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2017 NFL Draft: Jonathan Allen leads interior D-line class

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Editor's note: NFL.com analysts Lance Zierlein and Chad Reuter will provide overviews for each position group in the 2017 NFL Draft (April 27-29 in Philadelphia), continuing today with interior defensive linemen.

There's really not a lot of hoopla about the interior defensive linemen in this year's draft class. Like many years, there are those with great size and quickness, but whose motor is questioned by scouts and media members alike.

General managers and coaches will tell you, however, that many college defensive linemen are just on the field for too long. In the NFL, they are likely to be rotational players until they've matured to the point where they give full effort on every snap -- and then they are off the field as the sub-package group comes in, unless they've earned a spot there.

Don't be surprised if the guys that are described as inconsistent, or even lazy, among draft analysts become valuable contributors at the next level as their snaps are limited to one-half or two-thirds of the team's total.

Let's explore the 2017 interior D-line class.

Note: Click through the tabs above to see overviews for each position.

Teams with greatest need on interior D-line


Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Jacksonville Jaguars

New York Giants

Oakland Raiders

Philadelphia Eagles

Top 5 players at the position


Note: Click on a prospect's name for a complete scouting report.

1. Jonathan Allen, Alabama: Allen was more of an edge player at Alabama, but I think his best fit is as a true five-technique in a 3-4 scheme, or a three-technique in a 4-3 after adding some weight. His strength is his, well, strength at the point of attack and hustle to the ball once it's in sight. Will he ever be a double-digit sack master? Maybe not, but he'll be disruptive against the run until his arthritic shoulders get in his way, which might be in four years or 10. Teams' read on his medical checks will be reflected in his draft position.

2. Malik McDowell, Michigan State: McDowell is the most explosive athlete among the interior defensive linemen. He's also the most maddening for scouts to watch, as his hot-cold motor takes him out of plays consistently. Teams also weren't thrilled with the way he interviewed at the NFL Scouting Combine. Nonetheless, much like Robert Nkemdiche last year, McDowell will wait out a late-first-round spot or fall into the second because he has a chance to be a difference-maker as a five-technique or interior pass-rusher.

3. Montravius Adams, Auburn: In many drafts, an SEC defensive tackle sneaks into the first round (Peria Jerry, Dan Williams, Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley, Robert Nkemdiche since 2009). Adams is the favorite this season because of his get-off, ability to anchor, and willingness to chase plays outside the pocket. If he doesn't go in the first round, Adams should be picked in the second round as a starting three-technique.

4. Carlos Watkins, Clemson: Watkins led the Tigers in sacks last season despite lining up between the tackles. His arm length is tremendous (34 5/8 inch) as is his hustle and strength. Teams might not consider Watkins explosive enough an athlete to garner a first-round grade, but I'm betting he'll turn out to be a bargain in Round 2 or 3.

5. Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA: His final year at UCLA lacked great productivity, and he played heavy after losing almost all of 2015 due to injury. Now healthy, Vanderdoes presents the same type of athleticism and toughness that long-time Buffalo nose tackle Kyle Williams rode to five Pro Bowls. If he stays on the field, I won't be surprised if he averages five or six sacks a year and wreaks havoc against the run.

Sources Tell Us


"He's a really talented pass rusher but he's always been surrounded by enough talent that it's been hard for offenses to game plan their protection for him. He's skilled and very fundamentally sound but I just worry about his size and how he holds up to NFL running games." -- NFC director of player personnel on Jonathan Allen

2017 NFL DRAFT

Most overrated


Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama: It's not as though Tomlinson isn't a good football player. He was a strong player for the Tide, and will likely excel in a rotational role at the next level. But scouts aren't sure if he has an exceptional quality, one that makes him worthy of a second- or third-round selection. As a fifth- or sixth-round pick, Tomlinson will put out a yeoman's effort for his new team, holding the line and making it difficult for teams to take advantage of his side of the line when the starter is out.

Most underrated


Ryan Glasgow, Michigan: I wouldn't be shocked to see an NFL team move Glasgow to the offensive line once he's in training camp. His brother, Graham, will be a longtime starting center/guard, and there's no reason to think Ryan couldn't follow suit. However, the younger Glasgow could stay on the defensive line and contribute for years as a tough-minded, ball-finding, one-gap nose tackle. Either way, I suspect we'll be seeing him on Sundays for a long time to come.

Boom or bust


Caleb Brantley, Florida: McDowell could easily be the pick here, as a team might take a chance on his talent in the first round despite his issues. But Brantley's talent is worth a mention somewhere in this preview. The self-proclaimed best defensive tackle in college football (how else should he feel?) flashes the ability to win gaps and attack ball carriers in the backfield. He's one of the few true three-techniques in the upper end of this draft class. Consistency is an issue, though, so it won't be shocking if he's available in the third round.

Sleeper alert


Grover Stewart, Albany State: It's tough to call Stewart a "sleeper" because at 6-foot-4 and nearly 350 pounds, he's not sneaking by anyone. He'll be a late-round pick because, in addition to that size, he showed quickness on film, flashed at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and excelled at his pro day (sub 5.2-second 40-yard dash, 8-10 broad jump). Look for him to earn a spot on a depth chart as a rookie.

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.

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