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2022 NFL Combine preview: 10 interior defensive linemen the Lions should be watching

Who and what to watch on the defensive line during the 2022 NFL Combine.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 16 Kentucky at Georgia

The 2022 NFL Combine on-field workouts and drills begin on Thursday, March 3 with the offense on display over the first two days. When the weekend arrives, the defense will take the field for their drills. The interior defensive line, edge rushers, and linebackers go through the process on Saturday, March 5, and the defensive backs close out the event on Sunday, March 6.

This is the latest in a series of articles that will explore the participants at the Combine that the Pride of Detroit staff believes the Detroit Lions should keep a close eye on during positional activities. Previously, we reviewed the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and offensive line groups.

Next up: Interior defensive line.

Team need

The Lions invested two Day 2 picks last year on the interior defensive line. While nose tackle Alim McNeill was an instant starter, Levi Onwuzurike played in a reserve rotational role but appears prime to step into his own starting role.

The third starter on the interior is veteran Michael Brockers. While Brockers (age 31) is signed through the next two seasons, it’s unclear how much he fits into the long-term plans, and his replacement could be drafted this year. Even if the Lions add depth in free agency, investing in a defensive tackle who can be part of the rotation this season seems like a worthwhile investment.

What to watch for

For interior defensive drills at the Combine, the first thing to keep an eye on is balance through their knees. They need to be able to anchor in the Lions' scheme and being able to keep their weight over their legs is important. When it comes to pass-rushing, watch the feet. Are they quick? How is their lateral mobility? There will also be reactionary drills that test their focus, bag drills that focus on power, and speed drills that focus on technique. Finally, do they play with their head up? This may seem obvious, but players sometimes play with blinders on, focusing only on the task in front of them. If they can play with their head up, they can locate the ball carrier significantly easier.

Now, on to the prospects.

Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia, 6-foot-5, 340

Suggested by Hamza

A size-weight-speed-strength freak who is an absolute monster in the run game. When he is on the field he dominates, but he averaged less than 50-percent of Georgia’s defensive snaps played. Some of his time on the bench was situational, as teams needed to try and pass on Georgia, but his endurance is something to keep an eye on at the Combine. Stacking on-field drills can exhaust players, so it would be nice to see him participate fully and dispel some of these concerns. Plus, watching him move through these drills should be a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia, 6-foot-3, 307

Suggested by Erik

While Davis was the Bulldogs’ anchor in the middle, Wyatt was the disrupter next to him. He often gets overlooked because Davis is so talented, but it wouldn't be surprising if Wyatt was the first IDL drafted due to his pass-rushing prowess. Overall he is a balanced player, which makes him appealing, and his lateral quickness should be on display at the Combine.

DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M, 6-foot-4, 290

Suggested by Ryan

Heading into the season, Leal was my IDL1 and but he struggled at times this past season and fell behind the Georgia duo for me. Still, he has enticing pass-rush ability and that is something the Lions are looking for on the interior. Athleticism will be key for him at the next level, and he will want to stand out from the rest of the pack at the Combine in order to be considered in the late first, early second-round range.

Logan Hall, DL, Houston, 6-foot-6, 278

Suggested by John

Still growing into his frame, many analysts project Hall to be a strong side defensive end or 5-technique in the NFL, but he has the skill set to also potentially push further inside to the 4i and 3-technique spots with more strength gained. Like Leal above, Hall will need to prove his quickness and athleticism is at a high level, and that he will continue to grow as a player, in order to warrant a late first, early second-round consideration.

Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma, 6-foot-4, 303

Suggested by Mike

Speed and length (35 12” arm length) for days, he dominated at the Senior Bowl and sent many analysts back to the game film, wondering if it was Oklahoma’s scheme that kept him off many radars. He is an explosive athlete, but his reactionary time needs work, which limited him this past season. Keep a close eye on him when he is in drills where he has to make snap decisions based on a coach's movements.

Eyioma Uwazurike, DT, Iowa State, 6-foot-5 12, 319

Suggested by Morgan

A Detroit native, Uwazurike was a four-year starter at Iowa State, and he played every spot on the defensive line. He has a terrific height-weight-length (35 1/8” arm length) combination that perfectly meshes with his athleticism and drive. At first glance, he is going to look like a pure nose tackle, but his experience makes him a player who can kick from the 0/1-technique all the way out to the 5-technique. You want a sleeper pick at IDL, I present you Eyioma Uwazurike.

Otito Ogbonnia, DT, UCLA, 6-foot-3 12, 326

Suggested by Jeremy

Ogbonnia was the first player Jeremy talked about in his Senior Bowl observations, noting that he won practice reps with “brute strength” and “short-area speed that not many 326-pound linemen have.” Ogbonnia has great length (35 1/8” arm length) and was a dual-sport athlete at UCLA, also competing in the shot put during track and field events. He is best when operating at the 1-technique, and could be a Day 3 pick to push the Lions’ John Penisini for a roster spot if drafted by Detroit.

Quick thoughts on the Lions starting IDL from the Senior Bowl

  • Phidarian Mathis (DT, Alabama, 6-foot-4, 313) is very much like most Alabama IDL, a two-gapping hole plugger, and edge setter with 1- to 5-technique range.
  • Zachary Carter (DL, Florida, 6-foot-3 12, 287) is similar to Leal and Hall above, in that he is a skillful pass rusher that could find more success with a bit more weight. He and Mathis were interchangeable at the Senior Bowl, alternating between the 3- and 4i-techniques.
  • Neil Farrell Jr. (NT, LSU, 6-foot-3 12, 338) is quicker than you’d expect for a 0/1-technique, especially at his size, but it’s his power that shakes things up on the line.

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