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2021 NFL Draft: Finalized top 10 at each defensive position

With the 2021 NFL Draft less than a month away, now is a great time to rank the top defensive prospects in this year’s class.

Virginia Tech v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The 2021 NFL Draft is merely a few weeks away, and as free agency continues to die down, much of the discussion surrounding the NFL currently surrounds top draft prospects.

Teams are making their way through the Pro Day circuit, interviewing prospects and gaining additional data needed to come to concrete solutions on the players they watch. As we ramp up our draft coverage here at Windy City Gridiron, now seems like a good time to take a look at some of the top prospects this class has to offer.

The Bears have put out quality performances on defense since Ryan Pace took over as the team’s general manager. While their defense is still plenty talented, one can’t help but wonder how much longer the current core has. Kyle Fuller was already the victim of a cap casualty. Starters like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Robert Quinn and Danny Trevathan are all 30 years old or older. They have some pieces in place, but they could use some more youth on that side of the ball.

Now that my personal tape-watching period has concluded, I figured I would share with all of you my top 10 players at each position. I started off by listing my top 10 prospects at each offensive position, and now it seems fair to do the same for the defense. In addition to sharing my rankings, I also gave out individualized superlatives to certain prospects in the class.

Defensive line

  1. Christian Barmore, Alabama
  2. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
  3. Alim McNeill, NC State
  4. Tommy Togiai, Ohio State
  5. Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
  6. Jay Tufele, USC
  7. Marvin Wilson, Florida State
  8. Darius Stills, West Virginia
  9. Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech
  10. Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA

Best Run Defender: Togiai

Most Athletic: Nixon

Most Diverse Hand Arsenal: Wilson

Biggest Risk: Wilson (injury)

Sleeper: Williams

Edge rusher

  1. Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL)
  2. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
  3. Kwity Paye, Michigan
  4. Jaelan Phillips, Miami (FL)
  5. Quincy Roche, Miami (FL)
  6. Jayson Oweh, Penn State
  7. Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
  8. Carlos Basham, Wake Forest
  9. Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh
  10. Joe Tryon, Washington

Best Run Defender: Paye

Most Athletic: Oweh

Most Diverse Hand Arsenal: Phillips

Best in Coverage: Tryon

Biggest Risk: Phillips (injury)

Sleeper: Janarius Robinson, Florida State


  1. Micah Parsons, Penn State
  2. Zaven Collins, Tulsa
  3. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
  4. Jabril Cox, LSU
  5. Jamin Davis, Kentucky
  6. Baron Browning, Ohio State
  7. Nick Bolton, Missouri
  8. Dylan Moses, Alabama
  9. Chazz Surratt, North Carolina
  10. Cameron McGrone, Michigan

Most Athletic: Parsons

Best Instincts: Ventrell Miller, Florida

Most Reliable Tackler: McGrone

Best in Coverage: Owusu-Koramoah

Biggest Risk: Parsons (opt-out and accusations)

Sleeper: Isaiah McDuffie, Boston College


  1. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
  2. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
  3. Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
  4. Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
  5. Eric Stokes, Georgia
  6. Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
  7. Aaron Robinson, UCF
  8. Paulson Adebo, Stanford
  9. Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
  10. Elijah Molden, Washington

Best in Man: Horn

Best in Zone: Surtain

Best Slot Defender: Molden

Most Physical: Horn

Biggest Risk: Farley (injury and 2020 opt-out)

Sleeper: Antonio Phillips, Ball State


  1. Trevon Moehrig, TCU
  2. Jevon Holland, Oregon
  3. Ar’Darius Washington, TCU
  4. Richie Grant, UCF
  5. Andre Cisco, Syracuse
  6. Caden Sterns, Texas
  7. Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State
  8. Tyree Gillespie, Missouri
  9. Joshuah Bledsoe, Missouri
  10. Talanoa Hufanga, USC

Most Athletic: Moehrig

Best Instincts: Gillespie

Best Tackler: Nasirildeen

Biggest Risk: Cisco (injury)

Sleeper: Jamar Johnson, Indiana

If you haven’t already, please consider checking out my 2021 NFL Draft guide on Patreon! For just $5, you will have access to my entire top 400 big board, a 7-round mock draft, in-depth scouting reports on my top 30 prospects, a long-term positional outlook for the Bears, and more! Your consideration is greatly appreciated.