10 interior defensive linemen to know ahead of the 2025 NFL Draft

2WAD7JA PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: DL Mason Graham (55) of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during the Alabama Crimson Tide game versus the Michigan Wolverines CFP Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game on January, 1, 2024, at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

• Mason Graham is the early DT1: The rising Michigan junior is as complete of a prospect as you’ll find at defensive tackle and could end up as a top-five pick.

• Deone Walker is not of this world: The Kentucky star is an athletic marvel at 6-foot-6, 348 pounds and led the nation in pressures last year.

• The 2025 NFL Draft starts now: Try PFF's Mock Draft Simulator — trade picks and players and mock for your favorite NFL team.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The 2024 NFL Draft will likely best be remembered for the amount of offensive talent at the top. The first 14 picks came from that side of the ball, doubling the previous record (seven in 2021). 

Don’t expect that to become a trend in 2025, as the defensive side of the ball looks loaded. One of the strongest positions in next year’s class should be at defensive tackle, where there could be multiple first-rounders and even a couple of top-10 picks. Here are the 10 interior defensive linemen to know as we head into summer scouting for the 2025 NFL Draft.

(Please note: This isn’t necessarily a ranking of the top-10 prospects, rather a watch list.)

Check out our other 2025 NFL Draft summer watch list positional lists

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | IOL

Mason Graham, Michigan

Graham has a relentless motor to combine with ridiculous agility that makes him nearly unblockable. Even if an offensive lineman gets a clean shot on him, he has great power at 6-foot-3, 318 pounds to shed the block and find the ball carrier.

Graham was one of two FBS defensive tackles in 2023 who earned top-10 grades as both a pass-rusher and run-defender (T’Vondre Sweat). If he maintains this dominance, he could turn into a Jalen Carter/Quinnen Williams-level prospect on his way to becoming a top-five pick.

Deone Walker, Kentucky

Walker is an alien sent from outer space to terrorize SEC backfields. He’s 6-foot-6, 348 pounds and revealed in a recent PFF interview that he aims to run in the “high 4.6’s” in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine (full interview dropping soon here). For reference, the record for an interior defensive lineman is 4.67 seconds which was run by Calijah Kancey, a player who’s nearly 70 pounds lighter than Walker.

Most defensive tackles who are Walker’s size are limited to being just run-stuffers. While he earned an 81.7 run-defense grade last year, he also is an incredibly productive pass-rusher. His 51 pressures in 2023 were the most by any interior defensive lineman in the country while his eight sacks led all Power Five ones. Walker’s a true unicorn whose freakish combination of size and athleticism could have him selected in the top 10 of the draft, if not higher.

Kenneth Grant, Michigan

Between Grant and Graham, the defending national champions have easily the best defensive tackle duo in college football heading into 2024. That’s despite losing a top-50 pick at that position in Kris Jenkins.

Like Walker, Grant is a plus pass-rusher despite being bigger (339 pounds). His 78.4 pass-rushing grade was fourth among Big Ten interior defensive linemen to Graham, Michael Hall Jr. and Jer’Zhan Newton. The latter two were both second-round picks in 2024 while Graham should go in the first round next April. If Grant can take advantage of being a full-time starter as a junior, he could join his teammate in the Day 1 conversation.

Howard Cross III, Notre Dame

Cross is the highest-graded returning defensive tackle in college football, posting a 90.1 mark in 2023. The only two who earned higher grades, TexasT’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy II, were both top-40 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. 

The fifth-year senior’s 29 run-defense stops in 2023 were tied for the second-most among all interior defensive linemen in the country. He was also fifth among Power Five ones with 39 pressures. Cross is on the smaller side at 6-foot-1, 284 pounds, but makes up for it with his explosiveness and agility.

Tyleik Williams, Ohio State

Williams became a full-time starter for the Buckeyes this past season and tied for fourth among Power Five interior defensive linemen with 26 run-defense stops. He’s a cerebral player who always seems to know where the running back is going. Despite playing at just 290 pounds in 2023, Williams was able to stack and shed offensive linemen at a high level. He’s now listed at 327 pounds, so that area of his game could improve by leaps and bounds.

He was an average pass-rusher even at that lighter weight, posting a 7.8% pass-rush win rate this past season. Williams likely won’t fare much better with an extra 37 pounds to carry this year. Still, he’s a stout run-defender who can eat up blocks. 

Walter Nolen, Ole Miss

The former No. 1 overall recruit in the 2022 high school class, Nolen began to live up to that hype in his sophomore season for Texas A&M. His seven sacks this year were tied for third among SEC interior defensive linemen as were his eight tackles for loss/no-gain. He was also fourth among SEC defensive tackles with a 9.9% pass-rush win rate.

As expected for a former top recruit, Nolen has absurd athleticism at 290 pounds with serious pop in his hands. If he can fully realize his potential as a junior at Ole Miss, he has first-round potential.

Dontay Corleone, Cincinnati

While “The Godfather” wasn’t quite as dominant in the Big 12 this past season as he was in the American Athletic Conference the year before (93.8 PFF grade in 2022 led all FBS defenders), he was still a very productive player. Corleone’s 83.6 grade was 11th among FBS defensive tackles while his 10 tackles for loss/no-gain tied for eighth among Power Five ones.

His game is centered around his power profile at 318 pounds, which explains why he’s such a dominant run-defender. It also makes for an effective bull rush, though there’s still work to be done as a pass-rusher.

Aeneas Peebles, Virginia Tech

Peebles has no such issues in getting after the quarterback. His 90.1 pass-rushing grade while at Duke in 2023 was second among FBS defensive tackles to only Byron Murphy II, whom the Seattle Seahawks selected in the first round of the 2024 draft. He was fifth among all interior defensive linemen as well with a 16.2% pass-rush win rate.

Peebles is capable of shooting gaps in the run game, as evidenced by his 77.0 run-defense grade in 2023. However, his size (6-foot-1, 286 pounds) sometimes leads to him getting washed out by double teams. He projects best as a three-technique at the next level. 

Rylie Mills, Notre Dame

Mills was tied for fourth among FBS interior defensive linemen this past season with a 13.5% pressure rate. The senior was also seventh among Power Five ones with a 15.5% pass-rush win rate and tied for 10th with 23 run-defense stops.

While on the lighter side at 295 pounds, Mills displaces offensive linemen with his length (6-foot-5) and excellent upper-body strength. 

Tonka Hemingway, South Carolina

As a junior in 2022, Hemingway posted an 82.1 pass-rushing grade that season that was eighth among Power Five interior defensive linemen.

The senior remained a very good pass-rusher this past season and held up much better in the run game. Hemingway was one of 10 Power Five defensive tackles in 2023 who earned 75-plus grades both as a pass-rusher and as a run defender. What he lacks in size (295 pounds), he makes up for it with great quickness and flexibility.

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