2017 NFL Scouting Combine
Jonathan Allen put together a fine performance at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. What other defensive lineman helped their draft stock? (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

The interior defensive lineman went through their drills at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. This year’s defensive line class is very deep, to say the least. There is no doubt that you can find productive starters within this group in the 4th and 5th rounds. Who caught my eye for better or worse in the interior defensive line group?

The Elite:

Jonathan Allen has a real chance to become the first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Alabama product looks like such a natural fit as a 5 technique in the 3-4. He has recorded 22.5 sacks from the defensive tackle spot showing elite pass rush ability. Allen has real violent hand at the point of attack and benched 21 reps. For his size at 6’3″, 286, he posted a 10 yard split of 1.72 which is impressive. I want you to watch how athletic he moves in space. It’s simply not fair for someone to drop his pad level and change direction that fast for a defensive lineman. Last year Alabama pumped out A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed but Jonathan Allen is the best pure pass rusher in that group.

I was not expecting to be such a fan of Solomon Thomas but he really put on a show. Thomas ran a 4.69 – 40 time to go along with a 1.66 – 10-yard split. This guy is explosive and sort of resembles the Michael Bennett type of guy who lines up outside on first and second down and lines up across the center on pass rushing downs. He also had a lot more power than I anticipated pumping out 30 bench press reps at 225. The video I have on Thomas shows him moving in space. For 6’3″, 273, he looked so good in the on-field drills that he may have even convinced some 3-4 teams to take a shot on him as an outside linebacker. At this point, I would be stunned if he doesn’t go in the top 5 picks of the draft.

Solid & Safe:

There are a bunch of defensive tackles you can get in this draft that virtually have no chance of becoming busts mainly because of their motor and creation of leverage to win the one on one battles. Montravius Adams from Auburn really pushes the pocket posting 4.5 sacks in 2016. He is terrific at bending his knees and really sink his pad level below the taller offensive lineman. His 1.72 – 10-yard split is outstanding for a 304-pound defensive tackle. Adams showed some elite pass rushing moves at the Senior Bowl practices as well.

Normally you don’t see many NFL prospects coming out of the University of Charlotte but Larry Ogunjobi put together a really nice day for him. I am a big fan of the defensive tackles that can create low centers of gravity and Ogunjobi does just that. He may have had the most sound technique of anyone when it came to creating a punch in the pad drills. Ogunjobi was sort of overshadowed at the Senior Bowl but really started to make a name for himself getting more comfortable transitioning from a small school. He ripped out 26 bench press reps as well.

Dalvin Tomlinson isn’t the twitchy athlete some teams look for but he is extremely stout in the run game. At 6’3″, 310, Tomlinson is going to eat up a gap along the offensive line. The best strength of Tomlinson may be his balance. That trait is easily on display as a former wrestler and soccer player. You love Tomlinson’s motor and is a tough assignment. He was one of the big winners at the Senior Bowl too.

One Gap Penetrators:

Teams that run 3-4 schemes need that one gap penetrator that is going to clog up the middle of the line of scrimmage. These guys are so important because they are impossible to run up the middle against. D.J. Jones led the charge in this category from Ole Miss. At 6’1″, 319, He ran a 5.04 – 40 time to go along with a 1.76 – 10-yard split. That 10-yard split number is phenomenal for a guy that size. When you watched him play he was stout in the run game but even created some pass rush on occasion with 4 sacks. His lateral short area quickness was something that really caught my attention during the on-field drills.

Stevie Tu’ikolovatu is really the only pure nose tackle at the combine. The USC nose tackle comes in a 331 and pushes the pocket forcing defenses to double team. He didn’t move very well in the drills but that was to be expected. He has a great power punch but will turn 26 by the start of the season which obviously concerns me. Stevie T was virtually unblockable in one on one drills at the Senior Bowl.

Other Notable Defensive Tackles:

Elijah Qualls, Isaac Rochell, Tanzel Smart, and Charles Walker on the other guys to keep an eye on. Qualls is a powerful presence benching 33 reps. He is very broad with great upper body strength but has really short arms (30.5 inches). Rochell was a guy who did himself a favor at the Senior Bowl. He moved much better in space than he collegiate teammate Jarron Jones did. Rochell looks like a natural fit for 3-4 defensive end needy teams and has that fluid pass rushing ability. Tanzel Smart is a high effort guy from Tulane. You could just tell that excitement this guy plays with showing a tremendous motor which speaks volumes as a relentless force in the middle of a defense. He showed really quick hand fighting but isn’t necessarily the best pure athlete. Finally, Charles Walker had a nice day but he has a ton of question marks surrounding him. Walker essentially quite Oklahoma early in the season to prepare for the NFL after some concussion concerns. He had some big production in 2015 with 6 sacks. He has shown enough flashes that he could be worth the risk.

*Carlos Watkins (Clemson), Demarcus Walker (Florida State), and Chris Wormley (Michigan) are players I’m high on that did not work out at the combine.

Potential Busts?

Caleb Brantley, Jaleel Johnson, Malik McDowell, and Eddie Vanderdoes are all highly rated defensive tackles that I would pass on. Brantley from Florida is highly inconsistent and doesn’t have barely any college production as the scouts hope he can develop his traits. I worry about his lateral quickness showing tight hip flection. McDowell shows a ton of lazy streak when you watch him in college. Guys that take too many plays off are often times bad news. Both Johnson and Vanderdoes were Senior Bowl participants. I thought Johnson’s initial get off was really poor and that showed with his lackluster 10 yard split in the 40 with a 1.92. That was the worst of any defensive lineman. Vanderdoes is way too out of control for my taste lacking any discipline and technique. That only gets you so far.

*Some other later round prospects that I thought really struggled in the drills includes: Fadol Brown, Jarron Jones, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Ifeadi Odenigbo, and Vincent Taylor

Top 5 Interior Lineman Prospects:

  1. Jonathan Allen (Alabama)
  2. Solomon Thomas (Stanford)
  3. Montravius Adams (Auburn)
  4. Larry Ogunjobi (Charlotte)
  5. Carlos Watkins (Clemson)

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