2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Tackles
The top defensive tackles in the 2013 NFL Draft
By AJ Young - March 25 2013
OG | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S
These draft profiles are designed to provide you with a better insight into the prospects detailed in our mock drafts and on our 2013 NFL Draft Board:
[Editor’s note: Some of these prospects were covered in our NFL Combine previews, in which case, the profiles have been updated in light of the Combine]
1. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (3)
That Floyd has even reached this point in his life is remarkable in itself. Having grown up without his parents, Floyd has spent most of his life living from place to place including his guidance councillors sofa amongst many others places. On the field, Floyd has the body of a tackle but the quickness and strength of an end which allows him to sniff out plays in the backfield and make a play on the runner. He's relentless in his efforts to get after the passer and frequently looks to swat the ball at the line. He has a rare combination of explosive power, quickness and agility that separates him from any other defensive tackle in the draft. He doesn't come with a great number of starts but has unquantifiable potential to transition to the next level as a lineman in either the 4-3 or 3-4. He could very well be the best player in the draft and will be very tempting for those selecting with the first two picks.
2. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (9)
In terms of interior run defenders, there's not a prospect in the draft that plays the run as well as Lotulelei. He racked up 85 tackles across his two years starting in Salt Lake City including 19 for a loss. His exceptional strength routinely allowed him to take on double teams but peel off with relative ease to find the ball carrier. In spite of his size and strength however, he struggles to consistently rush the passer; consequently he'd be an ideal nose tackle in the 3-4, disrupting the run and opening up holes for other defenders to get after the quarterback. He has the potential to be a top five pick in the draft but was diagnosed with an abnormally low ejection fraction in the left ventricle of his heart whilst undergoing routine medical testing at the NFL Combine. Now I'm no doctor but from my understanding, the left ventricle normally pumps 55-70 percent of the blood but Lotulelei's was only pumping 44 percent. Although his heart is pumping less blood than it should be, it’s apparently not considered to be in the range of heart failure. Nevertheless, teams will need to evaluate this heading into the draft and it could cause him to fall down the board.
3. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (16)
At 6-3, 295 lbs, Richardson has the ideal size to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme. He plays with active hands and has a fluid over-arm swim move that allows him to get the better of offensive lineman when coming off the edge. This bodes well for any team looking to make the most of his versatility by moving him around the defensive line. For a guy his size, he possesses unnatural athleticism to the extent that Missouri would occasionally drop him back into coverage during zone blitzes. He has the ability to pressure the passer as well as disengage from blockers to make plays in the run game. He's not without some red flags however; he had shoulder surgery after the 2011 season and had some academic troubles over the course of his career causing concern that he might struggle learning the playbook at the next level. As long as his medical records stand up and he proves to teams in the pre-draft process that he has the maturity and metal capacity of an early first round pick, he'll be one.
4. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue (25)
When a guy blocks seven field goals over the course of his career, including four as a senior, he deserves all the attention he gets. Let’s not beat around the bush, Short is a freak. He’s a physical specimen that bench presses 400 lbs and squats more than 600 lbs. He started all four years at Purdue and had consistently good numbers across his career. He possesses good speed that enables him to shoot the gap and make a play in the backfield. Short's pass rush abilities are inconsistent however and he'll need to show more effort in this department at the next level. His conditioning is also somewhat lacklustre and he needs to work on his technique. Nonetheless, an off-season in an NFL strength and conditioning programme, coupled with the right coaching should make Short an early contributor in defensive line rotations.
5. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State (28)
At 6-3, 320 lbs, with playing experience at both end and tackle along the defensive line, Hankins has the size and versatility to contribute in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive scheme. He shows good awareness and instincts whilst playing the run, using his strength to shed blocks and track down the ball carrier. Like most dominant lineman in college however, he can sometimes rely too much on his brute strength and needs to work more on his technique if he’s to be successful at the next level. He doesn’t have numbers that jump off the page but he shows the potential to be a dominant run defender in a 4-3 front. Hankins has the ability to contribute from day one and will tempt a number of teams picking early in the twenties.
6. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina (32)
At 6-3, 313 lbs, Williams has both the size and versatility to be an interior defensive lineman regardless of what scheme he plays in (though he might find himself playing nose tackle in a 3-4 system). A guy his size shouldn't be fast but he runs a 5.03 forty and often shows the ability to chase down quarterbacks moving outside the pocket. Interior lineman than can rush the passer in the NFL are rarer than franchise quarterbacks themselves and with 6 sacks last season alongside 42 tackles he's shown the ability to penetrate up the middle. That being said however, he's had some troubles off the field. He dropped out of high school in his sophomore year and opted to work for a manufacturing company for minimum wage instead. He eventually walked on at North Carolina (a testament to his ability considering he only had one year's experience playing in high school) but will turn 25 during the 2013 season meaning that he should in theory be already entering the peak of his career.
7. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama (41)
Born in Brisbane, Australia, Williams grew up playing rugby before his talent was recognised by the University of Hawaii at a coaching clinic they were running Down Under. He committed to Hawaii aged just 16 but academic issues forced him to take the JUCO route, signing for Western Arizona Community College. After one phenomenal season, he was recruited by the likes of LSU, Arkansas and Oklahoma State before opting to sign for Alabama. Williams was a disruptive force on the Tide's defensive line these past two seasons, playing one at defensive end and another at nose tackle on the way to earning two BCS National Championship rings. He's a monster in the weight room, benching an almost unbelievable 600 lbs; he puts this strength to good use on the field, using leverage to get under the pads of offensive lineman, putting them on their back foot as he bull rushes towards the quarterback. Considering his relative lack of experience he possesses surprisingly good technique; he uses his hands effectively to disengage blockers and make a play on the ball carrier. Williams is as good a force as any in the draft at playing the run but his lack of pass rushing ability is ultimately what lands him a second round grade.
8. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia (49)
At 6-4, 346 lbs, Jenkins is a prototypical 3-4 nose tackle. He's 'slimmed down' somewhat from his 2012 playing weight of 359 lbs (I don't know about Lotulelei, doctors need to be examining Jenkins' heart) and needs to keep his weight in check or he could risk losing some of the explosiveness that made him such a force at Georgia. The words 'fast' and 'quick' are never normally words associated with a man his size but Jenkins possesses surprising speed off the snap to drive opponents backwards. His biggest strength is his sheer size; he clogs up space and attracts double teams that allow others to pressure the quarterback. His relentless effort and willingness to take on double teams is what separates him from other space-eaters however and these attributes are ultimately what will land him as a second round selection in contrast to the usual late round grade for these types of players.AJ Young
is the editor of Down at the One.