The general consensus is that the 3-technique defensive tackle is a very important position in Matt Eberflus’ defense. Through the first 9 games, the Bears’ play up the middle has struggled.
Chicago has a boatload of cap space to work with this offseason, and they also have significant draft capital, which they have severely lacked in most of the last four draft classes. Justin Jones has arguably been the Bears’ best free agent signing from this past offseason, which isn’t saying much. With the talent in both free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft among interior defensive linemen, though, it wouldn’t be surprising if Ryan Poles double dipped at the position.
I have decided to share my current top 15 defensive tackles on my 2023 draft board to give you all a bit of an understanding as to which prospects the Bears could be tied to once draft discussion really picks up. Keep in mind that these rankings are obviously a work in progress, and that things will change from now until April.
That said, let’s dive right in and look at the best interior defensive linemen in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Tier 1: Round 1 locks
1. Jalen Carter, Georgia
6-foot-3, 300 pounds; 3-technique
I realize this may come off as hyperbolic, but Carter may be the best interior defensive line prospect since Aaron Donald. He is absurdly athletic with a powerful frame, a diverse arsenal as a pass-rusher and value plugging up gaps in the run game. He is easily a top-5 prospect in the 2023 draft and could be a difference maker for whoever drafts him.
2. Bryan Bresee, Clemson
6-foot-5, 305 pounds; 3-technique
Bresee looks like a 3-technique defensive tackle you would create in a lab. He’s lengthy, explosive, strong and knows how to string moves together to create penetration in opposing backfields. It would be a tragedy if he somehow fell out of Round 1.
Tier 2: Day 2 targets
3. Jaquelin Roy, LSU
6-foot-4, 315 pounds; 3-technique
Though he has a tendency to run a bit high, Roy’s arsenal as a pass-rusher and short-area quickness are extremely intriguing. If he can generate more knee bend and get his weight underneath him in the run game, the ceiling is very high for him at the NFL level.
4. Siaki Ika, Baylor
6-foot-4, 358 pounds; 1-technique
Gentlemen the size of Ika should not be able to move as well as he does. There’s the obvious itch to keep him as a traditional nose tackle because of his sheer power and gap-eating ability, but he’s athletic enough to kick out as far as a 3-technique in certain packages.
5. Gervon Dexter, Florida
6-foot-6, 312 pounds; 1-technique
Dexter is a scheme versatile defender who is effective as a 3-technique, as well as a 1-technique defender. He’s a well-built lineman with great length, a high motor and very good raw power at the point of attack, and he offers solid agility for a big man.
6. Mazi Smith, Michigan
6-foot-3, 337 pounds; 2-technique
I am absurdly excited to see how Smith tested, as he has earned a reputation for being a workout warrior. That shows on tape, as the versatile defensive tackle has insane play strength, very good agility and good pad level at the point of contact. He’s quite raw and doesn’t offer much polish as a pass-rusher yet, but he has a very high ceiling.
7. Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
6-foot-0, 280 pounds; 3-technique
An undersized defensive tackle from Pittsburgh, you say? Kancey is a dynamic pass-rushing interior defender with eye-opening burst off the snap and great agility out in space. He struggles a bit against the run due to a strength disadvantage, but a player who’s as disruptive as he is certainly warrants NFL attention.
8. Byron Young, Alabama
6-foot-3, 292 pounds; 5-technique
Young isn’t the biggest interior defender out there, but he would project quite well as a 5-tech in a base 3-4 system. He’s quick off the snap, consistently wins with leverage in his pads, and he is good at freeing up his hands to make tackles against the run.
Tier 3: Mid-to-late-round sleepers
9. Zacch Pickens, South Carolina
6-foot-4, 305 pounds; 3-technique
Pickens has experience kicking as far inside as a nose tackle, but I like him quite a bit as a 3-tech at the next level. Not only is his anchor strong defending against the run, but he’s also quick out of his stance. Flexibility is an issue, but he has nice physical tools to work with.
10. Mike Morris, Michigan
6-foot-6, 292 pounds; 5-technique
A hybrid inside-outside defensive lineman, Morris is quick enough to rush off the edge and strong enough to battle along the interior. He can’t bend super well which could kick him inside more often than not, but he uses his hands very well and packs a mean punch at the initial point of contact.
11. Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
6-foot-3, 290 pounds; 5-technique
Tuipulotu is another hybrid inside-outside defender in the mold of prospects NFL teams often fall in love with in the draft. He’s quick off the line of scrimmage and does well setting the edge in the run game, and although he’s a work in progress as a technician, coaches will be enticed by the opportunity to develop a player with his skill set.
12. Karl Brooks, Bowling Green
6-foot-4, 300 pounds; 5-technique
Though he’s a Group of 5 prospect who has his struggles against the run, Brooks is a productive pass-rusher with 15.5 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss in his last 21 games. His explosiveness off the ball is intriguing, his long arm is effective, and he’s a reliable stunt defender who can rush as a 3-tech or a 5-tech.
13. Myles Murphy, North Carolina
6-foot-4, 305 pounds; 3-technique
The Clemson edge rusher isn’t the only Myles Murphy to watch in this 2023 draft class. The Tar Heel Murphy is plenty raw in his pad level, gap awareness and hand usage, but he’s very athletic, offers sheer power packed proportionately in his frame and plays hard on a down-by-down basis.
14. Keondre Coburn, Texas
6-foot-2, 343 pounds; 0-technique
Coburn is one beefy SOB. He’s a four-year starter for Texas whose size draws double-team attention, and his hand activity and gap awareness allows him to make plays against the run. He isn’t incredibly agile or bendy, but teams looking for a just huge hunk of meat to stick up the middle will like him a lot.
15. Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin
6-foot-4, 315 pounds; 0-technique
If you like two-gappers, Benton is a prospect you might enjoy. His lack of premier athleticism will hurt his initial draft stock, but a player as strong as he is who plays with gap integrity and great awareness against the run is capable of having a lengthy career in the NFL.