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Look at that Knee bend and level change! Robert Nkemdiche (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

The interior lineman went through their drills yesterday at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. This year’s defensive line group is the deepest of any position at this year’s draft. As many as 12 defensive lineman could be selected in the first round of this year. With so talented lineman their figures to be a bunch of really solid players In the later rounds as well.

The Freak:

My top rated defensive lineman is Robert Nkemdiche from Ole Miss. Nkemdiche was the top rated high school player in the country in 2013. The problem is his tape is highly inconsistent. His game against Alabama is what really caught my eye. His best moments were on the national stage showing he can gear up when the time is most important. I worry about his motor but this is a guy who will make an impact immediately similar to Leonard Williams a year ago. His off the field issues as well will scare off a lot of teams.

Solid & Safe:

2nd on my list is Sheldon Rankins from Louisville. Rankins was the MVP of the senior bowl practices on the defensive side. He reminds me of Aaron Donald from the LA Rams. Rankins may not be as twitchy as Donald but both players are extremely powerful and play with a great sense of leverage. He is another player who should impact the run and pass game equally.

Roll Tide:

The Alabama guys appear to be amongst the safest picks in the entire draft. They include A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed. Robinson is known more for his pass rushing ability and Reed is known as a run stuffer. For those reasons I see Robinson as a Muhammed Wilkerson type player with Reed being a perfect Sheldon Richardson. Reed I thought was the more superior player in the movement drills as is expected for a guy who does everything well.

The Dancing Bears:

Andrew Billings, Kenny Clark, Jonathan Bullard, Sheldon Day, and Matt Iaonnidis all caught my attention at the combine. Billings showed great initial get off during the 40 yard dash and got in and out of the drills smooth and efficient. Billings also benched 31 reps for 225 and is known as a power lifter. Clark from UCLA is another guy who also came out a year early. Clark was so smooth during the drills it almost seemed like he was dancing. Clark is a tall guy at 6’3” yet had a terrific level change in his knee bend in order to perform the drills. Bullard’s 10 yard split was flat out ridiculous at 1.66. By comparison Joey Bosa’s was a 1.69 who is 25 pounds lighter. Sheldon Day was so impressive the scouts asked him to drop back in coverage! Not to mention Day weighed in at 293 and by no means will have to drop in coverage during his career, but he was simply that good in the movement drills. Day is an undersized defensive tackle but he will make the perfect 3-4 defensive end adding pass rush ability off the edge. Finally there is Iaonnidis from Temple. The Owls had a terrific season almost handing Notre Dame a scary loss along the way. Iaonnidis tested very well in the on field drills having tremendous footwork. This is a guy who could sneak into the first round depending how may interior lineman are selected in front of him.

One Gap Penetrators:

Two pure nose tackles should intrigue the 3-4 teams as well. Victor Butler from Louisiana Tech is a massive 6’4” and 323 pounds. Butler didn’t run that fast or test off the charts but that is to be expected from a guy that size. Butler could be the next sort of Linval Joseph who clogs the middle making it nearly impossible to run. Ask any quarterback the thing they hate the most is immediate interior pressure. D.J. Reeder from Clemson is more of a later round guy who could have an impact as well. He figures to be more of a 2 down player but he had a tremendous 2nd half of the season. When he got going it really allowed the rest of the Clemson defensive to find their own. Reeder is an even bigger prospect weighing in at 340 at the Senior Bowl.

How Good Is He?

The last player worth noting DeForest Buckner of Oregon. Buckner flashes on tape but the recent Oregon phenomenon has me concerned. Dion Jordan and Arik Armstead have really struggled as recent first round picks from the university. Buckner is a massive 6’7” and hopes to resemble his game after Calias Campbell of the Cardinals. Playing in a pass happy Pac 12 conference may have boasted his value to a degree in my opinion and grades out as more of a 2nd round selection compared to the possible top 5 pick he has been talked about as.

Interior Lineman Rankings:

  1. Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss)
  2. Jarran Reed (Alabama)
  3. A’Shawn Robinson (Alabam
  4. Sheldon Rankins (Louisville)
  5. Andrew Billings (Baylor)