JACKSONVILLE – Potential is there – and there is significant front-line talent.
So, if the 2022 NFL Draft class is perhaps not quite as strong on the defensive interior as on the edge, the defensive tackles available this weekend sure aren't weak.
There is help available if you know where to look and what you want.
"It's good in certain spots," Jaguars Media and NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks said of the interior defensive line class in the '22 draft.
Analyzing draft-able talent on the defensive front can be tricky. Players often play multiple spots, and draft assessments can vary based on college scheme and how teams project players in their system – and into the NFL in general.
That's key when discussing the '22 defensive line class; while a player such as Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker has the skill set to play defensive tackle, he typically is included when discussing edge defenders.
Top prospects more often discussed as defensive linemen include players such Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt – also of Georgia – and Travis Jones of Connecticut, Logan Hall of Houston and Perrion Winfrey of Oklahoma.
"Interior-wise, they're good," Brooks said of the tackle class. "I don't know if there's an Aaron Donald, or a Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy in the class. What you have are active role players."
Perhaps no defensive tackle in the '22 class has impressed more in the offseason than Davis. He is considered one of the better run defenders in the class – and at 6-feet-6, 340 pounds, he is a rare mix of size and athleticism.
"He's a freak," NFL Media Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said of Davis. "To be that big and that athletic and to make that many plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage is impressive. Devonte Wyatt is even a little bit more explosive."
Wyatt is projected as a top prospect in part because of his potential as a pass rusher – and Brooks said it's a class in which value and production can be found if teams fit player, role and scheme.
"It's an interesting group, but you better have a clear plan and a clear vision about what you want from your defensive tackle based on who you're taking," Brooks said.
HANDICAPPING THE JAGUARS
Though it wouldn't be surprising to see the Jaguars address the interior defensive line somewhere in the draft, it may not be a priority early. The Jaguars addressed defensive tackle in a high-profile way in free agency late month, signing Foley Fatukasi from the New York Jets as part of a free-agency effort to further bolster the run defense. The team elsewhere has capable veterans in Roy Robertson-Harris and Malcom Brown, with DaVon Hamilton and Jay Tufele also factoring on the interior. One of the great truths of the NFL is you can never have too many pass rushers. The same is true of defensive tackle, which means the Jaguars always could look to add quality, depth and disruption at this spot – even if it's not considered a major pre-draft need.
- John Oehser
PROJECTED POSSIBLE FIRST-ROUND DEFENSIVE LINEMEN/TACKLES
CHANCE JAGUARS TAKE A DEFENSIVE LINEMAN/TACKLE IN ROUND 1
Essentially none at defensive tackle, though edge defenders such as Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan and Walker – the latter of whom can play multiple positions along the front – appear possible for the Jaguars at No. 1 overall.
DL ON THE JAGUARS ROSTER
On the roster:
BROOKS BREAKS DOWN THE CLASS
The 2022 defensive tackle class features a mix of old-school run pluggers and new-school interior pass rushers with disruptive potential. Georgia's Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt are joined by Connecticut's Travis Jones, Houston's Logan Hall and Texas A&M's DeMarvin Leal as top prospects at the position. The group's athleticism, length, strength and power have piqued the interest of scouts looking for disruptors to place in the middle of the defense. With the league leaning into a pass-heavy emphasis, the value of interior defenders with pass-rush ability has skyrocketed in recent years.
It is hard to suggest that an Alabama defender is a draft-day sleeper, but Phidarian Mathis certainly has not garnered enough attention for the talent and disruptive potential that he brings to the table. The 6-feet-4, 312-pounder is a stout and sturdy run stopper with a knack for hunting down ball carriers from the backside. As a pass rusher, Mathis creates chaos when deployed on stunts and games that enable him to utilize his quickness and power to split gaps at the point of attack. With nine sacks (and 10.5 tackles for loss) during his final campaign, the Alabama standout could develop into a disruptive force at the point of attack as a designated run stopper/pass rusher in multiple schemes.
Davis is a unicorn as a 300-plus pounder with defensive back-like feet and movement skills. Measuring 6-feet-6, 340 pounds with 4.78 speed (forty-yard dash) and a 32-inch vertical jump, the Georgia standout is an explosive athlete with surprising range for a giant defender. Davis pursues the ball with reckless abandon and exhibits rare short-area quickness on running plays. As a pass rusher, the super-sized defender is a pocket pusher with limited maneuvers and moves. That said, Davis' disruptive potential as a big, explosive athlete makes him a prized commodity on draft boards around the league.