First Take - Top Defensive Tackles for the 2021 NFL Draft

Nov 23, 2019; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Hendon Hooker (2) runs the ball against Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman (97) during the third quarter at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Rang

With the report cards for the 2020 NFL draft completed, NFLDraftScout is turning its attention to the class of 2021, offering a quick “First Take” with rankings and perspective of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each position group.

There is more proven talent at defensive tackle than at end but this is another positional group which has been picked apart by the NFL in recent years and therefore needs potential to start turning into production.

Only two defensive tackles were drafted in the first round a year ago, with the Carolina Panthers plucking Auburn’s Derrick Brown at 8 overall and the San Francisco 49ers using the 14 pick on South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw, a cheaper, younger version (or so GM John Lynch hopes) to traded standout DeForest Buckner.

Teams looking for a plug and play solution will like Florida State senior Marvin Wilson, who has the bulk and strength to remind many of former Seminoles (and current Chicago Bears) standout Eddie Goldman.

The prototypically-built Wilson is currently the only senior defensive tackle to have a first round grade.

He likely would have joined Brown and Kinlaw in the first round a year ago despite missing four games due to a hand injury. In nine starts last season, Wilson followed up a breakout sophomore campaign (41 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks) by setting career-highs in every category (44-8.5-5.0) while serving as a team captain.

Wilson turned heads earlier this week, accusing new Florida State head coach Mike Norvel of lying about interactions with the team, while the nation reels with racial turmoil. Wilson claimed that he and his teammates were “outraged” and would not be working out “until further notice.”

Fortunately, Wilson and Norvell have since met, and through admirable transparency and leadership on both sides, the Seminoles have agreed to three significant actions including getting every FSU player registered to vote.

Wilson’s combination of physical and character traits could earn him a spot in the top 10 a year from now, similar to the grade Brown received.

Teams in search of other run-stuffers have plenty of potential options available to them, including USC’s Jay Tufele, Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis, LSU’s Tyler Shelvin, Texas A&M’s Bobby Brown III and BYU’s Khyiris Tonga.

There are quick gap-splitters among this class, as well, including Pittsburgh’s Jaylen Twyman (10.5 sacks in 2019) and Colorado’s Mustafa Johnson (7.5 sacks in 2018) who could leap up draft boards this fall if they can build upon prior success rushing the quarterback.

Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike doesn’t have much national name recognition yet, but scouts like his consistency and reliability. He is a prime candidate to enjoy a breakout senior campaign, already generating interest from Jim Nagy and the Senior Bowl. 

The Top Five

1. Marvin Wilson 6-4, 311 Florida State

2. *Jay Tufele 6-2, 310 Southern Cal

3. *Phidarian Mathis 6-3, 312 Alabama

4. *Jaylen Twyman 6-2, 290 Pittsburgh

5. Levi Onwuzurike 6-2, 293 Washington

Best of the Rest

6. *Nyles Pinckney 6-1, 295 Clemson

7. *Tyler Shelvin 6-2, 346 LSU

8. Kyree Campbell 6-2 304 Florida

9. Mustafa Johnson 6-2, 290 Colorado

10. Darius Stills 6-1, 290 West Virginia

11. *Jordan Williams 6-3, 310 Clemson

12. *Bobby Brown III 6-3, 325 Texas A&M

13. Khyiris Tonga 6-3, 340 BYU

14. Brandon Pili 6-3 325 Southern Cal

15. Xavier Kelly 6-3, 305 Arkansas

16. *Aubrey Solomon 6-4 306 Tennessee

17. Tyrone Truesdell 6-2, 310 Auburn

18. Naquan Jones 6-3, 339 Michigan State

19. Lorenzo Neal 6-2 315 Purdue

20. Jordon Scott 6-1, 322 Oregon

Prior “First Take” Positional Previews:

Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Offensive Tackles | Offensive Guards | Centers | Defensive Ends |