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Prospect Profile: The Defensive Line Class

In order to familiarize fans with some of the top names in the 2017 NFL Draft, Chargers.com will be highlighting top prospects by position each week leading up to the first day of the draft on April 27th.

*Next up is a look at some of the premiere interior defensive linemen according to pundits. *

Jonathan Allen

School: Alabama
Height: 6-3
Weight: 286 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Fletcher Cox

Few prospects this season boast Jonathan Allen's pedigree.

While some pundits believe he could be the first overall selection, they all agree he can be a difference maker from day one no matter the system he is drafted into.

The 6-3, 286-pound Alabama product won both the 2016 Chuck Bednarik Award and Bronko Nagurski Award as the best defensive player in college football.  Allen totaled 69 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and a team-high 10.5 sacks as he led the Crimson Tide to the national title game.  One year earlier, he helped Alabama win the national title as a junior with a 12-sack campaign, which was the second most in the SEC.

Regarded as an excellent technician, Allen is versatile enough to line up along the interior or kick outside.  As athletic as he is strong, he's a disruptive force who makes his living in the offensive backfield. Add in his lauded leadership skills and it is easy to see why pundits believe Allen is the total package.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:5.00 seconds
Bench Press: 21 reps
Vertical Jump: 30.0 inches
Broad Jump: 108.0 inches

Caleb Brantley

School: Florida
Height: 6-3
Weight: 307 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Aaron Donald

Nothing is more unsettling for a quarterback than immediate pressure up the middle, which is what makes Caleb Brantley such a feared presence in the trenches.

The 6-3, 307-pounder was a second-team All-SEC pick in 2016, leading the Florida Gators in tackles for loss (9.5) while also finishing with 31 total tackles and 2.5 sacks.  He ended his three-year college career with 81 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and a trio of forced fumbles.

Moreover, Brantley's impact went far beyond the stat sheet. He overpowers offensive linemen and cuts through double teams with an impressive non-stop motor.  He excels doing most of the dirty work up front, moving the quarterback off his spot only to be sacked by one of his teammates.

Pundits believe Brantley would be best served drafted by a team with a 4-3 front, where he can maximize his skillset as a three-technique defensive tackle.  

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:5.14 seconds
Bench Press: 21 reps
Vertical Jump: 27.0 inches
Broad Jump: 105.0 inches

Malik McDowell

School: Michigan State
Height: 6-6
Weight: 295 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Ezekiel Ansah

Malik McDowell was at one point regarded as an under the radar sleeper who would pay major dividends for a team lucky enough to select him in the draft's middle rounds.

That is no longer the case.

More and more experts now believe he should be a first round lock after watching the 6-6, 295-pounder's film.  McDowell was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior a year ago, finishing with 34 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.  His top year actually came in 2015, when he posted 41 tackles with 13.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

McDowell is at his best overpowering offensive linemen with his massive frame, yet is also quick enough to attack from multiple gaps. He boasts rare size similar to Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, who were both high picks in recent drafts.

Still quite raw, scouts drool over the chance to develop his raw skillset. With proper tutelage at the NFL level, pundits believe McDowell is an ascending prospect who could emerge as a dominating force for years to come.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.85 seconds
Bench Press: 23 reps
Vertical Jump: 28.5 inches
Broad Jump: 112 inches

Dalvin Tomlinson

School: Alabama
Height: 6-3
Weight: 310 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Dan Williams

Don't sleep on Dalvin Tomlinson.

With all the attention paid to Alabama's Jonathan Allen, a consensus top 5 pick, not enough is said about his teammate along the defensive line. A first time starter as a senior in 2016, Tomlinson totaled 62 tackles, three sacks, four QB hits and four passes defensed. He also played a key reserve role for the Crimson Tide's national championship team as a junior, chipping in with 34 tackles.

Tomlinson is at his best in the run game as he is near impossible to move off the spot.  He has a knack for locating the ball carrier, and uses his brute strength to shed linemen with ease. While he is a beast against the run, he's shown the ability to also disrupt the QB on passing downs..

Overall, with the success of similar Alabama defensive linemen in recent drafts, Tomlinson figures to be an early contributor in the NFL.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:5.19 seconds
Vertical Jump: 27.0 inches
Broad Jump: 110.0 inches

Chris Wormley

School: Michigan
Height: 6-5
Weight: 298 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Jared Crick

Draft experts have a hard time finding faults in Chris Wormley's game.

A three-year starter for the Wolverines, he impressed right off the bat as a redshirt freshman in 2013 posting 19 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in a limited role.  Wormley took his game to new heights after that, and was named the team's Defensive Lineman of the year as Sophomore and Junior.  He totaled 14.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2015, and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season with nine tackles for loss and six sacks.

Wormley thrives at the point of attack with the ability to beat offensive linemen with speed, athleticism or pure power.  His versatility allows him to dominate from the outside as a DE, or kick inside to form a mismatch.  

Overall, pundits consider Wormley a safe pick with a very high floor, which is why he figures to hear his name called early come the draft.

Combine Metrics
Bench Press: 23 reps

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