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Ultimate NFL Draft Preview: Barmore, Onwuzurike Lead Poor Class of Defensive Linemen

How bad is the defensive line class? Christian Barmore, who didn't even play 40 percent of the snaps at Alabama, might be the No. 1 prospect off the board.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Now that you know who might not be a consideration and why the Green Bay Packers need to bolster their defensive front, here is a look at the 2021 NFL Draft class of defensive linemen.

Barmore, Onwuzurike Lone First-Round Prospects

Christian Barmore, Alabama (6-4 1/8, 310 pounds; 33 5/8-inch arms; 4.97 40; 4.75 shuttle; DNP bench press): Barmore, a native of the Philadelphia suburb of Tacony, Pa., attended three high schools. When the second one, a charter school, closed, he landed at Neumann-Goretti – located about 90 minutes from his home. His senior year was his only season as a varsity player.

One wrecking-ball season was enough to get him to Alabama. One wrecking-ball season for the Crimson Tide could be enough to make him a top-15 or top-20 pick in this year’s NFL Draft.

RELATED: PRE-DRAFT FEATURE ON BARMORE

Barmore played in 23 games with just six sacks in two seasons. He was a high-impact performer with 10 sacks and 16.5 tackles for losses, including eight sacks, 9.5 TFLs, three forced fumbles and five pass deflections in 12 games (five starts) in 2020, when he was named second-team All-American. However, he barely saw the field on running plays. His two-year playing time was less than 40 percent.

Draft Bible says: Barmore has the length to get into the chest of blockers and the leg drive to bull-rush them, which is a fantastic baseline to have on the interior. He is able to win with his strong and violent hands that allow him to deconstruct and keep his frame clean. When he locks out and plays at extension, he does well to control gaps and make plays up and down the line of scrimmage. Barmore is an above-average athlete with solid burst and some stiffness to him. He can lose off the line in the run game as he does not play with a low enough pad level to consistently gain leverage on blockers. He projects best as a power rushing defensive tackle who can pressure the passer consistently.

Levi Onwuzurike (6-2 7/8, 290; 33 arms; 4.86 40; DNP shuttle; 29 bench press): Onwuzurike redshirted in 2016 and had five sacks and 10 tackles for losses as a reserve in 2017 and 2018 before breaking into the starting lineup in 2019. He was named first-team all-Pac-12 with two sacks and six tackles for losses. More was expected of him in 2020 but he opted out.

RELATED: PRE-DRAFT FEATURE ON ONWUZURIKE

“I’m the best D-tackle in the draft,” he said at his pro day. “So, the best D-tackle in the draft should go in the first round.” Why is he the best? “For me, my get off, my strong hands and my pass rush. Those three alone easily separate me from all the others. A lot of those guys can't do what I do and I can do what they do. One hundred percent, there's a big gap between us.”

According to Sports Info Solutions, in 2019, he recorded a true pressure rate (straight dropbacks only) of 10 percent and a positive run-at percentage (percentage of carries when he was in the designed gap) of 43 percent. He had 6 percent of the defense’s tackles and a missed-tackle rate of 6 percent (three misses).

Draft Bible says: In a class desperately trying to find interior pass rushers, Onwuzurike has flashed some of the highest potential of the bunch. He is cat quick with impressive flexibility inside, showing the talent to “get skinny” and shoot gaps at a high level. In the run game, he shows enough anchor to occupy multiple blockers while still working laterally at proper depth. The next step is for Onwuzurike to put it all together. For as talented as he is, the production does not yet match the overall skill set.

Athletes Available in Day 2

Daviyon Nixon, Iowa (6-3 1/8, 313; 35 1/8 arms; 4.86 40; 4.71 shuttle; DNP bench): Coming out of Indian Trails High School in Kenosha, Wis., he wasn’t academically eligible. So, he had to spend a year in junior college. Following that year at Iowa Western, he received a scholarship offer from Alabama but stuck with Iowa. After sitting out the 2018 season, he put his name in the transfer portal before again electing to stay at Iowa. A reserve in 2019, he needed to take a big step forward in 2020 to make himself a top draft prospect.

RELATED: OUR PRE-DRAFT FEATURE ON NIXON

Their patience – the team’s and Nixon’s – was rewarded. Nixon was a one-year wonder in 2020 as the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year and a consensus first-team All-American with five sacks and 10 tackles for losses. His 1.3 tackles for losses per game leads the draft class.

According to Sports Info Solutions, he recorded a true pressure rate (straight dropbacks only) of 6 percent and a run-at percentage (percentage of carries when he was in the designed gap) of 26 percent. He had 8 percent of Iowa’s tackles and a missed-tackle rate of only 2 percent (one miss).

Draft Bible says: Nixon is a dense lineman who aligns in multiple spots for the Hawkeyes including as a shaded nose or a five-technique. His consistently low pad level helps him in winning the leverage battle. Nixon stresses blockers laterally with his agility and punishes passive blockers with his hand usage. Once he gets hip-to-hip with a blocker, he uses a rip move to prevent them from getting access to his frame. In the run game, he possesses a solid anchor and is superb in the lateral run game, beating blockers to spots and shooting gaps.

Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech (6-3, 284; 31 1/2 arms; 4.63 40; 4.33 shuttle; 34 BP): Dynamite comes in small packages. Even if “small” means 284 pounds.

Williams, who had 10 sacks in 23 games his final two seasons, had an explosive and, perhaps, lucrative pro day workout. The shuttle and three-cone (of 6.96 seconds) “really show off my quickness that I have. Any of doubts that I can’t bend that people were coming out of nowhere with, I put that to bed today,” Williams said afterward. “I feel like I helped myself a lot today. That was part of my decision of coming out early anyway because I knew the work that I would put in.”

RELATED: PRE-DRAFT FEATURE ON WILLIAMS

Relative Athletic Score is a 0-to-10 measurement of a prospect’s athleticism. Williams’ RAS was 9.96, second-best in the draft class among defensive linemen. “I knew that I was going to be the fastest defensive tackle in this draft class, no question about it,” he said. “No defensive tackle anywhere was going to run faster than me. I broke the record three weeks ago and I broke it again today. That’s how confident I am in my work ethic and I put that on display today.”

Draft Bible says: Aligning at defensive end in their three-man front, he shows NFL athleticism with his get-off and flexibility, even flashing the ability to win on an outside track. Putting his processing on display, Williams shows great timing to disengage and make tackles in the run game. His pad level is low for the most part, allowing him to win the leverage battle at the point of attack and uproot blockers. In the zone running game, he gets laterally well thanks to his athleticism and balance.

Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA (6-1 5/8, 282; 34 arms; DNP 40; 4.44 shuttle; 25 bench): Osa Odighizuwa is one of the best defensive linemen in this draft class. One reason why is, once upon a time, he was the top-ranked high school heavyweight wrestler in the nation. A native of Portland, he was a three-time state champion who finished his career with 131 consecutive victories.

RELATED: PRE-DRAFT FEATURE ON ODIGHIZUWA

According to Sports Info Solutions, he recorded a true pressure rate (straight dropbacks only) of 8 percent and a positive run-at percentage (percentage of carries when he was in the designed gap) of 66 percent, a superb number. Runs bounced outside his gap a best-in-class 45 percent of the time. He had 6 percent of the defense’s tackles and a missed-tackle rate of 12 percent (4 misses).

In 43 games (27 starts), Odighizuwa had 12 sacks and 27 tackles for losses. In 12 games in 2019, he had career highs of 4.5 sacks and 10.5 TFLs. In seven games in 2020, he contributed four sacks and six tackles for losses. While undersized, he is athletic and has long arms.

His brother, Owa, was a third-round pick by the Giants in 2015. He was a major bust, playing only 18 games in two seasons.

Draft Bible says: Odighizuwa is an undersized defensive line piece who is extremely flexible. He has flashed the ability to win early in reps with surprising bend from the inside. His hand usage is nice, showing the ability to win inside and gain leverage on a down-to-down basis. Odighizuwa will be extremely scheme specific and might lack the ideal physical profile to play a high volume of snaps. He can’t counteract physicality at the point of attack consistently with even less success working through double teams. His best role early on could be as a sub-package 3-technique who makes his impact on obvious passing downs.

Marlon Tuipulotu, USC (6-1 7/8, 307; 33 arms; DNP 40/hamstring; 4.65 shuttle; 29 BP): Tuipulotu was a three-year starter who earned first-team all-conference in 2020. He had a career-high 4.5 sacks in 2018, a career-high six tackles for losses in 2019 and tallied two sacks and 3.5 TFLs in six games in 2020.

A native of Independence, Ore., Tuipulotu was a state champion wrestler. “I never really heard of wrestling until I moved to Oregon,” he told The Touchdown. “Once I got there, they were telling me how much it could help with football. Once I decided to wrestle, I feel like it really did help me. Just having violent hands, being strong, understanding the opponent’s body, trying to manoeuvre it so it could benefit myself, understanding leverage. I feel like it definitely did help.” His brother, Tuli, also is a defensive lineman for USC. They started three games together this past season. A cousin, Fili Moala, had a solid career as a defensive tackle with the Indianapolis Colts.

According to Sports Info Solutions, he recorded a true pressure rate (straight dropbacks only) of 11 percent and a positive run-at percentage (percentage of carries when he was in the designed gap) of 47 percent, making him one of the best two-way defenders from a statistical perspective. He had 6 percent of the defense’s tackles and a missed-tackle rate of 15 percent (four misses).

Draft Bible says: Tuipulotu possesses surprising athleticism as he has some quickness in his get-off and is able to shoot gaps effectively. Behind his pads, he carries some serious power allowing him to extend and reset the line of scrimmage consistently. His combination of length and power make him a dangerous bull rusher. Tuipulotu plays like a bull in a china shop and is almost unhinged at times. His effort is always terrific. He has to work on dropping his pad level as he just pops up out of his stance far too often.

Dayo Odeyingbo, Vanderbil (6-5 1/8, 285 pounds; 35 1/4 arms; DNP workouts/Achilles): Odeyingbo suffered a torn Achilles during his training in January. The timing of the injury could make his rookie season a redshirt year. He’s a quality talent, perhaps worthy of a shot at the end of Round 2 if healthy. However, how far will he fall if Year 1 of his contract will be spent rehabbing the injury?

Odeyingbo played in 44 games with 29 career starts. He recorded 12 sacks and ranks fifth in school history with 31 tackles for losses. According to Sports Info Solutions, he recorded a true pressure rate (straight dropbacks only) of 13 percent and a positive run-at percentage (percentage of carries when he was in the designed gap) of 54 percent. He had 5 percent of the defense’s tackles and a missed-tackle rate of 14 percent (five misses).

He was preceded to Vandy by his older brother, Dare. They played two years together – the first time they were teammates. “We had never had a chance to play together growing up because we actually went to different high schools,” Dare told VUCommodores.com. “This is really the first time we’ve been on the same team. It’s been a lot of fun. The guys on the team become your family, but it’s nice to have actual family up here at the same time.” Dayo grew up watching Food Network. The son of Nigerian-born parents, he fancies himself as quite a chef. His teammates agree. “They all love my food. I live off campus now,” Dayo told VanderbiltHustler.com. “That’s why I moved off campus, to get a kitchen to cook.”

According to Sports Info Solutions, he recorded a true pressure rate (straight dropbacks only) of 13 percent and a positive run-at percentage (percentage of carries when he was in the designed gap) of 54 percent. He had 5 percent of the defense’s tackles and a missed-tackle rate of 14 percent (five misses).

Draft Bible says: Blessed with long limbs and a frame to add a significant amount of weight, Odeyingbo is the prototype five-technique in an odd-man front. Tight ends have a tough time down-blocking him as he uses every inch of his frame to press and fight off pressure. He has some surprising anchor for a wiry frame, dropping his pad level and holding firm at the point of attack. While he aligned more on the edge at Vanderbilt, there is some Malik Jackson to Odeyingbo’s game. He has some penetration ability that should be able to be utilized up and down the line of scrimmage.

Day 3 Prospects

Tommy Togiai, Ohio State (6-1 1/2, 296; 31 3/4 arms; 4.98 40; 4.51 shuttle; 40 BP): A first-time starter in 2020, he was a second-team All-American and an anchor on one of the best defenses in the country. In seven games, he had three sacks and 4.5 tackles for losses.

Togiai is a tower of power, as evidenced by those 40 reps on the 225-pound bench press at pro day. He was 12 pounds at birth. His mom had to carry his birth certificate for proof of age during youth sports contests. He was given a gym membership when he was 12. “Tommy is strong as an ox,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs told the New Orleans Advocate. “The thing that Tommy does is he hustles so hard, day in and day out, at practice and in the games. He just is relentless. That’s what I feel like he does in the middle of the defense. He’s just a relentless force. If you don’t stay on him, he’s going to find himself at the ball.”

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According to Sports Info Solutions, he recorded a true pressure rate (straight dropbacks only) of 11 percent and a positive run-at percentage (percentage of carries when he was in the designed gap) of 30 percent. He had only 2 percent of the defense’s tackles and didn’t force a single hold. His missed-tackle rate was 4 percent (one miss).

Draft Bible says: Togiai shows violence and intent at the point of attack, defeating the hands of blockers quickly and getting inside positioning to convert his get-off into power. He possesses the hands to twist blockers or swipe their punches. In the lateral run game, Togiai resets the line of scrimmage with his pop and leg drive. He is stout on the inside and can swim move to either side after bench-pressing blockers off his frame. A quick processor, he adapts on the fly quickly and is rarely caught out of position. Togiai is just an average athlete with solid initial quickness, but struggles to move laterally.

Bobby Brown, Texas A&M (6-4, 321; 34 3/4 arms; 5.00 40; 4.58 shuttle; DNP bench/elbow): Brown was a two-year starter who had a breakout final season with 5.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for losses in nine games in 2020 to earn first-team all-SEC.

The athleticism comes from his mom, Erica Kelly, who starred at Southern Mississippi before playing professionally overseas. “My first love was always football,” he told The Eagle. “I like playing basketball with a mom who went pro in basketball. She kind of pushed me to play a little bit, and I actually liked it, but it was just football was where my heart was.”

That doesn’t mean she wasn’t a big influence. “My mother has trained me since I was 3 years old" he told 247 Sports. “My mom was a professional basketball player. Every sport I ever played she was always training me for it. I played basketball, baseball, track, wrestling, football. She trained me in every sport.” And the coaching was tough. “The reason coaches, when they scream at me, don’t get to me is because my momma, my junior year, was training me,” Brown told the school newspaper. “She was screaming in my face, spitting in my face, talking about, ‘You’re nothing.’ Anything a coach can say to me would never faze me because the woman I came from told me I was nothing.”

According to Sports Info Solutions, he recorded a true pressure rate (straight dropbacks only) of 9 percent and a positive run-at percentage (percentage of carries when he was in the designed gap) of 31 percent. He had 4 percent of the defense’s tackles and a missed-tackle rate of 12 percent (three misses). He drew four holding penalties.

Draft Bible says: Brown is an immovable object with great mass and strength up front. He can gobble up space and reset the line of scrimmage with his power. In the run game, he disengages well with his leverage and strong upper body as well as violent hands. He can gain some penetration as he is quick off the ball for his size although he lacks dynamism afterward. Usually a pocket pusher, Brown has the strength to stay on track and put pressure on the quarterback when he is hip-to-hip with the blocker. If Brown can lock out his arms and truly stack blockers, he has the requisite skills to play in a two-gapping front.

Alim McNeill, N.C. State (6-1 7/8, 317; 32 5/8 arms; 4.96 40; 4.65 shuttle; 27 BP): McNeill broke into the starting lineup in 2019, when he set career highs with 5.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for losses in 12 games. In 11 games in 2020, he had only one sack and 4.5 TFLs, though he was first-team all-ACC.

“If they’re going to single block him it’s a tough task,” coach Dave Doeren told CBS-17. “For most of this season, he’s been able to disrupt blocking schemes and create run-throughs for linebackers or make plays on his own.”

At Sanderson High School in Raleigh, N.C., McNeill played linebacker on defense and scored 40 touchdowns as a short-yardage running back. He also was an all-conference outfielder. “I think it helps tremendously,” he told USA Today’s Draft Wire. “It just builds overall athleticism, hand-eye coordination, just different things within the mind, thinking pace and stuff like that. I think it helps tremendously. I also played a little basketball – I only played two years organized and a lot of pickup. I think overall, playing a lot of sports can help you out, definitely, with any sport.

Football is his love but he has a passion for music, too. “I use that kind of as an escape, I guess you could say,” he told Empire Sports Media. “It’s just like a fun hobby I picked up on at a young age. My dad was a DJ when he was around my age. Then he had us and he would make beats and stuff around the house. I used to just watch him do it. That’s where I picked that up from and ever since then I just went with it. I started making songs around my freshman year and they weren’t very good, they weren’t produced very good. And then as time went it sounded more professional and that’s when I started uploading my music to Apple Music, Spotify, SoundCloud and what not.”

According to Sports Info Solutions, he recorded a true pressure rate (straight dropbacks only) of 4 percent and a positive run-at percentage (percentage of carries when he was in the designed gap) of 30 percent. He had only 3 percent of the defense’s tackles but didn’t miss any tackles.

Draft Bible says: McNeill was deployed mostly as a nose tackle by the Wolfpack, consistently holding down the interior. He rushes with active hands while keeping his lower body moving and his legs churning to gain penetration. McNeill quickly disposes of unbalanced blockers and can create a push with his leverage and ability to consistently extend. However, his unorthodox stance leads to wasted movements in his get-off. McNeill has to improve his conditioning as his effort level deteriorates after a couple of plays.

Jonathan Marshall, Arkansas (6-3, 310; 32 1/4 arms; 4.81 40; DNP shuttle/hamstring; 36 BP): A first-time starter in 2020, Marshall recorded 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for losses in 10 games. He had only 37 tackles in his first three seasons.

A high school tight end, running back, defensive lineman and basketball star, Marshall’s weight-room numbers are part of Arkansas legend. “It was almost impossible for a high school offensive lineman to block him,” his high school coach told Whole Hog Sports. “He led our team in (rushing) touchdowns as a senior. He was a 4.7-second 40-(yard dash) at 270 pounds and strong. We started handing him the ball as the tailback and people just moved out of the way. They didn’t want any part of that. He caught balls for us, caught touchdown passes and ran for touchdowns.”

Having graduated, Marshall came back for the 2020 season, won a starting job and built himself into a professional prospect. “I’ve talked to several different guys about him,” coach Sam Pittman said late in the season via Rivals. “He’s played his way into a draftable player, I believe, and you’re not going to get a whole lot better kid than him if you take him on your football team. So, absolutely. He’s had a really good year and I’m proud for him and I believe he will get looks in the NFL.”

A cousin, Cedric Reed, got NFL shots with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. Another relative, Cedric Hardman, was the ninth pick of the 1970 draft by the San Francisco 49ers and is the franchise leader in sacks.

Draft Bible says: It all starts with Marshall’s athleticism as he moves exceptionally well for a player over 300 pounds. His agility and lateral quickness stand out on tape. Marshall can also get really low to win the leverage battle and dip his shoulder below a guard. His key attribute is his first step as he is quick off the ball and has a knack for getting after the quarterback. His combination of get-off and violent hands are hard to stop for any opposing offensive lineman. Marshall’s struggles come in the run game. His lack of length and overall strength are concerning. Whoever drafts him will know they are getting a situational pass rusher to play in sub-packages.

Ta’Quon Graham, Texas (6-3 1/8, 292; 35 arms; 4.88 40; 4.68 shuttle; 32 BP): A two-year starter, Graham had 3.5 sacks and 12 tackles for losses during a breakout junior campaign. As a senior, he had two sacks and seven TFLS in nine games.

Graham was a money player. Literally. Starting in high school, he started playing games with money stuffed in his socks. “If I’ve got two ones, I’m going to try to get another one to make it three,” Graham told Hookem.com. “It’s weird like that.” He started playing football while in elementary school. As he told The Touchdown: “One day I was at the boys and girls club during the summer, and this guy walks up to me and asked me if I wanted to play. I brought it back to my mom and at first she told me no! Eventually my brother convinced her and I started playing. My first year, I didn’t necessarily like football, it wasn’t what I thought it was. Probably year two, I figured it out and started to excel at it and it all started from there.”

Draft Bible says: Though his play has been sporadic during his collegiate career, Graham has demonstrated traits that could surprise some on the next level. He has shown flashes of decent athleticism in stunts and on plays that force him to work laterally. There is a smoothness to his game, flashing the ability to split gaps with a notable first step. The fact that he has been a consistent producer at Texas while playing all four years with the program should give him a decent shot in the league at the very least, though he will need to add a substantial amount of power

Darius Stills, West Virginia (6-0 1/2, 278; 32 1/4 arms; 4.97 40; 4.49 shuttle; 23 BP): The undersized Stills packed quite a punch of with 10.5 sacks and 22 tackles for losses during his final two seasons. He was a consensus All-American in 2020.

Football runs in the family. His father, Gary Stills, played in 134 games for the Chiefs, Ravens and Rams from 1999 through 2008 with 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for losses as a defensive end. His brother, Dante Stills, is a starting defensive end for the Mountaineers and figures to be drafted next year. The Liberty Bowl was their last game together. “It’s emotional but at the same time, I know I’ve got more football to play so it’s not hitting me as hard,” Darius Stills said before that game. “I think of it not so much as my last college game but kind of like my last game with Dante that’s guaranteed.” Stills finished his big plays with a shrug. That’s why his little brother was considered the better recruit. “You guys probably don’t know why I shrug,” Darius Stills told WBOY-TV. “I was under-recruited and stuff. We went to all these camps and like, these coaches would be like, we’re gonna bring both ya’ll in the office, we’re gonna offer both of ya’ll. But as soon as we get in there, they’d be like nah, we’re gonna offer your brother instead. That’s what they’d tell me.”

According to Sports Info Solutions, he recorded a true pressure rate (straight dropbacks only) of 6 percent and a positive run-at percentage (percentage of carries when he was in the designed gap) of 44 percent. He had 4 percent of the defense’s tackles and a missed-tackle rate of 7 percent (two misses). He forced six holding penalties – two more than any other defensive lineman in the class.

Draft Bible says: He played the majority of his snaps as a one-technique or three-technique for the Mountaineers. His explosion off the snap followed by straight-line foot speed was incredible. Stills plays with a lot of juice in his step and he has a natural ability to rush the passer because of that speed and quick hands at the point of attack. He is also an extremely aggressive and strong tackler who finishes plays with conviction. However, Stills did have his fair share of struggles in the run game because he lacks the ability to maintain leverage at the line of scrimmage.

Marquiss Spencer, Mississippi State (6-3 5/8, 301; 33 1/8 arms; 4.85 40; 4.51 shuttle; 12 BP): A two-year starter, Spencer collected five sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses in 22 games in 2019 and 2020. He was a three-year member of the SEC’s academic honor roll. In a late-season game against Georgia, he was ejected for targeting and taken off the field on a stretcher. Fortunately for Spencer, he had suffered only a stinger.

He said at pro day that some teams see him as a defensive tackle, others as an end and even some as a standup linebacker. He needs to get stronger; those 12 bench-press reps are not a typo.

“I do not feel like I am an underdog,” he told Draft Diamonds. “I do not have a reason as to why people may not be talking about me as much. I have heard that some think I do not have a motor. I do not let that talk get to me because I know how explosive I am coming off the line.”

Draft Bible says: He is an interesting prospect due to his intriguing blend of size and athleticism, but the jury is still out on how productive he can be. Spencer thrives when asked to play in a two-point stance as he has an excellent jump at the snap and can get downhill fast. This is where the Mississippi native can flex his pass-rushing skills and generate pressure on the quarterback. Spencer struggles when he is asked to defend the run and pass rush with his hand in the dirt.

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