Whether they suited up for Group of Five or FCS programs, there are plenty of promising prospects in this year’s NFL Draft who didn’t play in the Power Five conferences.
Here’s a look at some of the best defensive linemen from Group of Five schools who could end up providing key contributions for a pro team sometime in the near future.
1. Karl Brooks of Bowling Green
Brooks was one of the best defenders in the MAC last season.
The all-conference first-team selection chalked up 10 sacks in 2022, which was the third-most ever in a single season at Bowling Green. That helped him earn All-American accolades as well as an invite to the Senior Bowl.
What position Brooks ends up playing will be interesting, but he could be a starting-level player more quickly than most people believe.
Read more: Bowling Green’s Karl Brooks A Possible Draft Steal
2. Jonah Tavai of San Diego State
Even though he was playing in the Mountain West, Tavai was still an Associated Press second-team All-American defensive tackle by the time he ended his college career.
In 2022, Tavai paced all interior defenders in total pressures (69), sacks (10.5), and hurries (46). Still, his production wasn’t enough for him to be projected as a selection in the top three rounds by most experts.
If he does fall to the middle rounds, Tavai could surprise some people if he’s in the right situation.
Read more: Jonah Tavai’s Potential High After San Diego State Career
3. Brodric Martin of Western Kentucky
Martin was an All-Conference USA honorable mention last season. But he started rising up draft boards when people watched his game film and realized what he’s capable of.
In 2022, he tallied 31 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble. That led to him being selected for the East-West Shrine Bowl.
Martin, a 6-foot-5, 330-pound standout, will likely play at the NFL level for a while.
Read more: Brodric Martin of Western Kentucky Proved Difficult To Block
4. Scott Matlock of Boise State
Matlock consistently played at a high level in the Mountain West.
He was an all-conference player each of the past three seasons, making the second team the last two. In 2022, he racked up 49 tackles, 28 quarterback pressures, six tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and a pass defended.
Matlock also proved he’s extremely athletic with his testing numbers during his Pro Day. That helped him earn more draft consideration the past few weeks.
Read more: Scott Matlock of Boise State Seeing Draft Stock Rise
5. Desjuan Johnson of Toledo
Johnson was also extremely productive in the MAC for the past few years.
Johnson was on the all-conference first team in 2022 while making the second team the previous two seasons. In 2022, he totaled 65 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 16.5 tackles for loss, which was fourth in the MAC.
Johnson is widely viewed as a late-round pick, and his numbers indicate he’s worthy of draft consideration.
Read more: Desjuan Johnson Wreaks Havoc On Offenses