Going back to last fall, the strength and depth of the 2019 NFL draft interior DL class has been viewed very favorably. It not only includes several prospects who should become solid NFL players, but there are all shapes and sizes to choose from to fit every scheme. For the purpose of this discussion, I am assuming that Rashan Gary from Michigan and Boston College's Zach Allen — both of whom played outside in college — will be inside players at the next level.
The D-line talent is so good at Alabama that most of the players have to wait their turn to play. Such was the case with Williams, who, after redshirting one year and playing in the rotation the next, took charge last season and dominated. I believe that Williams is just scratching the surface of how good he can become. He might be a generational defensive tackle.
Gary played mostly outside at Michigan but did on occasion slide inside in pass-rush situations. He’s a freak athlete for his size, running 4.58, posting a 38” vertical jump and a 10’ standing long jump. The problem with Gary is he is not a consistent competitor. For a player with his natural talent, he doesn’t come close to making the number of plays he should. Still, when he wants to light it up, he can be very difficult to block. Gary is going to go very early, but in my opinion he is a risk-reward type of pick.
At 6’4 – 340, Lawrence is a huge man. At Indy he surprised by running a 5.05 at that size before pulling a hammy. He has yet to work out for clubs because of the pull and may not be able to before the draft. Before seeing that speed, I thought he was strictly a nose, but he may be able to play either DT spot or even as a 5-technique. He may never be a great pass rusher, but you can bet he will be a force against the run and at least collapse the pocket on pass downs.
Like Gary, Oliver is a freak athlete. But he is undersized and, again like Gary, never lived up to expectations in college. He flashed, but reality is his numbers declined every year and last season he played like he didn’t want to get hurt. The club that takes Oliver could hit a home run or strike out. I feel he will be best as a 3-technique but has to find a way to hold that 280-plus pounds in order to hold up vs. NFL O-linemen.
At 6’3 – 308, Hill is a freak of an athlete, running 5.04, going 35” in the vertical jump and 9’7 in the long jump. He has great quickness and body control and very good strength and power. He flashes on tape and can be very difficult to block one-on-one. The problem with Hill is that he had some issues at UCF, which must be thoroughly vetted before a club will commit to Hill in the Draft. He has first-round talent and it’s a safe bet that he won’t last past the second.
Like Gary, Allen played outside at BC but will be an inside player in the NFL. At 6’4 – 281 with the frame to carry 290-plus pounds he will be a 3- or 5-tech in the NFL. Allen plays with a great motor and goes all-out on every down. He is a physical player who also has very good hand use. He ran only 5.00 in the 40, but he is very quick and explosive. He may not go as early as some of the others but could turn out to be a better NFL player. This guy is a winner.
No one denies Tillery’s talent. He got better every year at Notre Dame, culminating in a solid 2018 (30 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks). What most evaluators are unsure of is Tillery’s love and commitment to the game. If decision makers feel good about Tillery, he could go as early as the second round. Like some of the others, he has positon versatility and should be able to play in any scheme.
Wilkins wasn't great in any one area but very solid in all areas at Clemson, which is how he will be as an NFL player. He can defend the run and rush the passer. He as the versatility to play as a nose or 3-tech in a 4-3 or play as a 5-tech in a 3-4. The '30' teams would prefer a guy with longer arms (Wilkins measured 32 ½”), so the 4-3 clubs may rate him a bit higher on their boards.
Simmons will be a wild card in this Draft because it’s almost a certainty that he won’t be able to play in 2019 because of an ACL injury suffered just before the combine. I am not as high on Simmons as others, but I do see his talent. I don’t feel he is as dominant as others feel. Still, he has the talent to become a very good NFL defensive tackle. With the injury, I don’t know how early he will go, but generally in cases like this, a team that has multiple picks in the second or third round could pull the trigger on him.
The above are the consensus top interior defensive linemen. There will be clubs that have other players in the mix with these players, but be certain: The position is deep and clubs can get quality guys through Day 2 and solid developmental types early on Day 3.