- Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton: The redshirt junior is both college football's top returning defensive tackle and the best interior defender in the 2024 NFL Draft.
- Miami’s Leonard Taylor: The former top-10 recruit began to live up to the hype as a sophomore.
- LSU’s Maason Smith: He returns from a torn ACL and could end up as a top-15 pick when it’s all said and done.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
There were four interior defensive linemen taken in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the most since 2019. Early returns on the 2024 class suggest it could be more of the same. Four defensive tackles went in the first round of my way-too-early 2024 mock draft.
Here are the 10 interior defensive linemen to know as we head into summer scouting.
Other position groups:
Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois
In an exclusive interview with PFF, Newton revealed that he returned to Illinois partly because he wanted to be a first-round pick. He has a very good chance to accomplish that in 2024, going 11th in my way-too-early mock.
He was the most valuable Power Five interior defensive lineman this past season according to PFF’s wins above average metric. Newton led that same group with 59 pressures while his 13 tackles for loss/no-gain were tied for the most among FBS interior defensive linemen.
— Max Chadwick (@Chad_Maxwick) May 24, 2023
Leonard Taylor, Miami (FL)
He lived up to the hype this season, especially as a pass-rusher. The sophomore’s 19.5% pressure rate and 16.2% pressure rate trailed only Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey among Power Five interior defensive linemen. Taylor has the potential to be the top defensive tackle in the 2024 draft with an increase in workload, as he only played 370 snaps in 2022.
Leonard Taylor does this on only his second snap of the night.
— Luke Chaney (@luke_chaney4) September 29, 2022
Michael Hall Jr., Ohio State
Hall only played 266 snaps this past season as a part of Ohio State’s defensive tackle rotation. He flashed on limited playing time though, posting an 80.3 grade and six sacks on those snaps.
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) September 4, 2022
Maason Smith, LSU
Smith played all of eight snaps last season before tearing his ACL. At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, he played mostly along the edge for LSU in his freshman year, showing how incredible of an athlete he is. In 2021, he had four sacks on 198 pass-rushing snaps.
Maason Smith — a name you'll be hearing A LOT this seasonpic.twitter.com/9nkMc682Cq
— College Football Network (@CFN365) April 26, 2023
Dontay Corleone, Cincinnati
As a redshirt freshman this season, Corleone led all FBS defenders with a 93.8 grade.
His 94.7 run-defense grade was also the best mark by a defensive player since Micah Parsons in 2019. Despite ranking just 256th among interior defensive linemen in run-defense snaps (172), “The Godfather” registered the sixth-most run-stops (27).
Highest single-season run-defense grades in PFF College era (Since 2014 among DI, EDGE and LB)
|Micah Parsons||Penn State||LB||2019||94.8|
For justice, we must go to Don Corleone pic.twitter.com/nrphb0a9Eh
— Dontay Corleone (@dontaycorleone) January 5, 2023
Ruke Orhorhoro, Clemson
Orhorhoro was an all-around stud in the middle of Clemson’s defensive line. He was one of only four ACC interior defensive linemen with 75-plus grades as both a pass-rusher and run-defender. He’s also played all over the Tigers’ front, from nose tackle to edge defender.
Ruke Orhorhoro is a grown man pic.twitter.com/ffHnA4WGFd
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) October 16, 2022
Mekhi Wingo, LSU
After an impressive freshman season at Missouri, Wingo transferred to LSU this past season.
He practically never came off the field for the Tigers this year, as the sophomore’s 821 snaps were 30-plus more than any other interior defensive linemen in college football. His 84.3 run-defense grade was third among SEC interior defensive linemen while his four sacks were tied for the most.
Mekhi Wingo (DT #92) is GOOD. pic.twitter.com/Oa41Q0AEQo
— cristian (@Cristianspfc_) December 22, 2022
Brandon Dorlus, Oregon
At 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds, Dorlus blurs the line between edge defender and interior defensive lineman. He spent his sophomore season in 2021 lined up more on the interior before playing out on the edge this past season.
Regardless of where he lines up, the junior produces at a high level. Dorlus’ 88 pressures over the last two years lead all returning Power Five edge defenders.
Oregon EDGE 3 Brandon Dorlus is quite effective with his swim move. Fun player that should be able to contribute right away. pic.twitter.com/I0lU6v2CBc
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) January 13, 2023
Tyleik Williams, Ohio State
Like his teammate Hall, Williams played fewer than 300 snaps along Ohio State’s defensive line this past season. The sophomore impressed on those snaps, earning an 80.9 grade. He has impressive agility at 6-foot-3, 315 pounds. He should become more of a household name on an increased workload.
THAT YOUNG MAN HAS A FAMILY, TYLEIK WILLIAMS‼️pic.twitter.com/bCBpcr4tgn
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 2, 2021
Tyler Davis, Clemson
Davis impressed as a true freshman in 2019 with a 79.6 grade before battling injuries over the following two seasons.
Finally healthy in 2022, the senior returned to his dominant ways, as his 82.9 grade was a top-10 figure among Power Five interior defensive linemen. His 36 pressures were fourth among that same group as well.
Last Saturday was best game @seniorbowl staff has ever seen from @ClemsonFB DT Tyler Davis (@tdbeast5390). More aggressive & explosive off snap than on junior ????. Here’s what “re-creating the LOS” & “putting OC on skates” looks like from EZ copy: ????1/3#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ https://t.co/jR8pY1Hwbr pic.twitter.com/FwnBG0qbXe
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) September 27, 2022