Apr 122021
 
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Alim McNeill, North Carolina State Wolfpack (November 30, 2019)

Alim McNeill – © USA TODAY Sports

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-30 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

As if often the case, a strong defensive tackle group like what NYG had in 2020 was overlooked by many. The trio of Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson was, at worst, a top 5 trio of interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Williams, after signing a monster-sized contract, will return after a career year. Lawrence, with multiple years left on his rookie contract, will return with a bit more expected of him. Tomlinson, however, left town for MIN a la Linval Joseph. They are left with a formidable trio of tackles that can fill in for Tomlinson, albeit on a slightly lower level. Austin Johnson, B.J. Hill, and newly signed Danny Shelton will keep this group deep. Remember, Hill was essentially the odd man out when it came to playing time over the past 2 years after finishing his rookie season in 2018 with 5.5 sacks. He is entering a contract year and I would bet a lot of money we are going to see a different level of performance out of him.

The rest of the depth chart is filled with replaceable players. I don’t want to talk down on the likes of R.J. McIntosh (who I liked a lot out of Miami), Danny Moa, Breeland Speaks, and Niko Lalos. What I mean though, is that there is room for a rookie on this team. Hill, Shelton, and Johnson are all free agents after the 2021 season. The long-term depth spending at this spot will be limited with the Williams contract on the books. So with all of that in mind, there is a spot for a new body.

GRADING SCALE

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

1. Alim McNeill / NC State / 6’2-320

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Raleigh, North Carolina. Two-year starter that finished his career first team all ACC. McNeill has played in multiple defensive schemes that had him play in multiple roles. The transition from 4-3 to 3-4 made the assumption his production would go down, but it went in the opposite direction. While he did prove he can two-gap inside, McNeill’s upfield burst and explosion provided an extra punch to his game that can make him useable in so many different situations. There is some skill development that needs to take place when it comes to hand usage and lateral balance, but this is a player that will play like a boulder against the run and a missile against the pass. Not an easy combination to find.

*I don’t have any true first round grades at the DT position in this class. The first 2 guys on this list can end up playing like one, though. When I first saw McNeill play in the fall, I thought he would be an ideal fit for the hole left by the eventual Tomlinson departure. He can play over center, fill roles in both the 4-3 and 3-4 front, and shows underrated pass rush potential. As time went, I realized he wouldn’t be available in the middle rounds because of a poor DT class, and he ended up grading out pretty well. I bet he is a 2nd rounder and if a good scheme gets their hands on him, he will be a very good player. Unsung hero type.

2. Christian Barmore / Alabama / 6’4-310

Grade: 79

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Just a one-year starter that was heavily involved in the defensive rotation both seasons. 1st Team All SEC in 2020. Barmore appears to be the next in line from the Alabama program that has been pumping quality defensive linemen into the NFL for years. He has just as much natural talent and upside of those that came before him, but he is slightly behind in the technique and consistency realms. He checks all the boxes when looking at measurables and there have been several flashes of him tying it all together. The height, length, and frame make him an attractive asset to try and develop. He was woefully inconsistent within a few key, borderline vital components to the position. High risk, high reward player that can be an every down force if he cleans things up. The talent is there.

*I made the mistake of putting a 4th round ground on KC defensive tackle Chris Jones in 2016. I didn’t love the build/body, I hated the inconsistency, and I overlooked his talent. Barmore is a woefully similar prospect. Jones is one of the top DTs in the game and while I do think Barmore has the talent to get to that level, he has a longer way to go than Jones did coming out. Barmore looks absolutely dominant at times. His length, reach, and burst is a hard combination to find. Someone out there is going to think they can make him a star and I won’t blame them. I’ve seen guys like this fail more often that succeed, however. So even though I am trying to avoid the mistake I did with Jones, I am only going to put a 2nd round grade on him.

3. Daviyon Nixon / Iowa / 6’3-313

Grade: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Spent one season at Iowa Western Junior College where he started. Redshirted at Iowa in 2018 before playing a rotational role in 2019 and starting in 2020. Earned 1st Team All Big 12 and All-American honors in 2020 while also finishing as a finalist for the Outland Trophy and Nagurski Award respectively. The Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year broke out this past season with 13.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks. His athleticism and instincts jump off the screen. He has a body that needs to develop more, specifically below the waist. In the meantime, he will offer pass rush potential and should be a solid option to play a gap specific role where he can win the initial movement battle and use that hunger and natural strength to finish plays.

*There isn’t enough talk about Nixon’s upside. He is the best big-body that penetrates consistently. There is a metric some teams use that revolves around plays behind the scrimmage (Pressures + TFL/Sack) per snap played. Nixon’s 2020 season was in some REALLY good company when it comes to guys that have reached a certain number in college and how it translated to success in the NFL. He still has a lot to learn too. He can be a quality every down threat within a year or two.

4. Jay Tufele / USC / 6’2-305

Grade: 77

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Salt Lake City, Utah. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors in 2019. Opted out of the 2020 season. Tufele was the team’s defensive lineman of the year the last time he stepped foot on the field. He is a dirty-work player that already has NFL-caliber power presence and hand strength. He is a solid two-gap option that will occasionally surprise with quality pass rush skills that stem from his ability to shorten the pocket. His athletic upside is limited, and he may be best suited for a rotational role. There are some lower body mechanics that need to be hammered out to hinder those speed and twitch shortcomings.

*Oregon stud left tackle Penei Sewell allowed 1 sack over his career. Who was it against? Tufele. That doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things but hey, fun fact for you that I bet your buddies won’t know. Anyway, Tufele is what he is. He won’t be a star, but I can see him being a really solid number three DT on a team. He can play in multiple fronts as well, but I think ideally he lands in a 4-3.

5. Bobby Brown III / Texas A& M / 6’3-315

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Arlington, Texas. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All SEC honors in 2020. Brown III started to break out a bit down the stretch in the shortened 2020 season, showing dominant athletic traits. He has an enormously wide frame that carries 320+ pounds with ease. The movement in space can be downright scary for any ball carrier he in pursuit of. The amount of force he can create on contact is not common. Brown III is still a really inconsistent player though. His techniques and reaction times just aren’t there yet. He won’t get by on talent in the NFL, but if the right coach gets his hands on him, watch out.

*I think the league is going to really like Brown. He has the ideal NFL body for a space eating, multiple gap defender. He plays so wide, he’s got long arms and heavy hands, and he just plays dense. Every now and then I saw him burst toward the action in space and it would raise my eyebrows. He was woefully inconsistent, thus the grade, but a defensive line coach is going to watch him and will think he can make him a star. Wouldn’t surprise me to see him go day 2.

6. Tommy Togiai / Ohio State / 6’2-300

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Pocatello, Idaho. One-year starter that earned 2nd Team All Big 10 honors in 2020. Togiai is an athletic penetrator that can get off the ball well, but mostly excels with his post-engagement movement. He has twitchy, strong hands and can adjust his weight on demand to avoid getting locked onto. His switch is always on and will make an impact far away from the point of attack. He will struggle to maintain his position against the run, notably when multiple blockers get their hands on him. His anchor is poor, thus he likely won’t be an every down player at the next level. He can be a rotational pass rusher that will bring energy to a front.

*If a team strictly wants more juice from the interior defensive line, more disruption, more energy, Togiai can be their guy. He is a little limited play to play, but this guy brings the heat with the switch turned on at all times. I think he has more potential is a 4-3 front a as a 3-tech, this I’m not sure I see the fit with NYG unless they really change their front. I like pass rushers that play with this kind of engine.

7. Tyler Shelvin / LSU / 6’3-346

Grade: 75

Summary: Fourth year junior entry that opted out of the 2020 season. One-year starter that played in just 21 career games. Shelvin was the unsung hero of the 2019 National Championship squad. He usually lined up at nose tackle and constantly demanded double team blocking against the run. He excelled at anchoring his position and keeping teammates free. Shelvin also showed some surprising speed in pursuit for such a big player. His run defense will be upper-tier but for teams that want their interior linemen to impact the passing game, Shelvin may not be their guy. He has a limited repertoire there and he simple doesn’t have the capacity to be an every down player. He can be a high-end run defender if a team is looking for rotational help, but he may need some extra time to develop because of how little college football he played.

*I think Shelvin is a really good fit for the situation in NY. He can be the next interior defensive tackle that will man the inside role for years to come, but he won’t need to play right away. Shelvin has a ton of talent attached to a really big body. He just isn’t an every down guy right now, as conditioning appeared to be an issue and his pass rush looked limited when it came to his repertoire. But with the NT situation here for 2021, he won’t be needed unless injuries pile up. If he is around early-to-mid-day 3, I really like him for this defense. Would be a huge benefit to walk in to 2022 with him on the roster.

8. Ta’Quon Graham / Texas / 6’3-292

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Temple, Texas. Two-plus year starter that made the move from defensive end to defensive tackle when he arrived at Texas. Honorable Mention All-Big 12 in 2020. Graham is a really unique player when looking at his body type and style of play. He has elite length and a frame that plays extremely wide. He may be a tad undersized when it comes to traditional height and weight, but he is learning how to use his physical gifts as a true strength play to play. He is advanced with hand and lockout techniques, as seen how consistently he can stack and shed. Graham is a lineman that can be moved around, and the defense can always count on him to at least perform a specific role. He didn’t take off when it came to production and pass rush like many thought he would, but this is a player worth taking a chance on. If the snap anticipation improves, he can be an absolute menace.

*Another name I think NYG is going to be high on. A sub-300 pound defensive tackle? You need to look further into him. Graham has freakishly long arms and some of the best hands in this group when it comes to pop and technique. That can help negate size issues. And the fact he plays a little lighter does show up when it comes to twitch and movement, which gets him an advantage as a pass rusher. Throw in the fact he was moved all over that defensive front and I can see the fit with NYG day 3.

9. Levi Onwuzurike / Washington / 6’3-290

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior from Allen, Texas. Two-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season. 1st Team All-Pac 12 in 2019. Onwuzurike was a key part of a very talented Washington defense. He was mainly responsible for interior penetration that stemmed from his plus-speed and burst and ability to twist and turn his body. There was a lot of inconsistency on tape with his techniques, however. His pad level was all over the place despite having enough flexibility in his knees and ankles and it forced him into a lot of ineffective snaps. He did on occasion flash the ability to shoot and gap and disrupt the quarterback’s ability to step up in the pocket. He is athletic enough to take a chance on, but he will need time to develop more power and refine his skills to be more repeatable.

*There are a couple guys I know that have Onwuzurike top 3 in this group. He was up there in most stacks prior to the season, but deeper looks at his game didn’t go well. He gets too high and doesn’t play stout enough. Maybe someone will see the straight-line movement and like his upside, but I think he belongs day 3. I see too many holes.

10. Osa Odighizuwa / UCLA / 6’2-280

Grade: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior from Portland, Oregon. Three-year starter that was one of the more active defenders on the team. Led the Bruins’ defensive linemen in tackles in both 2019 and 2020. Osa is the brother of former New York Giants 3rd round pick Owamagbe. The younger brother has a little more versatility to his game but is a lesser athlete. Owamagbe will fit like a glove into defensive schemes that want to move their linemen back forth from head up on the tackle to the A-gaps. He has the hand strength and arm length to get solid initial strike on a consistent basis with the capability of quality shed techniques to make plays on the ball carrier. He can be a rotational disruptor but likely won’t fit as an every down player. There are a lot of inconsistencies in his game when it comes to balance and anchor and there isn’t anything special about his juice off the snap.

*Recognize that last name Giants fans? His brother was one of the more disappointing NYG draft picks in recent memory in my book. Can’t use that against the younger brother though. Osa has a really interesting body and style. Like Graham above, he is undersized for interior play but his arm length and hand strength make up for some of it. He has a wrestling background, and it shows up. He spent a lot of time at NT and was really effective. I think he will be a limited impact guy, but some teams are gravitating toward this kind of interior presence to rotate in.

11. Marvin Wilson / Florida State / 6’4-303

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas. Three-year starter that earned All-ACC honors in both 2019 and 2020, 1st Team in 2019. Wilson had both of those seasons cut short by different injuries, one to his hand and one to his leg. He never quite lived up to the five-star recruit potential, but he did flash throughout his career. He has a good frame and plus-speed in space to go with it. His power on the move is elite. What is odd about Wilson is the fact he seems more confident and surer in space but looks rigid and unsure in traffic. Playing this position, he needs to be better off the ball in traffic. He needs a lot of development coming from a patient coach and determined work ethic. The tools are there, as seen with his 3 blocked field goals in 6 games this past season. He will need time but there is an interesting upside.

*I know a scout that has a 2nd round grade on Wilson, and he told me that a few others do as well. Wilson has always been a name in the scouting community that has gotten a ton of hype. I just never saw it. Every time I scouted him, I left disappointed in the pad level and lack of consistent hand fighting in the trenches. I guess I can see the potential and ceiling when looking at the ability to move, but there was too much sloppy-ness in my eyes.

12. Milton Williams / Louisiana Tech / 6’3-284

Grade: 72

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Crowley, Texas. Two year starter that earned All-Conference USA honors both seasons, including 1st Team in 2020. Williams caught some steam this past fall. He isn’t an ever down player in every scheme, but for the hybrid fronts that want a guy that can play both 4-3 and 3-4 defensive end roles, he is going to be attractive. His hands are really heavy and he has a really stout lower half. That is always a really good place to start for a defensive lineman. His tool set may not be ideal when looking at long term projection, but he should be a serviceable option for most teams.

*Williams’ name gets mentioned a lot when I discuss defensive line with some guys. Everyone thinks he has a pro-ready game right now and he should be able to fill the hard-to-find role of CRASH end. NYG is one of the teams that looks for a guy like that. He lacks length though and it could turn them off. I question if he can truly be an effective every down guy, I see more of a backup that is good for a few snaps per game but don’t want him in there for a long time.

13. Jonathan Marshall / Arkansas / 6’3-310

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Shepherd, Texas. One-year starter that slowly but surely evolved into a quality player and pro prospect. He led the Razorbacks defensive linemen in tackles while showing some promising pass rush upside. Marshall has the pro body and heavy hand combination that can create an aura of upside. His get off is a little delayed and there are issues with his bend and late twitch, but this is a powerful kid that has some natural ability in him that others simply do not. He projects to the back end of a depth chart early in his career and could evolve the way he did at Arkansas into a contributing rotation lineman.

*The first time I saw Marshall, I wasn’t going into the tape looking for him. I was scouting an opposing offensive lineman and I left the tape wanting more of Marshall. He looks like a pro on so many levels. Good body, good hand striking, good base strength. If he had more natural post-snap flow and a bit more twitch, he would be up in the round 3-4 area. I like this kid as a guy you stash on the back end of the depth chart for a year and see what happens.

14. Marlon Tuipulotu / USC / 6’2-307

Grade: 70

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Independence, Oregon. Three-year starter that was forced to medically redshirt in 2017 because of multiple injuries to his knee and back respectively. Earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors in 2020. Tuipulotu is a well-sized interior defender that plays a powerful game capable of manning two gaps. He is a nose tackle candidate that will offer the occasional pass rush because of his ability to stack and shed lone blockers. He won’t profile as a high-end athlete and he still has a lot of work ahead of him to make his techniques more consistent and repeatable. He projects as a quality-depth option for all fronts.

*There isn’t much to get excited about when looking at Tuipulotu’s game, and that is just fine. He is a dirty-work kind of guy that, at the very least, you know will control his gap and occupy blockers. He is stout and smart, which can lead to a quality run defense presence. If he can be the 4th or 5th defensive tackle on a team, it would be a good spot for him.

15. Khyiris Tonga / BYU / 6’2-325

Grade: 69

Summary: Senior entry from West Valley, Utah. Started games all four years but took over a weekly role in 2018. Tonga has the potential of being a really solid 2-gap defender inside. He can play the role of a boulder, getting off the ball well and taking up space plus blockers to help keep the linebackers clean. He is an aggressive and passionate player that will make his fair share of plays inside the tackle box as well. Tonga may not offer much as a pass rusher but there are traits here that can give off an occasional productive bull rush. Tonga is a classic nose tackle that can be quietly effective on early downs especially if he fixes pad level and conditioning issues.

*Not every scheme is going to see a player here, he is strictly a 2-gap nose tackle. There are a few of them in this class, Tonga is one that I would want to use a late day 3 pick on with the assumption he is going to provide solid value at some point. I am confident in that. He just won’t offer a ton of long-term upside or pass rush. Really strong upper body but he lacks the natural bend and length. May not be a fit for NYG unless they are going to favor more toward the 3-4 snap by snap.

16. Naquan Jones / Michigan State / 6’3-313: 68

17. TJ Slaton / Florida / 6’4-330: 68

18. Roy Lopez / Arizona / 6’2-318: 68

19. Jaylen Twyman / Pittsburgh / 6’2/301: 68

20. Isaiahh Loudermilk / Wisconsin / 6’7-295: 67

21. Quinton Bohanna / Kentucky / 6’4-327: 67

22. Jordon Scott / Oregon / 6’1-311: 67

23. O’Bryan Goodson / Memphis / 6’1-297: 66

24. Austin Faoliu / Oregon / 6’3-287: 66

25. Darius Stills / West Virginia / 6’1-278: 65

26. Forrest Merrill / Arkansas State / 6’0-322: 65

27. Lorenzo Neal Jr / Purdue / 6’2-318: 64

28. Jack Heflin / Iowa / 6’3-307: 64

29. Mustafa Johnson / Colorado / 6’1-285: 63

30. Kenny Randall / Charleston / 6’3-305: 62

NYG APPROACH

NYG has done a very nice job building the entire group in recent years. They have hit on multiple draft picks, they found good value in late free agency periods, they made a spectacular trade, and they spent their money wisely. With the big contract now in the possession of Leonard Williams, however, it will be harder to hold on to young talent in the coming years. The loss of Dalvin Tomlinson and a possible loss of B.J. Hill next offseason in addition to their veterans being under a 1-year contract give the long-term projection of this group very gray. Dexter Lawrence and Williams are a really solid and complimentary (equally important) 1-2 punch that NYG will have in their back pocket for a few more years. However, there will be a hole or two beyond them as soon as next year and certainly beyond. Do you wait until next year to address this? Or do you use a mid-to-late round pick on a guy that can be brought in right now, groomed for a year, then put into the system? With what NYG is clearly going for in 2021, I think they should pass on DT talent this year. Maybe use a late pick or get aggressive here in the UDFA period, but nothing more. This is a woefully weak group and I think some teams will be reaching for talent in the middle rounds. Might as well wait, if you are asking me, for that UDFA period. For the record, the 2022 DT class is going to be very strong.

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David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

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