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Building the best defensive line using 2022 NFL Draft prospects

Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) works against UAB Blazers offensive lineman Andrew Smith Jr. (55) during the first half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL Draft class is loaded with fantastic defensive linemen who are ready to take your favorite team to the next level.

In this exercise, we are going to build the best defensive line from edge rusher to nose tackle. There’s a good chance that at least three of these players get picked within the first 15 selections, and there are more who didn’t make the cut at the individual positions but may also be selected that high. If your team doesn’t get one of the top players here, there is no need to fret. George Karlaftis could be a good Aidan Hutchison replacement, while David Ojabo could be a player selected later in the mold of Kayvon Thibodeaux

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Edge Rushers

4-3 Edge: AIDAN HUTCHINSON, MICHIGAN

Hutchinson is almost a lock to be the No. 1 overall pick in a draft that features a lot of top-five talent but maybe not a true No. 1 type of player. The Michigan product shows great pop against the run with an ability to hold up offensive tackles on base blocks and then find the ball carrier while keeping gap integrity or knifing inside to make a play. As a pass-rusher, he uses his quick first step to get tackles to gain depth before an inside move devastates them as he gets to the quarterback. Finding a way to consistently win on the outside as a pass-rusher will be key for him. He can also kick down inside if needed as a 4- or 4i-technique. 

3-4 Edge: KAYVON THIBODEAUX, OREGON

Thibodeaux playing as an outside linebacker type is not rocket science. That's where he played at Oregon. When Michigan played a 3-4, as noted, Hutchinson moved inside. We can see differences in their run-defense grades and how often they dropped into coverage in 2020 and 2021 combined:

Player Run-Defense Grade Dropped into Coverage
Kayvon Thibodeaux 82.2 58
Aidan Hutchinson 92.0 35

With both players expected to be high picks, you’d want to build that player's usage around their skill set — not the other way around. Teams that nominally play one front or another should find ways to incorporate the player selected into their scheme. 

Thibodeaux has more of the bend that teams are looking for at the edge rusher position but might not be as polished with his hand usage as Hutchinson. 

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