Next up on my positional superlatives series are defensive lineman which features two prospects ranked among my top 50 prospects and eight with day one or day two grades. This year’s crop of defensive lineman is underwhelming.
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Best Prospect: Malik McDowell, Michigan State
Malik McDowell is a versatile defensive lineman that can win with finesse and power. With the quickness to sidestep blocks, McDowell is able to shoot gaps and has the outstanding flexibility necessary to bend around offensive linemen. Also capable of winning with power components, McDowell can handle power right at him by leveraging his hips and halting blocks with powerful hands.
As a pass rusher, McDowell has the quickness and length that easily puts stress on an offensive lineman’s feet to stay square with his surge. The gripe on McDowell is a clear lack of consistency that is maddening. Given his exciting physical traits, McDowell has been a bit of a underachiever, but the traits and skill set are present and that of an NFL starter.
Best Resume: Tanzel Smart, Tulane
My resume grades factor the injury history, off-field concerns and accolades that a player accumulates in their collegiate career and Smart scored the best. Appearing in 48 games (36 starts), Smart had no notable injury concerns and was clean off the field. He finished his career with back-to-back first team all-conference honors and a Senior Bowl Invitation.
Best Size: Jarron Jones, Notre Dame
My size metric weighs all official measurements against positional averages over the last five years and Jones scored the best. Jones checks in at 6056, 316 pounds with 35 ½” arms and 10 ½” hands.
Best Production: Larry Ogunjobi, UNC-Charlotte
My production metric factors total games started and consistency in statistical output and Ogunjobi scored the highest. Ogunjobi started all 46 games in his college career and racked up 217 tackles, 49 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.
Best Athlete: Chris Wormley, Michigan
My athleticism metric weighs all athletic testing results against positional averages over the last five years and Wormley had the best score.
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.84
- 10-Yard Split: 1.67
- Bench Press: 23
- Vertical Jump: 31 ½”
- Broad Jump: 9’2’’
- 3-Cone: 7.08
- Short-Shuttle: 4.55
Best Run Defender: Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama
Maintains gap integrity and is capable of defending two gaps. Powerful, stout, and difficult to move. Splits double teams and knows how to sink his hips and anchor. Extends his arms into the blocker’s chest plate and is able to reset the line of scrimmage. Stacks blocks and easily sheds. Can play through blocks and locate the football.
Best Pass Rusher: Malik McDowell, Michigan State
Wins with power, burst, hand technique, and length. Effective rushing inside or outside. Puts considerable stress on the blocker’s feet when attacking gaps/crossing face.
Most Lateral Influence: Malik McDowell, Michigan State
Tremendous lateral ability to work along the line of scrimmage and impact plays. Strong change of direction skills help him in pursuit. Flexible throughout his frame to contort his body and remain stout.
Best Play Strength: Chris Wormley, Michigan
Difficult man to move. Exceptional anchor. Can sink his hips, releverage his hips, and hold his ground. Heavy hands. Power is how he wins and he does it at a high level.
Top Sleeper: Treyvon Hester, Toledo
Treyvon Hester dropped 20 pounds prior to his senior season, and it proved to be an excellent move. He improved his athleticism, which resulted in his best football at the end of his career. Hester is an active player off the ball that strikes quickly in the neutral zone with violent hands. Capable of resetting the line of scrimmage and quickly finding the football, Hester puts stress on blockers to quickly square their hips.
Hester has good burst and hand usage as a pass-rusher, making him a viable three-down player. Hester does need to improve his pad level, as much of what he initially gains with his activity off the ball is quickly mitigated because his pads get too high.
There are also noticeable moments during which his motor runs cold. Hester profiles as a rotational 3-technique in a 4-3 alignment and offers some upside to grow if he puts it all together.
Be sure to check out the rest of the positional superlatives series: