2025 NFL Draft Summer Scouting: Top 10 Defensive Tackles

Our Summer Scouting series continues here at NFLTR, going position by position breaking down the preliminary top prospects for the upcoming collegiate season and the 2025 NFL Draft cycle.

Deone Walker

Today I’m breaking down the defensive tackles. There are some special players at the top of this position group with some solid depth as well, making it a good year to need help in the interior of your defense. Elite interior defenders are true game changers, on par with the best edge defenders in the NFL. Defensive tackles have gotten more coveted in recent years as the NFL has begun recognizing how disruptive interior pressure truly is to an offense, and as a result, lots of these guys go off the board in the first few rounds.

You can find the other positions done so far here:

Let’s take a look at the top 2025 defensive tackle prospects heading into college football season:

 
 

1: Deone Walker, Kentucky

Walker is a massive interior presence, checking in at 6-6 and 348 pounds. A consensus four-star recruit out of Texas, he chose Kentucky over a number of top college programs and immediately made a name for himself, dominating out of the gate on the way to earning freshman All-American status.

As a sophomore, he stepped up his game even further, establishing himself as a premier interior force and winning multiple All-American and All-SEC honors. Over two seasons, Walker has 17 tackles for a loss and eight sacks, highlighting his versatility in run defense and pass rush. Heading into his junior season, Walker will look to take another step forward and be the first interior defender taken in the 2025 NFL draft.

True unicorns are rare in football, especially once you get to the NFL, but Walker certainly fits that description — especially at his size. He is a well-rounded player who stops the run, rushes the passer, plays all along the defensive line and can even drop into coverage. That versatility speaks to his otherworldly athleticism at his size. Walker has wiggle to his game and a surprising amount of lateral agility. He can punish guards with a variety of moves to slip past them for a stop in the backfield. When he’s dropped into coverage, he’s held his own, with enough lateral quickness to successfully defend some underneath zones.

 
 

Of course, you can’t talk about Walker without talking about his power profile. He’s a monster down in the trenches and he knows it. Opponents double-teamed him frequently, devoting significant resources to preventing him from breaking loose. In the run game, he can easily handle double-teams, holding the point of attack and not getting pushed back. When he’s rushing the passer, even two linemen aren’t enough to stop him every time. He can overpower them or use his bag of tricks to find a way around them, causing havoc even when initially contained. His stamina is also noteworthy, having played over 700 snaps in 2023. Conditioning often separates the good defensive tackles from the great ones, especially when they get to be Walker’s size.

There are two main areas of concern with Walker. First, he often loses the leverage battle by playing too tall. He’s a tall interior defender, but he can work to lower his stance and not stand up so straight off the snap. Playing lower would help him penetrate and create pressure more consistently and help him fight off double teams. Second, he can improve in disengaging blocks and making plays on the ball carrier. He does a good job of this in his pass rush, but he’s often content to take up space in the run game and simply occupy blockers. Part of this could be Kentucky’s scheme, but there’s room for him to be more disruptive.

The bottom line is 6-6, 350-pound players aren’t supposed to move the way Walker does. His quickness and versatility are uncanny. I have a clear first-round grade on Walker, and he could push to be a top-five pick when it’s all said and done. There just aren’t many players like him that have come through the ranks of the NFL. He needs to back up his 2023 tape with another great season in 2024, but he has the makings of one of the most unique and exciting prospects in years.

 
 

2: Mason Graham, Michigan

A standout high school wrestler, Graham was an under-the-radar recruit, earning a three-star rating from some of the major recruiting sites and initially committing to Boise State before ending up at Michigan. As a freshman, he was a key part of the Wolverines’ rotation, racking up three sacks and 12 total pressures. He moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2023 and his production jumped up to match with 24 total pressure and four sacks paving the way for him to earn second-team All-American honors to go with his first-team All-Big 10 recognition. Graham enters his true junior season as one of the stars of college football and a possible top-ten pick in April’s draft.

At 6-3 and 318, Graham is slightly undersized for an NFL defensive tackle. Despite this, his strength profile is exceptional. He has the lower body strength to anchor against double teams and hold multiple gaps at the point of attack. He marries that with his powerful arms, which allow him to displace offensive linemen and attack the quarterback. There were many instances on tape of Graham simply being too strong for the opposition he faced, and this alone won him a number of reps in 2023.

 
 

What makes Graham truly special is his strength combined with his elite quickness and agility. He fires off the snap, sidestepping or blowing through offensive guards and centers to reach his target. His hip flexibility allows him to pull off an impressive array of pass-rushing moves, enough to win on the edge occasionally as well. The longer a play goes on, the harder Graham will pursue. There’s no escaping him once he gets his hands on you, and he has the tools and technique to be a disruptive force.

If there’s one major criticism to make of Graham’s game, it’s that he’s still raw. Too often, he relies purely on his strength and quickness, and this leads to a lot of reps where his rushes simply die on contact. If linemen can get their hands on him and slow him down, he can get taken out of the play. He has the moves to combat this and be a more advanced pass rusher, but needs to apply them more consistently on a down-to-down basis.

Graham is a dangerous player who is just scratching the surface of his potential. He is a physically gifted player with the ability to make a massive impact at the next level. I have an easy first-round grade on Graham, and with another standout season, he could lay claim to a shot at going first overall. Consistency is key for him, as he’s already demonstrated the ability to take over a game. Now it’s just taking that next step, and I’m not one to bet against him.

 
 

3: Kenneth Grant, Michigan

The other Michigan defensive tackle in this draft, Grant has already made a name for himself. Despite mostly playing behind Graham and Kris Jenkins the last two seasons, Grant still managed to make a big impact. He made the All-Big 10 second team in 2023 with three and a half sacks plus an interception to go with his consistently disruptive presence. With Jenkins now in the NFL, Grant steps into a starting role in his junior year, ready for a breakout season. Scouts are already eyeing his potential, and a big season could catapult him to the first-round discussion.

Grant is an athletic specimen. At 6-3 and 339 pounds, he ran a reported sub-5 second 40-yard dash, according to Bruce Feldman. He’s both fast and quick, using his long speed to chase down ball carriers or quarterbacks and his acceleration to beat guards to the jump. Off the snap, his first step leaves blockers in the dust — he gets into their chests and shoots gaps before they can properly react. When pursuing tackles downfield or closing in the backfield, Grant uses his burst to surprise opponents with his speed and presence, making impactful plays with regularity.

 
 

Strength is not lacking in Grant’s game either. He has an excellent push-and-pull move that wins against great opposition. In the run game, he can anchor against double teams, holding his gaps and allowing his linebackers to make plays. He’s versatile in his alignment, able to play multiple shades and gaps effectively, and he knows how to play the position. When hand-fighting offensive linemen, Grant showcases impressive ability for a player with his lack of experience, and he knows how to combine that with his natural leverage for big advantages.

Because he’s never been a full-time starter, Grant is still inexperienced relative to many of his peers. This shows up in several areas of his game, but most notably in his pass-rushing arsenal. While he has a couple of go-to killer moves, he’s overall limited in terms of variety. He needs to add more moves to his bag, develop some counters and work on his ability to overcome the more skilled offensive linemen he’ll face. Additionally, he needs to be better at playing lower and maximizing his leverage. He has an excellent build for an interior defender, he just needs to utilize it more.

Despite his rawness, Grant is a physical specimen with some real finesse to his game. His combination of burst and strength is special, especially for a man his size. I have a second-round grade on Grant right now, but it’s easy to see how he can improve his stock. A full year of starting tape and a step forward in his development, and Grant could hear his name called on Day 1 of the draft.

 
 

4: Bear Alexander, USC

With a high motor and infectious personality, Alexander is a fan favorite in Los Angeles. Originally committing to Georgia out of the prestigious IMG Academy, Alexander transferred to USC after his freshman year and became a star on the Trojans’ defensive line. The numbers won’t wow you, but he was a game-wrecking presence at times and was a player opposing offenses would scheme around. On a struggling USC defense, Alexander was the star and made his impact known every week. Heading into his true junior season, he’ll look to boost his production and take another step as a dominating interior force.

A 6-3, 305-pound defensive tackle, Alexander plays like a wrecking ball. He has an extremely fast first step, exploding out of his stance to attack his gaps. He never stops moving — his motor and relentlessness will endear him to coaches across the league, and he makes a lot of plays others don’t as a result. When rushing the passer, he demonstrates exceptional upper-body strength and hand placement. Offensive linemen can’t hand fight with him, he knows how to maximize his leverage and use his hands to free himself from blocks. Good short-area quickness and foot speed allow his pass-rush moves to shine.

 
 

Alexander is one of the more intelligent players I’ve scouted. His awareness is top-notch, and he can identify shifts and misdirection better than most. As a result, he routinely makes plays down the field and away from his initial assignment, disrupting the offense’s flow. In run defense, he knows how to shed blocks and make plays on the ball carrier, with more tackles than most interior defenders. I don’t think he missed a single tackle in the games I watched — once he gets his hands on his target, the play is dead.

From a production standpoint, Alexander is lacking. He has just three and a half sacks over his two years in college, and this is because he needs to refine his pass-rushing technique. Right now, he mostly wins through power alone. He’s demonstrated some advanced traits that will help him win with more finesse, but he needs to implement them more consistently. A wide range of pass-rush moves would substantially increase his production and impact. Additionally, he’s not great when anchoring against double teams in the run game. He can get moved off the line too easily and taken out of the play. Improving his lower-body strength would help in this regard.

I have a solid second-round grade on Alexander right now, and with some continued growth, that projection could rise. He’s a young player with a smart football mind, and this only enhances his future potential. USC is entering its first year in the Big 10, and Alexander will get a chance to go against some of the best offensive linemen in college football. A big season with a few more sacks to his name and Alexander could find himself in the first-round discussion.

 
 

5: Aeneas Peebles, Virginia Tech

An undersized defensive tackle from North Carolina, Peebles spent four seasons at Duke before transferring to Virginia Tech for this season to close out his college career. He enjoyed a breakout year in 2023 with 8.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks, earning All-ACC recognition. NFL teams will want to see Peebles continue to build on his success but he’s prepped to do just that. Virginia Tech has been dubbed a dark horse ACC contender by many outlets, so Peebles will look to make a bigger name for himself on a bigger stage and boost his draft stock with a productive year.

Standing at just 6-2 and 280 pounds, Peebles is small for the interior defender position. He still packs a punch, with some serious power behind his initial hits and tackles. His first step is elite, and he pairs it with a true arsenal of pass-rushing tricks to get after quarterbacks. Whether he’s attacking from 3-tech, 5-tech, or even as a big end, Peebles is a nightmare for opposing tackles to deal with. He uses his hands so well and always keeps the pressure on his opponents, forcing them to account for him at all times.

 
 

Not only does Peebles have a quick first step, but his lateral agility and hip flexibility are top-tier. This aids in his production, as he combines his burst with the maneuverability necessary to plague his opposition. There isn’t much he can’t do in the pass-rushing department, and he’s a reliable run defender as well. He’s a smart player who can cover all the way to the sideline and chase plays downfield, all while being a toolsy, refined pass rusher.

What may hold Peebles back in the NFL is his size and lack of elite strength. While he holds up fine in college, he will likely struggle to anchor against double teams in the NFL. He already has tape where he gets blown off the line at the snap, and that will only worsen going up against professional athletes on the interior offensive line. He can improve his leverage by playing lower, as well, but the main thing he needs to do is to add lower body strength. An extra 10-15 pounds of leg muscle would go a long way.

Peebles is skilled, fast, and experienced. That plays in the NFL, even if doesn’t have a pro-ready body. I have a third-round grade on him, but that can easily improve. I think he’ll struggle against bigger linemen in the league, but a year at Virginia Tech where he showcases improved strength could dramatically change his outlook. Refined interior pass rushers tend to succeed in the NFL, even if they only play limited roles. I have no doubt Peebles can do that.

 
 

Best of the rest

6 — Tyleik Williams, Ohio State: Undersized defensive tackle with exceptional pass-rushing skills. Questions surrounding his lateral agility and consistency are real, but Williams is a gifted athlete.

7 — Nazir Stackhouse, Georgia: Giant, run-stuffing defensive tackle with excellent awareness. Not much of a pass rusher.

8 — Howard Cross III, Notre Dame: Small defensive tackle who may be better as a big end in a 3-4 system. Advanced pass rusher with a balanced game.

9 — T.J. Sanders, South Carolina: Tall, disruptive defender with a lot of production. Lacks ideal strength and leverage but makes up for it with his technique and explosiveness.

 
 

10 — Walter Nolen, Ole Miss: Explosive pass rusher with strong hands and quick first step. Needs to play more consistently on balance to make more of an impact down-to-down.

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