Bryan Bresee offers tremendous upside in a thin defensive tackle draft class

The 2023 NFL Draft features a lot of talent at the top, with positions like quarterback, edge rusher, cornerback, and offensive tackle likely to dominate the first round. One spot where there’s a significant lack of depth is at defensive tackle, which features a star at the top in Georgia’s Jalen Carter but limited options behind him. One of the most intriguing prospects in this relatively thin position group is Clemson’s Bryan Bresee.

A former five-star recruit and top overall recruit in the country in the 2020 class, Bresee was a highly coveted player. He chose Clemson over many other offers and found immediate playing time, starting 10 games his freshman season. Bresee managed a third-team All-ACC selection in 2021 despite playing in only four games before suffering a season-ending ACL tear.

His 2022 season was unfortunately impacted by a family tragedy, as Bresee’s sister, Ella, passed away from brain cancer. He also missed time due to a kidney infection late in the year, finishing the season with just seven starts in 10 games. Bresee was still awarded a second-team All-ACC selection in limited action.

2023 NFL Draft Selection

The new Orleans Saints selected Bryan Bresee with the No. 29 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. For full coverage of the Bryan Bresee pick, head over to Canal Street Chronicles.

What makes Bryan Bresee such a high-upside prospect?

Bresee is a rare athlete on the defensive line, and it’s obvious from the first moment you turn on his tape. He’s a smooth mover with elite lateral mobility for an interior defensive lineman, and looks more like an edge rusher at times. Bresee also possesses excellent explosiveness, with a lightning-quick first step that allows him to create instant penetration to impact plays in the backfield. His highlight reel plays are up there with some of the most impressive defensive linemen in the class.

He’s also a smart player up front who is quick to read and react to blocks developing in front of him. Bresee is effective at knifing between linemen and quickly finding his way into the backfield. One of his best traits is his motor, as Bresee is relentless when tracking down plays in pursuit. He gives tremendous effort on every down and does not take any plays off. Bresee shows flashes of effective hand usage, particularly against the run, that give a lot of hope for his future projection.

Bresee also possesses a strong frame for the position, coming in at over 6’5 and nearly 300 pounds. That, combined with his elite athletic profile, gives him a very high ceiling in the NFL. He’s also shown a lot of versatility throughout his career at Clemson, lining up all over the defensive front. Bresee spent a significant number of snaps playing both 5T and 4i defensive end in addition to his reps as a 3T and even 1T defensive tackle. He’s got the movement skills to continue moving around at the NFL level, and could potentially have a versatile inside/outside role for a multiple front defense.

What are the weaknesses in Bryan Bresee’s game?

There are a few things that give me pause when evaluating a prospect like Bresee. The first is the lack of high-end production, as Bresee never managed more than 4.0 sacks or 6.5 TFL in a season. Both of those career-high numbers also came from his freshman season, and generally you’re looking for a player to improve over the course of their college career. Part of the reason for that has been injury-related—Bresee suffered an ACL tear which cost him most of the 2021 season—and a major knee issue like that also raises possible medical concerns.

Physically, Bresee checks all the boxes but one: he lacks ideal length with just 32.5-inch arms. That’s just 25th percentile, and has led to issues with finishing plays due to a limited tackle radius. Bresee is a very raw pass rusher with little in the way of counters, pass rush moves, or any sort of pass rush plan. He’s got a long way to go before he’ll be a reliable presence on passing downs. As a run defender, Bresee has some really impressive flashes, but the down-to-down consistency left something to be desired.

Bryan Bresee career highlights

Bryan Bresee results at the 2023 NFL Combine

Bryan Bresee tested out with an elite 9.61 Relative Athletic Score thanks to his above-average size and outstanding speed and agility testing. At over 6’5 and almost 300 pounds, Bresee ran an incredible 4.86s 40-yard dash and 1.65s 10-yard split. He also put up an amazing 4.38s short shuttle and excellent 7.41s 3-cone. Bresee’s athleticism is clear both on tape and in the Combine testing.

What others are saying about Bryan Bresee

Here’s how NFL Network draft analyst Lance Zierlein described Bryan Bresee in his official scouting report:

Burly but athletic interior tackle who plays with a strong desire to get past the man in front of him. Bresee rarely gets caught up in long block engagements and possesses a deep anchor to battle double teams…If he can stay healthy and gain much-needed experience, Bresee should continue to progress at his position and become a good run defender with an ability to disrupt the pocket within his first few NFL seasons.

Bryan Bresee is a talented interior defensive lineman with very high upside and potential positional versatility. His athleticism at his size is rare and will be very tempting, particularly for NFL teams with the patience and expertise to develop him. I believe patience will be a necessity with Bresee, however, as he’s far from a finished product as a pass rusher and is currently inconsistent against the run.

Still, in what is shaping up to be a very thin class at defensive tackle, I’d expect teams to take a shot on Bresee in the bottom half of the first round. NFL teams are always looking for athletes with prototypical size and upside, and Bresee checks both of those boxes (outside of arm length). The big question is: how long will it take for Bresee to put it all together on the field?