Browns, NFL Draft

An early glance at the interior defensive line class in the 2018 NFL Draft

There is one more week in the 2017 NFL season for the Cleveland Browns. That means the start of the NFL Draft season will turn into hyper gear. Cleveland will be heavily active in the upcoming draft with five draft picks coming in the first two rounds, including the first-overall pick and another first-round pick that could be in the top five. With that said, it will be an important draft for the future of the organization.

We at WFNY are giving you an early glance at the top prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. WFNY’s Jake Burns and Joe Gilbert have taken you through most of the offensive positions in the class and the duo now transitions to the defensive side of the ball. This week, we take a look at the interior defensive line class.

So, let’s take a look the top five interior defensive linemen and the duo’s overall thoughts on the class.

2018 NFL Draft Early Glance Series: Running backWide ReceiverTight EndOffensive TackleOffensive Guard/Center

Joe Gilbert’s Top 5 IDLJake Burns’ Top 5 IDL
1. Taven Bryan, Florida1. Vita Vea, Washington
2. Da’Ron Payne, Alabama2. Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
3. Maurice Hurst, Michigan3. Maurice Hurst, Michigan
4. Christian Wilkins, Clemson4. Christian Wilkins, Clemson
5. Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State5. Taven Bryan, Florida


Best of the Rest: Harrison Phillips (Stanford), Derrick Nnadi (Florida State), Jerry Tillery (Notre Dame), Trenton Thompson (Georgia), Rasheem Green (USC), Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), Andrew Brown (Virginia)

Which interior defensive lineman do you feel stronger about than most people?

Joe: I really love Taven Bryan of Florida. His first step is remarkable and pops off the film when you watch him. He has the ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage because of this first step and he is a quick player for his size. Bryan is probably the most fun player to watch on film.

Jake: Harrison Phillips of Stanford. Phillips is a load and very difficult to move off the line of scrimmage. He is someone who can routinely occupy blockers and space while playing with a ridiculously high motor. Phillips routinely fires off the ball and quickly gains inside hand. It usually allows him to press his man to create the necessary space. For an interior lineman to have 100 tackles in a given season is something special.

Who is your No. 1 interior defensive lineman in the class and why do you believe he is the best interior defensive lineman?

Joe: Taven Bryan of Florida is my No. 1 interior defensive lineman. Bryan has rare explosion off the line of scrimmage. He is a player who is consistently the first out of stance and the furthest of the pass rushers down the field after just one step. He has good size and has the ability to play multiple positions on the defensive line. The defensive lineman also has good hands to fight with blockers and the ability to move his body through creases to penetrate the line. His explosion is what sets him apart.

Jake: Vita Vea is my No. 1, without question. He is a freaky athlete who is good across the board at every facet of what a 1-tech or nose tackle needs to do. He plays well with his pad level and leverage, works his hands and is strong enough to work past double teams. Vea has the lateral quickness and speed to be effective in the pass rush aspect as well.

What are your thoughts on the overall interior defensive line class? How would you rate the class?

Joe: This interior defensive line class is very deep. It is immensely better and deeper than the 2016 class. I had a hard time trying to narrow my list to a top five because of the depth and talent the group has. The class has a good variety of players in terms of skills and roles that they fit into. Teams will be drafting these players early and often. It could be the best defensive position group in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Jake: Another deep group here. Difference from a couple other groups we have studied so far is that this group also has multiple elite players as well. It has some ridiculously fast 3-tech guys and some dominant 1-tech players who can eat up the run. This group will be in the NFL for some time and it is easy to see some Pro Bowlers in there as well.

Who has the best single skill set and what is that skill set?

Joe: Taven Bryan of Florida’s first step is the best single skill set in the class. It is simply remarkable to watch on film. He is almost always the furthest defender down field after one step. Bryan makes up so much more field with just one step and he explodes off the snap, often times being the first out of his stance as well. His first step is such a huge weapon for him.

Jake: Vita Vea’s strength is my No. 1. He can eat double teams and still use his hands to toss offensive lineman aside with ease. For a player who can work so well laterally to be able to use his hands to throw opposing lineman is something we don’t normally see. His comparison to Haloti Ngata makes perfect sense.

Who is a sleeper interior defensive lineman who you are keeping an eye on?

Joe: Michael Hill of Ohio State is a sleeper interior defensive lineman because he is overshadowed by the other talented players on the Buckeyes defense. He was suspended for part of the season this year, so his stock has lowered since the end of last season. But, he has the prototypical size and strength for an interior defensive lineman and moves pretty well for a player his size.

Jake: Georgia’s Trenton Thompson is a name not many know of. He is a big body with excellent speed at the point of attack. Along with having speed, Thompson is an agile athlete with some natural size and length. He has high athletic upside and can work in multiple schemes. One of the hardest things to find for a NFL defense is interior defensive linemen capable of being steady pass-rushers. Thompson is that rare kind of defender as he has a lot of ability to get after the quarterback

What is the impact of this interior defensive line class to the Browns?

Joe: The Browns have a solid interior defensive line with Danny Shelton, Larry Ogunjobi, Trevon Coley and Caleb Brantley. With that said, the team could look to strengthen that unit with more depth. I do not see the Browns going with an interior defensive lineman in the first few rounds, but they could definitely take advantage of the depth of this class and take a player in later rounds to add depth at the position.

Jake: Not sure the Browns will target an interior player in this group as this is one of their strong points already. I would like to see them go after a 1-tech guy in the fourth round or later in an effort to keep the play quality high when Shelton leaves the field. They are in good hands with the young talent on board, so even if they pass entirely to attack other areas, it isn’t the end of the world.

Vita Vea Highlights

Da’Ron Payne Highlights

Taven Bryan Highlights

Maurice Hurst Highlights

Christian Wilkins Highlights