DT1: Jalen Carter, Georgia
Jalen Carter is so dominant that he wears the number 88 on his jersey, as a defensive tackle, and nobody bats an eye. That’s how good he is.
Carter was perhaps the best player on Georgia’s title-winning defensive unit in 2021, and he wasn’t even eligible for the draft. Carter was a force alongside Jordan Davis last season, who was one of my favorite prospects in last year’s draft cycle. Where Davis excelled at being an uber-athletic space-eater who chewed up running backs before spitting them out for a two-yard loss, Carter is more of a pass rusher. I think this works in Carter’s favor, as football is so famously “a quarterback game.” Carter is one of the most twitchy 300-pound athletes I’ve ever seen, and his ability to accelerate both in a straight line and while changing directions would not be out of place on someone 50 pounds lighter.
Another thing I love about Carter is just how efficiently he has dissected the defensive tackle position. That is to say, it feels like Carter knows each and every situation he could possibly find himself in, and how to attack them. There were multiple times in 2021 that he would fill gaps to stop the run before the offense could even get the play going. That’s a smart football player right there, and that in particular is a trait that the NFL covets. Speed and twitchiness is what got Jordan Davis drafted in the top 15 last year, and it could put Carter firmly in the top 10 if he has a productive season in 2022.
One thing I worry about with Carter is, of course, the elephant in the room when it comes to Georgia’s defense. Is there a chance that all of the NFL-caliber talent on the Bulldogs’ defense last season was covering up Carter’s weaknesses and allowing him to dominate competition? I suppose only time will tell, but it’s certainly something to watch as this college football season develops. For as fast and powerful as Carter is, he has some trouble with his hands at times, not with power but with placement and technique. I’d like to see him refine that a bit before I crown him as a sure-thing top-ten pick.
DT2: Bryan Bresee, Clemson
This year’s defensive tackle class made it wonderfully easy on me for this preseason preview, putting together a stronger consensus in the top two than any other position so far. Carter and Bresee are two of the most wildly talented prospects in this class. Coming off an ACL tear last year, Bresee has a lot to prove, but there’s so much talent there that I find it hard to believe he won’t prove it. As a run defender, Bresee has been spectacular for the Tigers. In conjunction with Myles Murphy, he’s made Clemson’s defensive line something to be feared.
At 6’5 and 300 pounds, Bresee is a downright massive defensive tackle prospect. What’s more impressive, to me at least, is how light on his feet he is for his size. The get-up-and-go that Bresee possesses is truly special, and made me stop the tape multiple times to make that “pshhhhh” sound you make when something really surprises you. Whether moving downhill or laterally, Bresee has elite speed for his size. Not to mention, I can’t imagine how terrifying that looks for a 5’10, 200-pound running back. I would fumble just by looking at him. No thanks.
I’m worried about Bresee’s size. It’s not often that I have to say “you know, I think this prospect would be better if he were a few inches shorter” but this is one of those times. A 6’5 defensive tackle, while visually both impressive and unusual, can lose a lot of leverage against guards and centers. I wish he had the flexibility to deal with that, but there are times where he looks a little bit helpless against smaller, but still very strong, offensive linemen. If you get him out in space, Bresee is going to succeed without a doubt. Luckily for him, that’s where the NFL game is going. How fortuitous.