We’re back! The BTSC Big Board crew has returned for a second consecutive season! Between now and April, numerous BTSC draft analysts will give you stats, grades, and in-depth scouting reports for over 300 prospects in this year’s class. Just like last year, we will be doing these rankings by position until the week of the draft, when we finalize the overall rankings and release our all-positions-combined big board.
This week, we are taking a look at the defensive linemen, which will likely be a position the Steelers address this offseason. With Stephon Tuitt’s future still in the balance and Tyson Alualu on the last year of his deal, defensive line is an area that will need new blood in the near future. Fortunately, this year’s class is a deep one at defensive line. The past several years have been comprised primarily of 3-techniques that lack the true bulk to play nose tackle. That is not the case this year, however, as there are multiple 0-tech/1-tech guys that bring 3-down ability. Georgia star Jordan Davis tops the list, but there are several intriguing names in the second-round through fourth-round range as well. We will discuss each player in depth below.
The analysis is a collaborative effort of Ryland, myself, K.T. Smith, Jeremy Betz, skyfire322, Itz JustNoah, and NecksNation, while the stats are compiled by SNW via Sports Reference.
If you have any thoughts on these defensive line prospects and their potential fit with the Steelers, be sure to share them in the comment section below.
Let’s get to the Big Board!
1. Jordan Davis | Georgia | 6’-6”, 340 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 16
2021 Stats: GP 14,T 32,TFL 5, Sacks 2, PD 1.
Andrew Wilbar: Much like center, nose tackles do not go inside the top half of the first round unless they are one of a kind, but Davis may be the best nose tackle we’ve seen since Vince Wilfork. Standing at 6’6”, 340 pounds, Davis moves like linemen 50 pounds smaller than him. He gets out of his stance surprisingly quick, and he uses his long arms and superb strength to push offensive linemen back and make the pocket collapse. You don’t often hear about nose tackles being able to split gaps and get up field, but Davis is one of the rare few who can. Interior linemen that are inferior in length struggle to gain leverage on Davis, and if you don’t double him, he will split either A-gap and get to the quarterback. As a run defender, he is everything you would expect him to be. He is a sound tackler while also staying low despite his height. I also love Davis’ ability to disengage. He displays tremendous hand placement, and he has instincts to know where the running back is going and when he needs to disengage from the blocker. The only potential concern would be conditioning, as he was taken off the field frequently. I believe that this can be attributed to Georgia’s schematics as well as their fantastic depth behind Davis, but it is something to keep an eye on nonetheless. Taking a nose tackle in the first round may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he is one of the safest picks in the entire draft.
Ryland B.: Davis is truly a mountain of a man at 6’6” and 340 pounds. As expected, he is an elite run-stopper who often drew double, and even triple teams for the Georgia defense during his career. He’s a true nose tackle in the sense that he can be put in the middle of a defense simply to eat up gaps and blocks. But he’s not just a one trick pony. Davis has exceptional athleticism, especially when it comes to lateral mobility, for his size. He can disengage from blockers impressively well, and power into the backfield with ease, making him a surprisingly effective pass-rusher. What worries me about Davis is his usage. He was a rotational lineman at Georgia, mainly as a 2-down run-stopper, and I don’t see that changing at the NFL level. While his stamina and pass-rushing ability could definitely improve in the future, I would have a hard time justifying spending a first round pick on a player who is a ways away from being an every-down defender.
2. DeMarvin Leal | Texas A&M | 6’-4”, 290 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 29
2021 Stats: GP 11,T 58,TFL 12.5, Sacks 8.5, PD 2.
Ryland B.: I can see the hype surrounding Leal’s play but I still have some concerns. He has a great combination of size and athleticism, and plays with good strength and power. But despite being a natural fit on the inside, he was used as an edge rusher in 2021, which showcased Leal’s versatility but may postpone his development as an interior defender. His athleticism was evident on the outside, but Leal lacks the requisite burst and bend necessary to play the position at the NFL. He also seems to play a bit high which may result in him losing the leverage battle at first in the pros. Despite some issues regarding his technique and position, Leal has plenty of football smarts. As already mentioned, he’s a versatile player, but also a sure tackler who is extremely effective and disciplined against the run. His pass-rush isn’t on the same level, but Leal plays with choppy hands and a good motor. In the end, Leal is a certain first round prospect who may be a bit of a project, but he has elite upside as a defensive lineman.
3. Travis Jones | Connecticut | 6’-5”, 333 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 42
2021 Stats: GP 11,T 48,TFL 7.5, Sacks 4.5
Andrew Wilbar: Jones is one of the biggest small-school sleepers in this year’s draft. Based on how well he moves on tape, you would not believe that he is 330 pounds by just watching him. He plays with active hands, and he does a great job shedding blocks, even when double-teamed. He also displays excellent quickness out of his stance, getting upfield in a hurry and forcing the quarterback to escape the pocket. One of the more underrated parts of his game is his good hand placement. He consistently lays his hands on opposing linemen at a perfect pressure point, making it difficult for linemen to stay balanced and engage in a block. The main concern with him is that he has not been tested against major competition outside of a game here and there. If he has a strong Senior Bowl and combine performance, he could work his way into the top 50 picks.
4. Devonte Wyatt | Georgia | 6’-5”, 315 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 48
2021 Stats: GP 13,T 39,TFL 7, Sacks 2.5, PD 1, FR 1 FF 2
Andrew Wilbar: His quickness out his stance, combined with a quick first step, makes it incredibly challenging on the interior of an offensive line to keep him from splitting the A-gap and getting into the backfield to make a play. A major concern fans should have is that he was not as stout against the run on snaps when Jordan Davis was not on the field next to him. He also struggles to beat interior linemen that can anchor. He is a good athlete, but he is not as strong as people perceive him to be. I noticed this in the SEC Championship game against Alabama specifically, as his lack of strength often forced him to go on the outside shoulder of the guard when playing in a 1-tech position. He could be a phenomenal 3-technique in the NFL, but he is not a great fit in a traditional 3-4 defense.
5. Perrion Winfrey | Oklahoma | 6’-4”, 292 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 55
2021 Stats: GP 11,T 23,TFL 11, Sacks 5.5, FF 1.
Noah: Winfrey looks relatively unspectacular. There are some pros: he’s very mobile for a nose tackle and was used in a lot of stunts at Oklahoma. He’s a good tackler and frequently disrupts runs at the line of scrimmage. However, he doesn’t seem to have a real plan as a pass rusher and he doesn’t have the size or strength to get past bigger offensive lineman. He does have a good hand placement that helps him get home for a sack every now and then, but overall if he can’t develop more as a pass rusher, he could turn out to be a bust for whoever drafts him.
6. Phidarian Mathis | Alabama | 6’-4”, 312 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 66
2021 Stats: GP 14,T 53,TFL 10.5, Sacks 9, PD 2, FR 2, FF 1.
Ryland B.: Mathis is built like an excellent defensive tackle, and he plays like one as well. He’s big, strong, and converts speed to power excellently, occasionally deploying a Cam Heyward-esque straight arm to push defenders out of the way. He’s a high-effort player with great burst and power, and once he gets a head of steam his bull-rush is lethal. Against the run, Mathis plays with good technique, but what worries me is how much of a straight-line athlete he is. He’ll blow through offensive lines but sometimes go right by the running back. If he can improve when it comes to disengaging blocks and reacting laterally, he could be an excellent three-down defender.
7. Zachary Carter | Florida | 6’-4”, 285 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 98
2021 Stats: GP 12,T 31,TFL 11.5, Sacks 7.5, PD 2, FF 1.
NecksNation: Carter may not end up playing defensive tackle in the NFL, as his skillset may be better suited to the edge rusher position. The redshirt senior had his best season in 2021, which capped off a stellar three year run with the Gators. Carter’s greatest strength may be his versatility, and he could have a solid career as a professional solely for that reason, even if his play falters at the next level. He showed decent but unspectacular explosiveness off the line, but he has solid lateral quickness and has a powerful style of play that may translate well to the next level. Carter displays impressive length and is a serviceable run defender, although there is still plenty of room for improvement in that regard. In addition, he is a smart player and appears to play with a good amount of effort, both of which are traits that could help prolong his professional career. He projects as a late day 2/early day 3 pick with a decent floor who could eventually carve out a decent role in an NFL defense.
8. John Ridgeway | Arkansas | 6’-6”, 320 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 103
2021 Stats: GP 11,T 39,TFL 4, Sacks 2.
NecksNation: A former two star recruit, Ridgeway wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, but Illinois State took a chance on him, and he was able to transfer to Arkansas for his final year of college play. 2021 was easily his best statistical season, and he greatly boosted his draft stock with a stellar year. At 6’6 and 320 lbs, Ridgeway’s size is certainly a strength, and he uses it well. He has decent mobility and long arms, and plays with impressive effort and power that help him as a pass rusher. He could work on his lower body strength, and he sometimes struggles to break free of double teams, but overall, his physical tools give him a solid ceiling in the NFL. Ridgeway is projected to be a late day 2/early day 3 selection with potential to succeed at the next level if he can work on using his lower body.
9. Neil Farrell, Jr. | LSU | 6’4”, 319 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 119
2021 Stats: GP 12, T 45, TFL 9.5, Sacks 2.0, PD 2
Andrew Wilbar: I did not get familiarized with Farrell until recently, but there are definitely some intriguing traits in his game. He plays a little high in the run game, but that can be fixed with NFL coaching. I do like his upper-body strength and his ability to extend his arms and gain leverage on opposing linemen; however, he is not the most nimble athlete and will sometimes pass up a running back or quarterback in the backfield due to his inability to change direction quickly. While I do believe he is coming into the league relatively raw for a fifth-year senior, I also think he is a good straight-line athlete who has a decent amount of upside. He has the frame to add weight and play the nose in the NFL, but he seemed most comfortable when lined up as a 3-technique at LSU. That is likely what his best role is entering the NFL.
10. Matthew Butler | Tennessee | 6’-4”, 295 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 122
2021 Stats: GP 13,T 47,TFL 8.5, Sacks 5, FF 1.
Noah: Butler has a relentless motor and he fights to get to the QB throughout the play. He fires off the line very quickly allowing him to disrupt plays in the backfield. Fans are focused more than ever on sacks and if guys can rush the passer, but he plays a big impact as a run defender, plugging up gaps and filling holes. He doesn’t quite have the size or power to be a traditional nose tackle but I think he fits in perfectly as a 3-4 defensive end. Butler doesn’t have very many holes in his game and overall he’s just a solid player that with the right opportunity, could be an every down contributor.
11. Chris Hinton | Michigan | 6’-4”, 310 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 130
2021 Stats: GP 13,T 32,TFL 1, Sacks 1, PD 2, FR 2.
Andrew Wilbar: In order to allow your edge rushers to simply go after the quarterback, you need interior linemen who can stop the run. Hinton will not get the same publicity that David Ojabo or Aidan Hutchinson will, but he had a major role in their success last season. Hinton plays with a good pad level and takes up a good amount of space in the middle. What I appreciate most about him, however, is the fact that he is a hustler. His motor is always running at 100%, and he never gives you anything less than his best. He will not wow you as a pass rusher, but he always runs toward the play. Wherever the ball carrier is, he is going to be in pursuit once he disengages from his block. There is not a ton of upside with Hinton, but if you want reliability in run defense, he is your guy.
12. P.J. Mustipher | Penn State | 6’-4”, 323 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 156
2021 Stats: GP 5,T 21,TFL 3, Sacks 1.
Andrew Wilbar: I love the heart and emotion he plays with. He always fed off the crowd’s energy, and he would celebrate almost every rep the Nittany Lions won in the trenches. No win was too small to recognize in Mustipher’s mind, and that tells me a lot about his attention to detail as a player. When he is one-on-one against an interior lineman, he displays a good knowledge of how to disengage from a block and wrap up the ball-carrier for the tackle. He has good form as a tackler, and he is excellent in pursuit for a man his size. My biggest concern is that he does not consistently win the battle for leverage at the line of scrimmage. That is an issue he will need to resolve if he wants to have a successful NFL career.
13. MarQuan McCall | Kentucky | 6’-3”, 379 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 187
2021 Stats: GP 7,T 9,TFL 3.5.
Andrew Wilbar: You are not reading his weight wrong. McCall is an absolute mammoth of a man. He is a true space-eater that will plug up the middle of any defense. Unfortunately, it is unlikely he is much more than that in the NFL. He struggles to disengage from blocks and run ball-carriers down, but what do you expect from a 380 pound nose tackle? He occasionally displays enough power to push the pocket and make the quarterback scramble, but he is not a finisher when it comes to making splash plays in the backfield. He has displayed success bull-rushing, but he does not really have any other “moves” in his repertoire. Against smaller centers, I could see him being a nuisance on the interior, but veteran centers who understand leverage and technique will probably be able to contain him better than the athletes he faced in college.
14. Jordan Williams | Virginia Tech | 6’-5”, 290 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 202
2021 Stats: GP 10,T 33,TFL 4, Sacks 2.5, FF 1.
Noah: Williams is an extremely versatile prospect due to his athleticism and can play at almost any spot on the defensive line. He frequently lashes out and wins at the point of attack despite not having a ton of upper body strength. Williams excels as a run defender and knows how to control his gap. There are some major concerns for him though, as he is not powerful and will get manhandled by bigger offensive linemen. Williams hasn’t developed any pass rush moves and relies solely on athleticism to win. It’s a big problem but one that can be fixed. If he does he could definitely be a good bench piece for a team but I wouldn’t expect him to be anymore than that.
15. Otito Ogbonnia | UCLA | 6’-4”, 320 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 205
2021 Stats: GP 11,T 27,TFL 5, Sacks 2, PD 2, FF 1.
Ryland B.: Ogbonnia is a good athlete with experience at the college level of both football and shot put, both of which he’s pretty good at. His experience in the latter definitely seems to carry over to his performance on the gridiron, as Ogbonnia plays with a strong upper half and good initial punch. His athleticism is evident, especially on some of the stunts UCLA had him run. However, on the technical side of things there is still a lot of necessary improvement. But the potential is certainly there.
16. Haskell Garrett | Ohio State | 6’-2”, 300 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 206
2021 Stats: GP 10,T 22,TFL 7, Sacks 5, PD 1, FR 2, TD 1.
Ryland B.: Garrett is athletic, but he’s not quite as consistently powerful or quick as some of the names higher on this list. However, he is excellent when it comes to anchoring. At 300 pounds, Garrett can play with good leverage and functional strength and simply clog up running lanes – even against double teams. However, when he does play with that great athleticism, he’s a good pass rusher who has good hand-technique and a powerful bull-rush. What’s exciting about Garrett is his high ceiling, but he still has a solid floor as a gap-defending run stopper.
19. Eyioma Uwazurike | Iowa State | 6’-6”, 320 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 208
2021 Stats: GP 13,T 43,TFL 12, Sacks 9, PD 1.
Noah: Uwazurike is weirdly inconsistent. When I was watching his film I noticed that on some plays he would simply move guys out of the way, like if you were picking on your younger brother, and then on other plays he is just getting bullied by the offensive line. There’s a lot to like about his game, whether it be his upper body strength and his ability to control the line of scrimmage or his high motor that doesn’t stop until the whistle blows. Uwazurike is also a very good tackler and just an overall animal on the defensive line. If he can just be more consistent and clean up his game a little bit, he has the potential to be a really, really good player.
20. LaRon Stokes | Oklahoma | 6’-4”, 275 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 220
2021 Stats: GP 8,T 8,TFL 1.5.
Andrew Wilbar: One of the most versatile linemen in this class, Stokes has experience playing at just about every spot along the defensive line. He battled an injury that caused him to miss five games in 2021, but that does not take away from his talent. While he has enough athleticism to man the edge on early downs, he will probably bring the most value to an NFL team as either a 3-tech or 5-tech. He still has time to fill out his frame if he wants to move inside full-time, and I expect that to be what NFL coaches will want him to do. The bad part about his game is that he struggles keeping the pad level low, and despite his good arm length, he doesn’t win the battle for leverage on a consistent basis. He also plays off-balanced, which is likely more of a technique issue than anything. Most of his success in college was from simply being the stronger man, and I am not sure he will be able to do that in the NFL. He will either need to add weight and get even stronger, or he will need to drop a few pounds and work on having better bend coming around the edge. It depends on which position he would rather play in the NFL. He will need to commit to one of them at some point.
21. Ifeanyi Maijeh | Rutgers | 6’-2”, 280 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 223
2021 Stats: GP 11,T 19,TFL 3, Sacks 1.5, PD 2, FR 2, FF 1.
Noah: Maijeh is someone that doesn’t exactly scare you with his stature but he is very strong and frequently moves lineman backwards. He’s got quick hands and good upper body strength allowing him to disrupt plays. His career has been riddled with injuries which, along with being undersized, could steer some teams away from him on draft night. He’s a prospect that hasn’t gotten a lot of buzz and it would be surprising to see him go before Day 3. He has some potential to be a big contributor, but I wouldn’t bet on him being anything more than just a depth piece.
22. Tyrone Truesdell | Florida | 6’-2”, 335 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 224
2021 Stats: GP 8,T 12.
Noah: Truesdell is a pretty underwhelming prospect but there is some upside. He’s a strong tackler that can use his frame to be a run stuffer in the middle. He has good power in his upper body and you can see the mold of a power rusher like Pittsburgh’s own Cam Heyward or Calais Campbell. However he is not technically sound and after playing for 5 years in college you start to lose hope that he can take that next step. Truesdell has a slow get off and he seems to almost fall into his blocker sometimes, instead of firing off the line. Overall there are more negatives than positives, especially when you look at his numbers (79 tackles and 3 sacks in 5 years).
23. Glen Logan | LSU | 6’-3”, 339 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 228
2021 Stats: GP 6,T 10,TFL 1.5, Sacks 1.
Andrew Wilbar: Glen Logan brings some intrigue on day three. He lacked consistency as a pass rusher, but there are times when you watch him on tape and think that he could potentially become a 3-down nose tackle. He has suffered some foot injuries, however, and foot injuries can be a nagging issue for big linemen. Those injuries cost him a handful of games throughout his collegiate career. He does not close on ball-carriers quickly, but he takes up a good chunk of space in the middle of the defense, and he has a bit of untapped potential. He is worth a day three pick but nothing more.
24. Noah Elliss | Idaho | 6’-4”, 367 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 250
2021 Stats: GP 10,T 46,TFL 6.5, Sacks 1, PD 3, FR 1.
Andrew Wilbar: The size speaks for itself. Unfortunately, it portrays a mixed message. Elliss is a true 2-gap defender who will be used exclusively as a nose tackle playing right over the center. He is not the greatest lateral mover, and dropping some weight needs to be a priority in his rookie year. There comes a point where a player can be too big and unable to reach his full potential because of it. We have seen flashes of his power and his ability to create push on the interior as a pass rusher, but he will never be anything more than a space-eater if he remains in the 370 pound range. Space-eaters have a role, but it definitely limits Elliss’ ceiling if nothing changes with his weight.
25. LaBryan Ray | Alabama | 6’-5”, 295 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 253
2021 Stats: GP 11,T 11,TFL 3, Sacks 1.
Ryland B.: Ray has had a career plagued by injuries and off-the-field issues, which will certainly make him a risky selection. And despite his potential, he’s never put up eye-popping stats. Still, there’s a lot to like about his game. He has solid athleticism and a powerful playing style. He’s a little lacking in technical refinement, which means that he’ll be a major project for whichever team chooses to draft or sign him.
26. Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa | Notre Dame | 6’-2”, 282 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 271
2021 Stats: GP 11,T 26,TFL 6.5, Sacks 2.5, PD 1, FR 1, TD 1, FF 1.
Andrew Wilbar: Tagovailoa-Amosa is an interesting case. He lost about 15 pounds this past offseason and played at 268 pounds in 2021, becoming more of a 4-3 defensive end rather than a hybrid defensive lineman who did not really fit well in any one spot. From a run-defending standpoint, there are a lot of things to like. Tagovailoa-Amosa plays with a consistent pad level, and his relatively long arms allow him to create leverage on his opponents. His non-stop motor combined with his heavy hands makes it difficult for undersized tackles to deal with him one-on-one. Unfortunately, he does not bring much as a pass rusher. He is not incredibly quick getting out of his stance, and he does not have much bend coming around the edge. He could develop into a nice rotational piece for a 4-3 defense, but his lack of athleticism will likely cause him to drop to day three.
27. Deslin Alexandre | Pittsburgh | 6’-4”, 285 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 275
2021 Stats: GP 12,T 41,TFL 5, Sacks 2.5, INT 1, PD 1.
Ryland B.: An edge-rusher turned defensive tackle, Alexandre has a unique athletic profile for the position. He isn’t severely lacking in size but definitely has a lengthier build, along with a quick first step. His tape as an EDGE shows an explosive defender with fairly good power and hand usage. He shows excellent effort and solid use of leverage on each play. There’s definitely a lot of upside, but it will be interesting how Alexandre’s play translates to the interior – likely as a defensive end – in the NFL.
28. Thomas Booker | Stanford | 6’-4”, 310 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 315
2021 Stats: GP 12,T 59,TFL 5, Sacks 1, PD 1.
Ryland B.: Booker is a well-built lineman with a lot of versatility, experience, and Stanford smarts. What stands out is Booker’s quick first step when getting off the line of scrimmage, but although he seemed plenty strong, he wasn’t very disruptive. I think a lot of this can be attributed to his hand usage, which isn’t as choppy or violent as it could be. Still, he’s a good tackler with some promising size and athleticism. I think he’d be a good late round pick with some definite upside.
29. Jonathan Ford | Miami | 6’-5”, 315 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 341
2021 Stats: GP 8,T 14,TFL 1.
Ryland B.: Ford has a strong bull rush, but he doesn’t anchor well. His power and momentum is all too often redirected by offensive linemen. He does have a solid first step, but below average hand usage can often negate it. When Ford does land a good initial punch, his power and acceleration can be a lethal combination, but he’s far too inconstinent. With good size and some definite upside, Ford could have a future in the NFL as a late round pick, but he’s far from a plug and play starter.
30. Julius Turner | Rutgers | 6’-0”, 270 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 364
2021 Stats: GP 13,T 37,TFL 5, Sacks 3, PD 1, FF 1.
Ryland B.: There’s a lot to like about Turner as a player. He has an extremely high-effort style of play, is a twitchy athlete coming off the line of scrimmage, and he generally plays with great leverage. He has a lot of experience at the college level and a decorated career at Rutgers, including a Master’s degree off the field. The biggest issue is Turner’s size at 270 pounds, but he still shows plenty of ability to anchor against the run, although his power can be a little lacking at times. His hand usage is choppy and strong, and paired with his motor and explosiveness, Turner is still a disruptive defender. He seems to be a sleeper in this class who could have some success in the NFL, especially if he can bulk up just a bit more.
Which defensive linemen do you see as potential fits with the Steelers? Which players provide the most value at this position? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!