretty cloudy. No matter the case, it is widely considered the deepest and possibly the best position on the entire roster. Leonard Williams was franchised, Dalvin Tomlinson is coming off his best season, and Dexter Lawrence was one of the top 5 rookies in the league last year when it comes to overall grades. That is a really solid starting point for a defensive line that needs to be “multiple”, but the strength doesn’t end there. BJ Hill, even though he saw a dip in playing time, is a really reliable and solid fourth lineman who hasn’t missed a game in 2 years. Austin Johnson was signed from TEN to add a better backup nose tackle presence, he hasn’t missed a game in over three years. And lastly there are reasons to be optimistic about RJ McIntosh and Chris Slayton and their ability to provide quality depth and specific role playing. All in, this defensive line is capable of dominating the inside running game and keeping the linebackers clean. On passing downs, they would be an ideal compliment to an elite outside pass rush presence but they aren’t capable of being the primary force in that department.
90+ All Pro Projection
85+: Pro Bowl Projection
81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away
79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter
77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter
74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter
71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter
68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy
65-67: Preferred UDFA
60-64: Undrafted FA
TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
- Derrick Brown / Auburn / 6’5 – 326
Summary: Three year starter from Sugar Hill, Georgia. Two time All-SEC performer and unanimous 1st Team All American in 2019. Brown has been NFL-ready for multiple years now. This kind of power and speed don’t come around often but he also combines it with excellent on-field intelligence and an evolving skill set. He makes the kind of eye opening play week to week that makes him appear as a bidding star. While Brown doesn’t offer much variety as a pass rusher just yet, he is still considered a three down player because of how much his tool set and hustle can create. He is a fit for any scheme and can fill multiple spots along the defensive line.
*This is the exact kind of defensive tackle talent who Gettleman loves. Huge on all levels, violent and heavy on contact, dominant tendencies, and versatile. But could I really see him adding another DT talent to the team with as many roles they have elsewhere? Yes, I do. Both Tomlinson and Williams aren’t signed beyond 2020, and the draft is very much about your team moving forward. The defensive line is where he wants to be strong and deep. Brown is widely considered a top 10 player in this class, some have him in the top 5. All of that are reasons why DG could credibly go after him but I don’t think it will happen, especially if they stay at 4. At the end of the day though, I think NYG will have players graded higher and he will want to spread resources out after doing what he did along the defensive line over the past 12 months.
- Javon Kinlaw / South Carolina / 6’5 – 324
Summary: Fourth year senior from Charleston, South Carolina. Started for three years at South Carolina after spending his freshman year at Jones County Junior College. After a childhood filled with adversity, Kinlaw molded himself from overweight junior college hopeful to a probable first round pick. The tool set is among the best in the class at the position and there is enough tape to conform he is much more than a blank slate with potential. Kinlaw has shown the ability to take over games from the middle with his ability to create a new line of scrimmage and close in on the action with violence, power, and speed. There are several technique-based parts to his game that need work and consistency, but he is very coachable and will make a difference early even while he tries to learn the game.
*If you have some time, read up on Kinlaw’s upbringing, it is a great story. I’ve read that he is going top 10 and there is a chance he goes in front of Brown. I don’t see it grade wise, but Kinlaw’s tools are more impressive. He is 324 pounds and he has minimal loose meat on his frame and he could likely hold another 10-15 pounds without losing juice. He already has rare tools, that could put him over the top. His issues revolve around consistency and effort. He doesn’t always try hard and he doesn’t really know what he is doing yet. A team will need to be patient with him and he will need to work really hard on developing the skill set. If he reaches his upside, he can be the most dominant DT in the league and I mean that.
- Neville Gallimore / Oklahoma / 6’2 – 304
Summary: Fifth year senior from Ottawa, Ontario. A four year starter who has played up and down the Sooners defensive line. A two time All Big 12 honoree, including first team in 2019. Gallimore was the first ever Canadian to play in the high school US Army All-American Bowl. His combination of size, strength, and speed is hard to find and he progressed his skill set all five years in college. In a league where everyone is looking for more pass rushers, Gallimore is going to be a sought after asset. He is a really quick, disruptive force up the middle who can beat blockers off the ball and win post-engagement. He dropped about 25 pounds between 2018 and 2019 and even though he gave a little as a run defender, his ability to impact the passing game is tempting for any scheme.
*I was surprised to not see this kid in the draft last year. He went back to Oklahoma for his fifth year senior season, lost some weight, and showed he can wear another hat on the defensive line. Gallimore is really versatile, maybe the most versatile guy in this group. He can play big and stout, he can play leaner while adding more pass rush presence. There is an outside shot he slips into the end of round 1.
- Justin Madubuike / Texas A&M / 6’3 – 293
Summary: Junior entry from McKinney, Texas. Two-year starter who posted 10+ tackles for loss two straight seasons with his best football coming against his toughest competition. Madubuike may not be a fit for every team, thus his value is going to be hard to pinpoint. However this is a quick, powerful, 290+ pounder who has a knack for finding creases and lanes to the football. He is an ideal fit for a team that wants a throwback three technique who can shoot gaps and cause havoc. If a team wants him on the field to stay at home and absorb blockers while maintaining his anchor, he will struggle. While he has to be carefully implemented into a scheme, he has the upside of being a top shelf interior pass rusher who can still make a difference on running downs.
*I don’t see the fit with NYG here, regardless of whether or not he drops draft weekend. As said in the summary, he won’t be a fit for every scheme but then again, he has a high pass rush ceiling and good coaches will always find a way to work with that.
- Ross Blacklock / TCU / 6’3 – 290
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Missouri City, Texas. A two year starter who ended his career with a 2019 1st Team All Big 12 honor. Blacklock opened eyes as a redshirt freshman in 2017 but a torn achilles tendon prior to the start of 2018 forced him to miss the year. He bounced back with vengeance, sharing the team lead with 3.5 sacks while adding 9.5 tackles for loss. Blacklock is a disruptive penetrator who has excellent size and burst. He can close a gap in a hurry in pursuit but also shows a power game upon contact with blockers. He is an upside-based pick wjp can be a package defender right away with the potential of being a top tier interior pass rusher down the road.
*Some are putting this kid in the round 1 discussion, some have him going in round 3. The lack size and length is a concern for me when it comes to every down duty, but there is no denying his ability to burst through the line and find the ball. He can be a disruptor from the three-technique position, but I wouldn’t want him as a stay at home guy. Similar to Madubuike, he needs the right role.
- Raekwon Davis / Alabama / 6’6 – 311
Summary: Senior entry. Three year starter from Meridian, Alabama. Three time All SEC defender and s 2019 All American. Davis put himself onto the national radar as a sophomore in 2017 with 69 tackles and 8.5 sacks. The tool set, as we are used to seeing from the Alabama program, was elite. He was wrecking havoc with his combination of hustle, length, and speed. Fast forward two years and hasn’t been able to match that production, most notably as a pass rusher. There is still a sense of rawness to his game and once can rightfully question how well he can perform week to week. The inconsistencies can be maddening at times but he still flashes dominant traits. He can be a solid starter or rotational player, but there are certain roles he needs to steer clear from.
*Davis may get drafted a lot higher than this because of his ceiling. He has shown in the past that he can be a dominant inside force. The inconsistency was maddening though and we can’t blame coaching. If he couldn’t put it together week to week coming from that program, I think there is plenty of credible reason to believe he will be best used on a rotation basis in the NFL.
- DaVon Hamilton / Ohio State / 6’4 – 320
Summary: Fifth year senior entry. One year starter who finished 3rd Team All Big 10 in 2019. Hamilton was part of a really deep and talented defensive line group in is early years, which made it tough for him to see the field. He finally got his shot as a senior and did not disappoint. He had 10.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. He is a big, long, thick interior defender who will be able to handle the size and strength of the NFL right away. He needs to clean up hand techniques and time will tell if he is simply a role player or someone who can stay on the field. Even though his upside is limited, he can still be a solid, important player who best fits in a 4-3 front.
*It is a tough sell to use a day 1 or day 2 pick on a guy who was really a 1 year contributor/starter. But coaches reports on him are glowing and he is the kind of alpha-male you put on your defensive line and the overall presence of the group is elevated. Of all the talent on the OSU defense, it was this guy who everyone viewed as the power-force. Not the most talented, but he is a safe bet to at least be a solid player who can start in multiple schemes.
- Jordan Elliot / Missouri / 6’4 – 302
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Missouri City, Texas. Two-year starter. Began his career at Texas after transferring following the 2016 season. Elliot is a penetrator with size and finishing power who can impose his will on ball carriers. He has plus-speed and quickness in space and can be a package-player at the next level. He doesn’t engage his lower half enough and gives too much ground against the running game and double teams to be viewed as an every down player at this point but with the amount of defensive line rotations the league has now, he will have a place.
*If you catch the right game, you will walk away from it saying Elliot is a 2nd round pick. He is a good athlete, pursues well, and moves like a guy who plays at 270 pounds. There are some things I don’t like about his game though revolving around pad level and hand usage. There is a lot of work to be done here but yes, he has pass rush potential which could get him drafted higher than this.
- John Penisini / Utah / 6’1 – 318
Summary: Fifth year senior from West Jordan, Utah. Two year starter who was 2nd team All Pac 12 in both 2018 and 2019. Began his career at Snow College in 2015 and sat out 2016 before taking the field for Utah in 2017. Penisini is a dirty-work defender who doesn’t jump off the screen with talent of the box score with production. But his style of play, his body, and his smarts make him an incredibly effective player on running downs. He plays low and strong, rarely giving an inch, to free up defenders around him. When a play is there to be made, he will make it. Penisini isn’t going to be much of a pass rusher but this is the kind of 2-gapper every defense wants on their roster. A very underrated prospect.
*I’ll tell ya what, when I spent the week down at Shrine in January, Penisini was the guy who improved his stock the most via his play. He was dominant at times. I don’t think many will have a grade on him where I do, but I am really confident this kid is going to play early in his career and may end up being a top notch nose tackle in the league. Not a guy who fills up the stat sheet, but one who makes play to play impact and helps others out. Don’t be surprised if you see NYG add him to their DT group day 3, he can be multiple.
- Leki Fotu / Utah / 6’5 – 330
Summary: Senior entry from West Valley City, Utah. Two year starter who was 2nd Team All Pac 12 in 2018 and 1st Team in 2019. Also added a 2nd Team All American honor as a senior. Fotu played just one year of high school football, as he had an extensive and accomplished history with rugby. His physical tool set is rare, as he possesses top tier size and thickness but is still a rather comfortable athlete. For a player this big and athletic, he doesn’t dominate the point of attack like he should but a case can rightfully be made that he is still figuring the game out. At the every least, Fotu can be a two gap run defender who frees up linebackers and will make the occasional play on the ball himself. He is a try-hard player who will stick around in the league for awhile, but may never be enough of a pass rusher to be considered an every down threat.
*Most have Fotu higher than this, and I won’t fault them for it. He is a really good body, he is still relatively new to the game, and he plays hard. Give a coach this kind of frame and hustle to work with, and they will be pleased. He plays a bit too high for my liking and there were long stretches where he disappeared. I still see day three value here though, he can play a role right away and there is some upside if he can figure out the skill set.
- Benito Jones / Ole Miss / 6’1 – 316
Summary: Senior entry from Waynesboro, Mississippi. Four year starter who came to Ole Miss as a 5-star recruit and the 2016 Mississippi High School Player of the Year. Earned 2nd Team All SEC in 2019. Jones is the classic defensive tackle force who often gets overlooked when it comes to accolades and awards. He does a lot of dirty work that elevates players around him, but rarely gets his name called when outsiders discuss impact players. Coaches and scouts will see just how good of an every down force he is, and can be. He has always worked on the family farm during the offseason and that kind of power and natural strength shows up on tape. He is very effective with his hands and he shows surprising pop out of his stance. He has a quicker first step than most will assume and combined with his tool set, it will cause offensive lines to plan around him. He is the kind of player who impacts the game so many ways and he will outperform several players drafted ahead of him.
*It sounds like I have a higher grade on Jones than what is out there in the league. I re-watched a few things and it only assured me that I have the right outlook on him. Jones is going to be a really solid nose tackle. While that role may not be as widely uses as it used to be, there are still enough teams that use it. Jones screams PIT to me. That old school nose that makes a huge difference. I’m not sure NYG is confident in what is behind Lawrence in that role and if Jones actually does fall into late day three like I have been told, he would be a great get.
- Darrion Daniels / Nebraska / 6’3 – 311
Summary: Fifth year senior from Dallas, Texas. Two year starter at Oklahoma State and a starter in his lone season at Nebraska as a grad transfer. Team captain who earned Honorable Mention All Big 10 honors in 2019. Daniels is a high-character player who will show no hesitation in doing the dirty work inside for a defense. He can swallow space and blockers consistently, freeing up linebackers to do their job against the run. He won’t be an every down player, as he simply doesn’t offer much against the pass athletically. He has limited range and doesn’t fight through contact. Daniels won’t be a fit for every scheme, but he will find a home as a backup nose tackle in a 3-4 front.
*The grad transfer situation really worked out for Daniels. Coming into the year, he was barely a thought for most but his performance in the unique Nebraska defense opened eyes. He got a the nod to play at the Senior Bowl and I thought he was one of the top interior run defenders there. He is a classic dirty work guy and that teams that use a 3-4 front will like him enough to call on him earlier than others.
- McTelvin Agim / Arkansas / 6’3 – 309
Summary: Senior entry from Texarkana, Texas. A four year starter who played defensive end from 2016-2018 before moving inside for good as a senior. Agim was a five star recruit out of high school who had a blend of size, speed, and strength that was rare. He was a two time state champion in the shot put who was clocked sub 4.6 in the forty. While his speed has taken a hit as he put on 40 pounds since then, his tool set is still considered to be a major plus. Agim will flash good burst and power off the ball and now that he is inside full time, where he should have been all four years of his college career, he can develop at the position a bit better and get rid of the technique deficiencies. He isn’t a stout run defender and will disappear for stretches, but he is a solid rotational prospect who can be a very solid 3rd down option for 4-3 fronts.
*This is the kind of prospect who a coach will see on paper, pop in some film, and immediately put him on their list. Coaches always think they can develop the tools and Agim is no slouch there. He had an underwhelming career compared to what people projected, but he was moved around a ton. If a team can really hone in on a specific spot, Agim has the potential to be an oversized penetrator and disruptor. He has a lot of work to do, but the base is higher than most down here.
- Khalil Davis / Nebraska / 6’1 – 308
Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Blue Springs, Missouri. A one year starter who was a significant part of their defensive line rotation for three seasons. Won the team’s Defensive Lineman of the Year Award in both 2018 and 2019. Honorable Mention All Big 10 in 2018, 3rd Team in 2019. Davis increased his production every year of his career to the point where he led the Cornhuskers in sacks with 8 as a senior while also leading the defensive line in tackles for loss as both a junior and senior. The plus-athlete has rare speed and pop for the position and he has experience lining up inside the tackle and outside the tight end. That kind of versatility will help him stick to a roster early and his long term outlook will heavily depend on him developing his skill set to hide his size and length issues. He is not stout against the run but he will create plays in space.
*Man, I watched the Davis twins and spoke with them at length down at Shrine week. Both are great kids and both had a great week down there in practice. Khalil is slightly better. He was dominating the one on ones against offensive linemen with is ability to get off the ball fast, low, and active. I’m not sure I want him as a stay at home run defender, as he just doesn’t have the size, but let this guy in on passing downs and let him shoot the gap. He is going to make things happen. His versatility is a plus.
- Robert Landers / Ohio State / 6’1- 285
Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Dayton, Ohio. A rotational defensive lineman on a team that has been packed with NFL talent there for years. Landers has never been the most talented, or even close to it, defender in the room at Ohio State but it was hard to ignore him and the overachiever style of play. He is built low to the ground and his explosion out of his stance with tornado-hands make him a tough and annoying matchup for blockers. He has subtle but assertive and productive movement that can give him enough space to slip through beyond the line of scrimmage. Landers won’t be a fit for every scheme, but he is a solid bet to make an impact on a situational basis.
*I am taking a chance on Landers. He is undersized on multiple levels but in an era where defensive linemen rotate more than ever, I am trying to find a spot on the 53 man roster for him no matter what scheme I run. He gets off the ball so well, plays with such easy but powerful knee bend, and nobody was able to consistently lock him up. He made so much impact on that OSU front but he wasn’t an every down guy and there were others who simply got the attention.
- Malcolm Roach / Texas: 69
- Carlos Davis / Nebraska: 69
- Broderick Washington / Texas Tech: 69
- Tyler Clark / Georgia: 68
- Eli Hanback / Virginia: 68
- Brendon Hayes / Central Florida: 68
- Bravvion Roy / Baylor: 67
- Raequan Williams / Michigan State: 67
- Tershawn Wharton: 67
- Auzoyah Alufoahi / West Georgia: 67
I have tried to break down what Miami did along their defensive front last season as best I could in an effort to try and find what the team needs up front. When it comes to the DT positions, I think they are all set for 2020. They have quality starters, quality backups, and a couple guys in the wings worth developing another season. The question resides in post-2020 though. We do not know if Leonard Williams and/or Dalvin Tomlinson will be in blue. Austin Johnson signed a one-year contract. If you believe in the approach of adding defensive line talent every year in the draft (I do, when you have 6+ picks), there needs to be one added.
Now within the scheme, one can make the argument they should look more at a 3-4/4-3 defensive end type (the Crash end) because that is where they are a bit thin right now. So maybe we take 1 or 2 guys from the EDGE preview which is coming up on Tuesday. If NYG can be patient and pursue an interior body on day 3 with one of those late picks, I would be pleased. I think you can find a guy back there who will add some competition to the back end group (McIntosh-Slayton) and potentially start to fill the hole that will be created if Tomlinson and/or Johnson and/or Williams don’t come back.
The only scenario where I can see them going after an early DT talent like Derrick Brown is if they have a Tomlinson trade planned. I can’t see it though, as he has one year left on a rookie deal and he isn’t that special. We have seen crazier things happen though and if DG is as stubborn as some make him out to be, well then here you go.