Here is my initial list of the top defensive linemen for the 2022 NFL Draft.
The number in parentheses represents the ranking for the top overall players in the draft.
Click here to check out that list…ORDER 66
Click here to check out our QB list…QUARTERBACKS
Click here to check out our RB list…RUNNINGBACKS
Click here to check out our WR list…WIDERECEIVERS
Click here to check out our TE list…TIGHTENDS
Click here to check out our OL list…OFFENSIVELINEMEN
This list will be updated following all-star week performances from the East/West Shrine Bowl (1/28 – 2/3) and the Senior Bowl (2/1 – 2/5) as well as individual player pro days and the NFL Combine (3/1 – 3/7).
1 (1) Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon (3-Year So.) 6-5, 258; 5-Star recruit; 14 TFL & 9 sacks as a true freshman; shortened season, injuries and constant attention have probably affected his overall production; elite pass rusher; career numbers = 122 tackles, 35 ½ TFL and 19 sacks; what really sticks out is the fact that Thibodeaux is not just a one-trick pass rushing prospect but a complete player who can defend on all three downs which is why he should enjoy a long stellar pro career.
2 (2) Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan (Sr.) Elite size at 6-6, 265; 2021 Big 10 Defensive POY; after a wasted 2020 due to injury (missed the last three games with a broken leg in a short season), Hutchinson returned in 2021 and became the elite performer everyone knew he was capable of with 62 tackles, 16 ½ TFL and 14 sacks; he is a good defender against the run with elite pass rushing skills; career numbers = 160 tackles, 28 TFL and 18 ½ sacks.
3 (6) Cameron Thomas, San Diego State (Jr.) Good size and length at 6-5, 270; 1st-team MWC in 2019 and 2020; 2021 MWC DPOY and 2021 2nd-Team All American; really took off last season with 71 tackles, 20 ½ TFL (4th nationally) and 11 ½ sacks (7th nationally); equally effective in the run and pass game as good as any player in this class; very strong, relentless and athletic; career numbers = 155 tackles, 39 TFL and 21 sacks; the last Aztec taken in the first-round on defense was Willie Buchanan, a former Green Bay Packers legend; Thomas could end up the top player in this class, he’s that good.
4 (14) George Karlaftis, Purdue (Jr.) Good size at 6-4, 275; the “Greek Freak” was a 2021 1st-team Big 10 and 2021 3rd-Team All American; was a top recruit who enjoyed an excellent freshman season with 54 tackles, 17 TFL and 7 ½ sacks; after a wasted 2020 due to injury (missed three games), he returned and played his best in 2021 (41 tackles, 11 ½ TFL and 5 sacks) with elite pass rush skill; very strong with excellent hands and an explosive first step; the only issue I have with Karlaftis is that he has only played in 26 games over three seasons and is still not a finished product.
5 (23) David Ojabo, Michigan (Jr.) 6-5, 250; born in Nigeria; 4-Star recruit; played basketball, soccer and ran track in high school; his junior season in high school was his first playing organized football; 2021 2nd-Team All American linebacker and 2021 1st-team Big 10 with 11 sacks; a very fast player for the position and a great athlete with advanced pass rush moves; did not play much in college (26 snaps) until 2021 and then his elite pass rush ability came out in a big way; only has two seasons of FBS football with limited experience overall; needs more time and coaching to refine his all-around game; might be better suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 front; the riskiest first-round edge-rusher in this class who could be on the verge of a major breakout or he could have maximized his abilities already.
6 (26) Jermaine Johnson II, FSU (RS Sr.) 6-5, 262; Georgia transfer; 2021 ACC DPOY and 2021 2nd-Team All American; broke out last season with 17 ½ TFL and 11 ½ sacks (led the ACC in sacks); also good against the run; big game playmaker who had a strip sack scoop and score touchdown at Clemson to take lead in second half and totaled three sacks against arch-rival Miami, caused a fumble that was returned for a score and his five tackles-for-loss were the most in the 66-game series history; Johnson took full advantage of the transfer portal due to the backlog of elite defenders at Georgia, and was finally able to demonstrate his full capabilities when given the opportunity; he has a ton of talent and could end up a bargain based on the amount of ballers playing the same position in this class.
7 (27) Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State (RS Sr.) 6-3, 256; born in Cameroon; 2021 1st-team Big 10; had six sacks in three seasons with Temple and a strong 2020 before transferring to Happy Valley; was able to take advantage of playing on a top unit with 18 TFL and 9 ½ sacks in 2021 which led the team by a wide margin; elite pass rusher; very good hand placement; athletic and explosive from the get; competitive; mature; coachable; for further proof of his athleticism, Ebiketie also played some receiver in high school.
8 (49) Josh Paschal, Kentucky (Sr.) Good size at 6-3, 278; missed most of 2018 after a cancer diagnosis found a malignant melanoma in his foot which was corrected after three surgeries; 2021 2nd-team SEC with 53 tackles, 15 ½ TFL and 5 ½ sacks; elite run defender; only 13 ½ career sacks; nearly took back an interception 80 yards for a score; good all-around player; mature; leader; 3x team captain; plays hard; a leg injury forced him to miss action late in 2021 including the bowl.
1 (18) Devonte Wyatt, UGA (Sr.) 6-3, 315; 4-Star recruit; took the JUCO route; 2021 2nd-Team All American and 2021 1st-team SEC; enjoyed a big 2021 with 27 QB pressures from the interior; equally good vs. the run and pass; top interior tackler on the team the last three seasons; does an excellent job moving around the line and into the backfield by pure athleticism and speed as well as film study; Wyatt doesn’t get the headlines that his linemate Jordan Davis does, but he is a more complete player and will be just as valuable playing a different role.
2 (21) Jordan Davis, UGA (Sr.) Very big man at 6-6, 340; 2020 2nd-team All-American and 2021 1st-team All-American and 2021 1st-team SEC; 2021 Outland Award winner for the nation’s top interior lineman & Bednarik Award winner as the nation’s defensive player of the year; only a two-down player; players like Davis do not normally get drafted early in round one due to their limitations in the amount of touches they receive, but saying that, when he is on the field Davis can take on double and triple teams to free up linebackers and he can move extremely well for a man his size; he just swallows up running backs; if you’re looking for a space-eating tackle who can help you dominate the interior of the line then Davis is the best prospect to come around in years to fill such a role.
3 (45) Travon Walker, Georgia (Jr.) 6-5, 275; 5-Star recruit; 15-game starter in 2021 for the best defense in the nation with six sacks and a team-best 36 QB hurries; played the most snaps of any defensive lineman in 2021 and it was the first season he played significant snaps; great combo of athleticism and toughness.
4 (46) Neil Farrell Jr., LSU (Sr.) Excellent size at 6-4, 325; plays the nose and does it better than anyone in this class; broke out in 2021 with 45 tackles, 9 ½ TFL and 2 sacks with elite run defense; very strong; does a good job holding his blocker long enough to make plays once he diagnoses it; quick for his size to get to the quarterback.
5 (61) DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M (Jr.) 6-4, 290; 1st-team SEC in 2020 and 2021; 4th-team AA in 2020 and 1st-Team All-American in 2021; boom or bust type; an inconsistent player who needs to learn how to play every down over every other game and if he can do that his talent can take him the rest of the way; coming off his best statistical season with 58 tackles, 12 ½ TFL and 8 ½ sacks; very athletic and strong; was able to play both tackle and end this past season; best fit might be a 3-tech for a 4-3 front but I wouldn’t rule out playing him as a 3-4 end; the fact that he has the tools to play multiple spots should benefit his status; has a great spin move; excellent use of his hands; his arrest for pot possession in December is a reminder about him being a boom or bust talent.
By Greg DePalma
The Draft Apprentice and Executive Producer of the Ourlads’ Football Network at Ourlads.com.