Carolina Panthers

2017 NFL draft: Top 10 defensive linemen | Panthers set at DT, but could use an edge rusher

Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton (33) impressed in his only year as a starter for the Wolverines.
Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton (33) impressed in his only year as a starter for the Wolverines. AP

The Observer’s top 10 defensive linemen available in the 2017 NFL draft:

Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett could very well be the top overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Sam Craft AP

1. Myles Garrett

College: Texas A&M.

Position: DE.

Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 272.

Projected round: 1st.

Comment: Has been presumptive No. 1 pick for months, and has drawn comparisons to Von Miller.

2. Jonathan Allen

College: Alabama.

Position: DT.

Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 286.

Projected round: 1st.

Comment: SEC’s DPOY had 10.5 sacks, a blocked FG and two fumble recoveries for TDs in ‘16.

3. Solomon Thomas

College: Stanford.

Position: DE.

Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 273.

Projected round: 1st.

Comment: Ability to push the pocket from inside or out adds flexibility to a defense.

4. Derek Barnett

College: Tennessee.

Position: DE.

Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 259.

Projected round: 1st.

Comment: Broke Reggie White’s career sacks record at Tennessee with 33; added 52 TFLs.

5. Takkarist McKinley

College: UCLA.

Position: DE.

Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 250.

Projected round: 1st-2nd.

Comment: Smallish playmaker collected 10 sacks and three forced fumbles in 10 starts last year.

6. Tim Williams

College: Alabama

Position: DE.

Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 244.

Projected round: 1st-2nd.

Comment: Could be best edge rusher in draft, but character concerns have hurt him.

Missouri defensive end Charles Harris boasts a variety of pass rush moves and great closing speed. Jeff Roberson AP

7. Charles Harris

College: Missouri.

Position: DE.

Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 253.

Projected round: 1st-2nd.

Comment: Boasts a variety of pass-rush moves and has great closing speed to get to QB.

8. Taco Charlton

College: Michigan.

Position: DE.

Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 277.

Projected round: 1st-2nd.

Comment: Great size and strength, but was only a one-year starter for Wolverines.

9. Caleb Brantley

College: Florida.

Position: DT.

Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 307.

Projected round: 2nd.

Comment: Good size and interior movement, but didn’t make a ton of plays for Gators.

10. Malik McDowell

College: Michigan.

Position: DT.

Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 295.

Projected round: 2nd-3rd.

Comment: Ran the 40 in 4.89 seconds at the combine – impressive for a near 300-pounder.

Panthers’ perspective

After taking Vernon Butler in the first round last year and getting Kawann Short under contract (along with Star Lotulelei and Kyle Love), the Panthers are set at defensive tackle. But defensive end is another story. Carolina was at Thomas’ pro day and would snag the Stanford edge rusher if he were to fall to No. 8. Otherwise, a few second- or-third day DEs to keep an eye on: Kansas State’s Jordan Willis, Ohio’s Tarell Basham and Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagnon.

Local connection

Charlotte nose tackle Larry Ogunjobi is set to become the 49ers’ first drafted player after starting 44 games in college and graduating with degrees in computer science and biology. Ogunjobi has his eye on med school, but that can wait. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock lists Ogunjobi as his fourth-rated interior lineman, and he’s projected to be picked in the third round.


Florida Atlantic defensive end Trey Hendrickson (6-4, 266) started showing up on scouts’ radars after an impressive showing in the East-West game and a 4.65-second clocking in the 40 at the combine. Though he’s getting knocked for his short arms, Hendrickson was C-USA’s Defensive Player of the Year and finished as FAU’s all-time sacks leader (29.5).

Worth noting

Thomas lived in Australia for five years as a child when his father worked for Proctor & Gamble. Thomas was swimming by the age of 3 and bodysurfing the Great Barrier Reef at 5. ... North Carolina defensive tackle Nazair Jones experienced lower-body paralysis in high school that resulted from a chronic regional pain syndrome and caused his weight to drop to 215 pounds. Jones, a mid-round prospect, gets a weekly injection of anti-inflammatories for his condition. He wore No. 90 in high school because of Julius Peppers, and has been told he looks like Peppers.