In one of the deepest positions of this class, we’ll be looking at the defensive lineman in this article. There could very easily be upwards of 10 drafted in the first round alone, but we’ll be looking at just the top 5 of a very difficult position to rank the best of the best who should all be drafted within the first 20 picks.
#1: Aidan Hutchinson – Michigan
Narrowly taking the #1 position from Kayvon Thibodeaux is the edge rusher from Michigan, Aidan Hutchinson. After being a highly scouted draft prospect in 2021, Hutchinson suffered injury setbacks that derailed his draft hopes and returned for this past season which proved to be a success as he’s not only the #1 defensive lineman in this draft, but a top 10 overall player in this draft class. There isn’t much you can say that isn’t positive about Hutchinson’s game, he can adapt to any scheme and be a difference maker from the get-go. We’d be surprised to see Hutchinson fall out of the top 10 picks in this draft.
#2: Kayvon Thibodeaux – Oregon
Once touted as the #1 overall player in this draft class, Thibodeaux has seen his draft stock fall throughout the 2021 season. There’s been concerns over his lack of effort on every play, can he be an every down starter, will injuries take over? Thibodeaux enters the draft with a lot of question marks over his head, but there is no denying the talent is there. He is a speedy pass rusher, explosive playmaker, and is able to create space between him and the offensive lineman with ease. Thibodeaux could still end up being the #1 player in this draft class and had a great pro day to prove to the doubters in this class, we have Thibodeaux ranked slightly below Hutchinson with both being top 5 picks, top 10 at the lowest.
#3: Jordan Davis – Georgia
The Chuck Bednarik award winner for a top defensive player in the country earned the award for his impressive college career. Each year he was on one of the All-SEC teams and for good reason. Davis was a key component of the Georgia Bulldogs top ranked defense that won the College Football National Championship. Davis is already used to having a winning mentality which he hopes to carry over onto a winning franchise in the NFL. Davis is a player you can build a defense around as he carries over many similar traits and characteristics to previous great Nose Tackles like Haloti Ngata and Vince Wilfork. Davis is the top interior lineman in this class and could very well see his name called before Thibodeaux and Hutchinson based on a team’s needs, but based on overall talent, Davis slots in as the 3rd best lineman of this class.
#4: George Karlaftis – Purdue
The NBA has Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Greek Freak, now the NFL is about to get their very own Greek Freak in George Karlaftis. The Purdue standout has only been playing football since high school once he came to America from Greece. For only playing football for a limited time, Karlaftis has broken onto the scene as a defensive player of the year in high school and is the 3rd highest ranked prospect ever from Purdue. He is ranked so high for his pure power and explosiveness from the get-go, he isn’t yet an every down kind of player as he needs to work on non-blitz like plays, but his EDGE rushing capabilities are top-tier. The Greek transplant should expect to hear his name called in the 1st half of round 1.
#5: Travon Walker – Georgia
Quickly rising up draft boards is defensive lineman Travon Walker. Walker was another integral part of the National Championship winning defense of Georgia. The stats sheet might not show how valuable he was not only in the College Football Playoffs but all throughout the season as well. Walker isn’t as flashy as his teammate Jordan Davis or as solid as numbers, but if you look back at the film, Walker was a part of many plays that were broken up. All 275 pounds of Walker is all over the defensive line and the field as he looks more like a linebacker than a lineman half the time. We expect to see both Bulldogs drafted in the top 20.