It is never too early to talk about the NFL Draft and one of the most polarizing and fun positions to discuss is the defensive tackle position. Most people are aware that the interior of the Buckeye defensive line could be the weak spot, but the Big Ten as a whole has some real talent.
The Penn State defensive line looks to be full of studs and the Nittany Lions know how to produce tough interior defenders like Austin Johnson, Jordan Hill, and Devon Still from years past. It is also not uncommon to see an Iowa defender make noise from the interior and as most are aware, Michigan is primed to have another dominant defensive line, but that’s enough talk, let’s dive into the list.
P.J. Mustipher, Penn State – 6-foot, 4-inches, 329-pounds
STATE COLLEGE, PA – SEPTEMBER 25: PJ Mustipher #97 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates with teammates after recording a sack against the Villanova Wildcats during the first half at Beaver Stadium on September 25, 2021, in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
P.J. Mustipher is another Penn State defender who had a portion of his 2021 season taken away after he tore his ACL against Iowa, but despite the injury likely would have been an early selection in the NFL draft had he declared.
Lukas Van Ness, Iowa – 6-foot, 5-inches, 264-pounds
Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness (91) sacks Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) as Iowa defensive lineman Zach VanValkenburg (97) brings pressure during an NCAA college football game in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network
Lukas Van Ness is a fantastic pass-rusher and tied for the team lead in sacks with seven last season despite only being used in a rotational role. Van Ness is a top-tier athlete and should be in line for more time, which should equate to more great film.
Mazi Smith, Michigan – 6-foot, 3-inches, 326-pounds
Dec 4, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Mazi Smith (58) against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Conference championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mazi Smith is the main stud on the Michigan defensive line and he plays like a fire hydrant. There are few flaws in his game, but 2022 will be a big test now that he’s the new leader on a young defensive line. Despite his size, Smith is a good pass-rusher from the interior.
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