Defensive tackle isn’t the most glamorous position in the NFL Draft, but it is vitally important to build a defense that can challenge for the Super Bowl.
The 2022 NFL Draft has several prospects at the defensive tackle position, although there may not be an explosion of must-draft talent in the first round.
It’s far more likely that teams will look for value on the second day and beyond regarding a defensive tackle, and there are several options.
Who are the five best defensive tackle prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft?
#5 - Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
Phidarian Mathis is heading into the 2022 NFL Draft with the advantage of having been a critical player for Alabama, with Nick Saban championing his performances at defensive tackle.
Mathis will follow in the footsteps of Quinnen Williams and Jonathan Allen in being drafted out of Alabama, but just what does the latest player from the Crimson Tide production line have to offer?
Mathis is tall and can use that to his advantage when bursting out of the line of scrimmage, meaning that the team can use him as an effective pass-rusher.
By no means elite in terms of speed, Mathis’ hands are violent and compelling. He engages well with offensive linemen and has a great motor, which he can use for extended drives.
To label Mathis as a bully would be unfair, but he struggles when faced with significant physical resistance. He can be knocked back and see his talents stifled by a physically dominant offensive lineman.
This will probably be a problem for him in the NFL, with professional players all being incredibly strong.
A day two selection in the draft will be a fair reflection of his talent, and there is a significant upside, even if he isn’t a premier defensive talent in this class.
#4 - Travis Jones, Connecticut
Jones has impressed many throughout his collegiate career and in the draft process. He doesn’t come from a renowned school for NFL players, but he can be a real problem on the defensive line.
Standing at 6ft 4in and weighing 326lbs, Jones is a beast physically, and there is nothing more to say on the matter. This is his crowning attribute and will be what sees him drafted inside the first three rounds.
You can utilize Jones in a run-stopper position due to his size, and his intelligence allows him to combine all his strength into actionable plays on game tape.
A 4.5-sack season in 2021 was promising but also an anomaly. He isn’t a prodigious pass rush talent, which will hurt his stock.
There aren’t many NFL defenses that can use a player at the defensive tackle position who doesn't challenge the quarterback.
This lack of pass defense could see Jones fall to the back end of the third round in the draft, and it’s likely his rookie season will see him used primarily as a third-down defensive tackle, tasked with stopping guaranteed run plays.
#3 - Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma
Perrion Winfrey out of Oklahoma almost had enough to unseat Jordan Davis as the #2 defensive tackle. Yet, it was the sheer athletic ability of Davis which cemented his spot.
Winfrey was an outstanding player for the Sooners, dominating on defense with his explosive first step.
If Travis Jones is a reluctant pass rusher, Winfrey is an eager one. He loves to burst through the line of scrimmage and get to the quarterback, recording 5.5 sacks in the 2021 season.
His draft stock is rising, although it has been a slow burner. He has even been discussed in some circles as a possible first-round draft selection, especially with the Kansas City Chiefs needing a player in that position and having multiple late Day 1 picks after the Tyreek Hill trade.
When engaging with blockers, natural hand talent is present in Winfrey’s game tape, but he needs to learn when to use it and refine it for QB rushes.
It would be easy to be concerned over Winfrey’s athleticism, especially as teams start to assess him as a first-round draft talent rather than a Day 2 value pick.
Winfrey can be an asset to a strong team, but he can be considered slow in open-field spaces, and the more dynamic offenses will eat him up initially.
Kansas City could take a chance on him if his draft stock rises further. Then perhaps the excellence of Andy Reid’s team could mitigate how much light is shed on his weaknesses, and by season two, he will be a much more rounded defensive tackle.
The upside with Perrion Winfrey is enormous.
#2 - Jordan Davis, Georgia
It was impossible not to fall in love with Jordan Davis at the combine. His 40-yard dash speed for a man of his size was incredible, a truly astonishing feat of effort and athletic prowess.
In the NFL, teams are looking for players who can make a difference to your roster, often through unique attributes.
Davis’ speed at his size makes him unique and guaranteed to be selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
However, there are limits to his ability as a defensive tackle which he needs to iron out. While choosing a day-one starter in terms of footballing technique out of Jordan Davis and Perrion Winfrey, it would be difficult not to choose the latter.
Davis needs to work on the fundamental parts of being a defensive tackle. His speed and explosive first step aided him significantly in college, but he needs to develop consistent and reliable techniques to rush the passer.
A natural nose tackle, Davis has to work on his hand usage, which shouldn’t be much of a problem for someone who was also quite the basketball talent in his youth.
His motor is questionable, having been on the field for less than 50% of Georgia’s snaps in 2021, but this might be a necessary sacrifice for someone with his frame and speed.
Teams need to see Davis as a project. He will be taken in the first round of the draft because of his athletic ability, and then a team will take his rookie season to coach him on the fundamentals.
His ceiling is so high because of his natural tools, and teams around the NFL have high hopes for Jordan Davis.
#1 - Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
Devonte Wyatt formed a domineering double-act with Jordan Davis in a Bulldogs defense that was able to win a national championship in 2021.
Wyatt is the consensus best defensive tackle in the 2022 class, with good reason.
With some even having Wyatt going inside the top-15 picks of the draft, the defensive tackle has made all the right moves throughout his collegiate career on the field.
With a body built to be an agile, even quality player in the interior, Wyatt has proven to be the perfect foil for the speed of Davis at Georgia, and teams have been impressed.
Wyatt is the standout defensive tackle heading into this draft, working on footballing ability alone.
You know you're in business when you’ve got a guy who has the build and speed of a linebacker but with the power of a defensive tackle.
Wyatt can play in either position effectively, and this high-effort performer is such an attractive prospect.
He needs to work on his hands, often coming unstuck when a lineman matches up with him physically, but this is the case for most upper-tier defensive tackles.
They are so dominant that they rarely get tested at the collegiate level, but every single offensive lineman in the NFL will test their hand fighting. It is worth noting that this is a common problem, with Super Bowl-winning defensive tackle D’Marco Farr freely admitting that he didn’t fully understand how to effectively use his hands until his fifth season in the NFL when he started working with kickboxing champion Earnest Hart Jr.
Wyatt will be selected high in the draft because of his talent and game tape. However, there is speculation teams are growing fearful of his off-field behavior and previous arrests for criminal trespass, damage, and family violence.
Looking solely at pure ability in the defensive tackle position, Devonte Wyatt is the pick of the class.