One of the deepest and most talented position groups in this year's NFL Draft is the interior defensive line class.
"I can say all across the board I'm seeing positions – like, interior defensive linemen, I think is a strong class," Lions general manager Brad Holmes said this offseason. "That was exhibited down at the Senior Bowl, and that's not even counting the players that weren't invited down there."
It's a versatile group of interior defenders with position versatility and skill sets for every type of NFL scheme. Teams looking for help along their defensive line will find it deep into this draft.
Interior defensive line class draft strength: Elite talent at the top. Players like Jordan Davis (Georgia), Devonte Wyatt (Georgia), Perrion Winfrey (Oklahoma) and Travis Jones (Connecticut) have a chance to come in right away and be big-time contributors in the middle of an NFL defense.
Lions' interior defensive line draft priority: Low. The Lions are switching to more of a 4-3 base look that will allow them to go a little bigger upfront and utilize the talents of Brockers, McNeill and Onwuzurike more. Penisini is an underrated rotational player upfront, which gives the Lions four solid options along their interior, with Brockers and Onwuzurike able to potentially play out wide some as well.
It's always hard to find athletic big men, so if the player and the draft slot fit, I can see Holmes adding to the group, but they spent a second and third-round pick to shore up that spot in last year's draft, and the Lions have more pressing needs this year.
View photos of the top interior defensive linemen prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Five interior defensive linemen who could fit the Lions:
(40-yard dash times are from Combine and Pro Day workouts as available.)
1. Jordan Davis, Georgia:
6-6, 341. 4.78 40-yard dash.
Davis put on a show both in leading the Bulldogs to the national championship and then dominating the NFL Scouting Combine. A 341-pound man with his kind of strength isn't supposed to run in the 4.7 range. To put that in a little bit of perspective, only four quarterbacks ran faster than Davis at the Combine. He recorded seven sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in four seasons at Georgia, and should be a force in the middle right away in the NFL.
2. Devonte Wyatt, Georgia:
6-3, 304. 4.77 40-yard dash.
Wyatt and Davis were a formidable duo in the center of Georgia's defense this past season. Wyatt led all Georgia defensive linemen in tackles the last two seasons and enjoyed his most complete season in 2021 with 39 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He's quick off the ball, with good range, speed and a motor that doesn't quit. He's not going to record a lot of sacks, but he'll play on the other side of the line of scrimmage a lot.
3. Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma:
6-4, 290. 4.89 40-yard dash.
Winfrey was the MVP of the Senior Bowl game, and was one of the top defensive performers during the week as well. His Wednesday practice in Mobile was about as dominant a performance as I've seen in a single practice at the Senior Bowl. He recorded 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks for the Sooners in 2021. He has a 84 3/4 wing span, which is incredible, and over 40 percent of his tackles occurred in the opponent backfield.
4. Travis Jones, Connecticut:
6-4, 325. 4.92 40-yard dash.
A really strong player who uses that strength and strong hands to stack and shed blocks, and get himself into gaps. He notched 47 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks this past season for the Huskies. He's still a work in progress as a pass rusher, but he could make an early impact as a two-gapper in the NFL.
View photos from the community celebration downtown to commemorate the awarding of the 2024 NFL Draft to Detroit.
5. Phidarian Mathis, Alabama:
Mathis is a terrific athlete with size, length and power. He's really strong against the run, and chipped in nine sacks for the Crimson Tide defense in 2021, which were the second most on the team. He's a gap penetrator and can be a disruptive player in the middle of a defense. He'll find a quick role in the NFL because of his power and position versatility.
Sleeper: Eyioma Uwazurike, Iowa State:
6-6, 316. 5.32 40-yard dash.
The length, wing span and power are an impressive combination with Uwazurike. Pad level will always be an issue because of his height, but he was a four-year starter in college and racked up some impressive numbers with 12 tackles for loss and nine sacks last season. He finished third in school history with 34.5 tackles for loss. He got position flexibility and could be an excellent Day 3 pickup.