Position: Interior defender (three-technique)
Weight: 276 pounds
School: Michigan State Spartans
Malik McDowell 2017 NFL Draft Profile
Outside of Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, the defensive tackle positon in this draft is somewhat up for grabs. One of the best candidates to take the number two spot is Michigan State’s Malik McDowell. McDowell is a junior who took off his last two years of school. Out of high school, he was an ESPN four-star recruit and the fifth best defensive tackle in the nation. ESPN had him ranked as the No. 60 player in the nation. As a senior at Southfield High School in Michigan, he recorded 89 tackles, eight sacks and three forced fumbles. He was recruited by many top schools, including the cream of the crop of the Big Ten, but ultimately committed to the Spartans.
He played in 13 games his freshman season, racking up decent numbers in spared playing time. His sophomore year saw him breakout as one of the Big Ten’s best defensive lineman. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and media and recorded 41 tackles and 4.5 sacks. His junior season was just as good at his sophomore campaign. He led the defensive line with 31 tackles and seven for loss. He was named first-team All-Big Ten honors from The Associated Press and Phil Steele. He chose to forgo his senior year and go pro.
Overall, McDowell is right up there as one of the best players in this draft in natural ability. He possesses some of the best combinations of speed, quickness, strength and fluidity off the line of scrimmage and downfield. He presented huge problems for centers and guards. His run defense was also extremely efficient, providing a stout force in the middle. He showed his versatility in his three years of playing an equal, effective amount of any position on the line: standing pass rusher or hands in the dirt nose tackle. Versatility is something as important as intangibles and fundamentals.
Despite his potential, there are clear reasons why he is not ranked as high as Jonathan Allen or Solomon Thomas. For one, he has work ethic and motor problems. Too many times in his career, he showed poor technique and ability in games and it seemed he was not giving enough passion. At other times, he gave full effort, has good position and stances and erupted for a disruptive play. Consistency, or lack thereof, can make all the difference to a team looking at you. That might be the biggest thing that keeps him from being a first round pick. He did create mismatch problems in college, but in the NFL he would be considered an undersized defensive tackle. The switch to defensive end would seem more suitable, especially in a 4-3 defense, but this would require him to add more strength. His footwork was all over the place during games and his pad level was very inconsistent. A smaller but noticeable detail was some players complained about him personality in the locker room.
- Great combo of strength, speed, quickness, and athleticism.
- Stout run defender.
- Solid closing speed to get up field and finish tackles.
- Can create mismatch with skills.
- Versatile to play all over line.
- Aggressive hands.
- Potential through the roof.
- Significant reports of motor and work ethic issues.
- Inconsistent play level.
- Undersized at pro level as defensive tackle.
- Must put on more weight at all positions.
- Footwork all over the place.
- Could create locker room problems.
Teams in Need of Defensive Tackle: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans
Projection: Late first to early second round
McDowell could very well be the next great defensive lineman in this league. If it weren’t for his motor and work ethic skills, teams could easily overcome his fundamentals and easily take him early in the first round. The fundamental and strength issues can be solved, but they require passion and hard work, which is something that has been significantly questioned about him. McDowell has the ability to be Mario Williams, either the early Houston Williams or the Miami Williams. Make no mistake: his abilities shouldn’t keep him falling too far if far at all.