The New York Giants have a lot invested in the top of their defensive line.
Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison are all signed to big-money contracts, while Dalvin Tomlinson was a second round draft pick a year ago. Even though they are (likely) transitioning to more of a 3-4 look on defense, their defensive line is versatile enough to handle the change well -- after all, Steve Spagnuolo used 3-4 fronts at times over the last two seasons.
But while the Giants are probably set for defensive line investments, we need to take a look at the depth chart as the draft board begins to take shape.
Note: As I did with the offensive line, I am lumping all defensive linemen together here. Players notated as (DE), would primarily be 4-3 defensive ends. (DT) are defensive tackles in either a 4-3 or 3-4 (either 0, 1, 3, 5 techniques). (DL) notation signifies positional flexibility to play inside or outside depending on scheme and package. “EDGE” players will get their own list.
- Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State) - Chubb is the top defensive lineman in this draft, and is leading the conversation for the top defensive prospect overall. He is a good athlete, with a prototypical frame, power, polished technique, awareness, and a non-stop motor.
- Vita Vea (DT, Washington) - Vita Vea looks the part of a block-eating nose tackle at 6’5,” 350 pounds, but it would be an absolute tragedy if that is his lot in the NFL. He plays all over Washington’s defensive front, and is capable of athletic feats that, by rights, no 350-pound human should be able to accomplish — like running down a punt returner and making the tackle in Washington’s bowl game against Penn State.
- Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan) - NFL dogma would consider Hurst “undersized” to be an every-down defensive tackle in the NFL. He has quickness and power to spare, however, and will be an impact player who can disrupt behind the line of scrimmage.
- Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama) - Payne is a classic “Alabama” defensive tackle. Big, powerful, stout, smart, and tough to move when he doesn’t want to be moved. He is a natural fit as a nose tackle at the next level, and could have upside as a pass rusher.
- Sam Hubbard (DE, Ohio State) - Hubbard is a long, lean defensive end who doesn’t look as though he weighs 265 pounds. He is a former safety who has built his body up to be an every-down defensive end over his time at OSU, but still retains much of that “DB” athleticism.
- Kentavious Street (DL, NC State) - Street is expected to raise eyebrows and potentially shoot up draft boards when he takes the field at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has the frame and power to play inside as an “Aaron Donald” 3-technique, but also the athleticism and quickness to be a strong-side defensive end depending on down, distance, and match-up.
- Harrison Philips (DT, Stanford) - Philips’ game is power, pure and simple. He isn’t just a block-eater and has the explosiveness to push the pocket in pass rushing situations. Coming from Stanford he is well coached and has experience in a 3-4 defense, but has the potential to play in a 4-3 as well.
- Rasheem Green (DL, USC) - Green came on at the end of his final season at USC, making plays all over their defensive front. He finished the season with 12.5 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, and 4 passes defensed. Green’s 6’4”, 275 pound frame and fluid athleticism should let him play defensive end in either a 4-3 or 3-4 front.
- DaShawn Hand (DL, Alabama) - Hand is another scheme-diverse defensive end who can play in an even or odd front. As we’ve come to expect from Alablama defenisve linemen, he is disciplined and plays with athleticism and power. He isn’t quite as fluid and flexible as other defensive ends, and might be best as a 5-technique (defensive end) in a 3-man front.
- Duke Ejiofor (DE, Wake Forest) - Ejiofor is a smart, polished defensive end who has lead Wake Forest for sacks in each of the last two years. He is a solid athlete but the hallmarks of his game are his intelligence, technique, and motor.