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NFL Draft Preview: Interior DL

A look at this year's defensive tackles.

The five-best defensive linemen invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.

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Leading the pack: USC's Leonard Williams plays inside and on the edge, but is listed as an "interior defensive lineman" in NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock's rankings. And we didn't include him in our "edge-rusher" preview. So for consistency's sake, we've placed him here. Williams is not only the best interior defensive lineman in this year's draft, he might be the best overall player. Mayock's colleague at NFL Media, Daniel Jeremiah, has Williams as the No. 1 player in his prospect rankings. "I think he's the best football player in the draft, and that's Leonard Williams out of USC," Jeremiah said on NFL Network's Path to the Draft. "You talk about a game-changer against the run and against the pass -- it doesn't matter what scheme you run, whatever you want to do, Leonard Williams can do." Williams recorded 138 tackles and 14 sacks in 22 starts at USC.

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The second tier:** Although there's a drop-off after Williams, Oregon's Arik Armstead, Texas' Malcom Brown and Washington's Danny Shelton are all projected to be first round picks. Mayock has them ranked No. 2 through No. 4, respectively. Armstead has been rising up draft boards of late and, according to NFL.com's latest mock drafts, is expected to be selected somewhere in the middle of the first round. "Projection-based prospect with elite size and the traits to become a dominant run-stuffing defensive end in an odd front," they wrote in their scouting report. "Armstead has the explosiveness off the snap and in his jarring punch to gain early advantages and control offensive linemen. Armstead is a fast riser but is still very raw. He will need patience and coaching and must become a more effective pass rusher at some point."

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Mid-round picks:** Rice's Chris Covington was a first-team All-Conference USA selection in 2013, but missed most of the 2014 season after suffering a knee injury. He was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but was not fully recovered and unable to work out. He had an impressive three seasons at Rice, earning 119 tackles and 11.5 sacks, along with forcing four fumbles and blocking two kicks. CBS Sports has him projected as a fourth or fifth-round pick. Also keep an eye on Auburn's Gabe Wright, Central Michigan's Leterrius Walton and Houston's Joey Mbu.

Sleepers: Stanford's David Parry was once a walk-on, and now will likely be a draft pick. In 2014, he recorded 34 tackles, 7.5 of which were for losses, and 4.5 sacks. "Underrated former walk-on with a chip on his shoulder and a mean streak to go with it," NFL.com wrote in their scouting report. "Rotational defensive lineman with explosive power coming from relatively modest frame by nose tackle standards. Can play in an odd or even front and has strength and functional quickness to be a factor against the run while creating push and pocket disruption against the pass." NFL.com lists Parry as a fourth or fifth-round pick while CBS Sports has him projected in the seventh round. Also keep an eye on Fresno State's Tyeler Davison and Iowa's Louis Trinca-Pasat.

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