Bang for your Buckner: Our 2016 NFL Draft Interior Linemen Rankings

This interior linemen class is STACKED!

It’s the best of all the units that we’ll be ranking.

While Oregon’s DeForest Buckner might be the clear-cut No. 1 by many publications, there’s going to be great value in the third, fourth and fifth rounds. Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins, Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson and Mississippi’s Robert Nkemdiche are also very intriguing first-round options.

Defensive tackle might be the biggest strength for the Philadelphia Eagles with Fletcher Cox in tow, so you’d think they might not need to draft one.

Not so fast.

Bennie Logan enters the final year of his rookie deal in 2016 and while I’d love to extend him, the Eagles’ cap situation may not be favorable for that. They still need to lock up Cox. So that means Philadelphia may have to look for his future replacement.

Obviously, the Eagles just lost a slew of draft picks in the deal to trade up to No. 2 and have more gaping holes to fill. With that being said, however, I referenced just how deep this class was. Maybe Philadelphia will decide that the value in the fifth round is too good to pass up. It does have a pair of picks in the fifth.

The Eagles, though, did not host any visits with a defensive tackle, but did attend Pro Days of South Carolina State’s Javon Hargreave and Campbell’s Greg Milhouse Jr.

Adrian’s Top 10

1. DeForest Buckner (Oregon)

2. Sheldon Rankins (Louisville)

3. A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama)

4. Robert Nkemdiche (Mississippi)

5. Andrew Billings (Baylor)

6. Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech)

7. Sheldon Day (Notre Dame)

8. Jarran Reed (Alabama)

9. Kenny Clark (UCLA)

10. Adolphus Washington (Ohio State)


@PHLAnon’s Top 10 Interior Linemen

  1. DeForest Buckner (Oregon): Buckner has primarily played as a DE, but also has seen snaps inside at nose tackle. He’s explosive and has terrific body control for his size, flashes heavy hands and initial power. He has all of the tools to be a disruptive force. Stanford Head Coach, David Shaw, described Buckner saying, “If you’re building a defensive lineman, that’s what you build.” He should get even better with NFL coaching and has potential to be a long-term pro starter, and could begin to remind us of Cardinals playmaker, Calais Campbell.
  2. Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss): This may catch some off guard. I honestly was tempted to rank Nkemdiche in the top spot. Make no mistake; Nkemdiche is a serious talent and force. The issue is, he has trouble written all over him, and has even been compared to Greg Hardy. For that reason, he will drop into the the second, maybe even third round. He started his career outside as a defensive end, then after he filled out his frame he moved inside to defensive tackle. Nkemdiche is a top-10 talent because of his ability to get upfield in any scheme and penetrate gaps, but teams will view him as a high risk/high reward type of prospect. Buyer Beware!
  3. Sheldon Rankins (Louisville): Rankins is one of the better run defenders in this draft class and will continue to grow as a pass rusher. Everything about Rankins screams winning football player. He is a ball of power with rare foot quickness, a great motor and outstanding feel for his position.
  4. Andrew Billings (Baylor):  If the technique and discipline catch up to his natural brawling strength and mentality, Billings could be dominant. A scheme-versatile prospect, that will be valued as a nose tackle by odd fronts and a one-technique tackle by even fronts. Also, he just turned 21, so he is young and has time to develop even further. He truly has all-­pro potential.
  5. A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama): Stout run defender, Robinson is raw as a pass rusher, whose production won’t always show on the stat sheet. At Alabama he was mostly asked to clog things up and occupy blockers to free up the linebackers.
  6. Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech): Butler flashes on tape with the lower-body athleticism and upper-body power to stack blockers and make stops at or behind the line of scrimmage. He also plays balanced on his feet with coordinated movements, but needs to improve his pad level to better clear single blockers when not squared up. Although he needs to develop his pass rush technique, Butler will appeal to both even and odd fronts with his relentless playing temperament, lateral quickness and power to control the point of attack.
  7. Jaran Reed (Alabama): Reed is an old school country strong guy with tree trunks for thighs and long arms. He’s a run-stuffer stout enough to play inside at defensive tackle or outside at end. Reed has the girth and strength to line up virtually anywhere along the defensive line.
  8. Kenny Clark (UCLA): Clark doesn’t possess great size, but he is still one of the country’s better run-stuffers, winning with strength, low center of gravity and pure unadulterated hustle to plug rushing lanes. He will get overshadowed by flashier athletes throughout much of his career and is still developing his pass rush skills, but he flashes the violence, agility and motor to drive blockers backward, projecting as a three-down interior player at the next level.
  9. Chris Jones (Mississippi State): With a blend of size, body control and strength, Jones will still frustrate you with inconsistent ball awareness and effort. He has plenty in the toolbox, but is still raw in several areas. He shows first-round flashes, but that’s exactly his problem at the moment… He only flashes. A talent, but doesn’t warrant a high selection.
  10. Austin Johnson (Penn State):  Johnson does not possess much range as a player, but he has a non-stop motor with strong hands to stack and create movement. A player whose production matches the tape, Johnson has an impressive blend of power, quickness and awareness.

@PHLAnon’s Rebuttal

While, yes, the Eagles could use to add depth and continue to groom younger guys along the line, it is not a top need at the moment. We more than likely won’t be in position or looking to draft any of these guys. If we do grab someone in the late stages, we may be looking at someone like Greg Milhouse Jr.

Greg Milhouse Jr. (Campbell) Milhouse was a two-year starter at Campbell and earned All-Pioneer Football League honors both years. He lined up mostly as a three-technique. He has cat-like quickness for his size and uses his initial momentum to drive interior blockers backwards towards the quarterback. That is something that will be coveted in a DT in Jim Schwartz attack style Defense. He needs to develop his hand technique and ball awareness, but his skill-set is draft able. Milhouse will have a steep learning curve, but can provide quality depth, and could unleash untapped talent and athleticism once paired with NFL quality coaches and trainers.

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