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2015 Defensive Tackle Rankings

April 30, 2015
Damn that's a badass facemask!

Damn that’s a badass facemask!

  1. Leonard Williams USC 6’4 5/8 302 Jr. Leonard is one rare prospect. He’s had a top 5 grade on my board for the past two years and ends as the 2nd best DT I’ve ever graded behind only Ndamakong Suh. He has quickness, he has strength, he has speed, he has a motor, he is a leader, he can play in a 3-4, he can play in a 4-3, he can play DE, and he can play DT. There is nothing I can see that will derail Williams career and I consider him the safest prospect in this draft. This is a foundation type of player and in most years he would be a slam dunk as the #1 player in the draft. Top 5 who I expect to make numerous Pro Bowls 4/28/15.
  2. Danny Shelton Washington 6’2 1/8 339 Sr. Shelton is similar to Haloti Ngata in that they are the rare 3 down NT. Shelton has legit pass rush ability and actually is statistically productive with +140 tackles the past two seasons, something that is usually my biggest issue with big two gap behemoth nose tackles. His 9 sacks and 16.5 TFL would be impressive for a 250 lb 3-4 OLB prospect let alone a 340 lb nose tackle and I absolutely love Shelton’s motor. He never stops battling and was the reason why a mediocre edge rusher like Hau’oli Kikaha could end up with 19 sacks. Quarterbacks facing the Huskies the past two seasons NEVER could step up in the process because Shelton was always coming. He’s an elite talent himself and would be the #1 DT in most year’s drafts. Top 10 and a future Pro Bowler 4/28/15.
  3. Xavier Cooper Washington State 6’2 7/8 293 Jr. He was productive in his 3 year career with 13 sacks and 31.5 TFL. He’s another undersized guy who doesn’t fit every scheme but he fits his role well with a 4.86 40 and a 4.37 shuttle, best and 2nd best respectively among defensive tackles at this year’s Combine. They moved him around from DT in a 4-3 to DE in a 3-4 and I could see that continuing in the NFL as he moves incredibly well for a nearly 300 lb player. I had never heard of him until the Combine and his numbers made me go back to the tape but he isn’t just a workout warrior as his athleticism translates and can be seen by his good production. The agility he shows on tape when he smells out a screen is the best I’ve ever graded for a DT. Cooper has come out of nowhere to become one of my favorite players in this draft. I see star potential in him and think he could really become a special player if he continues to improve and goes to the right scheme with talent around him. Top 20 as my #3 DT and one of the biggest sleepers in this draft 4/29/15.
  4. Malcom Brown Texas 6’2 3/8 319 Sr. He’s an explosive and athletic player for 319 lbs and has the versatility to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. He had back to back seasons with +60 tackles which is rare for a DT and was also a splash play guy with 8.5 sacks and 23 TFL in those two seasons. He doesn’t have elite athleticism like a Fletcher Cox or elite strength like a Danny Shelton to warrant a Top 10 grade but he’s a well rounded guy who will be a good run stopper and pass rusher which is rare. He almost made it into the Top 20 but in the end is a Late 1st grade 4/29/15.
  5. Henry Anderson Stanford 6’6 ¼ 294 Sr. Henry is an underrated prospect that I think compares quite favorably to Arik Armstead. Most consider Armstead a Top 15 pick while they have Anderson is the 3rd round or later which confuses me as they’re both quick, narrow defensive tackles or 3-4 defensive ends with elite length. Anderson is probably a little stronger while Armstead is probably a little more explosive. Anderson actually outperformed Armstead in a lot of drills at the Combine including a 4.19 shuttle time which is maybe the best I’ve ever seen for a guy his size. To put Anderson’s Combine into perspective let’s compare it to JJ Watt’s in 2011. Anderson had a 4.19 shuttle vs. Watt’s 4.21 (both elite times), Anderson had a ’30 vertical vs. Watt’s ’37 and Anderson had a 5.03 40 vs. Watt’s 4.91 with Anderson weighing 294 lbs to Watt’s 291 lbs. Impressed yet? Add in Anderson’s 8 sacks and 14.5 TFL this year and you have one of the most underrated prospects in the draft. Early 2nd round 4/28/15.
  6. Arik Armstead Oregon 6’7 1/8 292 Sr. He’s a unique player who could be slotted in as a 3-4 DE and guaranteed to be a good player or moved to a one gape scheme as a 4-3 DT where he could be a star or a bust. A lot of people are in love with Arik but I no longer am as there have been too many games where he was completely invisible. His 1.5 sacks and 5 TFL in 2012 and 2013 COMBINED speaks to that. Yes he’s long, quick and agile so he could be a one gap DT and excel but it is unnerving to me when people project someone to be something they’ve never been before and blame all previous issues on a scheme or coaching staff. He doesn’t always put out the best effort in the game I’ve watched and he can’t get off blocks consistently. I think a lot of the love on Armstead is due to how good he looks in a uniform and it reminds me of the Ra’Shede Hageman infatuation last year. Armstead will be a good 3-4 DE and that is all I know. I wouldn’t take him in the 1st round, let alone the Top 15, I don’t consider him better than Henry Anderson and I don’t necessarily agree that his best fit is as a 4-3 DT. 2nd round as a boom/bust type who I think is severely overrated 4/28/15.
  7. Jordan Phillips Oklahoma 6’5 ¼ 329 Soph In a draft without Danny Shelton, Jordan Phillips would surely get more draft buzz. He moves surprisingly well (5.17 40) for a 330 lb NT and had good production for a guy his size with 38 tackles, 2 sacks and 7 TFL. For a redshirt Soph (Redshirted in 2013 due to injury) he showed good polish to his game and projects as a long term starter at NT for a 3-4 team or at DT for a two gap 4-3 team. I’m usually not a fan of guys like him but he had solid production and a good motor so I’m on board. 2nd round 4/28/15.
  8. Darius Philon Arkansas 6’1 3/8 298 Soph He is coming out as a redshirt sophomore which surprises me. In two seasons he had 92 tackles, 20.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks which is impressive for freshman/sophomore seasons especially considering he did it in the SEC. He’s a short and narrow DT that is scheme specific as he needs to go to a one gap team that allows him to attack. Philon was one of the best in the country last year in that role and was the straw that stirred the drink in my opinion, not the more heralded Trey Flowers. He was a 2nd team SEC selection yet isn’t seeming to get much respect from the draft community right now and I smell a steal. It doesn’t help that DT is probably the 2nd deepest position in this draft class, RB is 1st, so he made a poor decision to come out early. Yet his poor decision will be a luck team’s good decision if he falls to the middle rounds as he has Pro Bowl potential if he can get stronger and continue to improve on what was already turning into an impressive career. Late 2nd round as one of the steals of this draft 4/28/15.
  9. Grady Jarrett Clemson 6’0 ¾ 304 Sr. Undersized pass rusher with good quickness. He had a nice 40 at 5.06 and showed that type of athleticism on film. Daniel Jeremiah compared him to Jurrell Casey, a personal favorite, but he doesn’t show the power Casey did. Yes he put up 30 reps on the bench but I just don’t see the jarring power on film and see him get overwhelmed at the POA to often. Nonetheless he does make plays, he has a great motor and in the right system he could be that rare playmaking DT which all teams covet. Late 2nd as a scheme specific (one gap, 4-3) potential difference maker 4/28/15.
  10. Michael Bennett Ohio State 6’2 293 Sr. He’s been remarkably consistent the past two seasons with 40-42 tackles, 7 sacks and 11.5-14 TFL each year. I like his motor, his aggressiveness, his burst, his vocal leadership and his production. He could have left early last year and been a 2nd or 3rd rounder but he returned and was a key reason for their championship run. He isn’t for everyone as he’s a bit undersized and can be pile driven when run directly at. I’m not worried about it in a one gap scheme though as he’s one of the most explosive tackles in this class and really pops out on film. He isn’t an incredible physical specimen but he makes plays, works hard and is a leader so I’m in on him. Late 2nd round 4/29/15.
  11. Marcus Hardison Arizona State 6’3 307 Sr. He’s a JUCO transfer. He really only has one year of productivity but it was an impressive one with 53 tackles, 10 sacks and 15 TFL. I honestly thought I had the wrong Combine numbers on him when I watched his first game film as he looks and moves so well for a 300 pounder. Add to that the fact that he plays outside at times and had 10 sacks makes me wonder if he could be a legit 4-3 SDE like Carlos Dunlap. He had the 7th biggest hands of the 54 DL with 10 3/8 hands. I’m extremely intrigued by this kid but honestly I couldn’t find enough tape of him. I watched Arizona State but I didn’t notice him too much in 2014, in 2013 he wasn’t productive and at the Senior Bowl he didn’t stand out. He’s a tough prospect to grade but his upside is incredibly high as I compare him to Dunlap and think he has Pro Bowl traits to him. Early 3rd round 4/29/15.
  12. Carl Davis Iowa 6’4 5/8 320 Sr. He had a great week at the Senior Bowl and really opened some eyes as he was allowed to rush the passer in 1×1 drills whereas in college he was a two gap type. His movement skills for a 6’5 320 guy with nearly ’35 arms (’34 5/8) is impressive. Guys that big and long aren’t supposed to run 5.07 40s or do a 4.47 shuttle. Unfortunately not all of his elite measurables seem to translate to the playing field and I don’t buy some scout’s excuse that it’s due to the scheme he’s in. He has a good motor and mobility but I just don’t see a 5.07 40 when I’m watching his tape. I think Davis projects as an above average 2 gap DT that can give a team a few sacks a year due to his hustle and good quickness. He is by no means a Danny Shelton though and will often be subbed out on 3rd down. Early 3rd round 4/28/15.
  13. Christian Covington Rice 6’2 289 Jr. Christian has been on my radar for 3 years now as I’ve actually watched a lot of Rice games due to Phillip Gaines and Vance McDonald. His 2012 and 2013 seasons were much more productive than last season (he missed part of the year with a dislocated kneecap) and he played for Rice so I feel that Covington is going to be an underrated player on draft day. Through no fault of his own he’s also probably causing some worry by teams as he’s ranked as the #1 prospect for the CFL (Canadian Football League). I’ve never heard of a player choosing the CFL over the NFL but his dad is a hall of famer in the CFL so if Covington is a late round draft choice it is an outside possibility. When healthy Covington is a 290 lb bowling ball with great strength and burst. I see him as a future starting DT and consider him one of the sleepers of this draft. 3rd round 4/28/15.
  14. Eddie Goldman Florida State 6’4 336 Jr. He’s a big guy with movement skills so it is understandable why some people are high on him but he is a good example of a big DT with limited production. In 3 seasons he only had 62 tackles, 6 sacks and 12 TFL which honestly isn’t even one season’s worth of production for Leonard Williams, Danny Shelton, Malcom Brown or even Andre Monroe. Occasionally these big guys work out but usually I’m proven right as they clog up the middle for 4 years, are largely invisible on the stat sheet aren’t re-signed and tend to have a short career span due to the excess weight they carry. Late 3rd round as one of the most overrated prospects in this draft 4/29/15.
  15. Rakeem Nunez-Roches Southern Miss 6’2 ¼ 307 Sr. He had an elite Combine with a 5.02 40 and ’34 vertical. He has a narrow build which is great for rushing the passer and poor for anchoring against the run. He barely played in 2011 (basically a redshirt) and 2013 (knee injury) leaving him with only 2 seasons with any production. He has very good movement skills and looked good against Alabama in 2014. I see a rotational guy who flashes at times due to his athleticism and could become a solid starter down the road. Early 4th round 4/29/15.
  16. Gabe Wright Auburn 6’2 ¾ 300 Sr. He has 2nd round talent as a disruptive one gap type but his production was very mediocre (24 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack in 2014) and he noticeably took plays off. Of course he had to confuse things for scouts by having a good Combine with a 5.07 40 and 34 reps on the bench so he’s the classic boom/bust type. I’m leery of him unless I have a really good DL coach or DC who will motivate him. Early 4th round 4/28/15.
  17. Andre Monroe Maryland 5’10 ½ 294 Sr. An oddly shaped, undersized defensive tackle who could surprise people by making a team. There aren’t many guys under 6’0 at DT in the NFL let alone under 5’11 but Andre could become one of the first as he has a great motor, good quickness and elite production (61 tackles, 10 sacks, 14 TFL in 2014, 42 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 17 TFL in 2013). He has 24.5 career sacks in 3 years which is borderline historic for an interior lineman. I have my doubts that Monroe will be drafted but Joe Vellano wasn’t taken either, I had a late 4th round grade on him, and he eventually became a starter for New England. I love Monroe’s tape and think he is another diamond in the rough. 5th round 4/29/15.

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