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2021 Defensive Line Big Board


(image credit: Kirthmon F. Dozier - Detroit Free Press)


Written By: Joseph Yun


The 2021 NFL Draft process is now in the final stretch run before the real show begins in due time. The fat lady is in Cleveland warming up her pipes. Big boards are likely finalized and teams are practicing for the real thing. Welcome to the 2021 edition of the positional big boards!


The defensive line class doesn’t have that certain lead alpha dog type of prospect this year but features plenty of depth scattered through the draft. Who are the top EDGE and IDL prospects in the class? Who will be the next great one to make life changing money from the ranks like Shaq Barrett did from the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers?


If you missed the previous articles in the series this year, they are linked below


Note: All RAS scores were courtesy of relativeathleticscores.com and @MathBomb


Note 2: All Blitzalytics scores are courtesy of an internal grading system based on the 10 point scale.



EDGE



- The former Wolverine had a great 2020 season and has positioned himself as the potential first EDGE off the board. He’s an athletic marvel as the RAS score indicates. Still improving as a technician but the tools are there. He played all over Michigan’s defense so he isn’t limited to one side. While he’s athletic for the position, he isn’t the most bendy or quick twitch like his colleagues. Character and work ethic are major pluses. I see a lot of Vikings star EDGE man Danielle Hunter in his game. Both weren’t all world game breaking talents in college but Paye strikes me as a dude who will develop on a similar track in the pros like Hunter. He has all the prerequisites to succeed as a 4-3 defensive end with some coverage responsibilities but can play 3-4 off ball linebacker in bursts. If Paye slips to the 20s, some team will get a steal.


Draft Projection: Top 15


RAS: 9.34


Blitzalytics Grade: 8.15


Pro Comp: Danielle Hunter / Brandon Graham



- Ojulari really came on during the 2020 season after showing brief flashes of what was to come in 2019. He’s an athlete with really good technical proficiency and football IQ. Probably the most bendy and quick twitch EDGE in the class. The bowl game against Cincinnati was probably his coup de grace where he was influential throughout the game. Physically and stylistically, he most resembles Tennessee Titans’ star man Harold Landry with the athleticism to get around the corner. He has a shot at being the first edge prospect off the board but will likely settle for second place. Ojulari is a premier athlete in a class full of guys who tested well and could be used well in a 3-4 off ball role.


Draft Projection: First Round


RAS: 8.17


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.37


Pro Comp: Harold Landry



- The former top overall ranked recruit in his class has had a winding journey to the NFL. He transferred to Miami from UCLA after a litany of medical issues while in Westwood. He has played a variety of roles for the Hurricanes including two point and three point stances. Phillips profiles similar to Saints EDGE Marcus Davenport and could go in a similar range as the former UTSA man. Relentless dude who doesn’t quit on a play. The concern is that he’s been productive for only one year. One of the taller EDGE players in the class. He plays tall so leverage can be an issue. Still learning the position as well so he may need to be brought along slowly.


Draft Projection: Top 25


RAS: 9.87


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.45


Pro Comp: Marcus Davenport


4. Jayson Oweh Penn State


- Oweh has had a quite impressive draft process that has seen him bandied about Day 1 but an early Day 2 selection is likely in the cards for him. As the elite RAS score shows, he’s an exceptional athlete. Production wise, teams will question it a bit after a zero sack season in 2020. The former Nittany Lion pass rusher is still raw and inexperienced as a redshirt sophomore. He has the physical profile and playing style of current WFT breakout star Montez Sweat. His tools are tantalizing enough to merit consideration as a top five edge prospect in the class.


Draft Projection: First to Second Round


RAS: 9.92


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.13


Pro Comp: Montez Sweat



- Tryon opted out of the 2020 season after you guessed it, the Pac-12 bungled their way through the decision to return or not. He’s a great athlete that profiles in a similar manner to longtime NFL veteran Robert Quinn. Although he opted out, the 2019 tape earned him a top five ranking on the board. Tryon is a toolsy type of edge rusher that needs some more technical refinement but clearly the RAS shows great potential. He’s most likely to fit in a 3-4 linebacker type of role but has the frame to play in 4-3 defensive end role as well. There has been first round hype but I think he slips a little into the second round but not much. The former Huskie pass rusher is an intriguing project for some enterprising team with the right defensive staff. Could a team like Tennessee take him in the second round as a promising rookie next to stars Harold Landry and newly signed Bud Dupree?


Draft Projection: Second Round


RAS: 9.29


Blitzalytics Grade: 6.65


Pro Comp: Robert Quinn


6. Joseph Ossai Texas


- The versatile ATHLETE from Texas has all the tools you want in an EDGE prospect. He has athleticism in spades and the work ethic to improve all the physical capabilities. The height / weight / length are all there. He was a consistent producer the past two seasons as well so teams won’t have to worry about that end. Motor runs for days on end and he competes on every rep. Teams will love his versatile skill set as a 3-4 off ball linebacker and a guy who can rush forward as well with his hand in the dirt. Ossai’s play style, versatility, and physical profile reminds me of long tenured veteran EDGE Jamie Collins. He has garnered some talk of going in the first round but I think he settles in on Day 2 but won’t have to sweat it out for long.


Draft Projection: Second to Third Round


RAS: 9.49


Pro Comp: Jamie Collins


7. Payton Turner Houston


- Turner is a rising star in the class as a guy who was underrated throughout his college career with the Cougars. His play merited a Senior Bowl invite this past January. He has played everywhere on the line so the versatility is there. The stock has risen to the point where he might be selected in the middle of the third round. Size and style wise, he reminds of Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise, who also played both inside and outside. Turner’s size will likely keep him as a 4-3 defensive end but can play 3-4 EDGE in short bursts as the RAS isn’t too bad as one would say.


Draft Projection: Third Round


RAS: 9.74


Pro Comp: Deatrich Wise



- The most divisive EDGE prospect in the class is here! Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season after an outstanding 2019 campaign that netted him 15.5 sacks. To offset some weight concerns, he gained a fair amount of weight before the Senior Bowl (he didn’t participate but was around). He has the frame to hold the weight but we’ll see if it affected his overall athleticism. A physical mauler that’s fundamentally raw at this point in his career so teams are taking him based on potential. The medical issue is present as well with a 2018 broken ankle that cost him most of that season. Is he a one year wonder or can he develop more? He’s a bigger Dion Jordan. It’s likely that he will go in the first round but I’m hedging my bets here and going second.


Draft Projection: Second Round


RAS: 7.75


Blitzalytics Grade: 8.04


Pro Comp: Dion Jordan


9. Ronnie Perkins Oklahoma


- Perkins has been steadily rising up the boards during the offseason after being a consistent five to six sack guy for the Sooners. This past year is remarkable in that he got 5.5 sacks in just six games so the production can be had for some team. He’s physical at the point of attack and has heavy hands. There’s some growing to do in the fundamentals department but he has a good base to build off of. The RAS score belies his good athlete in there somewhere. He physically matches up to Yannick Ngakoue and Whitney Mercilus. Still, a team will select him somewhere on Day 2 and be happy to develop him.


Draft Projection: Second to Third Round


RAS: 5.12


Pro Comp: Yannick Ngakoue / Whitney Mercilus



- In the famous words of Jalen Rose, Boogie!! Basham is a bigger defensive end prospect at 281 so the continuing evolution to 4-3 DE will be best for him. He has an arsenal of pass rush moves to work from so blockers can’t easily target him. Ultra productive with 173 tackles and 19.5 sacks in career. He’s had an outstanding career despite being the only consistent asset on Wake Forest’s defense at times. Boogie matches up both athletically and stylistically to former Clemson end Shaq Lawson.


Draft Projection: Third Round


RAS: 9.38


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.69


Pro Comp: Shaq Lawson



- Smith is probably the most intriguing of the EDGE lot in the class. He has the length and sufficient (but not great) athleticism to play in a 3-4 system. The RAS isn’t great, admittedly but the athleticism isn’t the ace card. He presents a good case as a swing end / tackle type that gets drafted late Day 2 / early Day 3. The former Gator turned Blazer wins with quickness and length to overwhelm unprepared tackles. The versatility will get him drafted but further development will be needed due to a limited arsenal and frame. The scout is right in ascertaining that Smith profiles much like his namesake Preston.


Draft Projection: Third to Fourth Round


RAS: 2.97


Blitzalytics Grade: 6.78


Pro Comp: Preston Smith



- Toney has been the second banana to a couple of elite prospects but what a great second banana he is. He wins with raw athleticism and needs to further develop his arsenal of moves. Lateral quickness is really good with him and is solid in defending the run game. The size is a concern however at just 242 pounds. Can he add more weight? He profiles similar to former Virginia standout Eli Harold who had a couple of good years with the 49ers. The RAS score is indicative of his athleticism.


Draft Projection: Third to Fourth Round


RAS: 9.47


Blitzalytics Grade: 6.89


Pro Comp: Eli Harold / Barkevious Mingo



- Jones II helped the Panthers hold the line after star defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman opted out. He has a decent amount of lateral athleticism but the size is what he wins with. Power is the name of his game. The RAS indicates a guy with above average athleticism but not in the great territory. First step quickness is a plus. He has played exclusively in a 4-3 system so the transition to a 3-4 team might be a road too far. A 4-3 defensive end due to his size. He was one of the best EDGE rushers in the ACC last season. Tools are there but he needs work. The physical profile tends to look like former Ravens utility lineman Paul Kruger from Utah. Jones II merits a conversation in the third round at the least.


Draft Projection: Third Round


RAS: 6.27


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.1


Pro Comp: Paul Kruger


14. Quincy Roche Miami


- Roche transferred to Miami after a standout career at Temple. He’s probably the best EDGE in terms of overall fundamentals but the athleticism isn’t quite what it needs to be. The RAS score shows that. He was part of the dynamic pass rushing duo for Miami in 2020. There were size questions that dogged him a bit but after weighing in at 245, those questions have disappeared to a degree. He’s been well coached through his career and it shows in his hands and IQ. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he went higher than the projected third round. He is similar to former USC EDGE Uchenna Nwouse athletically and in style.


Draft Projection: Third Round


RAS: 6.40


Pro Comp: Uchenna Nwosu


15. Hamilcar Rashed, Jr Oregon State


- Rashed has been on the draft radar for a couple of years after helping to rebuild the Beavers into being competent. He’s an athlete who has experience in both rushing the passer and dropping back with little drop off in either. The technical part of the game is a bit shaky but the tools are there. He’s running on pure athleticism for a guy his size right now. The size (254 pounds) can place him as a 3-4 EDGE or 4-3 linebacker. Rashed was invited to the Senior Bowl as well. He profiles the same as former Jets early pick Marcus Smith. The former Beaver will likely see his name called early on Day 3.


Draft Projection: Fourth Round


RAS: 8.31


Pro Comp: Marcus Smith (Louisville)


16. Victor Dimujeke Duke


- The “other” half of the Duke EDGE duo. He’s the bigger of the pair so a future in the 4-3 will be in the cards for him. Dimujeke a limited athlete to a certain degree. He profiles in a similar manner to longtime Colts defensive end Robert Geathers. A middle Day 3 selection is likely for him.


Draft Projection: Fifth Round


RAS: 5.96


Pro Comp: Robert Geathers (Georgia)


17. Elerson Smith Northern Iowa


- Smith is an athlete who has been rising up the boards during the process. He’s all arms and legs at this point that could add a few more pounds to his frame. He was invited to the Senior Bowl as a result of his play in 2019. The FCS moving its season to spring 2021 made his mind up to opt out and prepare for the draft. He showed well during the Senior Bowl so that’s a good indicator for teams on his future. Lateral agility and quickness is a plus plus as the RAS shows. The former UNI product’s physical profile reminds me of former Georgia Tech prospect Michael Johnson. Strength isn’t his calling card as of right now but the athleticism will get him drafted on Day 3.


Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round


RAS: 9.72


Pro Comp: Michael Johnson (Georgia Tech)


18. Cameron Sample Tulane


- Sample had a great career for the Green Wave playing both on the interior and the perimeter. His relatively modest production (10.5 sacks in his career) can be put into great perspective as an interior defender. Paired with another outstanding line prospect in Patrick Johnson, he anchored the line. Teams will love his versatility, frame, and power. He was invited to the Senior Bowl as well. Athletically, he might not stick at EDGE full time but can play a swing role at the next level. Sample is comparable to former Florida State and Falcons defensive lineman Chauncey Davis size wise. He’ll likely settle in during the middle of Day 3 as a result.


Draft Projection: Fifth Round


RAS: 6.97


Pro Comp: Chauncey Davis



- From the same program that produced the illustrious career of Khalil Mack, here comes Koonce. He was a productive player, especially in 2019 with eight sacks and had five sacks in six games in 2020. Consistent as he posted three straight seasons of 30 total tackles. The RAS wasn’t available for him but the tape shows a consistent athlete who has shown quick bursts of greatness. Above average strength in his game. He has the ideal size to play in a 3-4 outside linebacker role but needs to work on developing his tools further. Football IQ is a major plus as he can diagnose quickly and strike fast. A Day 3 project that could develop into something further in the right system with his IQ. He profiles similar to another former Yellow Jacket edge rusher Jeremiah Attaochu.


Draft Projection: Fifth to Sixth Round


RAS: N/A


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.6


Pro Comp: Jeremiah Attaochu


20. Daelin Hayes Notre Dame


- The former Irish edge man checked in at 253 at Notre Dame’s Pro Day so he has the ability to get quicker. He has the length to be an impact defender in the run game. In an era of tweeners making waves in the league, Hayes is stuck in between the 3-4 and 4-3 based on his size. The athleticism is above average, especially at his weight. Could be a bit more technically refined but the physical tools are there. The Irish EDGE matches up well to former Florida defensive lineman Jeremy Mincey. A Day 3 selection.


Draft Projection: Sixth Round


RAS: 7.93


Pro Comp: Jeremy Mincey


IDL



- The latest and greatest interior prospect from the Crimson Tide factory. Barmore is the top ranked IDL in the class after a solid 2020 campaign. Versatile enough to play defensive tackle in a traditional 4-3 sense and big enough to play as a 3-4 nose in some instances. He’s not the quickest athlete out there but the power is immense. He’s a space eater with a modicum of athleticism to his name. A massive human being at 6’5 310 so the scout was correct in comparing him to the Panthers star tackle Kawann Short. The RAS score was somewhat surprising. He’s a solid concrete first round selection at this point.


Draft Projection: First Round


RAS: 8.22


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.57


Pro Comp: Kawann Short


2. Daviyon Nixon Iowa


- Nixon is an athletic prospect that led the interior of the Hawkeyes defense. He has all the physical intangibles like the athleticism, length, and adequate power to make a name for himself. 2020 was outstanding for him. Work ethic is a major plus. Will fight every dude in the phone booth as they say. He’ll likely go somewhere on Day 2 because of the raw skillset. Since Iowa is a majority 4-3 team, Nixon will be best served as a 4-3 tackle. The RAS is in line with his athleticism on the film. His profile is similar to former Jets’ first round selection Muhammad Wilkerson.


Draft Projection: Second to Third Round


RAS: 8.38


Pro Comp: Muhammad Wilkerson



- Onwuzurike opted out of the 2020 season so the 2019 tape is what gets him this high on the board. Levi O is an ATHLETE not only for his position but in general. He also has a ton of versatility in that he has played all over the Huskies defense including some edge work. That’s the biggest ace card for him. The former Washington IDL has an arsenal of pass rush moves to go to if his initial move fails. Very good spatial awareness and rarely gives up on a play. Still, he needs more seasoning after such a brief career in Seattle. Teams can line him up in either 4-3 or 3-4 due to his versatility. He’ll likely settle in the second round as a result. One of the best IDL prospects in the class. The athletic and play profile compares to former Auburn great Nick Fairley.


Draft Projection: Second Round


RAS: 8.73


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.31


Pro Comp: Nick Fairley


4. Tyler Shelvin LSU


- Well, the RAS is less than ideal to say the least. The former five star recruit is a giant dude. He weighed in at 350 during LSU’s Pro Day so it appears that he has lost some weight off his big frame. He’s not much of an athlete right now but can improve if he continues to drop the weight to get quicker. Run defense will be where he makes his shekels. Shelvin is limited to playing nose tackle in a 3-4 at this point in his career due to size. He compares to former Notre Dame lineman Louis Nix III athletically.


Draft Projection: Third to Fourth Round


RAS: 0.86


Pro Comp: Louis Nix III



- Tufele opted out of the 2020 season. His 2019 tape features a lot of power and athleticism for a guy his size. Lateral athleticism is really good. He doesn’t quit on any rep and uses strength to battle bigger linemen. He’s likely to get selected in the third round. Tufele is similar to former Florida State’s star defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan.


Draft Projection: Third Round


RAS: 6.46


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.85


Pro Comp: Timmy Jernigan


6. Khyris Tonga BYU


- Tonga is the latest BYU defensive lineman to try his luck at the pro level. He’s a big strong dude that term, strong as an ox was invented for. Not the greatest athlete despite the RAS indicating otherwise. He wins his battles through brute force. Relentless motor that won’t quit and scraps for every rep. Due to his size, he profiles more as a nose tackle in either the 4-3 or 3-4. The RAS indicates some athletic potential is there to be mined though. His physical attributes point towards former Washington lineman Elijah Qualls. He’s likely more a Day 3 selection than a Day 2 one but you never know.


Draft Projection: Third to Fourth Round


RAS: 7.24


Pro Comp: Elijah Qualls


7. Jaylen Twyman Pittsburgh


- Twyman was among the first to opt out of the 2020 season and probably the most hyped one to do so. 2019 saw him enter last season as a possible first round candidate but he slips into Day 3. He was productive in 2019 so there’s that. Athletic and somewhat undersized for the position so he's a classic tweener that can float between edge and tackle based on what scheme a team runs. The RAS won’t do him any favors however as it’s decently low for a prospect of his repute. Could also be locked into a 4-3 system as Pitt is almost exclusively based on that. He and former Florida lineman Dominique Easley nearly match up attributes wise.


Draft Projection: Fourth Round


RAS: 4.42


Pro Comp: Dominique Easley



- The former five star recruit never really played up to his hype, admittedly through some trying times in Tallahassee. He was getting hyped prior to the 2020 season as a possible Day 2 selection but it’s more likely that he slips to Day 3 due to play and injuries. Good spatial awareness and a versatile lineman that played a variety of roles for Florida State. Adequate athlete who was invited to the Senior Bowl where he didn’t stand out as one would hope. Still, if a team can get him right medically and technique wise, he’ll live up to his lofty billing. He compares to former Penn State lineman Devon Still.


Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round


RAS: 5.45


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.22


Pro Comp: Devon Still



- The man in the middle for the Ducks defense was Scott. He’s a stoutly built man albeit undersized for the position, height wise but the weight is there. Scott returned for a senior season and played through the shortened 2020 campaign despite all the mitigating circumstances that a pandemic brings. His play suffered a lot this past season, leading to speculation that he was hurt or it just wasn’t a scheme fit anymore. Not the greatest athlete in the world and is pretty defined as a 3-4 nose tackle at the next level. A selection in the middle of Day 3 might be in his future.


Draft Projection: Fifth Round


RAS: N/A


Blitzalytics Grade: 6.48


Pro Comp: DJ Jones / Sedrick Ellis


10. Osa Odighizuwa UCLA


- Double O emerged in 2020 for the Bruins as a versatile weapon who primarily played inside but had some outside edge reps as well. He’s a smidge undersized as a tackle but is kinda limited as an edge so a team will have to craft tweener roles for him as a backup swing type. He was invited to the Senior Bowl as well. It’s no shock that he tested relatively well in RAS. Regardless, a backup swing role is needed for every team and his versatility will get him drafted on Day 3. The comps are former Ohio State defender Dre’Mont Jordan or A&M IDL Kingsley Keke.


Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round


RAS: 7.64


Pro Comp: Dre’Mont Jordan / Kingsley Keke



- Slaton is a big man. He was purportedly weighing as much in the 350 range in some circles but he had slimmed down to 330 for Florida’s Pro Day. Motor is constantly running. Slaton has been rising up the boards after a solid 2020 campaign for the SEC East champions. He tested well in the RAS so the lost weight did wonders for him athletically. While he likely won’t have a predetermined team role as of yet, he can play nose tackle in a 3-4 before it gets figured out. I like him as a late Day 3 project.


Draft Projection: Sixth Round


RAS: 7.96


Blitzalytics Grade: 6.41


Pro Comp: Maliek Collins / Khyri Thornthon


12. Marlon Tuipulotu USC


- The “other” man who led the Trojans’ interior defense while Tufele opted out. Tuipulotu is a good prospect in his own right. A serviceable athlete that was caught between USC’s staff mismanagement but he played well in 2020 all things considered. Projects as a 4-3 defensive tackle in the pros. A team will love his athletic potential and take him somewhere between the fifth and sixth rounds.


Draft Projection: Fifth to Sixth Round


RAS: 6.78


13. Alim McNeill NC State


- The latest understudy of famed DL coach Kevin Patrick to make his way to the NFL. Seriously, Patrick is Southeastern Larry Johnson, Sr with the amount of talent he’s sent to the next level. McNeill played well in the run game and is still a bit raw in the pass rushing department but the tools are there. A very good athlete in terms of RAS score. Is he the next guy up to be drafted from the famous Patrick school of defensive linemen? Physically, he compares to Alabama DL Da’Ron Payne.


Draft Projection: Sixth Round


RAS: 8.53


Pro Comp: Da’Ron Payne


14. Tommy Togiai Ohio State


- Speaking of the aforementioned Larry Johnson, Sr, Togiai is the latest defensive line wonder that he’s developed into a future pro. He graded out highly in the RAS which ties to the film. Athletic and he holds up well at the point of attack. Hands are really good. Togiai finally got a chance to take a star turn in 2020 after sitting behind some big time names. He’ll likely get drafted higher than the projection. It’s possible that he sneaks into Day 2 but a fourth round selection is more his ceiling. I see a lot of former Michigan IDL Mike Martin in Togiai in terms of athleticism and size.


Draft Projection: Fifth to Sixth Round


RAS: 8.58


Pro Comp: Mike Martin





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