2012 NFL Draft Rankings: Top 10 Defensive Tackles

Jimmy NeilContributor IIApril 24, 2012

For me, along with the wide receiver group, the defensive tackle class is the deepest in this draft. While there may not be the elite players we've seen at the top in recent years (Dareus, Fairley, Suh, Raji, etc.), teams will find better value on the second day than we've seen.

In addition, I can't remember a group consisting of so many players that are as scheme-diverse as this one. Defensive coordinators will have a lot of fun lining up some of them in multiple positions whether they run a 4-3 or 3-4.

Fletcher Cox, my top-rated tackle, is a perfect example. His talents and size will allow him to play end or tackle in either a 4-3 or 3-4. Now in the latter, you wouldn't be taking advantage of his strengths if you had him on the nose the entire time, but he would be a terror in passing situations on the inside.

What sets him apart are his quick and nimble feet, violent hands, polished pass-rush moves and a great motor for a man of his size. In addition, his 34.5-inch long arms keep offensive linemen from getting too far into him.

Many of you will probably be surprised at my relatively low ranking of Dontari Poe. There's no doubt about it, he's a great athlete, and his performance at the Combine was awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, his play just doesn't match up to the numbers. It isn't like he's a complete dog, but his game is very raw at this point and I'm not sure the effort is always there.

After all, if he played like he performed in Indy, why did he only have five sacks in his career? He definitely has the tools, but a coach is going to have to teach him to play with more consistency and help develop his technique.

Here are the rankings:

1. Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St.
2. Michael Brockers, LSU
3. Jerel Worthy, Michigan St.
4. Dontari Poe, Memphis
5. Kendall Reyes, Connecticut
6. Devon Still, Penn St.
7. Brandon Thompson, Clemson
8. Mike Martin, Michigan
9. Alameda Ta'amu, Washington
10. Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati

Two other players that really intrigue me at the bottom of the list are Mike Martin and Alameda Ta'amu. Martin has a motor that just won't stop, and although he's a short, squat guy, he's much stronger and more athletic than you'd think.

With his experience in wrestling (he was a state champion in Michigan in high school) and his build, he does a great job of staying low off the snap and using leverage to get the job done. Because of his effort level, work ethic, and nasty demeanor on the field, I think he'll be a very good rotational three-technique at the next level.

Ta'amu grabbed my attention watching a couple of Huskies games this year. He's very quick for a 348-pounder, and strong enough to hold up against multiple blockers. But it was at the Senior Bowl that I really took notice of him.

He made most of the offensive linemen look really bad in the individual drills, and he seemed to get penetration on every snap in practice and the game. In my opinion, he's the best true 3-4 nose tackle in this draft.