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2024 NFL Draft FFSN Big Board: Defensive Linemen Rankings

The 2024 NFL Draft is getting closer by the day, and Fans First Sports Network is here to give you the best draft analysis anywhere! Between now and the NFL Draft, we will reveal our NFL Draft big board, one position at a time. Today, we will begin with the defensive linemen.

Those of you who know us from Behind the Steel Curtain may remember our BTSC Big Board we did the past three years, and we are excited to have a good portion of the crew back to do it here at FFSN. The board will be my comprised of my personal rankings, player stats, and scouting reports for all early-round prospects. Stats are compiled by community member SNW, and scouting reports come from a collaborative effort of myself, Jeremy Betz, Adam Curry, Noah_E., skyfire322, and Necksnation.

For each position, we will give a positional ranking, my overall round ranking, previous season stats, and an in-depth scouting report for each early and mid-round round prospect. We hope this will be a helpful resource for you as you become familiarized with draft prospects that your team may be looking at.

Let’s dive in!


1. JerZhan Newton | Illinois | 6’ 2” 280 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: Late 1st
2023 Stats: GP 12, T 52, TFL 8.5, S 7.5, PD 2, FR 1, FF 1.
Andrew Wilbar: Newton is not going to be a fit for every system, but he has the traits to pop off if he finds the right fit. Personally, I see him as a 3-technique defensive tackle in the NFL. His first-step quickness is the best of any interior defensive lineman in this class, and his twitchiness sets him apart from other players at his position with a similar grade. Instincts is not a trait we talk much about when it comes to defensive linemen, but it is a key aspect of diagnosing where a play is going. Newton is an instinctually sound prospect who consistently reads where the opposing team is running the ball. His strength is only average, however, and he is going to have to rely on his technique and athletic traits in order to overcome that. Regardless, he is a guy with the talent to make multiple Pro Bowls and even flirt with All-Pro status in the right system.

2. Darius Robinson | Missouri | 6’5”, 291 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: Late 1st
2023 Stats: T 41, TFL 12, S 7.5, FF 1.
Andrew Wilbar: Fellow Michiganders get extra credit in my book, but for Robinson, there is so much more I like than just where he grew up. Robinson is a standout athlete who took his game to a new level in 2023, amassing 7.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Robinson had originally played at over 300 pounds as an interior defensive lineman, but in 2023, Missouri asked him to lose weight and kick outside. Aligning primarily as a 4-3 defensive end, Robinson’s size and athleticism was simply too much for most linemen to handle one-on-one. His 6’5” frame and 35” arms make him a perfect fit as a 5-technique at the NFL level, as he could easily add back a few of the pounds he lost when kicking out to the edge. While many will look at his 2023 stats and try to use it to justify keeping him on the edge, I believe his frame and play style fits better in a base 3-4 system that branches out into subpackages on second and third downs. Either way, the fact he can play multiple spots boosts his value, as NFL coaches love versatility in the trenches. He does play with his pads a little too high as a run defender, and his occasionally poor footwork affects his quickness and balance getting upfield in pass rush situations. Nonetheless, I am excited about Robinson’s potential and consider him a potential first-round pick.

3. T’Vondre Sweat | Texas | 6’ 4” 340 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: Late 1st
2023 Stats: GP 14, T 45, TFL 8, S 2, PD 4, FR 0, FF 1.
Andrew Wilbar: With any 350-pound prospect there will be concerns with mobility and quickness, but if you focus on the tape, Sweat displays an impressive motor for such a big guy. When compared to his peers at the Senior Bowl, there were times he did struggle to move around as smoothly as the others at his position, but one week of the Senior Bowl cannot override the tape. He is a two-gap defender who often draws double-teams due to his ability to create penetration as a pass rusher. His power is simply overwhelming for the average interior lineman at the collegiate level. However, the NFL is a different animal. The opposition will be stronger and more athletic than what he faced in college. Whether or not he can diversify his pass rush moves and increase his nimbleness will likely determine how big an impact he can have in the NFL.

4. Byron Murphy II | Texas | 6’ 1” 297 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: Mid 2nd
2023 Stats: GP 14, T 29, TFL 8.5, S 5, PD 0, FR 0, FF 0.
Jeremy Betz: Murphy II is an undersized DT with incredible athleticism and quickness at the point of attack. Quick feet and strong hands allow him to get leverage on opposing OL, even if they are bigger and stronger. When you watch the tape, you see relentless effort and a good core base of power. As a pass rusher, he uses his quickness to win early and get to the QB. He can get caught in the wash in run defense at times due to his lack of elite strength. Overall, he projects as a solid interior pass rusher and starter at the NFL level.

5. Braden Fiske | Florida State | 6’ 3” 300 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: Mid 2nd
2023 Stats: GP 13, T 43, TFL 9, S 6, PD 0, FR 0, FF 0.
Jeremy Betz: Fiske is an intriguing prospect with solid size and strength, albeit lacking the elite athleticism of some of his higher ranked counterparts. Fiske wins with great technique and hand usage. Effort is never a question as a team captain known for his leadership skills. This is a defender who understands his role and gap responsibility. He’s fairly scheme proof and can play multiple spots along the IDL. Teams looking for a do-it-all DT could do worse than Fiske.

6. Kris Jenkins | Michigan | 6’ 3” 275 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: Mid 3rd
2023 Stats: GP 15, T 37, TFL 4.5, S 2.5, PD 0, FR 1, FF 0.
Noah_E: Jenkins is an intriguing prospect. While at Michigan he flashed the potential to be a high first round pick on many occasions. He has elite athleticism for his size, quick hands, and a relentless motor. He possesses a powerful lower body to go along with a very powerful punch. But despite all this, there were plenty of times where Jenkins looked borderline undraftable. He relies too much on his power and other than a half-decent spin move, completely lacks a pass rush plan. He consistently gets off the ball late and his feet stall out far too often. Jenkins has the physical tools to be an elite pass rusher and an overall great player, however he’ll need time to develop especially when it comes to his technique.

7. Leonard Taylor III | Miami | 6’ 3” 305 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: Late 3rd
2023 Stats: GP 10, T 19, TFL 3.5, S 1, PD 0, FR 0, FF 0.
Jeremy Betz: Explosive and twitchy for his size, Taylor III is a better run defender than pass rusher at this point, and can play the traditional NT spot or move into the 2I or as a 3-tech. Very raw as a technician, but his athleticism often makes up for a lack of disciplined technique. The team who selects Taylor is banking on his athletic traits and his teachability to become a plus NFL starter.

8. Justin Eboigbe | Alabama | 6’ 5” 285 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: Early 4th
2023 Stats: GP 14, T 64, TFL 11.5, S 7, PD 1, FR 0, FF 0.
Jeremy Betz: Despite being somewhat of a “tweener” along the DL, the Alabama defender is a quick-penetration artist up front. A blur off the ball, Enoigbe is a lean, mean, backfield wrecking machine. Unfortunately, if he doesn’t win quick, he is often easily overpowered by bigger, stronger IOL. At 6’5” and only 285 lbs, he has the frame to add weight and still maintain that elite quickness. A true upside pick, he could earn a look late on Day 2 for a team looking for a project with elite athleticism.

9. Maason Smith | LSU | 6’ 6” 292 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: Early 4th
2023 Stats: GP 12, T 28, TFL 4.5, S 2.5, PD 2, FR 0, FF 0.
Noah_E: I went into this excited to see what Maason Smith has to offer and I could not be more disappointed. He’s slow off the line, there is a severe lack of power in his game, and he gets eaten alive by double teams. He doesn’t know how to use his hands whatsoever and he consistently plays off balance. His pad level is atrocious and more often than not he gets stopped instantly on contact. He has a decent arm-over move that wins sometimes, but he lacks any pass rush moves outside of that. It’s not all bad though. Smith is a good athlete who’s just 21 and flashed potential during his freshman season, before he tore his ACL. His size gives him a good foundation to be a starting caliber defensive lineman. If he goes anytime before Day 3 it would be a reach.

10. McKinnley Jackson | Texas A&M | 6’ 2” 325 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: Late 4th
2023 Stats: GP 12, T 27, TFL 5.5, S 3, PD 0, FR 1, FF 1.
Noah_E: McKinnley Jackson has been gaining some hype following a very impressive senior bowl, and it is warranted. He has a fast get off and is a great athlete for someone that’s 330 pounds. He’s incredibly twitchy and his power at the point of attack is outstanding. He’s really explosive and is simply a game wrecker against the run. Jackson plays with poor pad level and is often caught off balance. He could use some work on his bull rush especially if he’s going to be asked to play NT in the pros. His lower body lacks the power to anchor against double teams and he gets overpowered quickly. I think Jackson could be a hidden gem if he’s used right, but the lack of production and length worries me. He’s somebody that I would be interested to see the Steelers take a chance on with one of their 4th round picks. He would benefit a lot from learning under Heyward.

11. Michael Hall, Jr. | Ohio State | 6’ 3” 290 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: Late 4th
2023 Stats: GP 12, T 24, TFL 2, S 1.5, PD 0, FR 0, FF 0.
Jeremy Betz: Hall, Jr. is a powerful defender with a strong base and solid athleticism. A true 3-tech, Hall projects as a good run defender with pass rush upside once he settled into his role in a defense. Teams will likely look at his poor production and drop him down their board a little, but the traits are there for Hall to be a starting DT at the next level. Understands leverage and is built to succeed at the NFL level, despite the film not being extremely impressive.


BEST OF THE REST

12. Ruke Orhorhoro | Clemson | 6’ 4” 295 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: 5th
2023 Stats: GP 12, T 25, TFL 8, S 5, PD 1, FR 0, FF 0.

13. Mekhi Wingo | LSU | 6’ 1” 275 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: 5th
2023 Stats: GP 8, T 25, TFL 5, S 4.5, PD 0, FR 0, FF 0.

14. Kyon Barrs | USC | 6’ 3” 295 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: 6th
2023 Stats: GP 13, T 18, TFL 0, S 0, PD 0, FR 0, FF 0.

15. Keith Randolph, Jr. | Illinois | 6’ 5” 270 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: 6th
2023 Stats: GP 10, T 49, TFL 4, S 1.5, PD 1, FR 0, FF 0.

16. Evan Anderson | FAU | 6’ 3” 356 lbs
Wilbar’s Overall Grade: 6th
2023 Stats: GP 12, T 58, TFL 5.5, S 3.5, PD 1, FR 1, FF 0.

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