Patriots

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Top 10 defensive tackles available

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Top 10 defensive tackles available

Premier edge rushers like Chase Young are getting plenty of hype entering the 2020 NFL Draft, and rightfully so.

But don't sleep on the big boys.

Defensive tackle is a coveted position for NFL teams, which may explain why six interior defensive linemen went in the first round of last year's draft.

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The 2020 Draft brings another strong crop of defensive tackles highlighted by Auburn's Derrick Brown, a unanimous All-American and projected top-10 pick.

That crop may intrigue the Patriots: New England signed Beau Allen in free agency to complement Adam Butler and Byron Cowart but may look to add more muscle after Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry galloped for 182 rushing yards in the 2019 AFC Wild Card Round.

So, who could be on the board for the Patriots? Let's run through the top 10 defensive tackles in the 2020 NFL Draft.

1. Derrick Brown

College: Auburn
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 54 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four passes defensed

Simply put, Brown is a monster. At 6-foot-5, 318 pounds, he routinely dominated elite SEC competition with a potent blend of power and athleticism and was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. Brown should be off the board within the top 10 picks.

Projected Round: First (Top 10 picks)

2. Javon Kinlaw

College: South Carolina
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 35 tackles, six tackles for loss, six sacks, two passes defensed

The other surefire first-round pick at defensive tackle, Kinlaw excels at defending both the run and pass and projects as an immediate NFL starter. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound South Carolina native impressed at the Senior Bowl after earning First-Team All-SEC honors and should be a top-15 pick.

Projected Round: First (Top 20 picks)

3. Ross Blacklock

College: TCU
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 40 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, zero passes defensed

After missing his entire sophomore season due to an Achilles injury, Blacklock shed 25 pounds and returned with a vengeance in 2019 to earn All-Big 12 honors. While his run defense could use work, he brings elite quickness at 290 pounds that makes him one of the best pass rushers in this group. 

Projected Round: First or Second

4. Justin Madubuike

College: Texas A&M
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 45 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two passes defensed

While a bit "undersized" for the position at 293 pounds, Madubuike has been a stud at every level. He was a five-star recruit out of high school, earned the Aggies' defensive MVP award as a sophomore in 2018 and wreaked havoc in 2019 with an interception and a blocked kick to go along with 5.5 sacks.

Projected Round: Second

5. Neville Gallimore

College: Oklahoma
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 29 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, one pass defensed

The 6-foot-2, 302-pound native of Canada has had five years at Oklahoma to hone his skills after redshirting in 2015. While his fundamentals could use some work, Gallimore has a strong motor and could shine at the NFL level with the right coaching.

Projected Round: Second or Third

6. Marlon Davidson

College: Auburn
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 48 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, one pass defensed

Brown gets all the hype, but Davidson actually led Auburn in sacks in 2019 and tied his fellow first-team All-SEC selection with 11.5 tackles for loss. The 6-foot-3, 278-pound Alabama native could be an intriguing target for the Patriots in the middle rounds.

Projected Round: Second or Third

7. Jordan Elliott

College: Missouri (via Texas)
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 44 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, three passes defensed

Elliott's upside is in his versatility, as he played in a variety of alignments during his one season at Texas and two years at Missouri. At 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, he boasts the size to be a solid run stuffer and strong pass rusher at the NFL level with more coaching.

Projected Round: Third or Fourth

8. Raekwon Davis

College: Alabama
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 47 tackles, three tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, zero passes defensed

Davis' best college season actually came in 2017, when he tallied 8.5 sacks as a sophomore for the Crimson Tide. Two consecutive dips in production have hampered his draft stock, but Davis still is a future NFL starter who competed in three National Championship Games during his four years at Alabama.

Projected Round: Third or Fourth

9. DaVon Hamilton

College: Ohio State
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 28 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, zero passes defensed

Hamilton needed two seasons to become an everyday starter for a deep Ohio State squad, but he boasts solid run-stuffing potential at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds. He could be a solid rotational defensive tackle for an NFL team if he improves in the pass rush.

Projected Round: Fourth

10. Rashard Lawrence

College: LSU
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 28 tackles, six tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, three passes defensed

An ankle injury limited Lawrence's production in 2019 after a stronger 2018 campaign, but he still earned second-team All-SEC honors for the national champion Tigers. Lawrence's leadership and toughness may entice a team to snag him in the middle rounds.

Projected Round: Fourth or Fifth

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Measuring the toll that opt-outs took around the NFL

Patriots Talk Podcast: Measuring the toll that opt-outs took around the NFL

Thursday's deadline for players to opt out of the 2020 NFL season has come and gone.

A total of eight New England Patriots players, including linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, and tackle Marcus Cannon, have chosen to sit out of the 2020 campaign due to concerns about the coronavirus.

With the Pats impacted by opt outs more than any other team, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss on a brand new Patriots Talk Podcast the toll they will have on New England this season.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Measuring the toll that opt-outs took around the NFL | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

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"Dont'a Hightower may end up being the most high-profile guy that chooses to opt out. I would say Patrick Chung and Marcus Cannon are somewhere in that next tier," Perry said. "So when you have three starting-caliber players and four real contributors ... there's no other team in the league I think you can look at and say they've been just as hard by these opt-outs as the Patriots.

"And we talked about what they might do to fill in. I think right now is the most important time because if you're somebody like Josh Uche or Ja'Whaun Bentley or Yodny Cajuste, it doesn't matter that you're getting no time on the field right now. You have to squeeze every last drop out of every single meeting that you have the opportunity to attend, every rep you can do in the weight room ... you're going to be thrown right into the fire and you have to make sure that you're ready."

There is some optimism heading into the new season, believe it or not. Perry notes that the defense -- even after all of the opt outs -- might be better than expected for New England in 2020.

"I think if you look at the Patriots defense, I think that is the one thing that we all looked at even before they signed Cam Newton and said, 'If you were hoping they were gonna suck for Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields or somebody else near the top of the draft, the defense might do you in this year," said Perry. "Because they still should be good. Even if they're not the best defense in football, they still have arguably the best secondary in the league.

"And even without Dont'a Hightower, they have enough pieces and they've done well enough to scheme quarterback pressure that it should give you a representative effort each and every week which still some teams across the league you look at these rosters and wonder how they're gonna compete at all."

Curran and Perry also discuss power rankings in the AFC East after the opt outs, whether the Patriots offense will be fun to watch, takeaways from Tom Brady's introductory press conference with the Buccaneers, and why Brady may struggle in Tampa Bay.

Check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or on YouTube.

NFL Power Rankings: Where do Patriots stack up after opt-outs?

NFL Power Rankings: Where do Patriots stack up after opt-outs?

So what matters the most this year? Is it the guys you had in 2019 who are coming back? Is it the guys you added in the offseason? Is it the young guys you drafted? Is it the length of time the coaching staff’s been together? Or the offensive coordinator and coaching staff?

Is it how well the team blocks out the distraction (“distraction” feels like an inadequate word, I know) of COVID-19 and deals with the logistical walls it’s created? Or is it how well the team’s players deal with the daily mental stress that they can either get it and get really sick; get it and have nothing happen; get it, not know it and pass it on to someone who may then get really sick or get it, pass it to a teammate and then see the whole league come to a grinding halt?

Do you know? I don’t know. As a result, there’s little jumbling in the Power Rankings. But three factors affecting every team right now that never are: opt-outs, the lack of offseason work and the approach of core, veteran leadership in an unprecedented time. Let’s get it. (Predraft ranking in parentheses).