The 2018 NFL Draft is over and teams are getting comfortable with their new draft picks. The next class of players is getting prepared now for another year of college football. Each position will be analyzed in the coming days. Here are the best 2019 NFL Draft prospects: Defensive tackles.
Rashan Gary, Michigan
Gary was an elite recruit out of high school but had to sit on the bench a year and wait his turn to get significant playing time with a lot of talented older players at Michigan. He has since made an impact. The junior is 6-foot-5 and 281 pounds.
While he likely needs to add a little bit of weight to his frame to be an effective defensive tackle in the NFL, Gary has a lot of good skills to help an NFL team. He posted 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks last season and is expected to have a big junior season. All eyes will be on Gary for the Wolverines’ matchups with Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State.
This is one of the more loaded defensive tackle classes in the history of the NFL Draft. While it will be a battle for the top spot, Gary should be a first-round pick if this season plays out well for him.
Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
Lawrence was another highly-touted recruit out of high school and got playing time immediately on a great offensive line, which this season should be one of the best of all time. He is 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, which is great size for a defensive tackle in the NFL.
It’s odd, but Lawrence produced more as a freshman than he did as a sophomore. As a freshman, he totaled 8.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 14 games. In 11 games as a sophomore, he tallied 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Even though he is playing on such a good defensive line, he will need to put up better numbers in 2018.
If he has the season he wants, Lawrence will be in contention to be the first defensive tackle selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Ed Oliver, Houston
Oliver was another good recruit but surprised most people with his decision to play at Houston instead of going to a more traditional power in college football. He has made the most of his time at Houston. He stands 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds.
Houston has a great player in Oliver who has stuffed the stat sheet. In his two seasons at Houston, he has 38.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. He is clearly good at stopping the run but even the sack number is solid for a defensive tackle. He doesn’t play the best competition week in and week out, so he will need to shine this year when he does play big games.
Oliver is a player that is worthy of flipping on a game just to see him but it is unclear how often he will get nationally televised games in the AAC. He has a lot of talent and if teams can overlook the competition he plays against (even though he has stepped up when given the chance), he will be the first defensive tackle selected.
Christian Wilkins, Clemson
Wilkins was expected to leave school early for the NFL after last season with how well he played over the last two years for Clemson. He decided to return to help formulate a great defensive line. He is 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds.
He was a great contributor on the 2016 National Championship team and specialized in stopping the run with 13.5 tackles for loss that season. He had just 3.5 sacks in 2016 but bumped that number up to 5.0 last season. Wilkins has no excuse to not produce this season while being flanked with three other potential first-round draft picks.
It will be hard for Wilkins to stand out on this defensive line but if he does his job, stays in his gap and plays with a good motor, he will be able to maintain or improve his draft stock.