2012 NFL Draft: Nose Tackles and Why Dontari Poe Isn't the Only One to Watch

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2012 NFL Draft: Nose Tackles and Why Dontari Poe Isn't the Only One to Watch
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It's basically the end of the college football season and there are still so many questions to be answered in the scouting process: Who's better—Luck or Griffin?  Will RG3 even come out?  Who will be the No. 1 pick? 

The question I have focused on for a while has been: Where are the defensive tackles?

As a Green Bay Packers fan, the 3-4 defense has really grown on me since defensive coordinator Dom Capers came to Wisconsin and made the switch. 

One of the key positions in that 3-4 defense is a nose tackle.  The difference between a nose tackle and a normal defensive tackle is huge. 

I mean it. 

Unlike most defensive tackles, or athletes altogether, nose tackles have to be around 315-plus pounds to really be a true fit.

This year, there are only a few guys that fit that mold.

First off, I'll start with Dontari Poe.  He has, by far, the highest stock so far in the 2012 NFL Draft. Poe declared early out of the University of Memphis at a reported 6-foot-5, 350 pounds. 

The biggest problem I have heard about Poe is his size being too big, which usually is not a factor for nose tackle prospects. 

I have talked to an NFL scout who sees Poe a lot more like a Haloti Ngata (don't freak out, I meant style, not skill) in that he would actually act more like a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The problem with being 6-foot-5 is that most of what nose tackles do is with the use of leverage or elite strength.  It's hard to get leverage when you are a solid three inches taller than the average nose tackle. 

In the 3-4 defense, the ends are usually around the height that Poe is now.  The issue with him switching to end is that, unlike most college prospects, he's actually played in a 3-4, and has started since halfway through his freshman year.

Essentially, what you get out of Poe is either an oversized nose tackle who will need to get lower and use leverage, or an overweight defensive end who lacks much speed. 

Either way, Poe is a huge, strong prospect who will need to be molded in the 3-4 system.

Next on my list is Washington's Alameda Ta'amu. 

His stock is pretty low after Baylor took it to him at the Alamo Bowl.  At 6-foot-3, 337 pounds, Ta'amu is a little smaller and faster than Poe, but there's no doubt that he's a pure NT/DT prospect.

Ta'amu has had a couple flashes of greatness (Utah is the big one I saw), but is really inconsistent.  He will look great one game, using his elite strength, but then get taken out of the next game with a double team.

Ta'amu should probably be a third-round pick, but I would venture to say that someone will take a shot at him a lot earlier than that.  God only makes so many six-foot, 300-plus pound athletes who can play a premium position in the 3-4.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

One guy who I think is a fringe NT/DE prospect is Josh Chapman.  He's played in a 3-4 for Alabama's Nick Saban the past couple years as a nose guard, which is similar but not exactly the same as a nose tackle.

Chapman stands at 6-foot-1, so it would be hard to play defensive end, but at 310 pounds it would be difficult to play as a nose tackle without gaining more weight. 

I see him as a guy who could be used more as a Ryan Pickett type, flipping between the two positions. 

Pickett plays mostly at defensive end, but can play nose tackle as needed, and is one of the two down linemen in the NFL's new "two front" that even college football is using. 

He had an injury that ended his freshman season, but it hasn't really come up since then.

Now comes my sleeper, a guy who is in the running for my favorite player in the draft, Hebron Fangupo.  Even most draft experts don't know much about him at this point. 

Being from out West, I get to see a lot of Mountain West, WAC and BYU regional games.  In the BYU games this year, Fangupo's really stood out to me, but to know him you have to know his background.

Fangupo came into the NCAA not out of high school, but out of junior college.  He was a four-five star recruit coming out of Mt. San Antonio Junior College and went to the University of Southern California where he was enrolled for just one year.

During his only year at USC, Fangupo was the No. 3 defensive tackle (in the 4-3 where they start two), but fractured his ankle in the fourth game of the year against Washington. 

In 2010, after not seeing much playing time and recovering from an injury, Fangupo decided to leave USC for BYU.  2011 was his only real season seeing any significant time as he bounded from two previous colleges.

Fangupo was named All-Independent (would probably have been All-League in many conferences if BYU was in one) and held up the Military Bowl trophy for the team as the Cougar's season came to an end.

The 6-foot-1, 331-pound former Trojan has the size, strength, speed and character traits that all NFL teams want in a nose tackle. 

The problem is finding quality tape of this diamond in the rough. 

As for other nose tackles, I can't find much that would warrant an NFL draft pick. 

Nicolas Jean-Baptiste is a guy who could get picked late as a prospect, but there's no outside guy who could be a sure thing, even for a training camp invite.

The only other name I keep seeing for a nose tackle training camp invite is Kent State's Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, who, according to my research, has done nothing to warrant that spot besides being gigantic.

However, a quick look at next year's class makes me pretty excited.  If Star Lotulelei Jr. would have declared this year, like he probably should have, he could have contested for the No. 1 spot on my nose tackle rankings.

The kid out of Utah really has a special mix of size and strength at 6-foot-3, 325 pounds. 

Alabama's Jesse Williams is a bit like a taller, more consistent Ta'amu. 

Who's left?  Just two of the biggest nose tackles who happen to play in the same state. Georgia's 351-pound Jonathan Jenkins, and Georgia Tech's 335-pound TJ Barnes.

All that said, this nose tackle class is solid and filled with prospects, but there is no real standout first-round pick talent. 

I really wish a couple more guys would declare from that list of 2013 seniors, but if not, then at least we get to watch a really good nose tackle class come through the next draft.

 

Find Justis on Bleacher Report and on twitter @JustisMosqueda.

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