American football isn't an Olympic sport -- yet. But with the world's best athletes set to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, we thought we'd get in on the fun by holding a medal competition at nine key positions. NFL Media analysts ranked the top three players at each spot, with points assigned accordingly -- three points for each first-place ranking, two for each second-place ranking and one for each third-place ranking. The points were totaled, resulting in final gold-, silver- and bronze-medal finishers. Below, you'll find the results -- and each analyst's individual ballot -- for interior defensive linemen.
The Interior Defensive Line Podium
Also receiving votes:Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles (10 total points); Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5); Ndamukong Suh, Miami Dolphins (4); Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets (3); Linval Joseph, Minnesota Vikings (2); Kawann Short, Carolina Panthers (2); Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks (1); Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills (1); Damon Harrison, New York Giants (1).
I'll always wonder how people doubted, when Watt was coming out of high school, whether he would ever be big enough to play tight end. Watt is one of the most dominant defensive linemen of all time and could very easily become the best when it's all said and done. Donald's quickness and explosion make up for a lack of height; he's so quick, it looks like he's offsides on every play. In new Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's wide-nine approach, Cox will be let loose, which should help him generate a ton of sacks.
Wilkerson is very athletic in space and one of the most ferocious defensive linemen in the league. Cox is so explosive that he is even hard to double-team. Donald is very athletic for his size, has great leverage and is extremely quick.
I just as easily could have listed Watt among the edge rushers, but Watt is too good at too many things to be pigeonholed like that. Without Robert Quinn and Chris Long for a notable chunk of the season, Donald still found a way to be dominant from his defensive tackle spot in 2015. Atkins bounced back in a major way last season, with 11 sacks and 42 tackles, after a 2014 campaign in which he didn't appear to be all the way back from major knee surgery.
For the two years Donald has been in the league, no one has been as good as he's been. He's hard to block and splits double teams relentlessly and routinely. After a major knee injury in 2013, Atkins returned to form last year. I know people are down on Suh, but he's still a great player. When he wants to be, he can be the best in the league.
I will never get over the fact the Rams drafted Donald just one pick before the Chicago Bears. That's one thing you have to credit the Rams for: They drafted the best player available (regardless of need), and it's worked out very well for them. Todd Gurley and Donald weren't necessarily needs for the team on draft day, but now they have the best at two positions. Too bad they didn't have the same philosophy when they drafted a quarterback.
Now, some of you are going to be upset because I have Watt taking the silver. But in fairness to me, I don't think this is his best category. (He's rated as an 89 if you move him to a pure inside spot on MUT. That's Madden Ultimate Team. Typical of you to have to ask about it. Inquire more about it with your child. Unless your child is an infant, and then he or she would be just as ignorant as you about Madden Ultimate Team. And for the record, I'm more of a Draft Champions guy.) Again, though, to use the Michael Phelps comparison ... Phelps is no doubt the best swimmer in the world. But he won the silver in the 200-meter butterfly in the 2012 Olympics. So it's not a knock on Watt to have him slated for silver here. I see this category as the more traditional DT and more interior guys. And really, Watt moves around the field way, way too much to have him featured as just a straight interior D-lineman.