With the offensive side of the ball out of the way, we kick off our look at the defense with our final position rankings for the 2023 NFL draft defensive tackles class.
Before the season started, this group looked to be a really good class; but a few guys have had injuries, went back to school or haven’t played up to expectations. But there has also been some surprises, as well. It is still a strong group — probably the best in at least three 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 mid-season rankings of the defensive tackles, 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 somewhat average size, Carter is a freak athletically and strength wise. He is 314 pounds, but he plays with the strength and explosiveness of a man 40 pounds heavier. He is athletic enough he could even take snaps on the edge. He hasn’t been 100% healthy this season, so his numbers have suffered. His impact still remains a top five pick, even despite some off the field concerns popping up.
- Bryan Bresee, Clemson: Bresee is almost as talented as Carter, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy since 2020. He has played 14 games in 2021 and 2022 combined. The former Tiger also had a family tragedy that effected him in 2022. Because of all 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.
- Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin: Benton played mostly nose tackle at Wisconsin, but he will make his hay as a 3-4 tech. He has the size, at 6’4, 309 pounds, and long 34″ arms to be a top defensive lineman. His play against the run has been okay, but could be better. The former Badger has flashed as a pass rusher with 49 pressures and eight sacks the last two seasons. He has trouble with double teams, which is why NT probably isn’t his best spot. If he can work on his hand usage, he could be really good.
- Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern: Adebawore, or AA as he is known by people who don’t want to type out his name, really came on post-season; especially at the Senior Bowl. The former Wildcat played out of position at Northwestern, where they played him as a defensive end. He was moved inside to defensive tackle at the Senior Bowl, and just wrecked shop all week in practice. He proved how much of a freak he is at the combine, running a 4.49 at 282 pounds.
- 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. However, he did not play up to his potential. He has the size (6’6, 310 pounds) and athleticism (4.88 40-yard dash) to be a really good player. He will be a bit of a project, but if he hits watch out!
2023 NFL Draft Defensive Tackles: Best of the Rest
6. Zacch Pickens, South Carolina: Pickens is another big man, at 6’4, 291 pounds and 34″ arms. He displays impressive strength on the field, and is a good athlete. He had his best season this year. While he still has room for growth, Pickens is finally starting to turn potential into production. He still needs to continue to work on his play against the run and on turning those pressures into sacks.
7. Keion White, Georgia Tech: White had a similar situation to AA, in that Georgia Tech played him like a stand-up edge rusher, and while you could see his athleticism there, his body type and skill set says he’s a defensive lineman. At 6’5 285 and the frame to add another 10 pounds, he has been a bit of a late bloomer starting out as a tight end. He has amazing bend for someone so big. He can play up and down the line.
8. 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 former Tiger has shown flashes, but consistency has evaded him so far. Roy has just five career sacks, but 78 pressures, and only became a starter this past season. He has been a solid run defender since he stepped on campus, though. At 6’3, 305 pounds and running a 5.16, the talent is there. It just might take him a year or two.
9. Tuli Tuipolotu, USC: He is the brother of Marlon Tuipolotu. He has been a bit of a pass rushing menace the last two seasons. 75 pressures and 19 sacks in that time span. He is not just a one-trick pony. The former Trojan is also a good run defender. He also has the athleticism to play up and down the line. Tuipolotu showed up at the combine at 266, but played closer to 290 and was bit stiff on film. He missed 16 tackles this season — if he can clean that up he can really improve.
10. Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh: Kancey has been terrorizing offenses the past two seasons. He is a very hard man to block because of his size (6’1 281) and athleticism (4.67 speed). He has generated 85 pressures and 17 sacks in that time. The former Panther is undersized, and it shows up on film at times. But, if a team uses him the right way he could have a big impact in the passing game.