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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

NFL Draft 2019: Scouting the defensive linemen

Taking a look at the top defensive linemen in the 2019 NFL draft class.

Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Quinnen Williams looks

Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Quinnen Williams looks on during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs on Jan. 8, 2018, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Photo Credit: AP/Robin Alam

Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

Height: 6-3

Weight: 303

40 time: 4.83

Strengths: Very agile big man who has rare combination of size, strength and speed … Can get to the passer up the middle better than almost any lineman in the country … Had eight sacks and 19 1/2 tackles for loss last season … Comes from one of the best programs in developing defensive players.

Weaknesses: Will face challenging double-teams at NFL level and will have to adjust accordingly, so won’t be able to dominate as easily … May be somewhat short against bigger interior linemen … Will need to play with leverage more consistently at next level.

Projected draft status: Top 5.

Quote: Williams on playing at Alabama under Nick Saban: “There's a lot of stuff that I took from Alabama and took from how I was built at Alabama that I'm going to take to the NFL. Everything about discipline, everything coach Saban taught me, everything that Alabama and coach Saban instilled in me to be the player I am today.”

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Height: 6-2                     

Weight: 287

40 time: Did not run at Scouting Combine.

Strengths: Extremely quick and athletic interior lineman who can dominate at the three-technique position, where players such as Warren Sapp excelled … Has excellent first step that will help him gain the early advantage against opposing linemen . . x. Had 53 tackles for loss in his three seasons at Houston.

Weaknesses: Missed time last season with a knee injury after being blocked low in a game against Navy on Oct. 20, although appears to be fully recovered now … Will have to get with right team to take advantage of his undersized physical frame.

Projected draft status: First round

Quote: Oliver on what sets him apart from other defensive linemen in this draft: “Probably just my playing style — my high-motor style of play. How aggressive I am, and how much of a penetrator I am. Just the different swag I can bring to a defensive line, I can change the whole defense, honestly.”

Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Height: 6-3

Weight: 315

40 time: 5.04

Strengths: Very productive interior linemen who led one of the best units in the country the last four years … Had combined 10 1/2 sacks and 23 tackles for loss over the last two seasons … Extraordinarily good leadership qualities.

Weaknesses: Won’t necessarily have the kind of talent around him at the NFL level as he did at Clemson, so may not be quite as productive … Vulnerable to double teams, so will have to gain strength to deal with bigger offensive linemen in the NFL … Can become worn down, so will need to be part of defensive line rotation.

Projected draft status: First round

Quote: Wilkins on developing as an all-around person and not just an athlete: “I’ve had a lot of people — coaches, family, whoever — that emphasized it’s important to be more than just an athlete. You’ve got to be a well-rounded human being, a well-rounded person.”

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Height: 6-4

Weight: 342

40 time: 5.05

Strengths: Excellent ratio of size, strength and speed. Probably the most physically gifted of this year’s interior linemen … Can collapse the pocket with his power, particularly if he gets off the ball quickly … Excellent run defender.

Weaknesses: Missed last year’s College Football Playoff because of a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs … Not super productive in terms of sacks, although his physical presence creates an advantage for his defense.

Projected draft status: First round

Quote: Lawrence on sitting out the playoffs: “I love this game and just to see something like that make it go away so quick, something I didn't intentionally do, just had the two most important games, the last two games of my career just happen like that was very hard for me to deal with. I just kind of kept praying about it and just trying to stay strong in my faith and just view it as a positive.”

Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

Height: 6-4

Weight: 301

40 time: Did not participate in the Scouting Combine

Strengths: Very powerful inside presence who can be physical at the point of attack … Excelled last two years at Mississippi State with a combined 30 tackles for loss … Uses athleticism to his benefit.

Weaknesses: Off-field concerns created by his involvement in a fight in 2016, in which he is captured on video punching a woman. He was charged with simple assault and later was found guilty of malicious mischief while pleading no contest to simple assault. He did not serve jail time, but NFL teams may be wary, given the league’s sensitivity to domestic violence issues … Suffered torn knee ligament in February.

Projected draft status: Rounds 1-2.

Quote: NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah: “Teams will need to do their homework on his character … Overall, Simmons has Pro Bowl potential and a similar skill set to Eagles DT Fletcher Cox.”

Zach Allen, DE, Boston College

Height: 6-4

Weight: 281

40 time: 5.00

Strengths: Intense competitor who plays at maximum effort … Had terrific 2018 season with 61 tackles, seven sacks, seven deflected passes and 14 1/2 tackles for loss … Reliable run defender with above-average pass-rushing skills.

Weaknesses: Not exceptionally fast … Will need to bulk up a bit to deal with bigger, stronger NFL linemen … May be considered a ‘tweener who has some shortcomings in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses

Projected draft status: Rounds 1-3.

Quote: Allen on whether he’s best suited playing inside or outside: “The good news was at BC, I really did it all. A lot of stand-up zero, three, five, nine, 4-3, 3-4, the whole deal. So, I’ve heard it all. I’m absolutely fine with whatever a team wants. I just want to come in and help a team win. I think one of my intriguing traits is I can do it all if a team might need me for multiple positions.”

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