The 2023 NFL Draft defensive tackle group stands to be one of the more vast and versatile positional categories next April. Whether you need a classic disruptive 3-tech, a versatile chess piece, or a space-eating nose tackle with three-down upside, this class has it. Here are the top prospects within that mix as the draft grows near.
Top 10 Defensive Tackles in the 2023 NFL Draft
10) Gervon Dexter, Florida
Where Gervon Dexter ranks in the top 10 of defensive tackles will fluctuate from board to board, but most are in agreement that the 21-year-old belongs in that range. Dexter’s college career left some wanting more, both in terms of production and refinement, but the upside is there.
Dexter has some of the best natural strength among 3-tech prospects in this class, and his linear burst at around 6’6″, 310 pounds is extremely appealing. His proportional length isn’t great, but Dexter’s high-energy style and plus tools combine to form an intriguing framework.
9) Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin
Keeanu Benton turned it on down the stretch in 2022, finishing his final season with 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. But in truth, the flashes of dominance have always been there. He was just able to put it together at the right time.
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Benton can still do a better job overall managing leverage, but he’s a stack-and-shed master with his powerful hands and brutal strength. He also has the hand violence, initial burst, and flashes of lateral agility to provide pass-rushing value.
8) Moro Ojomo, Texas
Even after a strong final season, Shrine Bowl showing, and NFL Combine performance, Texas’ Moro Ojomo feels overlooked in the 2023 NFL Draft class. He’s a top-75 talent on my personal board, with some of the most exciting physical tools in this group.
Ojomo has an excellent blend of natural leverage and proportional length at around 6’3″, 292 pounds, with 34.5″ arms. He also has 5.04 speed, a 33″ vertical, and a 9’4″ broad jump at that size. Ojomo’s already a top-flight run defender, and his power profile translates to rare upside as a pass rusher.
7) Mazi Smith, Michigan
It’s not often you can find a nose tackle with legitimate pass-rushing upside and similar utility against the run. The position itself remains important but has become a tough niche to fill in the modern NFL. That said, Michigan’s Mazi Smith has the tools to be a unique and valuable match.
Smith was the top Feldman Freak in the summer of 2022, with a documented 33″ vertical and a 6.95 three-cone time at 6’3″, 337 pounds. He’s an absurd athlete for his size with menacing strength. Not only can he two-gap and stack-and-shed solo blocks with ease, but Smith also has the burst and hand power to wreak havoc 1-on-1 as a pass rusher.
6) Zacch Pickens, South Carolina
It’ll be interesting to see where Zacch Pickens ultimately goes in the 2023 NFL Draft. He’s a prospect who could hold more love in NFL circles than in media ones. Pickens was quietly very productive in 2021 and 2022. He tested very well and has a complete skill set.
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With Pickens, you see plenty of quality traits. Playing around 6’4″, 300 pounds, he’s well-leveraged, but also has exceptional length, with 34 3/8″ arms. He’s an explosive athlete with a quick first step and has the upper body strength to wrench through blocks. Pickens is one prospect who could assuredly outplay his draft billing.
5) Siaki Ika, Baylor
Siaki Ika didn’t test nearly as well as expected, but he’s another nose tackle prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft with dual-sided upside against both the pass and the run. In an NFL conditioning program, with NFL coaching, Ika could become a devastating 0-technique.
At 6’3″, 335 pounds, Ika is a pure block of mass on the interior line. His raw strength can be dominating at the point, and he also has the power to bowl over solo blocks. His flashes as a pass rusher — the brightest of which came in 2021 — allude to untapped potential in the attacking phase.
4) Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern
Adetomiwa Adebawore played all over the defensive front at Northwestern. It’s plausible that he could take many of his reps at EDGE in the NFL, but he’s truly a lab-built 3-tech, who’s in the same realm as Calijah Kancey when it comes to disruptive potential.
At the NFL Combine, Adebawore logged a 4.49 40-yard dash, with a 1.55 10-yard split. Other athletic numbers on file — among them a 37″ vertical, a 10’5″ broad jump, and a 7.13 three-cone — adequately convey Adebawore’s freakish athleticism. He did all this at 6’2″, 282 pounds, with near-34″ arms. His ceiling is nearly unmatched in this group.
3) Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
Calijah Kancey is 6’0″ and 275 pounds. Compared to most players on this list, he looks like an edge rusher. Size outliers like Kancey need to be elite in several other areas to potentially counteract their size concerns and win over NFL scouts. Luckily for Kancey, he is.
Kancey is a walking mismatch 1-on-1 inside with his elite first step, hyperactive twitch, ankle flexion, and violent hand usage. While his frame is undersized in all categories, Kancey has a lot of projected versatility with his athleticism and flexibility, and his motor never rests.
2) Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Bryan Bresee has some variance in consensus rankings, but the former five-star recruit is generally seen as one of the best DT prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. His injury concerns may scare some teams away, but Bresee’s rare ability is hard to match on film.
Bresee has a truly uncommon blend of burst, lateral agility, and power within a long 6’5″, 300-pound frame. In 2022, he took a step up with his hand usage, further maximizing his elite physical skill set. He can be a brutal task for blockers as a 3-tech.
1) Jalen Carter, Georgia
Before the season, Jalen Carter was our DT1. And even amidst a wave of pre-draft uncertainty, Carter remains our DT1.
Teams will have to find answers on their own when it comes to Carter’s character and his uninspiring pro day performance. But if the film takes precedence, and if his character checks out, there’s no reason not to have him as DT1.
Comparisons for Carter have been made to New York Jets star Quinnen Williams, and they’re not far off. Carter has elite explosiveness and power at 6’3″, 305 pounds, with the proportional length and prying strength to be an extremely destructive force in both phases. He’s a blue-chip talent at one of the most important positions in the game today.
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