NFL Draft 2020: Examining Javon Kinlaw, Derrick Brown and the rest of the defensive line class by type

Not every defensive linemen is created the same. Some are long, dynamic athletes with raw pass-rush move arsenals. Some are technicians who don’t have the requisite athleticism to threaten through a gap with explosiveness.

To provide a unique view of the defensive line position through this perspective, I’ve divided the class as a whole by type. Below, we’ll take a look at five different groupings, along with one sleeper (check out our look at the edge-rusher position here.)

Explosive disruptors with awesome size and stellar pass-rush moves

Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina 
Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma

Kinlaw really is in a class by himself among defensive linemen in this class. At 6-foot-5 and 324 pounds with long arms, an incredible first step, stunning burst-to-power, and counters off his awesome bull rush, he checks all the boxes trait-wise. 

Gallimore might not have a super high ceiling, and he surprisingly tested poorly despite being explosive and loose-hipped on the field. I love the variety of pass-rushing moves he deploys on a regular basis, especially his swim move off his bull rush. 

Dynamic athletes who must add to arsenal of pass-rushing moves

Ross Blacklock, TCU
Bravvion Roy, Baylor
James Lynch, Baylor
Khalil Davis, Nebraska 

Blacklock has the best get off of any defensive linemen in this class. His handwork isn’t stagnant. It’s just that too often I saw him leaning on his burst through a gap to win. Roy didn’t even get a combine invite, which was a little surprising considering he had 6.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and a whopping 61 tackles from the nose tackle position in Baylor’s mostly three-man rush in 2019. He plays high despite his squatty frame, yet is twitchy off the snap and has active hands. 

Lynch was an end at Baylor, but at 6-4 and nearly 290 pounds with high-level athletic traits for the interior defensive line position, he’s a no-brainer for this group, as his handwork needs a good deal of improvement. 

Davis is the most raw prospect of this group, and that’s fine. But he’ll likely land on the third day of the draft because of his acceleration off the line and how he can sustain it through the play. At 6-1 and 308 pounds at the combine, Davis ran a blistering 4.75, and it shows on film. 

Unspectacular athletes with good strength and refined pass-rush moves

Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M
Jordan Elliott, Missouri
Marlon Davidson, Auburn

Madubuike is a brawler on the interior, and really, at 6-3 and 293 pounds with arms over 33 inches long, he can play anywhere up front. He quickly reacts to the hand placement and leverage of offensive linemen and counters with powerful hand work. While his burst is good, he has problems continuing that speed into the quarterback. 

Elliott is a black-belt martial artist. Blockers can never be sure what he’s going to do with his hands at the point of attack. He’s pretty strong too. But Elliott, like Madubuike, is a little heavy-footed en route to the passer and doesn’t possess much twitch when changing directions. 

As for Davidson, he was an edge rusher at Auburn and packed on weight to make the transition inside in the NFL. Which, by the way, was the right move. Living on the outside in college with tremendous strength but severely lacking burst and bend, Davidson had to utilize his hands to his advantage and did so often. I’m assuming that’ll continue at defensive tackle. The Senior Bowl was a nice preview. 

Great run stuffers with average athleticism, lacking pass-rush moves

Derrick Brown, Auburn 
Raekwon Davis, Alabama
Raequan Williams, Michigan State
Larrell Murchison, NC State
John Penisini, Utah

I’ve written about my concerns regarding Brown’s value a few times during this pre-draft process, and overall, I view him as a late first-round pick instead someone bound to land in the top half of Round 1. He simply isn’t a stellar athlete for the defensive tackle spot and doesn’t consistently win with anything beyond his overpowering bull rush. On a more positive note, he’s far and away the finest run plugger in this class with a gigantic tackling radius and amazing reliability bringing running backs to the ground. 

Davis never improved as a pass rusher after his breakout sophomore campaign in 2017, yet rocks as a two-gapping, block-tossing run stuffer on the inside, and he’s 6-6 and 311 pounds. 

Williams reminds me of 2018 third-round pick Harrison Phillips in that he’s a rocked-up, technically sound run-game destroyer who has tiny flashes of pass-rush ability. Murchison is a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none type of prospect. If I had to pick a specialty for him, it’d be his run-stopping prowess when battling across the line of scrimmage. 

Penisini is ready for a bar fight on every snap and will jolt interior offensive linemen. He’s a sturdy two-gapper with just enough springiness to reset the offensive line with his pop and hands. 

New-age nose tackles with some pass-rushing juice

Leki Fotu, Utah 
Davon Hamilton, Ohio State
Benito Jones, Ole Miss
Josiah Coatney, Ole Miss
Darrion Daniels, Nebraska

Fotu is a humongous presence at nose tackle with brute upper body strength and an impressive first step for someone 6-5 and 330 pounds. Hamilton doesn’t give much of anything of value besides a deceptively quickly first step and low-center-of-gravity pop at 6-4 and 320. Jones is squatty with a jolting punch and a high motor. He tested poorly in Indianapolis though. 

Much of the same is true for Coatney and Daniels. None of those nose tackles were fun to block during the week of practices at the Senior Bowl, but they don’t utilize an array of pass-rushing moves. 

Sleepers I simply cannot leave out

McTelvin Agim, Arkansas
Robert Landers, Ohio State 

Agim is the polar opposite of most mid-to-late-round defensive linemen in that he’s somewhat of a liability against the run but thrives as a pass rusher. At 6-3 and 309 pounds with arms over 33 inches, Agim has a sleek frame and plays with accurate, ultra-active hands through blockers en route to the quarterback. He quietly registered five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in 2019. He will give some team a valuable niche pass rusher later in the draft. 

Landers wasn’t invited to the combine, and I understand why. He was listed at 6-1 and 285 pounds with short arms and had just a half-sack in 2019, and never more than one quarterback takedown in a single season in the Big Ten. But his film shows a relentless, gap-shooting battler with a stellar first step and an array of pass-rushing moves that allowed him to repeatedly generate pressure during all four of his seasons as a part-time player in Columbus. Sure, he can get tossed around against the run. But Landers’ attacking style — and size — actually fit perfectly to the modern-day defensive tackle position. He’s a long shot to even get drafted, but if I was a GM, I’d find a way to get him on my team. 

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