NFL Combine: Defensive Tackles – What Do They Need To Prove?

    Who are the best defensive tackles going into the NFL Combine, and what do they need to prove in Indianapolis?

    February 18, 2016

    Who are the best defensive tackles going into the NFL Combine, and what do they need to prove in Indianapolis?


    Follow or Contact @PeteFiutak 

    1. A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – He’s it in terms of central casting defensive tackles, and now the workout has to keep the momentum going forward. He was about a sure a thing as it gets coming out of high school, and he’s still progressing – can he continue to look the part in Indy?

    – Just how flexible is he? How much can he move on the inside? Everyone knows he’s going to rock against the run, but can he show off the quickness to get into the backfield?

    – Can he become the main man among all the talented linemen? He’s always been able to get by on his talent and being surrounded by great players, but can he stand out on his own compared to the other NFL defensive linemen?

    2. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Is there any room to get any bigger? He’s fine as is, but is this going to be his body type and style, or is he going to bulk up another 15 pounds and become more of a space-eater on the inside? Is he an anchor or is he just going to be a 3-technique tackle – that’s not a bad thing – without the versatility?

    – The athleticism has to be special. He has the right body and the right tools, and now the workout has to stand out from the rest of the pack. He has to flash something that’s just that much better than everyone else to move him into top 15 consideration.

    – The interview process is the key. Is there any character concern after a rocky finish to his career? Does he want to be an All-Pro and do everything needed to do all the dirty work? He can be the star of a defense, but is that attitude there?

    3. Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – The hot prospect in the offseason workouts so far, now he has to keep it all going. Unblockable at times in Senior Bowl practices, he has to keep showing off his quickness, his effort, and the motor that’s making him the guy everyone wants.

    – He doesn’t really look the part. This is a great class of prototype defensive tackles, and that’s not Rankins. He’s not tall enough and he’s a little squatty. What will he be when he starts packing on the NFL weight?

    – The bench might matter a bit. He’s a strong, tough guy on the inside, and if he’s going to show off that he can play any tackle spot, he needs to be super-strong. There’s a chance he becomes an anchor and not just an interior pass rusher.

    4. Andrew Billings, Baylor

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – If you’re looking for the anchor who sit on the inside of the line and gum everything up, this is it. Be shocked if he’s not among the strongest players at the Combine – the bench has to match up to the reputation.

    – Can he become more of an interior pass rusher? That’s not really his game, but if he can look explosive in his first step, and if he can move just a bit, it’ll go a long way to showing there’s more to his game than being a Coke machine against the run.

    – Is there a bigger ceiling than there already appears to be? He still hasn’t matured into his full potential or his body yet, but he already has an NFL frame and strength. Can he project to be a much better prospect two years from now? He could turn into a phenomenal value pick.

    5. Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – One of the stars of the Senior Bowl, he needs to have another great workout and session to keep his first round buzz going. He’s going to measure well and he’s going to look the part. Now he has to move and run like it.

    – Is there any fluidity to his style? He showed off a little smoothness or a 325-pound player in the early workouts, and now he’s really going to be tested. Athletic for his size, he can’t look lumbering.

    – How much work does he need? He was a good college player, but he’s still scratching the surface. How long will it be before the tools match the NFL player?

    6. Kenny Clark, UCLA

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Can he show off his strength and pop? He’s a mauler who can destroy his man when he gets into a groove, but how does he show that off in Indy? The workout has to be so good that the scouts have to keep looking at him.

    – Does he need to add any bulk? He’s already very good at around 310 pounds, but would he function better or worse at around 320 to 325? Or, does he need to be a more rocked lower weight so he can move a little better? He’s still growing into his body.

    – How’s his quickness? Can he become a bit more of an interior pass rusher at a high level? Is he going to be an anchor to work everything around? He’s still a work in progress, but in a positive way. However, if he’s lumbering now, he’s not going to ever be any quicker.

    7. Jarran Reed, Alabama

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – You know exactly what you’re getting, and is that going to be enough? He’s an elite run stopper who’ll eat up anything that comes his way. Can he do anything else in his workout to show more?

    – Is there any possible hope to turn him into a pass rusher or playmaker in the backfield? Was his lack of production behind the line because of the Alabama rotation, or does he just not have that in his game?

    – If you’re going to be that guy against the run, be that guy. Show off the power, show off the body, show off the strength and pop to be a first round pick, even if stopping the run is all that matters.

    8. Chris Jones, Mississippi State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Is he ever going to be able to turn it loose? He looks great, he has the right attitude, and he has the tools, but he was always just very good – not elite. There’s no denying the NFL upside, but can he get there?

    – He has to rip this up. The Combine is built for a defensive lineman like him with the imposing size and frame the scouts are going to love, and the athleticism to get everyone buzzing. It won’t necessarily be a bad thing if people are asking, “Why doesn’t the tape match the tools?”

    – He doesn’t have the body to come up with a great bench, but that doesn’t really matter. As long as he’s quick and smooth, he’ll show he can play in any type of defense.

    9. Austin Johnson, Penn State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Just move a little bit. He’s a run-stuffer at the highest of levels, and that’s what he’s going to be asked to do – eat everything up. All that matters is if his burst looks great. No one cares about his 40 or his overall times – just be quick off the snap.

    – Be really, really strong. Andrew Billings is the tough guy run stopper who should be the standard, but Johnson can at least come close with a great bench. He should be a better athlete than Billings.

    – Give the scouts a reason to want him in the first round. Defensive coordinators are going scream for a high-effort big run stopper, and it’ll be an easy sell if he looks great.

    10. Adolphus Washington, Ohio State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – He has first round talent and fifth round character concerns. The interview process will be all that really matters, and not just because of the problems allegedly soliciting a prostitute late in the season. He has to show that he has the want-to and the fight to become a superstar. The tools are there, but everything else has to come through.

    – Can he add a little more bulk in the right spots? He has a strange sort of NFL defensive tackle body and he’s not necessarily going to be true space-eater, but can he hit the weights and get functionally stronger?

    – Can it all be unlocked? When he turned it on, he played like an All-America superstar. Will he always play at that level once his career is on the line? He has to prove he’s worth the chance.

    Other Defensive Tackles Invited To The Combine (alphabetically)

    Maliek Collins, Nebraska
    Sheldon Day, Notre Dame
    Adam Gotsis, Georgia Tech
    Javon Hargrave, South Carolina State
    Joel Heath, Michigan State
    Willie Henry, Michigan
    Matt Ioannidis, Temple
    Quinton Jefferson, Maryland
    Darius Latham, Indiana
    Nile Lawrence-Stample, Florida State
    Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech
    Chris Mayes, Georgia
    D.J. Reader, Clemson
    Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
    Devaunte Sigler, Jacksonville State
    Lawrence Thomas, Michigan State
    Vincent Valentine, Nebraska
    Jihad Ward, Illinois
    Antwaun Woods, USC
    Connor Wujciak, Boston College
    Anthony Zettel, Penn State

    MORE: Ranking Quarterbacks Ahead Of NFL Combine

    DOWNLOAD THE APP

    Have the full Stadium experience

    Watch with friends

    Get rewards

    Join the discussion