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Draft Preview: Drilling Down On Defensive Tackles

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 20, 2013 – 9:33 am

Vikings fans have a very high standard when it comes to defensive tackles. After all, this is the home of the Purple People Eaters, of Keith Millard, of John Randle and Henry Thomas, and of the Williams Wall. So we approach this category with great respect to what fans demand out of their defensive tackles.

We also approach the preview of this position group knowing that we’re painting with a broad brush in categorizing them as defensive tackles. When it comes to defensive tackles, there are 3-techniques, there are under tackles, there are 5-techniques and there are nose tackles. There are players who fit primarily in the 3-4 or 4-3, and there are defensive tackles who can fit in both. Our goal here is not to distinguish between these categories, rather, the point is to assess this class of players and see which of them can help the Vikings defense continue to improve.

Without further ado, here’s a look at this year’s crop of defensive tackles. We’ll group them into four categories and place them alphabetically within each category. As usual, we’re interested in your feedback, so leave your thoughts in the comments section below this entry or email them to me for possible inclusion in a future Pick 6 or Monday Morning Mailbag.

Game-Changers
Sharrif Floyd (Florida) – Having played both DE and DT at Florida and with elite size/athleticism combo, Floyd is likely to be the first DT off the board next week.

Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State) – Those looking for a Pat Williams clone will find something close with this 6-3, 320-pound gap stuffer. At this point he doesn’t have the instincts and cat-like quickness Williams had to be a game-changer in the NFL, but maybe he’ll get there one day.

Star Lotulelei (Utah) – In a 4-3 scheme such as the Vikings, Lotulelei is the perfect match to Kevin Williams. A heart condition could cause him to slide, but my guess is his ability to dominate centers and overpower double-teams will be too appealing to allow him to slide even close to the Vikings.

Sheldon Richardson (Missouri) – At 6-2, 294 pounds, Richardson has the size and strength to anchor in the run game but he also possesses the athleticism to rush the passer, run sideline-to-sideline and chase plays down from the backside. Would be a steal for the Vikings at #23.

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Sylvester Williams (North Carolina) – Completely dominated two practices I watched at the Senior Bowl and was a game-changer during that game. He can play three downs, is great in short-area battles and has the strength to anchor and the motor to chase. Would be a nice complement to Williams in the Vikings defensive front.

Instant Impact
Jonathan Jenkins (Georgia) – Tremendous size at 6-4, 336 pounds and with 34-inch arms, Jenkins is the type of defender whose impact is not measured in the stat sheet. He eats up blockers and yields opportunities for others. It’s fair to question his fit in a 4-3 and he might be better-suited as a nose tackle in a 3-4 alignment.

Kawann Short (Purdue) – The 2-time team captain at Purdue seems to be a polarizing player among scouts, but it’s hard not to like his 48.0 career tackles for loss and school record 8 blocked kicks in 4 productive seasons. His size (6-3, 299 pounds) and production combo is impressive.

Brandon Williams (Missouri Southern State) – Suggesting a 2nd-round grade on a player with concerns that include durability, level of competition and height deficiency sounds like suggesting a reach. But when you look at Williams’ production, raw ability and athletic traits, I think a 2nd-round grade makes sense. In 4 seasons at Missouri Southern State, Williams set the school record with 27.0 sacks, totaled 52.5 tackles for loss, batted down 14 passes and earned the 2012 Division II National Defensive Player of the Year award. For good measure, he bench pressed 225 pounds 38 times at the Combine and was a standout at the Senior Bowl.

Eventual Starters
Jordan Hill (Penn State) – You’re more impressed with his technique, movement skills and pass-rushing ability than his sheer strength versus blockers and destructiveness versus the run.

Bennie Logan (LSU) – His athleticism and size along with his pedigree (played at LSU) will intrigue teams who think they’ll buy low on a potential star. But proponents of Logan’s will point to a lack of production, an inability to beat double teams and stamina as concerns.

Akeem Spence (Illinois) – At 6-1, 307 pounds and with moderate-to-solid production in college, Spence is a lunch pail guy with lots of starting experience in a Big 10 program. He’s strong and has good range vs. the run, but needs to improve his explosiveness off the ball and technique versus double teams.

2-Down Run-Stuffers
TJ Barnes (Georgia Tech) – A 6-6, 369 massive nose tackle who will likely be a 2-down player but who could develop into a legitimate run-stopper. Would be nice to have him on the field in short-yardage and goal line scenarios.

Kwame Geathers (Georgia) – Another massive run-stopper at 6-5, 342 pounds, Geathers has NFL bloodlines because his father, two brothers and uncle all played or play in the League. Geathers didn’t have tremendous production, but he played an important role on a SEC defense. Maybe more of a fit for 3-4 teams?

Cory Grissom (South Florida) – Big and powerful run-stopper with moderate production and 3 years of starting experience. At 6-1, 306, most reports say he can fit in a “30” or “40” front but will most likely be a 2-down player.

Jessie Williams (Alabama) – The former rugby player from Australia played 2 seasons at Alabama and possesses the strength to play at the NFL level. Teams that like him will be okay with his lack of experience and will look forward to developing a raw, 6-3, 323-pound playmaker from one of the best programs in the country.

Could Make Roster
Josh Boyd (Mississippi State) – Good size at 6-3, 310 pounds and production early in his career. He caught scouts’ eyes a year ago when teammate Fletcher Cox was being watched and was eventually chosen in the 1st round. Most reports site Boyd’s effective swim move, but they also point out his dip in production without Cox and point out his small hands and short arms.

Everett Dawkins (Florida State) – One of the harder players for me to get my arms around. Not a bunch of production and seemed to change positions and wait a bit at Florida State. Has good size (6-2, 292 pounds) and played a regular role on some good teams.

Montori Hughes (Tennessee Martin) – Gigantic frame at 6-4, 329 pounds but scouts say he doesn’t play to his size enough. Can anchor versus the run, occupies blockers and fights double teams, needs to mature more.

Previous Draft Previews
Sorting out the inside linebackers
Rounding up the receivers
Corralling the cornerbacks


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