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Making The Case: Who should be the top-ranked DT in 2022?

Keithian Alexander
Keithian Alexander (Nick Lucero/

The highly anticipated 2022 rankings update is ready for the upcoming week and there were several debates at each position. Numerous players moved up and down the rankings after analysts from around the network were once again able to see prospects perform in-person at a variety of events.

In a preview of what is to come in the rankings, National Recruiting Director Adam Gorney, National Recruiting Analysts Adam Friedman, Sam Spiegelman and Josh Helmholdt take a look at the defensive tackle position. There are four five-stars at the position and there was plenty of debate about who should be No. 1 at the position. In today’s Making The Case, the Rivals analysts make an argument for who they think should be the top defensive tackle in the nation.


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I've been on the Travis Shaw bandwagon since I met him during his freshman year and at this point it seems pretty clear to me that he's the best defensive tackle in this loaded group. He has the overall athleticism, technical understanding and physical attributes that will make him a star at the college level and a future high draft pick. The junior season he just finished up in the spring was truly dominant and he ended it with a state title. He had no problems throwing around offensive linemen whether he was lined up at defensive tackle or defensive end. His motor is outstanding. He consistently chases down plays that are run to the outside or quarterbacks that are trying to evade the rush. It's rare to find a player as big as Shaw that can move like he does. The dual-sport athlete has a rare combination of size, coordination, and strength. Walter Nolen might be a little quicker than him at the snap, Bear Alexander might play with a little bit more aggression and Tyre West might be a little bit more battle tested but none of them have Shaw's athleticism and potential upside.


ADAM GORNEY: Travis Shaw

This debate is one that centers around Travis Shaw and Walter Nolen for me and after seeing some recent footage of Shaw in game action I'm siding with the five-star from Greensboro (N.C.) Grimsley. Shaw is so big and so powerful, so aggressive at the point of attack and then surprisingly quick once he gets in the backfield to track the ball carrier down and all those things together make him the top interior defensive lineman in this class. I like Nolen a lot. He has unique abilities as well but I don't think he plays with the same Hulk-like attitude Shaw does on every play. Nolen is special and backs up his five-star ranking but I prefer Shaw a little more because of his aggressive style and motor.


JOSH HELMHOLDT: Bear Alexander

Admittedly I have been a strong Bear Alexander proponent since seeing him early in his career. I do believe he has the highest ceiling of any of these defensive tackles, and I do not state that flippantly. This is as impressive a group of players that we have had at the top of the defensive tackle rankings in many years, but the size/skill set combination Alexander brings to the field intrigues me more than the others.



SAM SPIEGELMAN: Bear Alexander

The interior defensive line group in 2022 is extremely talented at the top with a trio of five-stars all ranked inside the top-10 nationally. There’s an easy argument for Travis Shaw, Bear Alexander or Walter Nolen at the top of this group, but here’s where Alexander separates. Alexander keyed Denton (Texas) Ryan’s state title run, giving an already talent-laden defense an interior pass-rush, which created a lot of 1-on-1 opportunities for Alexander’s teammates to make plays culminating in a championship. Alexander was able to occupy two and three blockers at a time, and also impressed as his stamina improved and he chased down quarterbacks and ball-carriers down the line of scrimmage. He’s a well-rounded interior lineman with the physical talents to dominate in the trenches.