Which defensive tackles will matter in the 2021 NFL Draft, and what’s the college perspective on all of the top prospects?
2021 NFL Draft Defensive Tackle Rankings
The draft is half empty – there’s one guy at the top and there’s a whole lot of whatever tackle prospects right after.
The draft is half full – there should be fantastic value after the second round. If you’re under the belief – as you should be – that it takes ridiculous dumb luck to get a steady starter after the after the first 60ish picks, this is a nice draft to take a few fliers on prospects for the defensive interior from around 75 on.
From the college perspective, the top defensive tackles in the 2021 NFL Draft are …
15. Tommy Togiai, Ohio State
Size: 6-2, 296
The Good: A tough guy with power, he’s a rock of a tackle with the strength to makeup for his lack of bulk. The overall numbers might not be there, but he was able to hold up well against the run and he’s not worn down. He only played 22 games and was in a rotation, but …
The Not-So-Good: He only played 22 games and was in a rotation. He can move, but he’s not any sort of NFL pass rusher, and his lack of raw bulk might not be enough for some teams. He never quite stood out as an elite player on an elite defense with all three of his career sacks coming last year.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He’s an NFL defensive tackle who won’t turn into any sort of star, but can fill in and be a tough player in the interior who won’t lose his battles. The ceiling on what he’ll be at the next level is low, but you’ll hold serve on a play when he’s in there.
Projected Round: Fifth
14. Quinton Bohanna, Kentucky
Size: 6-4, 327
The Good: Very big, very good against the run, and with enough experience to know what he’s doing after being the main man on the UK nose for the last three years, it’s just this simple – stick him inside and let him take up a whole lot of space.
The Not-So-Good: There’s only one note here. He’s not an interior pass rusher at the next level, and he’s not going to give you a whole lot of big stats or anything flashy.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: There’s not enough to his game to go in the first four rounds, but everyone needs a few tackles who can eat up the run against the power teams. He’ll be a low-risk pick who’ll stay on a team to give someone with a good group of pass rushers a giant guy to work around.
Projected Round: Sixth
13. Cam Sample, Tulane
Size: 6-3, 267
The Good: Undersized but extremely quick, he’s a pass rusher and a factor in the backfield with 10.5 sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss and 163 stops in his four years or work. He might not be an elite athlete, but he’s got the skills to play inside as a smallish-fast option or on the end.
The Not-So-Good: A true tweener, he’s not quite as explosive as you might like for a player of his size, and he’s not bulky enough to hold up as a true NFL tackle. He’ll get blown up by the bigger next-level blasters.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He’ll be a bit of a specialist, but he’ll fit someone’s scheme as a reliable, energetic option who can add a different look to a defensive interior and bring a play or two in the backfield.
Projected Round: Fourth
12. Darius Stills, West Virginia
Size: 6-1, 278
The Good: An undersized firecracker of a tackle, he and his brother Dante – who decided to stay in school for another year – grew into one of the Big 12’s best tandems.
Darius is always moving, he’s got a burst off the ball, and he’ll fight and make things happen behind the line with 10.5 sacks and 23 tackles for loss over the last two years.
The Not-So-Good: He’s just way too small. He’s not going to be a regular NFL starter unless he’s surrounded by bulk or is in the right scheme, and he doesn’t have the frame to carry more good weight. Even worse, he can’t do anything to take away from his quickness.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He’s a situational defender, but he’ll bring the motor and the fire every time he’s in there. He’ll get engulfed by the bigger blockers, but he’ll work his way into backfields and make teams worry every time he’s in.
Projected Round: Fourth
11. Marlon Tuipulotu, USC
Size: 6-2, 307
The Good: He might not be the exact size some would like, but he plays big, can’t be moved, and he’s quick enough to get into the backfield. A mainstay on the USC line over the last three seasons, he came up with 102 tackles with 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss during the span, but his real worth is as a tough guy run defender.
The Not-So-Good: He doesn’t have the mass many might like. He gets pounded on by the bigger, brutish blockers, and he’s not quite quick enough at an NFL level to be considered much of a inside pass rusher on a consistent basis.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He’s not going to be anyone’s anchor – he doesn’t have the raw size – but he’ll be an ultra-productive part of a good rotation. He’ll always bring the effort and the fight – stick him inside and don’t worry.
Projected Round: Fourth