News & Analysis

2018 NFL Draft Watch: FBS Interior Defender Overview

By Steve Palazzolo
Aug 15, 2017

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JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 31: Cece Jefferson #96 of the Florida Gators asks the crowd for noise during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field on October 31, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

The PFF team is going position-by-position to preview the 2017 college football season as it pertains to the 2018 NFL draft. There’s still a lot of football to be played and the evaluation stage is still very young, but a number of prospects are already on the NFL’s radar and you can read up on over 300 of them (to go with PFF signature stats on over 2,200 total prospects) in our first ever Preseason NFL Draft Guide.

We’ve already taken a close look at the offensive positions of quarterbacksrunning backs and wide receivers, and this week we’ve switched over to the defensive side of the ball and a look at the edge defenders. Today we look at the players to know on the defensive interior:

TOP OF THE CLASS (FIRST ROUND WATCH):

The NFL is all about the pass game and interior defensive linemen have to be able to rush the passer in order to garner first-round consideration. Only two players have shown that all-around ability to this point: Michigan’s Maurice Hurst and Washington’s Vita Vea. The players couldn’t be more different as Hurst is more of an undersized penetrator at 6-foot-2, 282-pounds while Vea is a powerful, athletic 344-pounder capable of holding the point and pushing the pocket. Hurst led the draft class with a pass rush productivity of 15.3 last season and he’s showed incredible production as part of Michigan’s loaded defensive line rotation. Vea looks the part of a two-down run stopper, and his 84.0 run defense grade in 2016 shows what he’s capable of, but he also graded at 81.9 as a pass-rusher and picked up a bull rush pressure every 20.2 rushes, second-best in the draft class.

Here’s more on the top interior defenders in the draft class

PFF Edge stats to know

Can make a big jump

Sleeper to know

Breakout candidates

Non-Power 5 watch

PFF Edge

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