We took an early look at the offensive side of the ball for the potential 2023 NFL Draft class last week, and now we turn our attention to defense. Get ready for a ridiculously strong defensive tackle class compared to the past two years of relative duds at the position.
The No. 1 overall recruit in the 2020 class, Bresee broke onto the scene with a monster freshman campaign in which he earned an 81.2 pass-rushing grade. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL only 152 snaps into his 2021 season, so we didn’t get a proper look at what he could do for an encore. He’s a long and powerful 6-foot-5, 300-pounder.
Bryan Bresee doing No. 1 player type things pic.twitter.com/3eDYF9w3To
— Anna Hickey (@AnnaH247) October 18, 2020
Young just feels like the yearly Alabama defensive tackle who ends up drafted in Round 2. He’s only 292 pounds but is stout as can be against the run, posting an 88.8 grade in that regard as a junior last season.
lol Byron Young pic.twitter.com/yoqBIOruRL
— Brett Hudson (@Brett_Hudson) September 29, 2019
Kancey's listed size of 6-foot and 275 pounds isn't going to earn him many NFL fans. On a college football field, though, he has been nothing short of a problem. He racked up 38 pressures and recorded an 83.7 overall grade last season as a redshirt sophomore.
Calijah Kancey on Saturday ????
3 TFL, 1.5 Sacks ????
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) November 21, 2021
Wooden has an old-school 3-4 defensive end build at 6-foot-5 and 278 pounds. He can really get upfield as a pass-rusher and earned an 80.6 pass-rushing grade with 41 pressures last season. He could have declared and been a likely Day 2 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft but returned for his redshirt junior season to fill out and improve his stock.
Colby Wooden (@CJW_21) w/ a monster freshman season in 2020
•9 ½ Tackles For Loss (Team Leader; Ranked 4th in SEC; 4th most in the country among freshmen)
•4 Sacks (Team Leader; Tied for 2nd most in SEC among freshmen)
•Led all Auburn DL w/ 41 tacklespic.twitter.com/qannbDwYbJ
— Power of Dixieland (@Power_Dixieland) December 29, 2020
Dexter is a mammoth 6-foot-6, 303-pound nose tackle for the Gators. He’s got the kind of length that every NFL scheme is looking for. He was a full-time starter for the first time last season as a sophomore and flashed with a 75.8 pass-rushing grade.
A reminder that Gervon Dexter is one of the best defensive tackles in the country. Outplayed Tim Smith, Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis this season statistically and on film. pic.twitter.com/dfulUBFweh
— Clover. (@JBreezyII) December 27, 2021
The current front-runner for DT1 in the 2023 class, Carter was the most impactful pass-rusher on Georgia's vaunted defense last season. He earned a 90.0 pass-rushing grade and racked up 34 pressures on 264 rushes. At 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, he can operate anywhere between the tackles.
Trying to study ELIGIBLE prospects… Get away from me #88!
Jalen Carter… Wtf. Did he change gaps on his own here, anticipating the run to the left?! And then was still able to fall back into the B-gap. Damn. pic.twitter.com/QLjrF5B56X
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 20, 2021
Roy is yet another sophomore defensive tackle who has already established himself as an interior threat to opposing quarterbacks. He knows how to use his hands and possesses the kind of quick feet to make guards miss. He just needs to continue to improve his play strength at 6-foot-4 and 297 pounds.
Jaquelin Roy and the defensive line once again just stopping anything and everything. pic.twitter.com/qFm2GnVxGu
— Matthew Brune (@MatthewBrune_) September 19, 2021
There are no play strength concerns with the 6-foot-4, 350-pound Ika. He started his career at LSU before transferring after two years to Baylor, where he enjoyed a breakout 2021 campaign. At that size, he was utilized as a penetrator and still racked up 33 pressures. That’s quite the figure for a collegiate nose tackle.
Highlight: Excellent get-off by #62 sophomore DT Siaki Ika using a swim move to gain immediate leverage keeping his balance for the sack. #Baylor #Big12Championship #CollegeFootball pic.twitter.com/rKGcEtqrSP
— AA News Network (@AANewsNetwork) December 4, 2021
Carter is set to be Army's highest-drafted player since 1947. At 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, he was nothing short of unblockable last season en route to 15 sacks and a 93.4 pass-rushing grade. He’s got the size, length and athleticism to work his way into the first-round conversation with another big year as a redshirt junior in 2022.
A player who the draft community should get familiar with, starting tonight is #Army EDGE Andre Carter II. Possessing a explosive first step + favorable length, very disruptive. Had breakout 2021 season registering 14.5 sacks and 16 TFL’s.
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) December 23, 2021
Ojulari is a bendy, undersized rusher who has all the traits to get to quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s already racked up 78 pressures through two seasons with the Tigers. At only 244 pounds, though, he needs to pack on more weight.
BJ Ojulari was one of the only DEs that troubled Charles Cross in Pass Pro this year, converts speed to power so efficiently, and strings moves together well. No doubt the LSU Pass Rush will be productive in 2023 with Ali Gaye on the other side too. pic.twitter.com/sxwTVF639h
— Luke Carr (TD4LC) (@LukeCarrNFL) March 28, 2022
Hall is a twitched-up edge rusher who wins with pure get-off. He needs more moves and some counters, but his explosiveness will intrigue NFL teams. He earned 80.0-plus pass-rushing grades in each of the past two seasons.
Derrick Hall, #29, Auburn, 4JR, possesses big time pass rush ability on an outside track as he can dip and bend. Combined with his length and play strength it makes him a very intriguing prospect! pic.twitter.com/oVN8KX9eww
— Lorenz (@ScoutingLenz) August 26, 2021
Baldonado is the oldest of this bunch as he heads into his redshirt senior campaign with the Panthers, but he’s got tools in the NFL edge mold. He boasts a number of pass-rushing moves already and produced 48 pressures last season with them. He’s not quite as twitched-up as the top guys, but he can still win with his length.
Every time I watch teams go against #Pitt’s defense, one player consistently pops on film. #Pitt EDGE Habakkuk Baldonado has some tools man, strong, active hands, uses his power to get to the QB, plays with his hair on fire.
R-SR returning to school in 2023. Big name to watch. pic.twitter.com/gBD9DD6zw4
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) April 6, 2022
Foskey is built in the Marcus Davenport bull-rusher mold. He has the kind of juice and length to continually collapse pockets. He took massive steps forward as a junior in that regard last season en route to an 80.7 overall grade, but there are more athletic tools to work with than even that production suggests.
Isaiah Foskey. One arm to beat the left tackle, the other to sack Kedon Slovis. This is impressive stuff. pic.twitter.com/BGlUh3VRHB
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) October 26, 2021
Murphy is a 6-foot-5, 275-pound specimen. He shocks offensive linemen on contact in a way you don’t often see from a true sophomore. Murphy is only scratching the surface and could easily play his way into being a top-10 draft pick in 2023.
Myles Murphy + Xavier Thomas pic.twitter.com/NNoDhWeSjY
— Seldom Used Reserve (@seldomusedres) February 8, 2022
Herbig is another Wisconsin edge in the undersized, hybrid mold. He played outside at only 6-foot-2 and 227 pounds as a sophomore last season and dropped into coverage almost as much as he rushed the passer. At that size, he showed a natural feel for setting up offensive linemen and getting to opposing quarterbacks, earning a 91.4 pass-rushing grade.
— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) December 31, 2021
Smith was the top overall recruit in the 2019 class because of his — and stop me if you’ve heard this before about a Georgia defender — elite athleticism. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, he is a lightning rod off the edge. He made massive strides as a true junior last season but would likely have still been on the outside looking in on the first round had he declared. He has top-10 tools and could play his way into that conversation with a better season as a pass-rusher in 2022.
Nolan Smith (No. 4) against Arkansas:
79.6 game grade
3 QB pressures, inc 2 sacks
5 stops, inc clip below, in the run game pic.twitter.com/f1yFJf841i
— Brent Rollins (@BrentRollinsPhD) March 6, 2021
Anderson is EDGE1, and that shouldn't change anytime soon. He led college football with 81 pressures last season. While he could stand to pack on some mass to his 243-pound frame, Anderson has all the ability to succeed in the NFL at that size.
— Nick Penticoff (@NickPenticoff) April 26, 2022
Harrison is a long and explosive 6-foot-6, 272-pounder who is only just starting to learn how to tap into his physical tools. He’s a touch stiff at that size and far more of a linear athlete, which limits his effectiveness at getting to the edge. Still, that’s the profile of a bull-rusher in the NFL.
Zach Harrison with that double TFL. pic.twitter.com/tESIgkRifr
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 1, 2020
Speaking of bull-rushers, Tupuola-Fetui was hands-down the best in this class in that regard back in 2020. In that coronavirus-shortened season, he earned a 91.8 pass-rushing grade. Unfortunately, he tore his Achilles last offseason, which limited him to only 130 snaps in 2021. He enters his redshirt senior year with only 514 snaps to his name.
So good to see #Washington DE/LB Zion Tupuola-Fetui (#58) back on the field Saturday after tearing his Achilles only 6 months ago.
Still a dude. pic.twitter.com/kn5VgQn7PM
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 18, 2021
Overshown is a former safety who still too often plays with the physicality of one. But you can’t coach his length at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds. He presents a unique coverage weapon even though his 30.4 grade against the run last year is why he returned for his redshirt senior season.
— Texas Platinum (@TexPlatinum) February 17, 2021
Diabate has the kind of high-end athleticism the NFL will covet — but none of the production. Last season, he didn’t notch a single interception or pass breakup and managed only 25 stops. His most impressive reps come as a pass-rusher, leading to 19 pressures last season.
YES SIR. THAT IS HOW YOU PLAY WITH RELENTLESS EFFORT, MOHAMOUD DIABATE pic.twitter.com/LXSEMSwB5m
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) November 20, 2021
Sewell is the biggest hitter in the country and packs quite the wallop coming into blocks. It will be interesting to see how the NFL values the 6-foot-3, 251-pounder's game due to his middling coverage prowess.
Noah Sewell is a freak at LB. Runs down the back and forces a fumble. pic.twitter.com/0XouagZ1Sq
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) September 9, 2021
Pappoe may be the fastest returning linebacker in all of college football. He moves like a cornerback at 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds. He just now needs to play with the physicality of a linebacker as a senior.
— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) August 24, 2020
The early frontrunner for LB1, Simpson already flashed an all-around game as a true sophomore. He needs to keep filling out his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame, but there’s little in the way of play strength concerns on his tape. Last year, he racked up seven sacks and 13 hits in Brent Venables' blitz-heavy scheme.
Trenton Simpson (# 22) owns four consecutive plays on D. Second-fourth downs, then first down the next very series. pic.twitter.com/vcfog3gMeV
— Anna Hickey (@AnnaH247) October 18, 2020
You won’t find a returning college linebacker who can match Brown’s career production. The three-year starter for the Chippewas has earned quality grades every single year, headlined by an 87.5 overall mark last season. He’s going to get knocked for his size (6-foot-2, 218 pounds), but he consistently plays bigger than that.
Brown is a TOUGH safety playing full-time WLB at 6'2 205lbs – 1st Team All-MAC in '19 & '20
Dart into Backfields, Ball Skills, Physical, Coverage on Slots/RBs, Blitzer, 300+ Special Teams Snaps pic.twitter.com/r0OkOHS4Bq
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) June 19, 2021
Smith picked up right where Jaycee Horn left off for the Gamecocks last season. The 6-foot-1, 187-pound cornerback picked off three passes, broke up nine more and finished with an 89.7 coverage grade.
THIS INT BY CAM SMITH ????????pic.twitter.com/uEr98vuFUa
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 7, 2021
Phillips is undersized, but don’t tell him that. He competes on the outside snap after snap for the Utes at only 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds. He earned a 76.4 coverage grade as a sophomore last season and got considerably better as the campaign wore on.
Utah Clark Phillips III just might be everyone’s favorite CB for next season and it’s not hard to see why he has many fans. He’s competitive, smooth, trusts his eyes, confidence in his game, sticky coverage, high IQ, and is super talented! pic.twitter.com/xDJxfg73bd
— Robert Cardona (@CARDONAFAM29) April 12, 2022
Ricks was the best true freshman corner in the country back in 2020 after allowing only 13 catches on 28 targets for 237 yards. He’s a long, 6-foot-2 cornerback who has some questions about his speed. He transferred to Alabama this offseason and is slated to start for the Crimson Tide.
Ringo earned his first starting action as a redshirt freshman last year and didn’t disappoint. He sealed Georgia’s national championship win with a pick-six late in the fourth quarter. He’s a massive cornerback at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, and he allowed just a 40.7% completion percentage in coverage last year.
— The Harris Highlights Show (@TheHHShow_) January 11, 2022
In his first year after switching from wide receiver to cornerback, Abrams-Draine was a revelation playing all over for the Tigers' defense. The redshirt freshman picked off three passes and broke up nine more while splitting his time between the slot and outside.
Missouri CB Kris Abrams-Draine is a former WR who transitioned to CB. He has a chance to be one of the better slot corners in college football! He has quick feet, attacks the ball well, good feel for the game, under control movements. He’s still learning,but someone I’d bet on. pic.twitter.com/ZrcAiM65Qk
— Robert Cardona (@CARDONAFAM29) May 2, 2022
Daniels has been on NFL radars for seemingly forever, but no prospect on this list has been plagued by a worse string of injuries. He came back to TCU this fall for his sixth college season, although he's managed only 510 career snaps despite playing since 2018.
— Eric Galko (@EricGalko) October 9, 2021
Grimes was the former No. 1 cornerback recruit before he reclassified because of the coronavirus and came to North Carolina early. In his two seasons for the Tar Heels, he’s allowed only 40 catches on 80 targets for 524 yards.
TONY GRIMES SAID GIMME THAT!!! FIRST CAREER INTERCEPTION. pic.twitter.com/dNrpQH6POW
— Taylor Vippolis (@tvippolis) December 12, 2020
Johnson filled the slot role in Texas A&M’s defense as a sophomore last season, but he can be so much more than that in the NFL. He’s an ultra-long defensive back at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds with legit closing burst. He earned an 89.5 run-defense grade and an 88.7 coverage grade last season because of his work around the ball.
Holy Antonio Johnson ????
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 20, 2021
Joseph consistently seems to be in the right place at the right time, and it’s not by accident. He picked off nine passes across 21 games in the past two seasons at Northwestern. He’s looking to fill Kyle Hamilton’s shoes for the Irish this fall and hopefully up his draft stock next spring, as well.
A freshman Brandon Joseph (16) in man coverage against five-star receiver Garrett Wilson on a pass from five-star Justin Fields. Notre Dame needs this kind of coverage ability at safety when teams spread out the defense. pic.twitter.com/GxXC1tRsYF
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) January 8, 2022
Catalon could have been a Day 2 pick in 2022 had he not suffered a shoulder injury that ended his redshirt sophomore season early in 2021. He’s a missile at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds with the ability to lay the wood as well as anyone in the draft class.
PICK-SIX JALEN CATALON‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/vqMBlknIgy
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 17, 2020
Battle possesses some of the best size in the safety class at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds. He’s been seeing time ever since his true freshman season at Alabama in 2019, considerably improving on his overall grade each year. Range will be his question mark to answer in 2022.
Great open field tackle by Jordan Battle and his teammates did not care lol pic.twitter.com/sZtP998zNF
— CROCK-MAN⚡️ (@eric_crocker) February 11, 2021
Moore is yet another former true freshman starter on defense under Nick Saban. He earned an 82.1 coverage grade in his first season in 2020 while manning the slot. However, his ball production took a step back this past season, with him notching only one combined pick and pass breakup.
Happy Birthday Malachi Moore ????❤️ pic.twitter.com/5F44ZrMK6s
— Alabama DieHards (@DiehardsAlabama) September 13, 2021
Torrence is a spark plug in the middle of Florida’s defense at 6-foot and 205 pounds. He’s willing to mix it up and has played a very versatile role for the Gators. Of his 803 snaps last year, 210 came from the box, 386 in a deep alignment and 196 from the slot.
Ask and you shall receive (Volume Warning)
— Blue-Orange Gator (@blueorangegator) April 28, 2022