2015 NFL Draft: Top Ten Defensive Tackles

    2015 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles. From the college perspective, breaking down the top defensive tackles

    USC DT Leonard Williams

    The class is … strong, athletic, and versatile. There are several hybrid types who can do a little of everything, but the true stars – Leonard Williams. Danny Shelton, Malcom Brown – are franchise-makers to revolve a defense around. There’s depth, there’s athleticism, and there are options. It’s a very, very strong group. 
    The most overrated prospect: Arik Armstrong, Oregon (DE)
    The top underrated prospect: Louis Trinca-Pasat, Iowa 
    The deep, deep sleeper: Deon Simon, Northwestern State 
    The best value prospect: Xavier Cooper, Washington State 

    1. Leonard Williams, USC 6-5, 302
    – He’s it, and he could be just scratching the surface. If you’re looking for an ideal defensive tackle prospect in today’s NFL, you want young, quick, smooth, active, and tough enough to hold up and anchor a line. Williams might not be the guy who sits on the nose and is a block of granite for everyone else to work around, but he’s great off the ball and can get into the backfield without a problem. He’s absolutely effortless in how he moves. 
    – There’s still a little bit of a thought that he might not quite reach the level he’s supposed to – he still needs to get there. He’s still a little bit of a work in progress in terms of technique, and he still has to mature into his body’s full potential, but that’s nitpicking. 
    Yes or No: He’s the best prospect in the draft, and Tampa Bay will be known as the team that didn’t take him. The scary part is that he could be far, far better once he gets a little bit of seasoning. Once he really figures out the subtle nuances of the position … yeeeeeesh. 
    Round Value: Top Five Overall

    2. Danny Shelton, Washington 6-2, 339
    – You know exactly what you’re getting. He’s going to sit right in the middle of a defensive line and no one will never, ever move him of his base. He’s a very big, very strong, very tough bowling ball who’s the exact nose tackle you want to work everything around. 
    – You’re faster than he is. He’s one of the strongest, thickest, most powerful defenders in the draft, but he can’t move a lick. He got into the backfield on pure power, and he’ll bull his way into the backfield, but you’re not getting him as a pass rusher. 
    Yes or No: Absolutely. He might not be for every defensive front, but he’s a leader and a personality to be the big, strong main man for a defensive front. He’s the type of nose tackle everyone wants to have, and will regret not finding a way in this draft to get. 
    Round Value: First Round

    3. Malcom Brown, Texas 6-2, 319
    – Extremely active, he’s always working and always moving with a great motor and terrific quickness off the ball to get behind the line. He moves like a defensive end but can use his strength to bully up inside when needed. He might not have the ideal height, but he uses his frame well. 
    – He might need to be next to a big and power defensive tackle. He’s not an anchor and he’s not going to be the main man for a defensive front, but he could be a whale of a complementary defender who’s asked to be disruptive. 
    Yes or No: Yeah, but he might not be the type of centerpiece defensive tackle that many might hope he is. However, with his athleticism and his style, he could become a devastating stat-sheet filler.
    Round Value: First Round

    4. Carl Davis, Iowa 6-5, 320
    – Big, strong and active, he’s a tough guy interior defender who can be an anchor against the run and can move just enough to get into the backfield on a regular basis. He’s a good all-around football player who knows how to play and has all the subtle nuances down. He’s happy to beat up defenders and get physical. 
    – He’s not going to move too much. While he makes plays behind the line, he’s not necessarily explosive and isn’t an NFL pass rusher. He’s going to more like a true zero, but he has the all-around tools and talent to grow into a longtime interior presence. 
    Yes or No: Yes, but he might not be there yet. With a little bit of time, he could turn into the type of tackle that everything works around. Expect him to be a good value selection just outside of the first round. 
    Round Value: Second Round

    5. Eddie Goldman, Florida State 6-4, 336
    – Very big and very quick, even at his huge weight, he looks the part with the ability to get off the ball in a hurry and the pop to attack when he gets a line on a ball-carrier. Great against the run, he’s able to engulf players with force – he’s the type who’ll swallow everything up inside.
    – Even with his athleticism, he’s not the type who’ll get behind the line on a regular basis. He could turn out to be more of a block who sits in the middle than an active 3-technique. He’ll be a force, but he won’t be a stat-sheet filler. 
    Yes or No: Yes, as long as you know what you’re getting. He seems like he should be a playmaker who can get off the ball in a hurry, but that’s not him. He’s a run stopper, and he’ll do that at a high level for a long time. 
    Round Value: Second Round

    6. Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma 6-5, 329
    – A true nose tackle, Phillips is a massive-bodied power on the inside with the frame and the ability to dominate and take over. He looks the type he could turn into a steal if he powers up a bit and gets a bit stronger against the run. 
    – Athletic for his size, he could be used in a variety of ways and be seen as a possible interior pass rusher, even though he’s not really much of a pass rusher. However, with the right coaching and the right scheme, he could blossom into something special and be a do-it-all tackle who becomes the main man up front. 
    Yes or No: Yes, but the light has to go on. He has everything you’d want in a prospect, but does he want to destroy an offense? Even if he doesn’t, there’s enough there to like.
    Round Value: Second Round

    7. Michael Bennett, Ohio State 6-2, 293
    – A bit undersized, he’s not going to eat up blockers and ball carriers, and he’s not going to be the type who takes on two blockers and bullies his way to plays. While he’s not smallish, he’s just not a massive widebody who’ll be a dominant run defender at the next level. 
    – Really quick off the ball and really active, he should be able to get behind the line and he should be a factor if surrounded by bigger linemen who can bully up a bit. A good character player, he’ll work to make himself better. 
    Yes or No: He didn’t progress and dominate like he was expected to last season, but he was still good. If he can channel his 2013 version, he could be a steal. 
    Round Value: Third Round

    8. Xavier Cooper, Washington State 6-3, 293 
    – An interesting prospect, he’s really, really quick, athletic, and is smooth like an outside linebacker. He’s fast off the ball and he has the skills to become even better with tremendous upside. He’s a strong, active pass rusher with great feet and movement, and he can be used in a variety of ways. 
    – He’s not going to be a big block against the run. More like a big end and a 3-4 lineman than a tough guy who’ll beat people up, he’s going to have to be surrounded by bigger bodies to anchor around. It’ll be his job to turn it loose and be disruptive. 
    Yes or No: Yes, as long as you’re not expecting him to become something he’s not against the run. In the right system and on the right team, he could become a terrific statistical lineman.
    Round Value: Second Round

    9. Gabe Wright, Auburn 6-3, 300
    – Extremely strong, he’s also a very quick, very athletic interior presence with the raw tools to be just about anything a line needs. He needed to look smooth and athletic in offseason workouts and he’s done just that to go along with 34 reps on the bench at the combine. It’s all there except for …
    – His size. He’s not quite as bulky as you’d like for a run stopper up front, but his athleticism makes up for it in a lot of ways. Now he has to harness all of his skills. Not as tough and strong on the field as he should be, and not as disruptive last year as he has the potential to become, there’s still work to do.
    Yes or No: The upside is tremendous. He was just okay for the Tigers after coming in as a superstar recruit, but he’s too promising not to expect big things with a little bit of time and the right coaching.
    Round Value: Third Round

    10. Grady Jarrett, Clemson 6-1, 304
    – A block of granite in the middle of a line, he’s just a nose tackle. He can move a little bit, but his job will to work in the interior and hold up by using his power and leverage to stop up the run. While he won’t do much to get into the backfield, he’s just quick enough to get free to make plays. 
    – Is he big enough? He’s not tall with a short, squatty frame, and he’s not going to get any bigger. This is who he is, and while that’s very good, there’s not a ton of improvement there to be made in terms of strength and abilities.
    Yes or No: Absolutely, especially as a part of a rotation. He’ll always bring the effort and the fire, and he’s quicker and more athletic than many might think.
    Round Value: Third Round


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