Levi Onwuzurike interior defensive linemen

2021 NFL Draft – Top 10 Interior Defensive Linemen

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Continuing our series on NFL draft prospects for the Green Bay Packers, today we’re naming our top 10 interior defensive linemen.

This is not the strongest group of interior defensive linemen in NFL draft history. In fact, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network recently said it’s one of the worst in recent memory.

With that in mind, any team that needs defensive line help in this year’s draft needs to be deliberate and intentional with their picks. Very few of this year’s draft candidates offer “the total package.” Some have a strong pass rush repertoire, some excel against the run, but there’s not a whole lot in terms of guys who can do it all.

That’s not to say there aren’t still NFL contributors on this list. Most of the interior defensive linemen we’ve scouted can or should have a role at the next level, even if it’s not a pronounced one. These 10 are the ones that rose to the top of the (admittedly shallow) pool to be the best IDL prospects this year.

1. Levi Onwuzurike, Washington

Onwuzurike is one of the best overall athletes in the class, and because of that has the potential to be effective in multiple facets of the game. Specifically, his agility and ability to make plays in space set him apart. Those skills both help him slide past blockers to rush the quarterback and get out on the edge to defend the run. Continuing to add strength to his frame will be essential, but he could be an every-down type of defensive lineman in the NFL.

2. Christian Barmore, Alabama

You’re getting plenty of power with Barmore, who showcased that in spades when he wrecked Ohio State’s offensive line in the most recent National Championship Game. He generates plenty of it naturally, and has heavy hands and a heavy first punch that make him a tough block up front. He doesn’t have the same sort of explosion as Onwuzurike or Daviyon Nixon, but he does also bring positional versatility, allowing him to line up wherever you need him on the interior.

3. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa

You don’t receive the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award with luck. Nixon shows good quickness and burst off the ball, which makes him valuable as a pass rusher inside. Nixon is something of a one-year wonder who will need to refine his game beyond simply being the best athlete on the field when he gets to the NFL, but the potential is there and is intriguing.

His athleticism isn’t restricted to the pass rush, by the way:

4. Alim McNeil, North Carolina State

McNeil is the best true 1-technique in our top 10. If you want a run stopper in the middle, McNeil should interest you. He’s both powerful and nimble, showing an ability to both overpower single blockers while also being able to shoot the gap and blow plays up in the backfield. McNeil has also expressed a willingness to do the dirty work in the middle to make his teammates shine, a necessary trait for an interior lineman.

5. Tommy Togiai, Ohio State

We have another good run stuffer on the defensive line who could be as much as serviceable against the pass at the next level. You’re likely getting a two-down player in Togiai, which would limit his ceiling but wouldn’t stop him from making some kind of impact. He’s also not quite the athlete on the move that Onwuzurike is, but he’s shown on tape that he can get out and make a stop in the open field.

6. Marvin Wilson, Florida State

Wilson’s high points are extremely tempting. He brings a quality pass-rush threat to the table, more so than many of this year’s interior defensive linemen. On the downside, he doesn’t effectively use his natural power consistently well and can get washed out of plays because of it. His physical stature and pass rush traits are why you take a chance here and hope he can develop that more consistent strength.

7. Jay Tufele

The most intriguing thing about Tufele is his upside. He opted out of the 2020 season, but in 2019 he did enough to excite teams about his ceiling. He has impressive speed for his size and couples that with quick reflexes in small spaces. What he lacks, though, is consistency, and if he continues to be hot and cold it’s going to hurt him at the next level. He needs some seasoning to harness is special traits with more regularity.

8. Tyler Shelvin

Tyler Shelvin is huge. There are a lot of smaller interior defensive linemen in the draft this year, but Shelvin is a massive body in the middle of the field. He’ll have a limited role as a space eater in the NFL, but he’ll still draw interest from teams that need to address their run defense. His draft stock takes a hit for being a two-down player, even though someone will take a flier on that.

9. Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M

From one large man to another, we meet Bobby Brown III. He tests as a much better athlete than Shelvin at their size (both stand 6-foot-4, 325+ pounds), but Shelvin beats Brown in terms of skill set. Brown can find a niche at the next level eating space, but with skill limitations and questions about his motor, whoever takes needs to be extremely invested in his athletic upside.

10. Osa Odighizuwa

Odighizuwa can get after the quarterback, which is a plus, but he plays to his size and that’s not a good thing in this instance. He struggles against single blockers and gets in major trouble when double teamed. He’s stuck not being powerful enough to rush inside but not fast enough to create pressure from the edge. The right defense and scheme may find a way to maximize his skills.

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