Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw are the headliners of a mostly top-heavy defensive line class in the 2020 NFL Draft, while a few prospects likely picked from the back end of Round 1 to the start of Round 4 have the well-rounded games to be effective right away.
The prospect rankings below are based on the CBS Sports composite rankings. Each prospect is listed with his overall rating, which roughly translates as follows: 90s are for players considered Round 1 locks, 80s should go in the first three rounds, 70s are expected to be drafted and 60s are on the draft bubble.
1. Derrick Brown, Auburn
Brown is a tall and chiseled defensive tackle with the scariest bull rush in of any defensive linemen in the class, outstanding reliability as a run defender and flashes of a swim move when attacking upfield. Because of his block-defeating skills and large tackling radius, Brown is further ahead as a run defender than he is as a pass rusher right now, but he did improve in the latter area during his senior season.
He’s absolutely “NFL strong” right now, and will win right through interior blockers as a rookie. Brown isn’t particularly deft in countering off his bull rush yet and, despite his developed strength, won’t sit an anchor against double teams with great regularity. But in one-on-one situations, Brown will get his hands on the ball carrier on the inside and won’t miss tackles.
He came to Auburn as the No. 4 defensive tackle recruit in the nation behind Rashan Gary, Ed Oliver, and Dexter Lawrence in the class of 2016, per 247 Sports Composite, and rocked his sophomore season in 2017. Brown had 22 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in his final two years with the Tigers.
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2. Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
Kinlaw owns the point of attack thanks to his electric first step and tentacles for arms at nearly 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds. Beyond his devastating jolt, Kinlaw knows how to win to either side of a gap with pass-rushing moves, and given his frame, he engulfs running backs when he gets in their vicinity.
He only had 10 sacks and 15 tackles for loss over the past two seasons but was consistently double teamed and generated an insane amount of quarterback pressure thanks to his tremendous power and hand work combination.
Because he is super long, Kinlaw can play any of the defensive line positions and win with one portion of his complete game.
3. Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma
Once a space-eating nose tackle with limited range, Gallimore dropped weight before his senior season, and it paid off in a big way.
His first-step routinely gets him an angle advantage on guards, and his loose hips allow him counter back to the inside if necessary with high-end agility for the position and a nice collection of moves. Thanks to his time spent as a run-defending specialist, Gallimore is a keen block reader and can dispatch blockers en route to the ball-carrier.
He had four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss in his senior campaign in Norman and routinely reset the line of scrimmage with his get off and powerful punch.
4. Ross Blacklock, TCU
Arguably the purest athlete of this Tier 1 group, but the most raw, Blacklock has fluid hips and flexible ankles that pair awesomely with his innate ability to fire off the football like a defensive end.
Because of his athletic gifts, Blacklock can really penetrate through a gap and has relied on simply doing that instead of constructing an arsenal of pass-rushing moves. He isn’t lost when needing to use his hands though. Occasionally, he’ll deploy a swim or swipe move when attacking. His motor runs hot, yet at 6-4 and 305 pounds, he could add more weight and power to his game or simply learn to play a little lower so guards don’t up and underneath him.
Blacklock had nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2019.
5. Jordan Elliott, Missouri
Elliott is a towering wrecking ball on the inside with a good first step but a real specialty when it comes to flashing his hands as a pass rusher. His swim move is effective and his swipe typically gets him a quick win on the inside.
At 6-4 and 315 pounds, Elliott is a chess piece up front and possess enough athleticism to play anywhere. However, his sole major flaw is high pad level, which consistently drifts upward and allows smaller, less talented blockers to control him by way of winning the center-of-gravity battle.
Elliott had 2.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss in 2019, but his film shows a much more disruptive player.
6. Raekwon Davis, Alabama
Davis is an intimidating presence on the defensive line, listed at 6-7 and 312 pounds with vines for arms. He’s been on the draft radar for a while mainly due to his length and a breakout sophomore year.
But since then, Davis really didn’t progress as a pass rusher, often getting stuck to blocks and not owning enough juice to threaten with his first step or sustained speed into the backfield. Coming from Alabama, Davis is a refined two-gapper and has the upper body strength to stack then shed offensive linemen to halt the run. But he simply doesn’t have the type of pass-rush prowess needed to be super valuable player in today’s NFL. After that 8.5-sack, 10.5-tackle-for-loss campaign in 2017, Davis’ statistics decreased each season.
7. Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M
Madubuike is a strong, rock-solid defensive linemen who played everywhere in college and with his size and athleticism could do the same in the NFL. His first step and lateral agility when scraping down the line of scrimmage are decent. The same is true for his bull rush as a pass rusher, and he plays with awesome leverage. Madubuikue can bench press interior blockers then toss them to get to running backs before the squeeze through the line. For as technically sound as he is, the twitch isn’t there to consistently win through a gap on passing plays, but he will match the strength of centers and guards on Sundays instantly.
He racked up 11 sacks and 22 tackles for loss over the past two seasons for the Aggies.
8. Marlon Davidson, Auburn
Based on where he played in college, Davidson shouldn’t be a part of this article. Mostly stationed on the edge of Auburn’s front while listed at 278 pounds, Davidson has bulked up to 297 to play defensive tackle (and likely kick outside in certain passing situations) in the NFL.
This was a smart decision for Davidson because he would’ve been on the low end in terms of athleticism and burst for the edge-rusher position but will now be considered of the more athletically talented penetrators in this class. He plays low to the ground, creates a crazy amount of torque with his lower half, and has a refined repertoire of pass-rushing moves he utilized on the outside with the Tigers. Plus, he converts speed to low-striking power. He will be transitioning to a new position, so it could take time for him to fully acclimate, but Davidson has sleeper written all over him.
He had 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in his senior season at Auburn.
9. DaVon Hamilton, Ohio State
Hamilton was somewhat of a part-time player at Ohio State in 2019 but flashed as a wide-bodied run stuffer with moments of impressive upfield burst when getting after the quarterback.
He really battles every snap and his hands are active but not overly powerful. Hamilton is a modern-day nose tackle in that he has some athletic traits yet nothing that really stands out about his game when realizing how defensive tackles are most useful in today’s NFL. To get to 6.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss in 2019 as a rotational nose tackle demonstrates how athletic Hamilton is for his size.
10. Rashard Lawrence, LSU
Lawrence is a throwback type of high-energy run stopper who will meet NFL strength requirements immediately on early downs but may not have much of a role in obvious passing situations because of his average-at-best athleticism and underdeveloped pass-rushing moves.
As a power player and defensive lineman needing to stretch down the line to get to the ball carrier, Lawrence will be a favorite of defensive line coaches as a rookie. Lawrence had 2.5 sacks and six tackles for loss as a senior.
11. Leki Fotu, Utah
Fotu might be the strongest player in this entire draft, regardless of position. He moves mountains on the inside and, surprisingly, given his 6-5, 335-pound frame, flashed as a pass rusher as a senior mostly thanks to an impressive get-off for his size and a swim move.
The team that drafts Fotu needs to have a specific plan in mind for him, one that mostly centers around him working over centers to stop the run. He tends to play high and stays planted on blocks more than you’d like for a pass-rushing defensive lineman, but given his size, no one should really expect him to thrive in that area.
He had a half sack and 6.5 tackles for loss in 2019.