Top 10 Defensive Tackles in the 2018 NFL Draft

Top 10 Defensive Tackles
Apr 22, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive lineman Vita Vea (50) waits for a drill to begin during the Spring Game at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

 

  1. Vita Vea – Washington – 6’5” 340

Over the last two seasons Vita Vea has had 82 tackles and 8.5 sacks.  He is very strong and looks lean for the weight he carries.

Vea clogs up his gap and has the ability to shed offensive linemen at will to make the tackle.  He causes a major disruption to opposing offenses both in the run game and pass protection and it is evident that teams game plan around him.  The bull rush seems to be the extent of his pass rushing ability, but with his size and strength it has been effective for him.  Vea has the versatility to play all interior line positions effectively.  He is slow to get off the ball and misses tackles at times.

Strengths:

  • Incredible size and strength to match
  • Gets off blocks and makes plays in the backfield
  • Can play the nose or the three technique

Weaknesses:

  • Limited pass rush skills
  • Often the last player off the ball
  • Can get caught guessing where the ball is going and opening up a gap

 

  1. Da’Ron Payne – Bama – 6’3” 319

With two Alabama defensive tackles getting drafted in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, Payne had some very large shoes to fill this past season.  With 53 tackles on the year Payne was a force taking over the role Dalvin Tomlinson had played for the club the year before.

Payne is shockingly athletic for a man of his size.  He shows an explosive first step and is quick enough to stunt into different gaps.  Payne clogs up the run game in the middle and knows how to use his hands to get off blocks.  He is not known for his pass rushing ability, but that isn’t his role within the Bama defense either.

Strengths:

  • Explosive first step
  • Quick feet
  • Can effectively disengage from blocks to make a tackle

Weaknesses:

  • Has not demonstrated the ability to rush the passer
  • Does not collapse double team blocks
  • Misses tackles at times

 

  1. Maurice Hurst – Michigan – 6’2” 280

Maurice Hurst has played a major role for the Michigan defense each of the last three seasons.  As a sophomore he had 35 tackles including 6.5 for a loss and 3 sacks.  In his junior year his had 33 tackles including 11.5 for a loss and 5 sacks.  As a senior he had his most productive year with 59 tackles including 13 for a loss and 5.5 sacks.

Hurst was very well coached playing for Michigan Defensive Coordinator Don Brown.  He has the ability to disengage from blocks and destroy ball carriers.  He has shown some ability to rush the passer, but is much stronger against the run.  He is a little lighter than is ideal for the position, but in recent years the NFL has found players with similar size who have excelled at defensive tackle.

Strengths:

  • Eats people up
  • Can get off blocks
  • Decent pass rusher

Weaknesses:

  • Lighter than you’d like for the position
  • A little stiff
  • Can struggle against stronger offensive linemen

 

  1. Taven Bryan – Florida – 6’5” 293

Taven Bryan had his best season in his final season at Florida with 37 tackles including six for a loss and four sacks.

Bryan has excellent physical tools and with good coaching could develop into a top NFL talent.  Bryan can beat a blocker with speed or strength, but tends to choose one or the other and get caught up in it.  He is fast off the ball and can swim by or strike the offensive linemen before he knows what hit him.  Bryan never had crazy production in college but has the power balance and athleticism to develop into an excellent player at the next level.

Strengths:

  • Strong bull rusher
  • Fast off the ball
  • Has speed and strength – Thick lower body
  • Excellent balance

Weaknesses:

  • Needs to develop get off moves
  • Only had one season of note in college
  • More about physical traits than production

 

  1. Derrick Nnadi – Florida State – 6’1” 312

The last two years have been very impressive for Derrick Nnandi as he had 102 tackles including 20.5 for a loss and 9.5 sacks over that period.

Nnadi is the prototypical note tackle.  While he does have some ability to rush the passer, he contributes best to the defense by getting an initial push off of the ball and not giving up any ground in the run game.  He routinely wins his one-on-one matchups with blockers.  He understands his role in the defense and maintains gap integrity rather than guessing and trying to make plays that are not his to make.  He can get off blocks at will and make tackles in the backfield.

Strengths:

  • Uses hands well to disengage from blocks
  • Holds his gap and does not get moved
  • Gets off the ball quickly with a strong punch
  • Puts offensive linemen on skates

Weaknesses:

  • Not overly athletic
  • Pass rushing success is more do to his physical attributes than any developed skill
  • Lacks length

 

  1. Justin Jones – North Carolina State – 6’2” 312

Justin Jones was productive in all three of his years at North Carolina State.  In his career he had 108 tackles including 22.5 for a loss and 8.5 sacks.

Jones is a big guy with a big motor.  He always seems to be moving.  He will strike his opponent and continuously use hands allowing him to get off of blocks.  He can get a little out of control at times and put his body in a bad position.  He also loses gap integrity because of his aggressiveness.

Strengths:

  • Powerful hips
  • Quick off the ball
  • Works really hard in pass rush

Weaknesses:

  • Can get out of control trying to make a play
  • Does not have long arms
  • Lacks athleticism in space

 

  1. Tim Settle – Virginia Tech – 6’3” 335

Tim Settle took a major step up between his first and second season playing at Virginia Tech.  As a freshman in 2016 he had 17 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, and no sacks.  In his sophomore season in 2017 he had 36 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, and 4 sacks.

Settle gets penetration and can get off blocks effectively.  For his size, offensive linemen have a surprising amount of success getting movement on Settle and washing him out.  He will need to figure out how to use his body to better anchor himself at the next level.  His place in the NFL is at nose tackle, and to have success at that position he must be able to hold his gap at the point of attack.  He is not a great athlete and seems to be carrying more weight than he should be.

Strengths:

  • Penetrates backfield
  • Gets off blocks
  • Destroys ball carriers

Weaknesses:

  • Not a great athlete
  • Can get washed down the line
  • Looks tired at times

 

  1. Steven Richardson – Minnesota – 6’0” 292

Steven Richardson has been a persistent presence in the center of the Golden Gophers’ defensive line over the past four years.  In his career at Minnesota he had 103 tackles including 29 for a loss and 12.5 sacks.

Richardson is an intense player who seems to always be moving.  His hands are not nearly active as his feet, which can get him in trouble, but he is generally effective disengaging from blocks.  He penetrates the backfield quickly causing disturbances to the opposing offense.  He can come in a bit wild at times and overextend himself.  This can cause him to be tossed or pushed down the line by blockers.

Strengths:

  • Quick feet
  • Penetrates the backfield
  • Can get off blocks

Weaknesses:

  • Gets himself in trouble with poor body position
  • Better penetrating with speed than holding a gap
  • Can get out of control

 

  1. Harrison Phillips – Stanford – 6’4” 295

Harrison Phillips saw more playing time over the last two seasons for Stanford after bumping down from defensive end.  As a junior he had 46 tackles including 10 for a loss and 7 sacks.  This year he posted an impressive 98 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and 7 sacks.

What Phillips lacks in size he makes up for in fight.  He is very skilled using get off moves and this is where he wins his matchups as he is not strong enough to overpower most offensive linemen.  He was super productive especially this past season as teammate Solomon Thomas left for the NFL.  Phillips is a bit of a tweener who looks more like an end but lacks the athletic ability to play on the outside.  Inside he can get pushed around at times and can struggle with leverage due to his height.

Strengths:

  • Super productive for an interior linemen
  • Relentless competitor
  • Excellent with his hands, can disengage at will

Weaknesses:

  • Lacks strength, can get washed down
  • Rarely dominates a blocker physically
  • Can get stood up and out leveraged

 

  1. RJ McIntosh – Miami (Fla) – 6’4” 293

RJ McIntosh had 99 tackles including 22 for a loss and 5 sacks in the last two seasons for the Hurricanes.

McIntosh has good feet and is athletic enough to stunt effectively into other gaps.  He can use pass rush moves effectively at times but has lapses in this area.  He is a taller and thinner than most interior players which can cause him issues, particularly when he gets stood up.  He will need to maintain proper leverage to be effective, particularly against the run.

Strengths:

  • Good feet
  • Uses pass rush moves effectively to get into the backfield
  • Held his own against talented Notre Dame offensive line

Weaknesses:

  • Forgets to use his hands at times
  • Gets stood up and loses power
  • Needs to get stronger
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