Top 10 defensive tackles in the 2021 draft

Washington defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike (95) hits Utah quarterback Jason Shelley after Shelley threw a pass during the first half of the Pac-12 Conference championship game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (Tony Avelar/AP)
Washington defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike (95) hits Utah quarterback Jason Shelley after Shelley threw a pass during the first half of the Pac-12 Conference championship game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (Tony Avelar/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Here are the top 10 defensive tackle prospects (with projected round) for the 2021 NFL draft, which is set for April 29-May 1:

1. Christian Barmore, Alabama, 6 feet 4, 310 pounds (first round): Barmore is considered the only defensive tackle with a sure-fire first-round grade in this year’s draft class. Barmore plays with great power against the run and possesses a solid first step when providing an interior pass rush. As a defensive tackle, Barmore actually led the Crimson Tide with eight sacks in 2020, indicating just how disruptive he can be. Barmore is still a raw prospect at the next level but the potential is great given how he played during Alabama’s national championship season. He has a tendency to get away from his assignments at times, which will need to be corrected at the next level.

ExploreChristian Barmore stands out among DT prospects

2. Levi Onwuzurike, Washington, 6-2, 290 pounds (first/second round): Onwuzurike possesses natural athleticism that allows him to move laterally and work through multiple gaps. Given his quickness along the interior, Onwuzurike is tough to deal with as he’s rarely slowed when single blocked. Onwuzurike has a chance to be taken in the late first round. He totaled seven sacks over the past three seasons.

3. Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech, 6-3, 284 pounds (second/third round): A lighter defensive tackle, Williams could stand to put on some weight when competing against NFL interior offensive linemen. At the same time, his frame and athleticism allow him to squeeze through gaps and get into the backfield. Williams has recorded 10 sacks over the past three seasons. Williams was an overlooked prospect in high school with Division I offers only to Louisiana Tech, New Mexico, Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin.

4. Marlon Tuipulotu, USC, 6-1, 307 pounds (second/third round): Although he’s not tall, Tuipulotu is a stout defensive tackle who plays the run exceptionally well. Tuipulotu uses his hands well and rarely gets pushed back. In four years at USC, he recorded 8.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and batted three passes down.

Southern California defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu (51) warms up before game against Arizona Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
Southern California defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu (51) warms up before game against Arizona Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

5. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa, 6-3, 313 pounds (third round): A former three-star recruit, Nixon is quick off the snap with his interior pass rush. Nixon began his college career at Iowa Western Community College before transferring to Iowa as a sophomore. Over the past two years, Nixon recorded 8.5 sacks and forced a fumble. He was a unanimous All-American as a redshirt junior in 2020.

6. Jay Tufele, USC, 6-2, 305 pounds (third round): Tufele opted out of the 2020 season but was a first-team All Pac-12 selection in 2019. He has a great get-off and defends the run well. Tufele showed the ability to provide an interior pass rush too as he totaled 4.5 sacks during the 2019 season.

7. Alim McNeil, N.C. State, 6-1, 317 pounds (third round): McNeil displayed good power at the point of contact during his collegiate career with the Wolfpack. Although he had 5.5 sacks in 2019, he only recorded one during this past season. He still was named to the All-ACC first team and had an impressive interception that was returned for a touchdown. McNeil was also named a Freshman All-American in 2018.

8. Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA, 6-1, 282 pounds (fourth round): Odighizuwa possesses some ideal next-level physical traits. Among those is Odighizuwa’s length, as he has an 83 ⅛-inch wingspan. After recording four sacks and six tackles for loss in 2020, Odighizuwa was named to the All-Pac 12 first team. He primarily played nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme in college.

Ohio State defensive lineman Tommy Togiai runs a drill during NCAA college football practice, Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. (Jau LaPrete/AP)
Ohio State defensive lineman Tommy Togiai runs a drill during NCAA college football practice, Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. (Jau LaPrete/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

9. Tommy Togiai, Ohio State, 6-1, 296 pounds (fourth round): Togiai showed good strength when defending the run during his career with the Buckeyes. While he can stand to improve his pass-rushing skills, he did record the first three sacks of his career in 2020. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection this past season.

10. Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M, 6-4, 321 pounds (fifth round): Brown has great size to play defensive tackle at the NFL level. A first-team All-SEC player, Brown recorded 5.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in 2020. An athletic and natural freak, Brown has an 85 ½-inch wingspan with 34 ¾-inch arms. While Brown has the physical tools to be successful, he’s still considered a raw prospect who has a lot to learn.

Teams in need: Browns, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Packers, Raiders, Texans.

Need area for Falcons: No. While depth is great to have, the Falcons have a premier defensive tackle in Jarrett.

Top 5 DTs for 2022 draft: Georgia’s Jordan Davis, Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey, Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal, Alabama’s DJ Dale, Clemson’s Tyler Davis.

AJC’S POSITION-BY-POSITION SERIES

QUARTERBACKS: How far will Justin Fields drop in draft? | Top 10 QBs

RUNNING BACKS: Plenty of prospects to pick from | Top 10 RBs

WIDE RECEIVERS: Draft deep with talent | Top 10 WRs

TIGHT ENDS: Ability to create mismatches is key | Top 10 TEs

OFFENSIVE TACKLES: A ‘nasty’ bunch | Top 10 OTs

OFFENSIVE GUARDS/CENTERS: The men in the middle | Top 10 C/OGs

END RUSHERS: Pass on this draft stock | Top 10 DEs

DEFENSIVE TACKLES: One star among lackluster block | Top 10 DTs

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