If Green Bay wants to improve their defensive personnel they need to focus on their deficiencies. The defense ended the 2022 season ranked 17th but their run defense languished near the bottom of the rankings for most of the season. The defensive line continues to be a part of that liability. Even stalwart Kenny Clark did not play his usual dominating role and the rest of the unit could not pick up the slack. The Packers spent a first round pick on the position last year and while Devonte Wyatt showed sparks of promise in the last couple games of the season, the Packers need to continue to upgrade the position to match the dominant line of San Francisco.
Possibility of Green Bay Packers Finding a Game-changing Interior Defensive Lineman with the 15th Pick in the 2023 NFL Draft
There is no guarantee that even with the 15th pick the Packers will have a game changing interior defensive lineman available. Current mock drafts have Georgia’s Jalen Carter going top three, and Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kanchenjunga going at twelve but no other interior defensive lineman going until pick 29, when USC’s Tuli Tuipulotu goes and he is listed as an edge rusher, not an IDL, although he is 6’4” and 290 lbs.
Tuipulotu had a couple of sacks against Notre Dame, but many of his sacks seem to come from the edge with the same jump step-speed/rip move when he catches tackles flat footed. Against the Fighting Irish he had little to no interior push when he stunted inside or lined up inside and played very tall with little edge bend, making his NFL impact questionable. After reviewing other games he did show a knack for reading the offense and attacking the runner or quarterback. There were even a few plays where the Trojans lined him up at the nose and he showed good pad level, holding his own. For a man his size he has good closing speed to the quarterback and he has an aggressive streak. He was the Captain of the USC defense. He tallied 13.5 sacks last year as a Trojan. He could be special.
A player that is closer to home is Badger alum Keeanu Benton. Benton was the middle cog of a stout Wisconsin defense. The 6’4” 315 pound Benton collected four sacks to go long with 35 tackles including 10 tackles for loss. The knock on Benton is that he is strictly a nose tackle but his practices at the Senior Bowl showed some potential beyond that center gap. He even impressed with his pass rush skills.
Another name brought up in the first three rounds is 6’5” 300 lbs. Brian Bresee. The Clemson lineman was headed for the first round until injuries slowed his 2021 season (ACL) and he lost his sister to cancer in 2022. His injury history makes him a boom or bust pick. But he has top tier talent. A top pick on a player who totaled 15 tackles and 3.5 sacks in his final college season seems a stretch.
Just a bit below this group are Mazi Smith from Michigan and Siaki Ika from Baylor. Both are nose tackles by trade. Smith is big (6’3”/326) and Ika is bigger (6’4”/354). Both have limited arm length and pass rush skills. Smith is probably the better run defender but short arms may limit his incredible power in the NFL. Sika became a rotational player at Baylor, missing many pass rush snaps.
The Following Include Potentially Middle Round Picks:
Keondre Coburn – Texas (6’1.5”/343) is another pure nose tackle who has ability but wears down easily and has developed a rep for an inconsistent motor.
Gervon Dexter Sr – Florida (6’5”/315) [23 starts/120 tackles/4.5sacks/9.5 TFL] Summary: Good athlete; good size; -production didn’t match potential. Had three position coaches switching his position every year. Played 3 technique/nose/D-end in 3 seasons with Florida.
Bryon Young – Alabama (6’3”/295) [19 starts/132 tackles/7.5 sacks/23TFL] Summary: Long armed powerful run defender who is still learning pass rush moves. Improved his numbers and sack totals every year. (4.5 sacks in 2022) Played through ankle sprain in final season. Concerns that he lacks the first step quickness and lateral foot speed to ever become a pass rusher and that his slow feet will impact him on outside zone plays. These limits will keep him out of the first round.
P.J. Mustipher – Penn State (6’3.5”/325) [28 starts/144 tackles/10.5. TFL/3 sacks] Summary: Nose tackle with good length and athleticism. Good motor/team captain. Played in a gap control system, rarely showing penetration or pass rush moves. Had serious knee injury in 2021, lost all but the first six games. May have still have been recovering from knee in 2022. Outshined by Benton at Senior Bowl.
Zacch Pickens – South Carolina (6”4”/305) [32 starts/7.5 sacks/11.5 TFL] Summary:
Has all the tools in the run game and violent hands in pass rush, just fails to recover if his first move is stalled. Improved every season in college and best days may be ahead of him. Named as a draft riser at Senior Bowl practices by Rick Spielman.
Jalen Redmond – Oklahoma (6’2”/285) [19 starts/71 tackles/14 sacks/31.5 TFL] impressed at the Senior Bowl practices. He is small for his position and can get pushed around. He opted out of 2020 due to Covid and his game has been slow to recover, posting lower numbers across the board than in his sophomore year.
Keion White (6’4”/267) caught the eyes of a number of scouts at the Senior Bowl. He played some interior line in college and but he played mostly on the edge. He defends the run decently but watching his film against Duke showed no burst or quick lateral movement. His Duke film was not impressive. His recognition skills seemed a step slow too.
Adetomiwa Adebawore – Northwestern (6’2”/280) [32 starts /94 tackles/12.5 sacks/24.4 TFL] Summary: A true edge with good burst and closing speed. Decent bull rush. Very strong, weight room warrior. Impressed at Senior Bowl practices. Demolished some Senior Bowl 1 on 1 reps. Height is a disadvantage(He may be 6’1”) for interior line or edge rusher but arm length is 34 inches. Twenty two missed tackles are his big red flag.
Somewhere in this group the Packers need to find a diamond in the rough and polish him quickly. In this draft the list of potential edge rushers is longer than interior lineman.
Other IDL’s with Draft Potential Include:
Jacqueline Roy: LSU (6’4”/315 lbs.)
Moro Oromo: Texas (6’3”/280 lbs.)
Kobie Turner: Wake Forrest (6’3”/290 lbs.)
Jacob Slade: Michigan St. (6’4”/315 lbs.)
Jerrod Clark: Coastal Carolina (6’3”/340 lbs.)
Jonah Tavai: San Diego State (6’/290 lbs.)
Fabian Lovett: Florida St. (6’4”/314 lbs.)
Cameron Young: Mississippi St. (6’3”/315 lbs.)
Devonnsha Clark: Chattanooga (6’3”/295 lbs.)
Taron Clark: Ohio State (6’2”/ 300 lbs.)
Dante Stills: West Virginia (6’’4”/290 lbs.)
Nesta Jade Silvera: Arizona State (6’2”/306 lbs.)
DJ Dale: Alabama (6’3”/300 lbs.)
Brodric Martin: Western Kentucky (6’5”/330 lbs.)