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2020 NFL Combine: Top Defensive Linemen To Watch

The evaluation process ramps up for the 2020 NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: Music City Bowl-Auburn vs Purdue Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll have to admit, I’m quite rusty at evaluating defensive line talent. It wasn’t a need the Texans had over the past four or five years. With the absence of Jadeveon Clowney, diminishing health of J.J. Watt, potential loss of D.J. Reader, and general lack of pass rush generated by everyone else, it’s now time to use draft capital to support the defensive line.

Fortunately, defensive line is one of the easiest positions to find film on. It’s always in camera view. It can be pretty fun to watch. Their job is very match-up oriented (either you win or you lose each rep). It’s more accessible than watching cornerbacks, for example, where wins and losses tend to happen off-screen.

Marlon Davidson - DE/DT - Auburn

Height: 6-3 3/8”

Weight: 303 pounds

Arm length: 33”

Wingspan: 80 4/8”

This guy is nothing short of a beast. He’ll get knocked because he was the sidekick to Derrick Brown, who will most likely be a top ten pick in this draft. Together they made for the best defensive line duo in college football. Marlon was Auburn’s leading pass rusher and started four years for the school.

He is said to have put on 20 pounds for the Senior Bowl and is expected to move inside to a three or four-technique. This massive increase in weight is not only eye-popping; it has scouts wondering about what type of weight he put on. If he looks more powerful and can still move with the same agility, he’ll most likely be a middle of the second rounder. If he doesn't put on a good performance, teams may think the weight is a major red flag. The Texans will want him because we need an interior pass rusher. It’s a position of continuous need for the Texans.

Terrell Lewis, DE/OLB - Alabama

Height: 6-5 2/8”

Weight: 262 pounds

Arm length: 33 7/8”

Wingspan: 83 4/8”

Lewis is an absolute specimen of a defensive end, and he could be one of those diamonds in the rough. He has first round skills, but third round experience and strength. Showing up at 262 pounds was great for Lewis as he continues to grow into his body. A pass rush specialist, he could easily add 15 pounds over the next two seasons on his frame. His freakishly long arms are great for keeping tackles at bay and contribute to his high potential.

He’s another guy who I’m interested in watching since he suffered several injuries. In 2017, he missed ten games with an arm injury. Lewis’ 2018 ended with an ACL injury. I’ve seen mocks where the Texans take him, but his combine performance may move him up the leader board and out of the Texans’ range. The Texans will most likely want a player with more tape, but Lewis has the potential to take a strong step forward through the draft process.

If Lewis stayed in college, he could’ve been a first rounder, but then again, if he gets injured again, he could be off draft boards entirely.

Curtis Weaver, DE - Boise State

Height: 6-2 3/8”

Weight: 265 pounds

Arm length: 32 3/8”

Wingspan: 78 1/8”

Obviously not the physical freak that Lewis is, but the kid produces results. His accolades read louder than anyone else on the list: second-team Associated Press All-American, first-team All-Mountain West, MWC Defensive Player of the Year, Ted Hendricks Award finalist. He’s the Mountain West Conference’s all-time sack leader.

The number one knock he will hear over and over again is his lack of athleticism and below-average frame. He does not look like the human sculptures the other guys on this list do, but what he lacks in size and strength he makes up for in technique, effort, and physicality. Weaver will make his name known if he shows up more trim and toned. Weaver wears the same number as our guy J.J. Watt and makes his hay in a similar fashion. Quick feet, direct motion, great reaction time.

Julian Okwara, DE - Notre Dame

Height: 6-4 2/8”

Weight: 252 pounds

Arm length: 34 3/8”

Wingspan: 81 4/8”

He may be the best athlete in the group. He has the highest ceiling and lowest floor. Okwara will either be a household name or dust in the wind in two years. He’s more of a athlete than a defensive lineman. He can build on his long frame, but that bulk may quickly slow him down. He projects to be a third down pass rusher in the league, mainly because he plays too upright and doesn't have the lower body mass to help against the run.

If you watch the NFL Combine, be sure to tune in for Okwara. He needs to show power and explosion, of course, but also technique. I can see the a team taking him in the third round, mainly because he’s a fairly good at a few things, those being pass rush, coverage, and game speed.

Jonathan Greenard, DE - Florida

Height: 6-3 3/8”

Weight: 263 pounds

Arm length: 34 7/8”

Wingspan: 81 2/8”

Greenard played at Louisville before transferring to Florida. In his 33 college games, he recorded 123 total tackles, 38.5 TFLs, 19.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. In 2019 alone, he racked up 53 total tackles, 16.0 TFLs, 10 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. From the film I watched, he appears to be one of those “right place, right time” guys where stats such as forced fumbles and sacks fall into his lap. The tilt against Tennessee really boosted his stats and was a great game for him.

He’s a hand in the ground 4-3 defensive end, but he has the skills to fit into Houston’s defense if it transforms back into a 4-3. The only question is how elite of an athlete he can be. This is in question partly due to several major injuries, including a wrist and and an ankle. Draft boards will have Greenard as a well-rounded player who should be available. He has good size, strong leap off the ball, and a lot of good film for teams to review.

Darrell Taylor, EDGE- Tennessee

Taylor was the number two player I wanted to see perform at the NFL Combine, but he will be sitting out as he continues to rehab a fractured foot. This could mean he falls far in the 2020 NFL Draft, so keep this name in the back of your mind.

To break it down. Here’s my Pre-Combine “Most likely to’s”

Most likely to be a Texan: Jonathan Greenard

Most likely to be taken first taken out of this group: Marlon Davidson

Most likely to be an All-Pro: Terrell Lewis

Most likely to fall on draft day: Curtis Weaver

Most likely to be play in the XFL: Julian Okwara