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Defensive tackles to watch for the Falcons at the NFL Combine

With the 2022 NFL Combine coming soon, we’ll be breaking down the players to watch at every position. We continue with defensive tackle, which features a top-heavy class with plenty of potential targets for the Falcons.

2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Combine is fast approaching, with workouts kicking off on Thursday, March 3. To prepare Atlanta Falcons fans and fellow draft enthusiasts for the “underwear olympics”, I’ll be breaking down the top players to watch at every position heading into the event. In case you missed any of my previous entries, you can find them all listed below:

DEFENSE: EDGE | DT | LB | CB | S

OFFENSE: QB | WR | TE | RB | OT | C/G

Sticking with the trenches, today I focus on defensive tackle. While still a talented group at the top, 2022’s class lacks the depth—particularly on Day 2—of the edge rushers. There are about six guys I’d consider in the 1st-2nd round range—including Jordan Davis, Perrion Winfrey, and Travis Jones—but a big drop-off after them. Atlanta’s need at DT is also a bit up-in-the-air depending on what happens with Grady Jarrett’s extension and in free agency.

Read on for some of the top defensive tackles to watch in Indianapolis.

Matthew Butler, Tennessee

Tennessee’s Matthew Butler is an experienced, versatile interior defensive lineman who offers a technically-advanced skillset. At 6’3, 300, he’s got solid size for the position and has found success all over the defensive line. Butler plays with good leverage and power against the run and has shown off some impressive burst and penetration ability as a pass rusher. I’m a little concerned about his lack of length and where his best fit is in the NFL, but he does potentially offer some inside/outside flexibility. Butler is an early-Day 3 name to watch.

Jordan Davis, Georgia

The consensus top defensive tackle in the class, Georgia’s Jordan Davis is an absolute monster in the middle of the defense. At 6’6, 340, Davis possesses truly rare size and pairs it with very good relative athleticism. There is no better 0T/1T nose in the class, and he is unstoppable as a run defender. As a pass rusher, his strength and size can overwhelm opponents on the interior, but he didn’t create pressure with consistency. Questions about his conditioning and value as a primarily run-stuffing NT make his NFL projection difficult. I would have no qualms about drafting Davis in the top-20, but I think I’d ask him to drop weight to the 320-330 range and focus on harnessing more of his pass rushing ability. How he tests at the Combine will matter a lot for his eventual draft position.

Neil Farrell Jr., LSU

One of the standouts at the Senior Bowl, LSU’s Neil Farrell Jr. put himself firmly in the Day 3 conversation by performing well in one-on-one and team drills. At over 6’3 and nearly 340, Farrell Jr. is a big-bodied defensive lineman with very good burst off the line of scrimmage. He’s a bit of a challenging evaluation, as even at that size he struggled with power and as a run defender on tape. In Mobile, he looked a lot stronger and was overwhelming opponents. As a potential late-round nose tackle and/or 3-4 DE, Farrell Jr. could have impressive upside.

Logan Hall, Houston

Houston’s Logan Hall is a bit of a tough eval, as he’s an inside/outside player with a lot of projection and creativity required at the NFL level. He paired flashes of dominance with a lot of quiet reps at the Senior Bowl. Hall is definitely a Day 2 talent, but his Combine testing will probably determine whether that’s Round 2 or 3. Here’s how I described Hall’s skillset in my Senior Bowl preview:

Houston defensive lineman Logan Hall is a big-bodied, versatile prospect with experience playing all over the defensive line. At his listed height/weight of 6’6, 275, Hall spent the majority of his breakout 2021 campaign playing 3T, where he dominated the vast majority of interior offensive linemen he faced. Originally a rotational 5T edge rusher to start the season, Houston carved out a multiple role for Hall as the year went on and he rewarded them with standout production. He’ll likely need a versatile inside/outside role to have the most success in the NFL.

Travis Jones, UConn

One of the biggest standouts in Mobile, UConn’s Travis Jones was a bowling ball of dominance throughout the Senior Bowl. He’s a high-end nose tackle who also offers some juice as a pass rusher, and I think he’s a lock to go in the second round. Here’s how I described Jones’ Senior Bowl performance in my winners column:

UConn’s Travis Jones was absolutely unblockable one-on-one at the Senior Bowl. A true nose tackle at over 6’4, 326, Jones overwhelmed opponents with power and showed off impressive athletic traits at his size. If you love what Jordan Davis offers but don’t want to have to spend a first round pick, circle Travis Jones in the second round.

DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M

Of all the players that were once mocked in the top-10, Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal is perhaps the one whose draft position has fluctuated the most this offseason. On some level, I get it: Leal didn’t have a great end to the season, showing some cracks in his game. But he’s still a special athlete with terrific size and positional versatility. I think he’ll be right back in the top-15 mix after a dominant Combine performance. Here’s how I described Leal’s game in a previous mock draft:

Leal is not your typical DT or EDGE. At 6’4, 290, he’s firmly in the middle—and Texas A&M used him that way. In any given game, you’ll see Leal lined up at 3T, 1T, 5T, EDGE, you name it. Leal is a rare athlete with incredible strength and speed for his size. On base downs, he can overwhelm tackles as a run-stuffing 5T and still provide better pass rush juice than run specialists. In passing situations, he should be used as an explosive, penetrating 3T that can push the pocket and win with both speed and power.

Phidarian Mathis, Alabama

One of the prospects I was most excited to watch at the Senior Bowl, Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis ultimately had a very quiet week. I don’t think he had a bad week by any measure, but he wasn’t nearly as dominant as I was hoping. Still, I liked his tape quite a bit, and I think he has one of the highest floors—and most NFL-ready skillsets—in the class. Here’s how I described Mathis in my Senior Bowl preview:

One of the top defensive tackles in the class, Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis had a breakout senior season in 2021 with 10.5 TFL and 9.0 sacks. At 6’4, 317, Mathis is exceptionally long for the position and pairs that length with explosiveness and power. Mathis is technically advanced, uses his hands well, and offers a lot of versatility: he spent a lot of time at 3T DT and as a 5T 3-4 DE. That flexibility could give him significant appeal to NFL teams—particularly the Falcons.

John Ridgeway, Arkansas

A big riser coming out of Senior Bowl week, Arkansas’ John Ridgeway is a very intriguing nose tackle prospect who could be had early on Day 3. He has terrific size and length, and good athletic testing could potentially push him even higher up the board. Here’s how I described Ridgeway’s talents in a previous mock draft:

Measuring in at nearly 6’5, 327 and with an over 81 inch wingspan, Ridgeway has the size and length to play any position on the interior defensive line. He’s best served as a 0T/1T nose tackle who can shut down the run with his incredible strength and long arms. Ridgeway also offers some upside as a pass rusher who can win with power and solid burst off the line of scrimmage. He’d be a good value addition early on Day 3, and would instantly add physicality to Atlanta’s defensive line.

Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma

In terms of players who my opinion has drastically changed on after the Senior Bowl, I can’t think of a bigger one than Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey. Winfrey was the best interior defender in Mobile, and he won in a lot of different ways. I’m all-in on him as a potentially devastating DT and expect him to test very well at the Combine. Here’s how I described his game in my latest mock draft:

Winfrey was arguably the most impressive interior defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl, showing off his ability to rush the passer and dominate in one-on-one situations after being forced into a nose tackle role for much of his college career. He dropped weight heading into Mobile and looked unstoppable as a penetrating 3T, but has experience all over the defensive line. Winfrey would be a phenomenal running mate for Grady Jarrett who can contribute as both a pass rusher and run stuffer right away.

Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt had a good Senior Bowl—he won his matchups consistently and generally looked the part of a high-level DT. He just wasn’t as flashy as the big names, but that’s no reason to knock him or adjust my grade. There are a number of very good DTs in the late 1st-early 2nd range, and Wyatt’s athletic testing at the Combine could determine where he slots in. Here’s how I described Wyatt in my Senior Bowl preview:

On an absolutely stacked defense, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, but Wyatt was one of the best players on the team in 2021. At 6’3, 315, Wyatt has ideal size and length for the position and he pairs it with outstanding burst, exceptional hand usage, and very good lateral mobility. Like Mathis and Winfrey, Wyatt also played all across the defensive line.

I hope you enjoyed this NFL Combine prospect preview! Stay tuned for our next position group tomorrow.