NFL Draft News & Analysis

2023 NFL Draft Big Board: Ranking the top defensive linemen

Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Utah State Aggies offensive lineman Alfred Edwards (72) blocks against Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

The PFF draft board was due for a refresh at the midway point of the 2022 college football season.

Quarterback-needy teams, you’re in luck: This is one heck of a quarterback class, with five signal-callers making the top 50. It’s also a strong class at edge defender, running back, defensive tackle, cornerback and tight end.

Here are the class' top defensive linemen.

EDGE DEFENDER

1. Will Anderson, Alabama

Big board rank: 2

You won’t find many 243-pound edge rushers who come with no concerns about their size. And that’s just how powerful and explosive Anderson is.

After leading the country in pressures as a true sophomore, Anderson has 44 so far this season as the focal point of the Bama defense.


2. Myles Murphy, Clemson

Big board rank: 8

Murphy is still a bit of a bull in a china shop, but at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, he’s one strong bull. You see it most in the run game, where Murphy has earned a 72.0-plus grade in every season of his career.


3. Nolan Smith, Georgia

Big board rank: 10

Smith is next in the line of athletic marvels the Bulldogs have produced in recent years. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder can fly sideline to sideline. You also see him play with physicality at that size, with run-defense grades of 90.6 and 81.4 the past two seasons. He needs more ways to win as a pass-rusher, but you bet on the athlete.


4. Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

Big board rank: 11

Wilson bet on himself by returning for a fifth year, and it looks like it’s going to pay off for him. He came back a different player and already has an impressive 47 pressures on the season after recording 37 a year ago. He’s a unique projection at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds with a 7-foot-plus wingspan.


5. Andre Carter, Army

Big board rank: 19

Carter was tied with Aidan Hutchinson for the highest pass-rushing grade in the nation last season (93.4). This year, teams are chipping and double-teaming him to the point where very few are even giving him a chance to attack their quarterback. As such, he’s rushed the passer only 100 times on the season and has 11 pressures.


6. Jared Verse, Florida State

Big board rank: 21

Verse is one heck of an explosive athlete off the edge. After transferring from Albany to Florida State this offseason, he’s been a revelation for the Seminoles. He’s earned an 85.2 pass-rushing grade despite playing through a knee injury.


7. Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State

Big board rank: 23

Anudike-Uzomah is a bendy edge rusher who will test the upfield shoulder of any tackle. He’s got tremendous balance, which shows in several ways, most frequently in how he can close easily to quarterbacks.


8. Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame

Big board rank: 27

Foskey hasn’t made the same leap this season as he did in 2021. He’s still the type of player who’s built more for the NFL game than the college game, given his ability to set the edge and push the pocket consistently.


9. B.J. Ojulari, LSU

Big board rank: 29

Ojulari may never be your do-it-all run defender at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, but he’s got a full toolbox to attack opposing quarterbacks. And that’s all he’s done since arriving at LSU. In three years, he’s racked up 1117 pressures, including 39 this season.


10. Will McDonald, Iowa State

Big board rank: 44

McDonald is an explosive, undersized edge rusher who’s been miscast in Iowa State’s defense. When you see him work on the edge, you see the natural pass-rushing ability that has helped him rack up 65 pressures since the start of last year.


11. Byron Young, Tennessee

Big board rank: 47

Young has taken a circuitous route to becoming a top prospect. He wasn’t even playing college football until he saw a flyer for Georgia Military College’s open tryouts while working at Dollar General. Four years later, he leads the Vols with 33 pressures on the season. He’s a twitched-up 6-foot-3, 245-pounder who’s been improving on a weekly basis.


12. Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern

Big board rank: 50

Adebawore is a unique specimen who has bridged the gap between edge-rusher and 3-technique in Northwestern’s defense at 6-foot-2, 280 pounds. He’s racked up 27 pressures and 16 stops in nine games this season.


13. MIKE MORRIS, MICHIGAN

Big board rank: 53

14. KEION WHITE, GEORGIA TECH

Big board rank: 54

15. LUKAS VAN NESS, IOWA

Big board rank: 66

16. DERICK HALL, AUBURN

Big board rank: 69

17. ZACH HARRISON, OHIO STATE

Big board rank: 72

18. K.J. HENRY, CLEMSON

Big board rank: 85

19. LAIATU LATU, UCLA

Big board rank: 86

20. PRINCELY UMANMIELEN, FLORIDA

Big board rank: 93

INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE

1. Jalen Carter, Georgia 

Big board rank: 5

Carter has been hampered by an injury in the early going and has been limited to only 132 snaps. However, his work as a sophomore in 2021 is enough to solidify his top-five draft stock, as he led the Bulldogs with a 90.0 pass-rushing grade.


2. Bryan Bresee, Clemson

Big board rank: 6

Bresee is not your run-of-the-mill defensive tackle. At 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, he’s not holding an ounce of bad weight and could pass for a defensive end from a build perspective. He’s one of the best pure penetrators in the class and earned a 76.0 pass-rushing grade this season.


3. Siaki Ika, Baylor

Big board rank: 37

Ika is a hulking 6-foot-4, 358-pound nose tackle. He’s one of the rare athletes at that size who can still affect the passer. Ika has racked up 45 pressures since the start of the 2021 season.


4. Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh

Big board rank: 45

At 6-foot, 280 pounds, Kancey may not tick the physical boxes from the defensive tackle position, but I still want this guy rushing the passer. Even though he’s undersized, he’s still a high-end athlete for the position who can likely overcome those concerns.


5. KEONDRE COBURN, TEXAS

Big board rank: 57

6. KOBIE TURNER, WAKE FOREST

Big board rank: 61

7. GERVON DEXTER, FLORIDA

Big board rank: 63

8. MAZI SMITH, MICHIGAN

Big board rank: 71

9. MORO OJOMO, TEXAS

Big board rank: 88

10. ZACCH PICKENS, SOUTH CAROLINA

Big board rank: 89

11. KARL BROOKS, BOWLING GREEN

Big board rank: 92

12. JAQUELIN ROY, LSU

Big board rank: 94

13. JJ PEGUES, OLE MISS

Big board rank: 98

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