Draft 2020: Interior Defensive Line
We’re on to the Interior Defensive Linemen, which in my opinion has the biggest hit or miss potential of any position this year and most other years for that matter. Finding the right Interior Defensive Lineman can make the world of difference, but ask the Jets about Quinnen Williams and you’ll know that it doesn’t always work out. Let’s start with the much talked about prospect from Auburn…
Derrick Brown – Auburn
So lets start by saying that I like Derrick Brown a fair amount. His violent get off forces double teams or else lose yards. Even when facing double teams, his violence means that he’ll still win plays, thanks in no small part to an ability to get low and place his hands inside to grab and move back linemen, he dictates where they’re going. Then there’s his ability to get off blocks to make plays, whether it be double or triple teams. Derrick Brown on the goal line could be a difference maker. Brown is a physical freak, attacking the backfield, blowing past blockers like he was shot out of a cannon and his combine performance doesn’t concern me. Everything you need to know about Brown is evident from his play, he is a bully with speed and a will to win. Derrick Brown is an impressive prospect that should garner interest from the numerous teams that want to improve their matchups in the middle.
I genuinely believe there is a huge variance between what Interior Defensive Linemen can do in college and what they can do in the NFL. We’ve seen players at the position who were nailed on safest prospects in the draft struggle, because all of a sudden the people they’re playing against are faster, smarter and more physically imposing. In terms of talent and physical attributes, Brown is one of the most impressive players in the draft this year, but buyer beware to a team that decides to take him in the top 5. That being said, if he turns out to be half the player he has been in college, a team could end up with a genuine game changer.
One last point. Modern Interior Defensive Linemen, generally need to be pass rushers. Whilst I think he can blast past offensive lines, I don’t think he’s necessarily the most solid interior pass rusher in the draft. That would be…
Javon Kinlaw – South Carolina
Kinlaw is another physical freak. Whilst not as refined as Brown, Kinlaw is a wrecking machine in the pass game. With his size, speed and variety of moves, I wouldn’t put it past a team trying to line him up on the outside of a line to create space in the middle, or as a genuine Edge Rushing threat.
Javon Kinlaw is very much an Interior D-Lineman however and takes on double teams with relative ease, although maybe it feels like he’s just moving them, even if it’s not in the right direction, which can create running lanes. Also sometimes his footwork lets him down a little, which in the NFL could be a problem.
Whilst he is an unrefined talent, it does appear that he possesses the required skillset to be a modern Interior Lineman, creating pass rush from the inside and having the ability to line up across the line in a variety of positions, allowing for some scheme versatility, although I think defensive end in a 3-4 would really suit him, he is a mismatch wherever, that could push outside to scare tackles. As with every player nothing is guaranteed, but with a little work, Kinlaw could be a premium defensive tackle.
Jordan Elliott – Missouri
There are some wow plays for Elliott, but also some questionable plays. Jordan looks lean for a IDL, but he uses it. Could be a good fit for 3-4 defensive end or versatile DT in a 4-3. For example Elliott lined up in the Niners wide 9 could be deadly and an affective tool to help out edge rushers.
Elliott has his own pass rushing moves himself, which could see him line up for some snaps on the outside, using his leaner than average frame to push tackles out the way. In short I think Elliott could become a useful interior pass rusher, which will be appealing to fair few teams.
So what separates Jordan Elliott from the other IDL’s? Well there are some plays where he gets bullied and moved out the way and struggles occasionally when relied on to take on double teams, which both Kinlaw and Brown have no such concerns. Also his ability to get past the O-line is excellent, but sometimes he gets a bit lost when he gets there. Finally Missouri’s scheme gave Elliott a lot of help on pass rush downs, bringing DBs in for the blitz package and attacking with overwhelming numbers. Whereas the top 2 won battles in 3 and 4 man fronts, Elliott had a lot of help.
All of this goes to say that Elliott is a great prospect and with his frame could help out a team that want to add some interior pass rush, with versatility to push outside, just maybe he’s not the physical freak that both Brown and Kinlaw are.
Ross Blacklock – TCU
Ross Blacklock is the lightest player on the list so far at 290 lbs and possibly one of the most interesting. Ross has played at pretty much every position across the line, showing promise at every position.
He is however a raw prospect that you’d want on a team that doesn’t need him to come in and play immediately and with a coach that has a history of moulding pass rushing Defensive Tackles.
This is after all what he could be. A modern pass rushing Interior Defensive Lineman, with the potential athletic traits to push outside as a makeshift nickel pass rusher. Ross Blacklock shows crazy speed off the snap and an ability to chase backs and mobile QBs and Running Backs.
Inexperience could be an issue however after missing the whole of 2018 with an achilles injury and is entering the draft with only 2 years of experience, which shows sometimes when Interior Offensive Lineman manage to despatch him with relative ease, mostly down to a lack of technique.
Blacklock has been one of my favourite players to watch at the position, with a ton of potential. He just needs to land in the right spot.
Justin Madubuike – Texas A&M
Another IDL under 300 lbs, Justin Madubuike is problem for offences operating within the hash marks. His ability to shed blockers to make plays, in both the interior run game and to get to QBs is what should make him a solid pickup for a team needing some help on the interior.
Madubuike, played on a ton of 4 man fronts, however a lot were disguised 3 man fronts where he was the outside rusher. Could make him an intriguing prospect on both 4-3/3-4 defenses and useful in sub packages (which lets be honest.. is the new norm)
When you watch him there is a selection of “wow” plays, mixed in with some headscratchers and really struggles to make plays across the line. If the running back is making a play on the opposite side he struggles to even come close to get through blocks. This could be a concern in outside runs and QB bootlegs.
There is the makings of a solid IDL here, with descent stats to back up the production you see on tape. Could possibly do with sitting in a backup role though to learn the ropes and undo some bad habits, before becoming a solid starter in the NFL.
Neville Gallimore – Oklahoma
A lot of the above players could play nose, Neville Gallimore should play nose. Can play interior on a base 4-3 and nose on 3-4, Gallimore is both a chain mover and and a penetrating interior player. The fact that he has shown constant improvement at a position of need for a lot of teams in the NFL (despite it not being the flashiest), should see him drafted on day 2.
DaVon Hamilton – Ohio State
Hamilton has some insane stats as an interior pass rusher. The cynic would say that, that is helped by being on the same defence as Chase Young and Jeffrey Okudah. The optimist would say that he is the reason the Chase Young was able to have the season he had. The truth however is, that he is a solid IDL that could come into a team and be a presence on obvious passing downs. Probably would be the guy you bring in on an already stacked defence, rather than a centre piece player.
Raekwon Davis – Alabama
According to Todd McShay on the First Draft Podcast, Nick Saban said “Raekwon had some maturing to do” in college, and that family members put him back on the right track after some off the field issues. If he can get past those issues, then a team is going to pick up an absolute bargain on day 2 or 3 of the draft. Davis can be a force against the run and in the pass game, with some potential wrap up issues being something to work on. Aside from that and as long as a team can keep his head in the game, he could be a solid prospect, with quick hands and an ability to make use of his frame as an advantage.
Bravvion Roy – Baylor
Things that are hard. Making a name as a nose tackle. Things that are harder making a name as a nose tackle on a 3 man rush. Roy is really interesting. The stats are there, racked up a ton of tackles and plays behind the line, all on a 3 man rush, which in a vacuum is quite impressive. However there are many plays where he’s bullied out of position, which for a nose is a concern. Would have liked to see him get a combine invite though.
McTelvin Agim – Arkansas
There will be coaches that fall in love with McTelvin. Big bodied DT that has natural pass rush instincts. The tape shows a player that can get past blockers, but has a lot to learn about the position, after moving inside from Defensive End. The work in progress moments show up on tape, with what looks like a mental process regarding hand placement and leverage that says that he’s still consciously thinking about what he has to do. I think though at some point it might click, so if you put him with the right DC he could go on to be a late round bargain.
Leki Fotu – Utah
Leki is a solid Interior Defender. The concern for me would be that he doesn’t use his size and power to move the line. Whilst he can however get past linemen, he might struggle as an interior rusher in the NFL, so will need to learn to use his size more. When you watch him, he does have some dominant plays and there is definitely something there, but he might need some time to adjust to the NFL and possibly rework how he attacks offensive lines.
Right, that’s another position group done! Next up for me, Edge Rushers, which I am very excited about. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these posts, so let is know on twitter (@gridirongents)