Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Top 10 defensive linemen in the 2016 NFL draft

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Here are the top 10 defensive line prospects (with projected draft round) for the 2016 NFL draft, which is set for April 28-30 in Chicago:

1. DeForest Buckner, 6-foot-7, 291 pounds, Oregon, end (first): He was a destructive force for the Ducks with 10.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and 83 tackles last season in 13 games. He was named the Pat Tillman-Pac 12 defensive player of the year. Plays with power.

2. Robert Nkemdiche, 6-3 ½, 294, Mississippi, end (first): Coming out of Grayson High, he was considered the top player in the nation coming out of high school, but is getting mixed reviews after his career at Mississippi. In review of his Ole Miss film, several NFL scouts have noticed his inconsistent play. Teams are also concerned about an arrest after he fell out of window from a Buckhead hotel. Because of his physical tools, Nkemdiche is still considered a potential first-round pick and will attend the draft in Chicago.

3. Joey Bosa, 6-5, 269, Ohio State, end (first): His father Joe was a first-round pick by the Dolphins in 1987 and his uncle Eric Kumerow was a first-round pick by the same team in 1988. He was named the Big Ten’s defensive lineman of the year and was a first-team All-Big Ten pick. He was a three-year starter for the Buckeyes and finished with 26 sacks and 50.5 tackles for loss.

4. Sheldon Rankins, 6 -1 1/8, 299, Louisville, tackle (first): He played at Eastside High in Covington. He finished his career 10th all-time on Louisville’s sack list with 18. He also had 31.5 tackles for loss. Several scouts have compared him to Aaron Donald and have projected that he will be a inside force. “Best interior pass rusher (in the draft) without a doubt,” said ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, a former NFL executive.

5. Shaq Lawson, 6-2, 269, Clemson, end (first): Lawson led the nation in tackles for loss with 25.5 last season. He also had 12.5 sacks to help the Tigers reach the FBS national championship game. “As many good splash plays as he has had, he has had too many, for me, plays where Shaq looks slow, sluggish and not very competitive,” ESPN front-office insider Louis Riddick said.  “Quite honestly, in scouting terms, he looks like just a guy. That concerns me.”

6. Emmanuel Ogbah, 6-4, 273, Oklahoma State, end (first): He is one of the most prolific pass rushers in the draft with 28 sacks in three seasons with the Cowboys. He played at George Bush High in Houston. He has visited the Falcons and the Panthers, who have the 30th pick. Critics contend that he amassed his sacks against average tackles and that he needs to learn how to play against the run.

7. Kevin Dodd, 6-5, 277, Clemson, end (late first/second): The late-bloomer ranked second in the nation in tackles for loss with 23.5. He also had 12 sacks and a dominating showing in the national championship game.  He’s still considered a raw prospect. He was not a highly recruited prospect and a project who Clemson coach Dabo Swinney took a flyer on. He had a breakout season in 2015.

8. A’Shawn Robinson, 6-4, 307, Alabama, tackle (first): All of the quarterbacks in the SEC are celebrating because rambunctious Robinson is headed to the NFL. He was a two-year starter for the Crimson Tide and played a variety of positions. He can anchor at nose tackle and is stout run defender.

9. Jarran Reed, 6-3, 307, Alabama, tackle (late first): Played the run well as he led Alabama defensive linemen in tackles each of the last two seasons. The Falcons are impressed with Reed. He started his career at Hargrave Military Academy and went the junior college route. He’s very strong and can bench-press 500 pounds.

10. Austin Johnson, 6-4 3/8, 314, Penn State, end/tackle (second): He started all 26 games over the past two seasons for the Nittany Lions. He had 78 tackles, 15 tackles for losses and 6.5 sacks last season.

Top 5 seniors for the 2017 draft: 1. Jonathan Allen, Alabama (end). 2. Carlos Watkins, Clemson (end). Dalvin Thompson, Florida State (tackle). 4. DeMarcus Walker, Florida State (end) 5. Isaac Rochell, Notre Dame (end).

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The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter gives his top players for the Falcons to draft at #17, talks about the interest in LB Myles Jack & tells CineSport’s Noah Coslov where the team may go in round 2.


Sunday, April 17 -- QUARTERBACKS

Rams quest for franchise quarterback behind big trade --Wentz or Goff?

D. Led’s breakdown of the Quarterbacks

A look at the top 10 Quarterbacks in the draft


D Led’s breakdown of the Running backs -- Is Derrick Henry the next Charles Muncie?

A look at the top 10 Running backs


D. Led’s breakdown of the Wide receivers

A look at the top 10 Wide receivers

Wednesday -- TIGHT ENDS

D. Led’s breakdown of the Tight ends

A look at the top 10 tight ends


D. Led’s breakdown of the Offensive linemen

A look at the top 10 offensive linemen


D. Led’s breakdown of the Defensive linemen

A look at the top 10 defensive linemen

Saturday, April 23 -- LINEBACKERS

Falcons searching for hybrid linebacker/safeties

D. Led’s breakdown of the Linebackers

A look at the top 10 linebackers

Sunday, April 24 -- CORNERBACKS

D. Led’s breakdown of the cornerbacks

A look at the top 10 cornerbacks

Monday, April 25 -- SAFETIES

D. Led’s breakdown of the Safeties

A look at the top 10 Safeties

Tuesday, April 26

D. Led’s breakdown of the Specialists, kickers, punters and returners

Position by position: Specialists chart

Wednesday, April 27

Final mock draft

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.