2025 NFL Draft Scouting Watchlist: Interior Defensive Linemen

Graham dominated Ohio State in 2023.
Graham dominated Ohio State in 2023. / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

It's about that time. Summer scouting is about to kick into high gear. I have already started to watch a number of prospects in the 2025 class, but have a ton more work to do before I am ready to be publishing mock drafts, big boards, or scouting reports. Plus, we also have a college football season to play starting in August!

Each week, I am going to publish a list of the players on my radar for the 2025 draft class at a given position. It won't be a complete list, there will be some players that end up surprising and working their way into consideration that we did not know to look for this far out. It happens every year.

If you don't see a player on the list that you think deserves some love, let me know! Send me a tweet (@cmcglynn84) or tweet at With The First Pick (@withthe1st_pick), or hop on our Facebook page and leave a comment.

I was going to start with quarterbacks, but Ryan McCrary already got the ball rolling on that. I also haven't watched any QBs yet. Hard to find good All-22 film of quarterbacks at this stage in the process. Much easier to watch in the trenches. While this list is far from conclusive, it is thorough, with 17 players detailed, and listed in alphabetical order. So, with that in line, let's start with some defensive linemen!

Bear Alexander, 3rd-year junior, USC
Another former 2022 Under Armour All-American, Alexander arrived at Georgia with a ton of fanfare. He was stuck playing behind a loaded defensive front that featured Jordan Davis, Devontae Wyatt and Jalen Carter as a freshman. Rather than stick around, he transferred to USC to play under Lincoln Riley. The Trojans' defense was much maligned in 2023, but Alexander flashed some of the potential that had fans so excited at Georgia, earning a Pac-12 Honorable Mention.

He has the traits and skills to develop into an NFL-caliber defensive tackle but has limited playing time and production. After entering the transfer portal, he is set to stay at USC. If new defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn can get more out of Alexander, he has the potential to be a top-100 selection in 2024.

Jordan Burch, 5th-year senior, Oregon

We are all still waiting for Burch to put it all together. He was one of the top recruits in the 2020 class. However, after three seasons at South Carolina and then one more at Oregon, he only has 20 career tackles for loss and 7.5 career sacks. Still, teams will be intrigued by what he could be. Burch was a bit of a tweener, but he appears to be bulking up to play on the interior long-term.

He was listed at 275 in his last year with South Carolina, but Oregon had him at 290 pounds this past season. If he is able to play around that weight and can take advantage of an increased workload with Brandon Dorlus now in the NFL, he will find his way into the league. He was No. 4 on Feldman's Freaks List for a reason.

Richard Reese, Dontay Corleone
Corleone is returning to Cincinnati for his senior season coming off back-to-back impressive campaigns. / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

Dontay Corleone, 4th-year junior, Cincinnati

He is about to make you an offer you can't refuse. Nicknamed "The Godfather", Corleone burst onto the scene in 2022 after redshirting his freshman season. His numbers are solid, but he clearly turned heads at PFF, finishing the year as their highest-graded defender. That translated to him landing at No. 16 on Feldman's Freaks List heading into 2023.

He followed it up with a similarly impressive season for the Bearcats, this time competing in the Big 12 as opposed to the American. He finished the year with 2nd-team All-Big 12 honors. Listed at 6'1", 320 pounds, Corleone is a stout, productive player with six sacks and 13 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. He seems poised for an even better campaign in 2024.

Howard Cross III, 6th-year senior, Notre Dame

Cross is one of the final COVID seniors, redshirting as a freshman in 2019 and then getting an extra year of eligibility after the pandemic-impacted 2020 season. Unlike his teammate Rylie Mills, he is a bit undersized for the position. Listed at 6'1", 284 pounds, it is fair to wonder if teams will project Cross as more of a 5-tech or 4i defensive end. He has 20 starts under his belt and will have another season to prove he is ready to make the jump to the pros. He will need to showcase that as an older prospect.

Mason Graham, 3rd-year junior, Michigan

If you are looking for a potential top-five draft pick on the interior of the defensive line, Graham is your guy. He is an enticing athlete, especially given his size. Michigan lists Graham as 6'3", 318 pounds. He moves like a player at least 30 pounds lighter than that. He is an excellent pass rusher, even if he does not have the elite statistical production to back it up at this stage. Graham is good against the run as well, but occasionally will get washed out by down blockers. Expect him to draw comparisons to Jalen Carter and Quinnen Williams. That's the type of prospect we are talking about here.

Kenneth Grant, 3rd-year junior, Michigan

Grant is a bit of a throwback. He is a bit of a brick wall on the interior. At 6'3", nearly 340 pounds, he is a hard man to move. His tape does not jump out as anything spectacular, but he is fundamentally solid, especially against the run. He flashed a bit of pass-rushing upside with 3.5 sacks this past season, but that is not a major component of his game. He should be in for a much larger role this season with Kris Jenkins now in the NFL.

Thor Griffith, 5th-year senior, Louisville

Fans of Bruce Feldman's annual freaks list should know a bit about Griffith by now. He is a former state champion wrestler and star youth hockey player. He ranked eighth on Feldman's list heading into 2023. He should be even higher in 2024. After four seasons at Harvard, Griffith is headed to Louisville. After three years of significant playing time, he racked up 13.5 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss. He has decent size at 6'2" and 320 pounds. If he can prove himself against better competition in the ACC, expect Griffith to go flying up draft boards.

Landon Jackson, 4th-year senior, Arkansas

How to classify Jackson is a little tricky. He has bulked up over the past couple of seasons and Arkansas now lists him at 6'7", 282 pounds. That weight profile would certainly see him projected best as an interior player, but with that type of length, it is certainly plausible to picture him lining up on the edge. Regardless, Jackson has talent and has flashed the ability to take over games. Serious high school injuries are a concern, but he has been relatively healthy in college. He has the tools to wind up as a first-round selection.

Akheem Mesidor, 5th-year junior, Miami

I have to have Mesidor on here. I have been a fan of his for the past two years. He had a solid start to his career at West Virginia before transferring to Miami. His first season with the Hurricanes was an impressive one, as he posted 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. I think he would have had another big season to propel him to the league, but he suffered a season-ending injury just three games into 2023. He is a bit smaller and similarly falls into that tweener category, but I like him as a player with 3-tech and 5-tech potential who can collapse the pocket and generate pressure. He is one of my favorites heading into this draft cycle.

Caleb Williams, Rylie Mills
Mills has been a mainstay on the interior of Notre Dame's defensive line. / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Rylie Mills, 5th-year senior, Notre Dame

If you are looking for athletes to mold, Mills should be on your list. Feldman listed him 10th on his list heading into the 2023 season. We are still at the stage where we are waiting for traits and skills to translate to production. Not to say that Mills has been unproductive, but his numbers are far from eye-popping. In four seasons with the Irish, he has 9.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. However, he has a good frame at 6'5", 297 pounds, and is a reliable contributor in the middle of Marcus Freeman's defense.

Walter Nolen, 3rd-year junior, Ole Miss

The former five-star recruit and Under Armour All-American has not lived up to the hype so far. In two seasons at Texas A&M, Nolen accounted for five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. He escaped the dysfunction in College Station and is chasing a fresh start under Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss. He has great size (6'4", 290 pounds at Texas A&M) and exciting athletic traits. He projects best a 3-tech or 5-tech. He will need to have a big season to make the jump to the NFL, but it is easy to fall in love with the traits of a former five-star athlete. Expect to see Nolen talked about a lot early in the season.

T.J. Sanders, 4th-year junior, South Carolina

Sanders played sparingly in his first two seasons at South Carolina but made a name for himself with a breakout 2023 campaign. He posted 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Sanders is exactly what you look for in terms of measurables, standing 6'5" and weighing in at 295 pounds. He is a brawler at the point of attack and should be one of the top defenders in the SEC this season. He would need to have another big season, but I think he could work his way into top 50 consideration.

Nazir Stackhouse, 5th-year senior, Georgia

Stackhouse returning to Georgia was a bit of a surprise. He seemed to be headed in the right direction and was firmly in the Day 2 conversation. However, he decided to run it back, something we should expect by now with draft-eligible players on Kirby Smart's defense. Stackhouse is not the most dynamic or disruptive player, but he is a handful to deal with on the interior. He has a future in the NFL as a nose or 1-tech player, largely stopping the run. If he can add more of a pass-rush profile, or begins to flash some more gap penetrating capabilities, he will be a player on the rise.

Shemar Turner, 4th-year senior, Texas A&M

The past few seasons of Texas A&M football have been underwhelming, to say the least. A number of top recruits have failed to deliver on the hype. Turner is the exception. He flashed the upside that made him a four-star recruit coming out of Texas back in 2021 over his first two seasons. He took it up a notch in 2023, recording six sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. He has good size at 6'4", 290 pounds, and should be in line for a big season under new head coach Mike Elko.

Deone Walker
Walker is one of the most physically gifted players in college football heading into 2024. / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

Deone Walker, 3rd-year junior, Kentucky

One of the most talented and intriguing prospects in this draft class, Walker checks a ton of boxes for an elite interior defensive line prospect. He was a team captain as a true sophomore and he has incredible size, listed at 6'6", 348 pounds. On top of that, he put up some excellent numbers this past season, racking up 7.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.

I have had a chance to watch a couple of games of his tape so far and there are a few things that stand out. He is an alien. He can move like a player 60 pounds lighter than him and shows incredible burst. However, despite that he lacks some power in his game. He will be one of the top players to watch this season and has legitimate first-round potential.

Tyleik Williams, 4th-year senior, Ohio State

Williams burst onto the scene in 2021, recording five sacks as a freshman for the Buckeyes. However, he has combined for just four sacks in the two seasons since. That is not to say that Williams has not been an impactful player. He is a tough man to move at 6'3", 327 pounds. He also recorded 10 tackles for loss in 2023. There is a good chance he would have been an early-to-mid Day 3 selection in 2024 had he declared. Now, he will have a chance to push himself into Day 2 range with a strong senior season on a loaded Ohio State defense.

Davin Vann, 5th-year senior, North Carolina State

Vann is also a tweener, but I have a tough time listing him as a true edge rusher. He is listed at 6'2", 280 pounds, primarily playing defensive end for the Wolfpack. The athleticism is there. Feldman gave him some love as he landed at No. 40 on his 2023 list.

I think his best bet would be to add a bit more to his frame and kick inside at the next level. That being said, I have 11 months to change my mind on that. Vann has been decently productive since he started seeing meaningful snaps as a redshirt freshman. He has 14 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss over the past three seasons. He has improved every year under Dave Doeren. Another step would see him in the conversation to be a top-75 player.