2012 NFL Draft: The Top 10 Defensive Tackles

Vincent Frank@VincentFrankNFLCorrespondent IApril 4, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: The Top 10 Defensive Tackles

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    The last time a defensive tackle did not go in the top five of the draft was the 2006 version. That season saw Haloti Ngata become the first player at this position off the board at No. 12 to the Baltimore Ravens. 

    Not bad value for them, huh?

    This is quickly becoming one of the most important positions in the entire National Football League. Teams utilize defensive tackles in a variety of different ways depending on their specific schemes. 

    For example, the aforementioned Ngata has been used as a traditional 3-4 nose tackle and has also been moved outside in certain circumstances. The San Francisco 49ers don't have a natural defensive end in their starting base defense. Instead, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are considered hybrid defensive tackles. 

    With this new found scheme, defensive tackle has become all that more important for teams around the league. 

    This article is going to focus on the top 10 defensive tackles in the 2012 NFL Draft

10. Alameda Ta'amu, Washington

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    A load of a man at 348 pounds, Alameda Ta'amu is more of a space filler and gap presence than anything else. You are looking at a prospect that will be able to stop the run but isn't going to consistently get into the offensive backfield going after the quarterback. 

    He will use a solid bull-rush and that massive frame to play the one-gap to a tee. This enables Ta'amu to beat blockers at the point of contact and get into the backfield against the run. 

    Most say that Ta'amu isn't scheme specific. While this might be true, he does seem to fit much better in a prototypical 3-4 defense. 

    Just think of B.J. Raji, Isaac Sopoaga and Casey Hampton—not in comparison, just to understand how he would fit in a specific scheme. 

    Probably a third-round pick at this point. 

9. Josh Chapman, Alabama

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    Josh Chapman is your traditional 3-4 nose tackle. He will be able to anchor the interior of a defensive line in the NFL for the next decade. The Alabama product was one of the reasons that Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower had so much success in college. 

    He will be able to take on double-teams and hold the gap between the tackles in order for speed rushers to run free at the quarterback on the outside.

    What I like the most about Chapman is the fact that he is able to hold his own against multiple blockers and remain on point in terms of rush defense. 

    Chapman is scheme specific which means that he fits best as the player responsible for gap control in the 3-4 scheme. While he could be serviceable as a traditional 4-3 defensive tackle, I view him as more of a difference-maker in the zero technique on a 3-4 defense. 

8. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State

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    Jerel Worthy is one of the most frustrating players to scout for the 2012 NFL draft. He has all the talent and capabilities in the world to be a dominating force along the interior of the defensive line. The increasing concern with Worthy is his lack of focus and consistency. 

    When things don't go right initially he tends to give up on the rest of the play and doesn't possess an ability to get into the offensive backfield. While that first step is pretty good, he struggles taking it to the next gear. 

    He will be able to get into the offensive backfield after that strong initial step and an ability to ward off blockers between the gaps. Worthy also possesses a strong and intimidating frame and consistently beats defenders at the point of contact. 

    Worthy can play in both the 3-4 and 4-3 scheme, which makes his value much higher than it should be. 

    An early third-round pick for me. 

7. Kendall Reyes, Connecticut

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    Kendall Reyes is one of the more athletic defensive tackles on this list. He ran a sub 5.0 40-yard at the combine, which just goes to show you that he has the ability to play both end and tackle, depending on specific scheme. 

    He is extremely versatile and can play either the three technique as well as a 3-4 defensive end. Reyes is strong at the point of contact, consistently beats double teams and is an above average pass rusher at this point. 

    Reyes still needs to fix technique issues. He gets too high at the line of scrimmage and is inconsistent in terms of playing with a good pad level.

    You are looking at a longer transition to the National Football League than most players on this list. That is why Reyes isn't any higher. 

    Once he understands the nuances of the NFL and fixes these technique issues, Reyes should be a damn fine defensive linemen at the next level. 

    Probably a second-round pick. 

6. Brandon Thompson, Clemson

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    Make no mistake about it, Brandon Thompson was one of the primary reasons the Clemson Tigers were so effective in pass rush last season. 

    He was able to maintain a gap presence between the tackles, which enabled players like Andre Branch to get to the quarterback on a consistent basis. 

    Thompson will not get thrown off the line against single teams and seems to be one of the best run stuffing defensive linemen in the entire draft. This is something that teams definitely value in the entire scouting process. 

    The Clemson product isn't just a gap filler along the interior of the line. He possesses amazing strength and good tackling ability. You are looking at a prospect that will make the entire run defense that much better by his mere presence.

    He is limited in terms of pass rush ability and doesn't have the moves to be a force in that aspect of the game. Additionally, Thompson stands at just 6'2". This makes him shorter than your prototypical NFL defensive tackle.  

    I currently have a second-round grade on Thompson. However, there does remain a possibility he could slip into the late first-round. 

5. Mike Martin, Michigan

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    Mike Martin is by far one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the entire draft. He has amazing strength at the point of contact, uses great pad level to ward off blocks and can beat double teams on a consistent basis. 

    Martin was one of the primary reasons that Michigan's defense turned it around so much throughout the 2011 season. 

    One of the best aspects of Martin's game is the fact that he can penetrate into the offensive backfield and throw off the rhythm of a running play before it even gets started. Reminds me a great deal of Haloti Ngata in that one aspect of his game. 

    Martin won't be a consistent pass rusher at the next level because that just isn't his game. He also tends to struggle a bit in lateral movement outside the hashes, so don't expect the strong defensive linemen to run down running backs outside. He is just going to be a strong and intimidating performer along the interior of the line, nothing else.

    I currently have the Michigan product with a late first-round grade.

4. Devon Still, Penn State

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    His stock seems to have leveled off after being considered a top 15 pick a couple months ago. Despite this, Devon Still has a tremendous amount of upside and will perform at a high level in the NFL.

    The 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is extremely quick off the line and can penetrate the offensive backfield with relative ease. One of the best aspects of Still's game is the fact that he went up against elite offensive line play in the Big Ten and came out on top a large majority of the time. 

    He isn't a scheme specific player either. This means that Still has the capability to play pretty much any position along the defensive line in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defense, which is a huge advantage in terms of his draft stock. 

    Still does need to get more consistent in pass rush, acquire a couple more moves and hone his technique at point of contact. These are things that didn't show up in college but will be issues when he faces tougher competition in the NFL. My biggest worry with Still is his pad level, seems to get much too high at times. 

    The Penn State product could go anywhere from the middle of the first round to the early part of the second round. 

3. Michael Brockers, Louisiana State

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    Simply put, Michael Brockers has as much upside of any defensive player in the 2012 NFL draft. He has time to build on that already intimidating size and can play multiple positions along the defensive line. 

    My major issues with the LSU product is the fact that this talent is extremely raw. He doesn't possess the pad level or technique to break off the line on a consistent basis. Rather, you will see Brockers disappear from games a lot. 

    Additionally, he just didn't impress a great deal at the combine. Brockers was slow running the 40-yard dash, didn't show much in the other generic drills and seemed relatively lost at times. 

    This is a player that is going to need to get coached up early in his NFL career in order to make an immediate impact. More of a projection pick at this point. 

    With that said, you just cannot ignore his size and raw talent. This leads me to believe that Brockers will end up being a top 20 pick. 

2. Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State

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    Fletcher Cox is one of the most versatile prospects in the entire draft. He can play anywhere from a defensive tackle to a defensive end in both a base 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. 

    The Mississippi State product has the speed to cut down the corner in the run game, can penetrate the line and creates gap control by taking on double teams. He also played against elite competition in the SEC. 

    The only weakness that is seen in his game is the fact that Cox does get pushed off the line when being run at. This was evident in watching tape of some of his 2011 games. He needs to get stronger at the point of contact and hone that technique. These are two things that can be worked on relatively early in his NFL career. 

    Cox is quickly jumping the draft boards and could actually be the first defensive tackle selected. He will go anywhere between the top 10 to the end of the teens. 

1. Dontari Poe, Memphis

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    Despite being considered nothing more than a workout warrior by some scouts, I do believe that Dontari Poe has everything it takes to be a dominating force in the NFL. 

    You just cannot deny the strength that the Memphis product possesses. He will consistently take on double teams and usually come out on top when doing so. In fact, I noticed him throw multiple blockers into one another on more than one occasion. 

    What I like most about Poe is that he shows exceptional athleticism for such a big guy. He actually has the ability to pass rush from the end position, which is just plain crazy considering his 6'5", 350 frame. 

    He probably fits better as a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme but could easily make the transition to playing defensive tackle in a basic 4-3. 

    If I were to wager right now it would be that Poe is the first defensive tackle selected and goes in the top 10.