We’re inching closer to the college football season and the 2022 NFL Draft. Let’s continue the deep dive into the list of draft pospects.
We highlighted OTs yesterday. Now its time to take a stab at interior defensive linemen. This is an interesting 2022 NFL Draft class, with ‘tweener’ DeMarvin Leal leading the way. DJ Dale, Perrion Winfrey, and a host of other prospects are just outside of the first round right now.
The following three interior defensive linemen have the potential to pump up their draft grades this season, maybe into first-round territory.
Keeanu Benton – Wisconsin, 6’ 4” 317
Benton stumbled into the starting nose tackle role halfway through his true-Freshman season. It’s rare to see a true-Freshman on the Badgers’ two-deep – let alone the starting lineup – and Benton was subsequently placed under a microscope. He didn’t disappoint, though, showing up both as a run-stopper and a pass-rusher.
Benton combines the bend, length, and explosion needed to win on passing downs. He defeats IOLs both with his feet and his hands and is already a polished pocket-collapser. However, Benton is probably better-suited shading the guard instead of the center at the next level.
His anchor isn’t great and he can be driven by squatty centers, and even more so by double-teams. Still, when he’s tasked with one-on-one opportunities, Benton wins more often than not. He’s got the movement skills to beat the blocker to the spot and is a skilled tackler, missing just three during his time at Wisconsin.
What do we need to see from Benton?… More tape! He’s been on the field for less than 500 snaps but should be more involved in nickel packages as Wisconsin’s top interior pass-rusher. If he chooses to leave for the 2022 NFL Draft, Keeanu Benton could be an early selection.
Kobie Whiteside – Missouri, 6’ 1” 298
Kobie Whiteside will look to bounce back after an unproductive 2020 season riddled with injuries and overall inconsistent play from the Tigers’ defense. We can’t throw out the tape but if we’re looking for the high-end play that Whiteside is capable of, we’re focusing on the 2019 season.
While Whiteside is limited – to some extent – by his lack of length, he’s learned to counteract that with an explosive fits step and fantastic initial contact. He doesn’t create much separation from the man across from him but he’s able to consistently maintain leverage and can put most blockers on skates.
Whiteside relies on a powerful and effective bullrush. He has the flexibility and coordination to potentially add more moves to his repertoire, which he’ll need to do to maintain his level of success at the NFL level.
Whiteside is a penetrating force against the run but rarely pulls himself out of position. He boasts great balance and core strength, and is very difficult to drive even with a double team. Missed tackles have been an issue in the past, though that was something Whiteside actually improved on last season.
If he can get back to his 2019 form, Kobie Whiteside will – in the least – climb back into the day-two discussion for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Tairqouis Tisdale – Ole Miss, 6’ 5” 295
A “first guy off the bus” type that we’ve been waiting to see blossom along the Rebels’ defensive line – Tariqouis Tisdale has been stuck in a rotational role since 2018. The opportunity was there for him to snag the starting 3-tech role last season but he failed to stay healthy or produce consistently.
We’re looking for Tisdale to improve his knee bend and his anchor against double-teams. Really, we’re just looking for Tisdale to prove that he’s coachable, as he’s yet to really display much development – at all – during his three years at Ole Miss.
With a full offseason, it may finally be time for Tisdale to cash in on his potential. He moves well laterally and has great length. He can convert speed to power and has enough flexibility to provide some true edge-rushing ability.
He’s made big plays as a run-defender as well, though he has his share of bad tape in that category. It’s now or never for Tisdale as he’s entering his last season of eligibility. If the light turns on for him, look for Tariquois Tisdale to ascend 2022 NFL Draft boards in a hurry.