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Which DT Prospects Could the Bolts Target in the Draft?

2024 DT Cover

Welcome to Part 2 of our 2024 draft preview series, which will be a position-by-position look at key prospects and where the Chargers roster stands ahead of the NFL Draft. This series will include a look at which prospects could be options for the Chargers later this month.

We chatted with draft analyst Lance Zierlein to break down the running backs in this draft class. Zierlein, who has covered the draft over the years, can be found on X/Twitter @LanceZierlein for his analysis.

Chargers status at DT

Jerrod Clark, Poona Ford, Morgan Fox, Christopher Hinton, Scott Matlock, CJ Okoye, Otito Ogbonnia

The interior of the Bolts defensive line will look slightly different in 2024.

Three of the top four players who led the position in snaps on the interior last season are no longer on the roster, with the lone exception being Morgan Fox.

Fox once again proved his versatility moving all along the defensive line in addition to the interior, finishing third on the team in sacks with 5.5 and played in all 17 games in 2023.

He's joined by recent signee Poona Ford as the two of the more experienced veterans in the room.

Ford was signed during the first part of free agency and joins the Bolts with six productive NFL seasons under his belt.

The room as it stands also gives a chance to a couple of younger players to try and make their push for more playing time like 2022 fifth-round pick Otito Ogbonnia and 2023 sixth-round pick Scott Matlock.

Ogbonnia made his return from injury last season and played in eight games, starting two of them, while Matlock saw playing time in 12 games during his rookie season.

Both players were able to get a substantial number of snaps late in the season as they now look to increase their playing time in 2024 in Jesse Minter's defense.

Besides the group mentioned above, Christopher Hinton, Jerrod Clark and CJ Okoye also add to the depth currently at defensive tackle.

Is DT a position of need?

Even with the signing of Ford, Zierlein believes the position could be one the Chargers add to create more competition and depth.

"I think you definitely need to find help at the nose quickly and need to be able to plug up the gaps a little bit more," Zierlein said. "Either defensive tackle spot, it's just a matter of finding someone with some size in the middle there.

"There's room for competition and depth behind whoever is starting," Zierlein added.

And with the Bolts having nine current picks, Zierlein noted he could see the Bolts double dipping in the later rounds as well.

"I think a defensive tackle could be in the first couple of rounds, three rounds for sure," Zierlein said. "Let them compete for a starting job but then grabbing another one on Day 3, plugging that player in to compete for a backup rotational role would be critical as well."

Key draft questions

1. How do you assess the overall group of interior defensive linemen?

"I rank it this year as the sixth [out of the 11 positions]. I think it's about middle of the pack. For me, I see some good depth in Day 2, I think it's where the value is going to in the second and third round. I think there's some decent players you'll find in the fourth and fifth that should become rotational backups who can come in and give you snaps every single game. There's actually decent depth, more so than high end starters. There's going to be average starters and pretty good depth at defensive tackles."

2. Who is a Day 2 prospect the Chargers could target?

"I think T'Vondre Sweat would be one if you want to put a big guy right there and really try to gum up the defensive line. I would look for Kris Jenkins from Michigan, [Chargers Head Coach Jim] Harbaugh already knows him. He's more of a late second to middle-third type player. I think another one would be Braden Fiske from Florida State, he really plays hard. He gets after the quarterback and gets after the run game, really hard playing guy."

"Ruke Orhorhoro, he's one that didn't play as well as I thought he could've played this year, but he's got a lot of talent and a lot of build and tested really well. That would be one late in the second or early third."

3. What about a Day 3 guy who could make an impact for the Bolts?

"Fabian Lovett. I think is going to be a fourth-round pick, but he's another tackle that I think has some good mass on him and some good strength. He might be a guy to look at.

"Last one would be Maason Smith in the fourth round. Smith is big, long and to me he looks the part more than he plays the part, but he's the kind of guy who has rare physical traits and athletic profile so I can see taking a chance on him."

Expert rankings

Jeremiah currently has four defensive tackles in his latest overall Top 50 list, while ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., has one in his Top 25.

The Athletic's Dane Brugler had eight defensive tackles in his most recent Top 100 list, with the highest coming in at No. 15 (Byron Murphy II).

Pro Football Focus has seven defensive tackles in the top 100 in their Big Board Rankings, with a highest of No. 8 (Jer'Zhan Newton).

Potential Chargers options

Note: Heights and weights are from each player's profile on (linked for each player's name).

B Murphy

School: Texas | Year: Junior | Ht: 6-foot-0½ | Wt: 297 pounds

2023 stats: 14 games (14 starts); 29 tackles (13 solo), 8.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks

Quick fact: The 2023 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year was a disruptive force in the middle of the Longhorn defense. He earned Second-Team All-America honors following his final year in college and became the first Texas offensive or defensive lineman with multiple offensive touchdowns.

Zierlein's Take: "Murphy is the best. He's a three-down player, he can rush the quarterback, he can stop the run, he's extremely powerful pound for pound for his size. He's also a player who's got great chase quickness so he can get down the line and make plays against the run game. He's just kind of a rare player in that he can have an impact in the pass rush and have an impact in the run game."


School: Illinois | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-2 | Wt: 304 pounds

2023 stats: 12 games (12 starts); 52 tackles (26 solo), 8.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, two passes defensed, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble, four blocked kicks

Quick fact: Newton was the fourth Illini in history to earn the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award and first in 29 years after a dominant 2023 season where he earned consensus All-America honors. He finished his career tied for the most sacks by a defensive tackle in Illinois history (18.0).

Zierlein's Take: "Newton is a really active player. He can be disruptive, he's got good quickness off the snap, he's got some strength to kind of get into run blockers and control them a little bit. I think where he stands out though is his foot quickness as a pass rusher. As a run defender I think he's pretty average but as a rusher and guy that can get into the backfield and make things happen, that's where he shines."


School: Texas | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-4½ | Wt: 366 pounds

2023 stats: 14 games (eight starts); 45 tackles (18 solo), 8.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, four passes defensed, one blocked kick

Quick fact: Sweat saved his best for last in 2023, setting career highs in most statistical categories. He would go on to become an unanimous First-Team All-American, the fifth defensive tackle in Texas history to achieve the feat, along with being the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Fiske updated

School: Florida State | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 292 pounds

2023 stats: 13 games (13 starts); 43 tackles (17 solo), 9.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks

Quick fact: After spending most of his college career at Western Michigan, Fiske earned a Second-Team All-ACC selection in his lone year at Florida State. He was key in their ACC Championship game win, notching career-highs with nine tackles, 4.5 for loss and 3.0 sacks in addition to two quarterback hurries.


School: Michigan | Year: Redshirt Junior | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 299 pounds

2023 stats: 15 games (15 starts); 36 tackles (17 solo), 4.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, one interception, one pass defensed, one fumble recovery

Quick fact: Jenkins was a big presence along the interior of the Wolverines that would go on to win the National Championship, thanks in large part to a dominant defense. A 2023 Second-Team All-American, the defensive lineman was one of the team captains in his final season.

M. Smith

School: LSU | Year: Redshirt Sophomore | Ht: 6-foot-5 | Wt: 306 pounds

2023 stats: 12 games (12 starts); 28 tackles (nine solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two passes defensed

Quick fact: Smith made his mark as a true freshman with the Tigers, earning Freshman All-America honors in 2021. He would finish his time at LSU having played in 22 games, starting 17 and becoming a consistent piece to the interior part of the defense when on the field.


School: Ohio State | Year: Redshirt Sophomore | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 290 pounds

2023 stats: 11 games (six starts); 22 tackles (nine solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks

Quick fact: Hall was productive with the Buckeyes throughout his three years with the school, He totaled 45 career tackles with 10.0 tackles-for-losses. He would be named Third-Team All-Big Ten Conference in his final two seasons.

Zierlein's Take: "Michael Hall, Jr., is probably the most disruptive defensive tackle, maybe in the entire draft, as a pass rusher… He is pretty strong for his size but where is special is his ability to get around guards because he's just so much quicker than they are. He is somebody who's pure intention is to get into the backfield, disrupt the run, disrupt the pass. He's probably as disruptive as you're going to find, he's just a little undersized."


School: Clemson | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 294 pounds

2023 stats: 12 games (12 starts); 25 tackles (13 solo), 8.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, one pass defensed

Quick fact: A Third-Team All-ACC selection in 2023, Orhorhoro finished third on the Clemson defense in sacks and fourth in tackles for loss. During a game against NC State, he became the first Clemson interior defensive lineman with at least 3.0 tackles for loss in a game since 2014.

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