TEAM NEED: The big question here with the Minnesota Vikings surrounds Floyd. He was supposed to miss six to eight weeks with a meniscus tear in Week 2. Instead, he missed the rest of the season and, as recently as earlier this month, reports surfaced that he still hasn’t healed. The Vikings are on the hook for his fifth-year option because of the injury, but the team needs him to come back healthy to make this a position of strength rather than one with depth concerns. With Joseph, Floyd, Johnson, Jones and Stephen, they have a five-man rotation that is strong, deep and loaded with players with specific skills sets, which, if they can all be together, would minimize the need at the position.
POSITION ANALYSIS: There are some solid players with strong college pedigrees in this year’s draft class, but there isn’t a ton of depth at the top. Jonathan Allen is going early, but he’s the only lock to go in the first round. There is talent and depth in the later rounds, but the overall grade drops slightly due to the lack of premium talent that there is at other positions in the Class of 2017.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Jonathan Allen, Alabama, 6-2¾, 286 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 136 tackles, 42 tackles for a loss, 28 sacks, seven passes defensed, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries…Had right labrum surgery after the 2015 season…Had to make a new shelf in his trophy case after winning the Nagurski, Bednarik, Hendricks and Lombardi Awards…Declined an invitation to the Senior Bowl…A dominating player at the point of attack who is very quick off the snap and can overpower blockers…Has strong hands and can rip in between blockers and blow up plays…Has very good balance and can follow plays and chase them down to the outside…Extremely good sack production – finishing second in school history behind only Derrick Thomas…Does not always anticipate well and can be the last lineman to react on the snap…Has good upper body strength in the conventional on-field sense, but didn’t show it at the Combine (see below)…Played in a rotation that didn’t require the focus of the offensive blocking schemes to be centered on him…Ran a 5.00 40 at the Combine with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 30-inch vertical jump and a 9-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: An extremely good athlete who doesn’t have many weaknesses to his game. He is ideally suited to be an under-tackle in 4-3 system, but could excel in a 3-4 as the edge-stacking end. A top-10 pick that will be off the board very early.
Malik McDowell, Michigan State, 6-6¼, 295 – Third-year junior…Two-year starter who started all 23 games he played in that span, recording 75 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, six sacks and two forced fumbles…Will only be 21 as a rookie…Has a very good combination of height, wingspan and speed…Has very quick feet and good agility and prevents blockers from cutting his legs out from under him…Brings the versatility to play all of the line spots at a high level…Has good anchor strength vs. the run and doesn’t get steered or walled off too often…Was inconsistent in his production and would disappear for stretches of games…Is high-cut and NFL offensive linemen likely will be able to get under his pads much more often than they did in college…Has a bit of an attitude problem in terms of believing his own hype and seems to get by on athleticism and not a hard-nosed work ethic…Ran a 4.85 40 at the Combine with 23 reps, a 28½-inch vertical jump and a 9-4 broad jump. PROJECTION: A true boom-bust prospect. He has first-round ability but reportedly turned some people off at the Combine during his interviews. Doesn’t take the blame often for his own mistakes. If he harnesses his talent, he could be a Pro Bowl player, but he will need to change his attitude, which could start with him being a first-round talent who falls into the second round.
Chris Wormley, Michigan, 6-5, 298 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who recorded 83 tackles, 23½ tackles for a loss, 12½ sacks and one forced fumble…Suffered a torn ACL during summer practice in 2012 and had to redshirt…Named team’s top defensive lineman in each of his last two seasons and was a team captain…Has very good instincts and locates the ball consistently quickly…Has very good agility and lateral quickness for a player his size…Has a good variety of pass-rush moves that he mixes and matches well…Played outside in college but doesn’t have exceptional explosion and will have to play inside at the next level…Will be a little older than some teams want – he’ll be a 24-year-old rookie…Does not chase plays that go the other direction too often and leaves production on the field…Did not run or jump at the Combine, but did 23 reps of 225 pounds. PROJECTION: A player likely to be pigeon-holed as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense, but he has a lot of positive skill traits that likely will see somebody jump on him in the second round.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Carlos Watkins, Clemson, 6-3, 309 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 151 tackles, 21½ tackles for a loss, 14 sacks, seven passes defensed and one fumble recovery…Was in a car accident in 2013 that killed one of his high school teammates…Has good quickness off the snap and keeps his pads low to push and steer blockers…Has a big frame that could add more bulk and mass if the scheme he plays in calls for it…Has a motor that doesn’t idle and will burst off the snap and chase down plays that go away from him…Doesn’t have elite explosion and sustained chasing speed…Is not a technician and, despite five years at college, still needs to have his mechanics tweaked to improve his game…Needs to add muscle, not fat – his body fat count at the Combine was a whopping 24½ percent…Did not run or jump at the Combine, but did 25 reps of 225 pounds. PROJECTION: A player who could be a difference-maker in the middle at the next level, but he’s going to need to convert his body into more muscle and less dead weight and perfect his technique. He’s a project who has good upside, which should have him off the board in the middle of Day 2.
Jaleel Johnson, Iowa, 6-2¾, 316 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who recorded 100 tackles, 15½ tackles for a loss, 11 sacks and one forced fumble in that span…A state champion high school wrestler…Has a good combination of size and arm length and uses both to get an advantage off the snap…Has a jolting hand punch and uses his hand placement well to keep blockers away from his body…Plays with sound fundamentals…Doesn’t have ideal height or explosiveness…He plays a little too out of control and takes himself out of position when he improvises…Upper body strength is a concern – his 19 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine were the fewest of any defensive tackle who lifted…Ran a 5.38 40 at the Combine with 19 reps, a 28-inch vertical jump and an 8-4 broad jump. PROJECTION: A player with the best hands of any D-tackle in the class and showed solid improvement in 2016. Likely a late-Day 2 selection.
Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama, 6-3, 310 – Fifth-year senior…One-year starter who had 62 tackles, 5½ tackles for a loss, three sacks and one forced fumble…Lost his father to cancer when he was 6 and his mother to diabetes when he was 15…First high school wrestler in Georgia to win three heavyweight titles, finishing with a record of 169-2…As a high school senior, he tore his left ACL playing soccer…Tore his right ACL in his Alabama debut in 2013…An intelligent player who earned two college degrees…A nice combination of size, strength and power…Capable of swallowing up double-teams with his initial quickness off the snap…Has good change-of-direction skills and impressed at the Combine with his shuttle runs…Aside from bull rushing, he doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of a pass rush…Limited exposure as a one-year starter and needs to refine his game and improve his technique…With two torn ACLs in his career, durability will be a red flag for some teams…Didn’t lift at the Combine with a left pectoral strain, but ran a 5.19 40 with a 27-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump. PROJECTION: A strong player who isn’t just a nose tackle. He can be disruptive and blow up the pocket. He needs to polish his game, but his off-the-snap quickness will get the attention of teams at or around the turn of the second round into the third.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Montravius Adams, Auburn, 6-3¾, 305 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 131 tackles, 19½ tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in that span…Named team’s Most Valuable Player in 2016…Is very strong in attacking blockers and makes a lot of plays at the line…Has good balance, lateral quickness and change-of-direction skills…Improved his stock dramatically at the Senior Bowl in one-on-one drills, standing out from the crowd …Doesn’t play with great instincts and tends to react more than he anticipates plays…Will struggle to hold his ground against the run and can get pushed around and steered off the ball…Doesn’t play with a lot of fire and emotion…Ran a 4.87 40 at the Combine with 22 reps, a 29-inch vertical jump and a 9-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: A speed player in the middle who needs to get offensive linemen moving to be effective, he has the ability to be a strong player in a rotation up front, which should make him a candidate to get picked in the third round.
Elijah Qualls, Washington, 6-0¾, 313 – Fourth-year junior…Two-year starter who had 64 tackles, 9½ tackles for a loss and 7½ sacks in that span…Creates mismatch problems because he plays low to the ground and comes off the snap with explosion…A space eater who takes up a lot of room in the middle…Has good burst off the snap to split defenders and surprisingly good agility to slide down the line on plays going away from him…Is extremely short in both height and arm length and can get smothered by elite linemen, which he will face every week at the next level…He doesn’t have a lot of room on his frame to bulk up and add muscle and he has an awful body fat count of more than 28 percent…Is not viewed as much of a pass-rush threat…Ran a 5.13 40 at the Combine with 33 reps of 225 pounds, a 31½-inch vertical jump and an 8-9 broad jump. PROJECTION: A pure nose tackle who is undersized but plays hard. He will need to control his weight – it’s been a problem already – but has the ability to be a role player in a 3-4 scheme ideally and should be a premium pick on Day 3.
Larry Ogunjobi, NC-Charlotte, 6-2¾, 305 – Fifth-year senior…Started all 46 games of his college career, logging 217 tackles, 49 tackles for a loss, 13 sacks and one fumble recovery…Had surgery on his left labrum as a freshman and surgery on his right labrum after his junior season…Weighed 350 pounds as a high school sophomore and dropped 100 pounds – the weight he regained was more muscle than fat…All-Conference USA First Team pick in 2016…Has an explosive get-off on the snap and consistently plays low and hits with some pop…Has good instincts and picks up the ball quickly after contact and gets into the proper positioning to defend the run…Hs short arms and allows blockers to get into his body too easily too often…Doesn’t string together pass-rush moves and gets tied up with blockers too often…Played against marginal competition – just two games vs. power conference teams…Ran a 4.97 40 at the Combine with 26 reps, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 9-8 broad jump. PROJECTION: A player who may need to find the right scheme for a backup nose tackle. He has some intangibles that 3-4 teams will like, but he most likely will be viewed as a developmental project in the early stages of Day 3.
Davon Godchaux, LSU, 6-3½, 310 – Third-year junior…Started 34 of 37 career games, recording 145 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, 12½ sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries…Had a troubled childhood that included his father being in jail and a drive-by shooting at his home…Tore his left ACL as a high school senior…Has good instincts and can make a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage or blow them up…Has good burst and acceleration off the snap and chases down the ball…Can provide some versatility, as he played all three line spots at LSU and played them all pretty well…Is a slow reactor and often the last guy moving off the snap…Does not play with consistent intensity and will take some plays off…Didn’t show good strength at the Combine (see below) and hurt his draft stock…Wasn’t able to finish the Combine workout when he suffered a right hamstring injury on his second 40-yard dash rush, but ran a 5.27 40 with 18 reps of 225 pounds. PROJECTION: A player who seemed destined to play only in a 3-4 scheme, he has some upside traits to him, but will likely remain on the board until early in Day 3.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Ryan Glasgow, Michigan, 6-3, 302
Treyvon Hester, Toledo, 6-2, 300
D.J. Jones, Ole Miss, 6-0¾, 319
Jarron Jones, Notre Dame, 6-5¾, 316
Nazir Jones, North Carolina, 6-5¼, 304
Jeremiah Ledbetter, Arkansas, 6-3¼, 280
Isaac Rochell, Notre Dame, 6-4¼, 280
Tanzel Smart, Tulane, 6-0¾, 296|
Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State, 6-2¾, 304
Steve Tu’ikolovatu, USC, 6-1, 331
Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA, 6-3¼, 305
Charles Walker, Oklahoma, 6-2, 310