News & Analysis

2021 NFL Draft DL Superlatives: Best hands, most athletic, best pass-rushing moves and more

Sep 28, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Kwity Paye (19) and defensive back Josh Metellus (14) react after a play during the first quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

This is an incredibly weak defensive interior class compared to a relatively deep edge class, so you’re not going to find too many defensive tackles featured on this list. The evaluations of this edge class around the league are undoubtedly going to be all over the map — there are so few polished products but a ton of physical tools. It’s going to come down to the body type and role teams prefer in their defenses. Let’s get right into the cream of the crop.

View PFF's 2021 NFL Draft position rankings:

QB | RB | WR | TE | T | iOL | DI | EDGE | LB | CB | S

Best Run Defender: Kwity Paye, Michigan

You won’t find a more rocked up defensive end in this draft class. Because of his prodigious strength, Paye was in control of pretty much every interaction in the run game that involved him over the past couple of seasons. Paye put up 36 bench reps at his pro day at only 261 pounds. His 33-inch arms are more than long enough to continue that sort of impact at the next level.

Best Get-Off: Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech

Williams is our lone defensive tackle representative here. That’s because at 284 pounds, he’s a walking ball of explosiveness. His 1.65 10-yard split at his pro day is a legit time for a defensive end, let alone a defensive tackle. We saw him in an attacking role much more down the stretch this past season, and his grade reflected it. He earned a 90.8 overall grade last season after only a 72.6 in 2019.

Best Hands: Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

There are a number of edge rushers who use their hands exceedingly well in this class, including Miami’s Quincy Roche and Ohio State’s Jonathon Cooper. Neither have quite the violence to them that Ojulari brings. Even though he’s on the smaller side at 6-foot-2, 249 pounds, Ojulari still has 34.5-inch arms. Those are tree trunks, and he uses them to consistently keep his shoulder pads clean. His 91.7 pass-rushing grade last season was the highest of any edge in the class. Declaring as only a redshirt sophomore, Ojulari’s refinement is even that much more impressive.

Most Versatile: Dayo Odeyingbo, Vanderbilt

Some defenses love players with inside/outside versatility, and no one has shown as well in that regard than Odeyingbo. At 6-foot-5, 276 pounds with absurdly long 35.25-inch arms, that versatility should translate to the next level as well. Over the past two seasons, Odeyingbo earned a 71.6 pass-rushing grade on 266 snaps on the edge and an 84.9 pass-rushing grade on 297 snaps inside the tackles. That kind of even split is very likely to be his role in the NFL.

Best Pass-Rushing Moves: Chris Rumph II, Duke

This shouldn’t be surprising considering his father is a longtime defensive line coach who now works for the Bears. If Rumph had ideal size for the position, we’d be talking about him as possibly the top edge in the class. He played this past season at only 235 pounds, however, and still looked noticeably less explosive than in 2019 when he played at 225 pounds. Even at that size, Rumph still sauced college linemen with a complete pass-rushing toolbox. Rumph had the highest pass-rushing win rate in the country back in 2019. He flashes everything on tape — even bull-rush pressures at his size. Here’s hoping he can continue to put on good weight, because he can be an impact sub-package rusher.

Most Athletic: Jayson Oweh, Penn State

While there are a ton of “freaks” in the draft class, there really is no other choice for this superlative. Oweh’s pro day numbers were the single most impressive any edge prospect has ever produced. With an ideal frame at 6-foot-5, 257 pounds and 34.5-inch arms, only one of Oweh's testing drills fell below the 88th percentile for the edge position (21 bench reps, 39th percentile). His 4.39 40-yard dash and 11-foot-2 broad jump were both the best figures ever recorded for a defensive end. Rare, generational, special — whatever you want to call Oweh, he most certainly qualifies.

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