Finally to the defense! Here is the first set of defensive position rankings for the 2023 NFL draft: the defensive tackles. This group before the season started looked to be a really good class; but a few guys have had injuries or haven’t played up to expectations. It is still a strong group, probably the best in at least three to four years. Picking a top 10 was difficult.
As always, I will be listing players at their expected NFL positions. Be sure to check out my previous part detailing the interior offensive line, and if you want to check out the draft database that I help update almost daily, you can find it at risendraft.
2023 NFL Draft Defensive Tackles: The Top 5
- Jalen Carter, Georgia: Despite his average size, Carter is a freak athletically and strength wise. He is 300 pounds, but he plays with the strength and explosiveness of a man 40 pounds heavier. He is athletic enough he could even take snaps at defensive end. He hasn’t been 100% healthy this season, so his numbers have suffered. His impact still remains. Top five pick.
- Bryan Bresee, Clemson: Bresee is almost as talented as Carter, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy since 2020. He has played fewer than 10 games in 2021 and 2022 combined (so far). Because of that, his development is further behind than you would think. He is big, athletic, and strong. His hand usage and pass rush moves are underdeveloped.
- Brandon Dorlus, Oregon: Dorlus came out of nowhere in 2021 and put up 42 pressures. But he wasn’t just a one-trick pony. He was also a good run defender. He has the versatility that teams like. He can play up and down the line. He does need to convert some of those pressures into sacks.
- Gervon Dexter, Florida: Dexter has been a bit of a tease. He really flashed his potential in 2021. Big things were expected of him in 2022. He has not played up to his potential yet. He has the size (6’6, 313 pounds) and athleticism (5.0 40-yard dash range) to be a really good player. He will be a bit of a project, but if he hits watch out!
- Siaki Ika, Baylor: Ika was thought to come out in 2022, but decided to come back. He is a huge nose tackle at 6’4, 358 pounds. Even with how big he is, Ika is not the run defender you think he would be. Part of that is probably due to his size. He is about 20-30 pounds overweight. He did flash as a pass rusher in 2021 with six sacks. He can be an elite nose tackle if he can keep his weight in check.
2023 NFL Draft Defensive Tackles: Best of the Rest
6. Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin: Benton is another big nose tackle. He isn’t as huge as Ika, but has the size at 6’4, 314 pounds and long 34″ arms to be a top defensive lineman. His play against the run, though, leaves something to be desired. But he has flashed as a pass rusher with 39 pressures and four sacks the last two seasons. He has trouble with double teams and might be a better fit at 3-tech. If he can work on his hand usage, he could be really good.
7. Zacch Pickens, South Carolina: Pickens is another big man at 6’4, 305 pounds and 34″ arms. He displays impressive strength on the field and is a good athlete. He is having his best season this year. While he still has room for growth, he is finally starting to turn potential into production. He still needs to continue to work on his play against the run and turning those pressures into sacks.
8. Tuli Tuipolotu, USC: He is the brother of Marlon Tuipolotu. He has been a bit of a pass rushing menace the last two seasons. 56 pressures and 13 sacks in that time span. He is not just a one-trick pony. The current Trojan is also a good run defender. He also has the athleticism to play up and down the line. If he is going to do, that he should put on a few pounds being 290 currently. He has missed some tackles recently. If he can clean that up, he can really move up the boards.
9. Jaquelin Roy, LSU: Roy is another big-name recruit who seems to have taken time to develop. He could be still classified as a slight disappointment. The current LSU Tiger has shown flashes, but consistency has evaded him so far. Roy has just four career sacks and only became a starter this past season. He has been a solid run defender since he stepped on campus, though. At 6’4, 315 pounds and running in the 5.1 range the talent is there, it just might take him a year or two.
10. Ruke Orhorhoro, Clemson: Orhorhoro is a name most don’t know, but due to injuries to Bresee and Tyler Davis the last few seasons he has seen a lot of playing time. At 6’4, 303 pounds with 33″ arms and a 5.1 40-yard dash, he has the size and athleticism to be really good. A bit of a “sleeper”, he had a quiet 15 pressures and five sacks last season. He has been a good all-around player, and is a developing pass rusher. The current Tiger could go higher than most think.