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2022 NFL Draft: Best draft fits for every role along the defensive line

Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal (8) in action during the game between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Texas A&M Aggies at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL Draft is stacked with prospects who fall under the umbrella term “defensive tackle,” but just because your favorite team needs one, don't think that all of them fit the bill.

The different roles players execute along the defensive line often require vastly different skill sets, depending on where they line up. Let’s give a brief breakdown of each role and identify the best prospect fits for each. 

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Defensive line technique chart
The defensive line numbering system: The numbering begins from being head-up over the center and works its way outward in either direction. Each shade along the way will receive its own number, or contain an “I” modifier (inside).

4/5-Techniques

NFL Prototype: Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers

The one thing this role is characterized by is length. Going head-up with offensive tackles means being matched one-on-one with some big boys. Being able to two-gap and keep those tackles at bay is often a must. It’s a position that isn’t en vogue as much anymore as a full-time role, so these guys also have to be able to win as 3-techs.

DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M

I’m not sure there’s any “ideal” technique for Leal, who produced more on the edge at Texas A&M than he ever did between the tackles. At 6-foot-4, 283 pounds, he doesn’t quite have the size to go inside full-time and doesn’t quite have the athleticism to win the edge outside. So, it follows logically the tweener size fits the role right in between the edge and interior. Leal flashed far more early on in his career and earned an 88.3 overall grade as a true sophomore in 2020.

Logan Hall, Houston

Hall is yet another tweener at 6-foot-6 and 283 pounds. However, it’s not about where he is now but rather where he could end up. He was listed at 241 pounds as recently as 2019 yet still played on the interior. While he was primarily a 3-technique for Houston and will play there a good deal in the league, he may need to be protected from double-teams with how high-cut he is. 

Phidarian Mathis, Alabama

Of all the defensive tackles in the draft class, Mathis is the cleanest fit in this role. For starters, he has the ideal build for the role at 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds with 34 5/8-inch arms. And it’s a role we’ve seen him execute quite frequently for the Crimson Tide, with 107 such snaps last season. He may not have the high-end of the guys above him, but he’s a safe projection.

3-Techniques

NFL Prototype: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

The one thing this role is characterized by is penetration. They’re often given far more space to go one-on-one than other techniques along the defensive line. That means NFL teams prioritize athletes who are tough to pin down in that space and not necessarily the ones that tick all the size boxes. 

Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

I’m not pigeonholing Wyatt into a “3-technique only” role by any means, but he’s head and shoulders above the rest of this defensive tackle class in that position. One need not look too much further than his 4.77-second 40-yard dash at the combine to see why. If you wanted him to play the nose in your defense or move around a bit, there’s no doubt in my mind Wyatt could get it done. That was evident at the Senior Bowl, where he earned the highest grade of any defensive player in attendance throughout the week of practices.

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