B/R NFL 1000 2013: Top 50 Defensive Tackles

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 28, 2013

B/R NFL 1000 2013: Top 50 Defensive Tackles

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    Who is the NFL's best defensive tackle?

    Our team of experienced scouts reviewed the 2012 season, looking for the top 50 defensive tackles. In an effort to grade and rank the best of the best, we looked at pass rushing and run defense—the two primary responsibilities of a tackle in a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme.

    The following 50 players are ranked based on our team's study of film from the 2012 season. A player's career achievements are not taken into consideration. Nor is his potential.

    Players qualified with a minimum of 200 snaps. We evaluated their ability to rush the quarterback and stop the run. The scoring, out of a possible 100 points, valued run defense and pass rushing equally.

    In cases where two players' total scores matched, we broke the tie based on which player we'd rather have on our team right now.

50. Paul Soliai, Miami Dolphins

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    Run Defense

    36/50

    A huge man in the middle of the Miami defense, Paul Soliai is a quality nose tackle. He’ll jam up running lanes with his bulk, preventing interior linemen from getting off the ball and blocking linebackers. Soliai makes stops himself, but he allows other defenders to make plays by drawing attention in the middle of the line.

    Pass Rush

    29/50

    A true two-down player, Soliai isn’t a pass-rusher. He will make some plays based off pressure up the middle and opportunities created by outside pass rushes. By and large, he’s not someone with the quickness or agility to take on an interior blocker and beat them for a sack.

    Overall

    65/100

    A classic nose tackle, Soliai has value as a run-stopping defender, but don’t expect big plays on passing downs.

49. Billy Winn, Cleveland Browns

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    Run Defense

    39/50

    A solid run defender and an above-average tackler, Billy Winn showed signs of becoming a dependable and versatile lineman for the Cleveland Browns. He has short arms and doesn’t have the strength to dominate the middle of the field, but he's quick enough that he can cause issues for the bigger, slower interior offensive linemen. 

    Pass Rush

    26/50

    Winn shows plenty of effort on passing plays, but he always seems to be a split-second late. He is a little undersized on the inside and doesn’t have a very good bull rush, but he shows quick feet and hands.

    Overall

    65/100

    Winn is versatile and can play anywhere on the front four, but he will need to become more consistent, add some bulk and get better at shedding blocks to become someone for whom the offense needs to game-plan.

48. Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Run Defense

    36/50

    Dontari Poe really struggled this past season as a rookie for the Kansas City Chiefs. He isn’t able to get off blocks and is slow off the snap. At times, he will even take a step backward and let the offense come to him instead of firing off the ball and initiating the contact. He plays too high and allows the offense to dictate where he goes, allowing huge running lanes for the opposing team.

    Pass Rush

    30/50

    His massive size doesn’t translate to the field. He doesn’t win one-on-one battles, and film shows that he is almost exclusively blocked by only one offensive lineman. A man with his size and athletic ability should command a double-team and help free up rushers to the outside.

    Overall

    66/100

    Poe didn’t have the season that Chiefs fans had hoped for. He would all but disappear on goal-line stands, and that is where the top-end defensive tackles make their money.

47. Brandon Mebane, Seattle Seahawks

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    Run Defense

    41/50

    Brandon Mebane had two dominant performances last season (Week 1 and Week 4) but was otherwise quiet in the games our team scouted. He shows the quickness and strength to be a factor against the run—coming off blocks and using his agility to dip his shoulder and drive through blocks—but there were too many games where Mebane simply got driven off the ball and thrown around. When he’s good, he’s great. The rest of the time, he’s average.

    Pass Rush

    25/50

    As a pass-rusher, we didn’t see the bull rush or burst from Mebane for him to be ranked higher. He’ll push guards back off the ball, but once the lineman has a chance to recover, he’ll struggle to counter and find a crease.

    Overall

    66/100

    Mebane started out the year red hot, but he struggled to match that outing week after week. While he’s a talented run defender, consistency is the issue.

46. Cam Thomas, San Diego Chargers

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    Run Defense

    33/50

    A bull against the rush, Cam Thomas has the size and power to plug rushing lanes from his nose tackle position. Thomas has above-average quickness when asked to move laterally, but don’t expect him to make plays outside the tackle box. Thomas is powerfully built, but he doesn’t show consistent leverage at the point of attack.

    Pass Rush

    33/50

    Like most nose tackles, Thomas isn’t a pass-rusher, but he does get push up the middle. He does a good job creating openings for rushers by driving upfield on the center. Thomas would do well to drive his feet more through the blockers and sustain his push. Too often he’s chipped by a guard and then handled one-on-one.

    Overall

    66/100

    A pure nose tackle prospect, Thomas has the body and strength to hold anchor against the run and even get some push in the pass rush.

45. Cullen Jenkins, New York Giants

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    Run Defense

    29/50

    Cullen Jenkins didn't make big plays against the run, partially due to the defense played in Philadelphia. Jenkins is strong enough to hold up on the edge, but when placed inside, he was getting abused by guards and centers on combination blocks. Jenkins needs to be in a one-on-one island to come off blocks and get to the runner.

    Pass Rush

    37/50

    An active pass-rusher, Jenkins does a good job attacking gaps and getting pressure on the quarterback. He shows a good dip to get leverage against blockers and has the quickness to close space. Jenkins is versatile enough to rush from a 1-, 3-, 4- or 5-technique.

    Overall

    66/100

    A player we liked a lot better in a 3-4 defense, Jenkins was too often put on an island inside the Eagles' Wide 9 defense, allowing multiple blockers to attack his frame.

44. Tommy Kelly, Oakland Raiders

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    Run Defense

    36/50

    Tommy Kelly has good awareness against the run and will fight through traffic to get to the football. He has enough strength at the point of attack but lacks the strength to drive blockers off the ball. Kelly will get his shoulders turned too easily. He uses his hands well, but he lets his feet go dead too early in the play.

    Pass Rush

    30/50

    Kelly has the athletic ability to be better here. He does a good job getting push off the snap but doesn’t follow through to pressure the pocket. A lack of top-level speed keeps him from being able to chase and bring down quarterbacks, but he does get pressure on the pocket up the middle by pushing guards and centers backward off the ball.

    Overall

    66/100

    Kelly is a versatile 4-3 defensive tackle who can be moved around on either side of the ball, but he has to become more consistent with his leverage and footwork.

43. Brodrick Bunkley, New Orleans Saints

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    Run Defense

    40/50

    A big run defender who is ideally playing in a 0- or 1-technique, Brodrick Bunkley is a two-down specialist. He’ll make plays against the run by pushing the line of scrimmage back with his powerful first step. Don’t look for Bunkley to make plays down the line or deep in the backfield, though; he lacks the quickness to give chase. If you need a hole plugged, Bunkley is your man.

    Pass Rush

    26/50

    A limited pass-rusher, even in a 4-3 alignment in 2012, Bunkley doesn’t have the quickness to beat blockers off the snap or the agility to attack a gap and slip past guards. He does a good job driving the center back at times, but that’s as much of a pass rush as you’re getting from Bunkley.

    Overall

    66/100

    Bunkley took a step back in 2012 with the New Orleans Saints, but the power and awareness are still present for him to have a rebound season in the 3-4 defense in 2013.

42. Sione Pouha, New York Jets

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    Run Defense

    40/50

    A powerful presence in the middle of the defense, Sione Pouha has the strength to be a handful for blockers off the snap. He plays strong and has the base to anchor and keep blockers from getting to the second level. Pouha doesn’t show the quickness to give chase and make tackles in pursuit.

    Pass Rush

    27/50

    Pouha really fell off in terms of pass-rush support in 2012. He didn’t generate pressure up the middle as he had in past seasons, playing with dead feet and lacking the quickness to get into gaps off the center and make plays.

    Overall

    67/100

    Pouha took a big step back in 2012. The talent around him struggled, and teams were able to focus on attacking him more. His pass-rushing ability is a major liability.

41. Christian Ballard, Minnesota Vikings

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    Run Defense

    34/50

    Christian Ballard doesn’t show the strength at the point of attack to consistently beat blockers, but he has the quickness to make life tough for them off the snap. Ballard will get into gaps and can get into the backfield to flush out runners. He has to do a better job of reading and reacting, so as to not let runners get by him on the underneath.

    Pass Rush

    33/50

    An undersized defensive tackle with the quickness to be an asset as a pass-rusher, Ballard doesn’t make enough of his opportunities. He will get shoved around when attempting to get into gaps and has trouble establishing his balance. Ballard is quick, and he could become a factor against the pass if he were able to work on technique and balance. Right now, he’s trying to win on quickness, which works some of the time but isn’t a consistent threat.

    Overall

    67/100

    Ballard is a good, young tackle with nice potential, but he’s far from a finished product.

40. Terrance Knighton, Denver Broncos

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    Run Defense

    34/50

    Terrance Knighton is a big-bodied player with thick legs and strong hands. He uses the size to plug rushing lanes and otherwise get in the way of the offense. With his size, Knighton doesn’t have great agility or quickness. He has a good first step, but his second and third steps are just average. Knighton is a good tackler, especially when asked to grab a back as they run by him, and he will rack up tackles.

    Pass Rush

    33/50

    You won’t see Knighton sacking the quarterback very often, but he does provide some push and will get pressures and hurries in. Knighton lacks the quickness to chase down quarterbacks in space. When he gets through the line of scrimmage, there’s not enough follow-up speed to make plays. Knighton doesn’t have a countermove to beat blockers—he has to win off the snap.

    Overall

    67/100

    Knighton has struggled with weight management and effort, but when he’s on, he’s a balanced tackle with good ability on every down.

39. Ryan Pickett, Green Bay Packers

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    Run Defense

    41/50

    A real space-eater, Ryan Pickett is superb at occupying blockers and forcing teams to double-team him, which opens up the rest of his teammates to make plays. He is a good tackler and is great at shedding blocks at the last second to grab and take down ball-carriers.

    Pass Rush

    26/50

    Not much of a pass-rusher, Pickett is usually on the sidelines for probable passing plays. He doesn’t have the quickness or much more than a bull-rush move to get to the quarterback. Once again, he is good at occupying two blockers to open up pass-rushing lanes on the outside for his teammates.

    Overall

    67/100

    Pickett is the type of player who doesn’t care about personal achievements, and he does whatever it takes to help his team win.

38. Kevin Vickerson, Denver Broncos

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    Run Defense

    39/50

    A versatile defender who shows up against the run, Kevin Vickerson has great length to keep blockers from getting inside his pads. He’ll use his long arms to lock out blockers and does a good job coming off that contact to make tackles. Vickerson has good speed to get into rushing lanes and make tackles there. He’s not a gap-stopping tackle, but he is one who can penetrate and make plays.

    Pass Rush

    28/50

    Vickerson doesn’t show the natural quickness to keep up with pass protectors. With good length, Vickerson can cause quarterbacks to flush and scramble, but his closing speed is lacking. He will get good pressure on the pocket to cause positive plays, but he’s rarely the guy finishing the play or getting credit for it in the stats book.

    Overall

    67/100

    Vickerson lacks the athleticism to be an effective 3-technique defensive tackle, but he is a positive run-stopping presence and active tackler on first and second down.

37. Ahtyba Rubin, Cleveland Browns

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    Run Defense

    39/50

    An active, aggressive run defender, Ahtyba Rubin will make stops on the ball. Rubin shows good hand placement and use to keep blockers from getting into his frame and driving him off the ball. He’ll play high at times and needs to work on his pad level. Limited in space, Rubin can struggle on outside rushing plays if he can’t get through the line immediately.

    Pass Rush

    28/50

    Rubin doesn’t make many big plays in the backfield, but he is strong enough to push blockers and create pressures. Rubin’s limited quickness and speed to chase down quarterbacks keeps him from being more of a presence on passing downs.

    Overall

    67/100

    Rubin is a high-level run defender but limited pass-rusher. He will fit the role of a 3-4 defensive end well if asked to be a two-gap run-stuffer.

36. Stephen Paea, Chicago Bears

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    Run Defense

    33/50

    Stephen Paea is a naturally strong defensive tackle who can hold his ground against blockers. He has natural leverage and long enough arms to lock out blockers. Paea will struggle to shed blocks and attack the run. He won’t make many tackles against the run but instead opens up lanes for linebackers to get to the ball. Paea doesn’t make enough plays behind the line of scrimmage for someone with his speed.

    Pass Rush

    34/50

    A good athlete with enough speed off the line of scrimmage to get into a gap and frustrate blockers, Paea adds pressures and hurries more than sacks. He can be a step late off the ball at times and needs to work on reaction and awareness in the pass rush.

    Overall

    67/100

    Paea showed very good development in his second season, earning a starting position in Week 2 and holding it down all season.

35. Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta Falcons

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    Run Defense

    33/50

    Jonathan Babineaux excels at making stops behind the line of scrimmage. He’s an active tackler who shows up on film against the run as a knifing defender capable of getting through gaps and making plays. The downside is that Babineaux isn’t strong enough to hold up at the point of attack. If a blocker beats him off the ball, he’ll get pushed around. Babineaux was inconsistent in 2012, having a great game against weaker guards and then being marginalized against good lines.

    Pass Rush

    34/50

    Babineaux has good agility to move off the line of scrimmage and get to the backfield. He will show the lateral movement to shake blockers, and he is flexible enough to dip his shoulder or turn his hips to make himself a smaller target. We noted better play and better movement from Babineaux early in the season; later in the year, he wasn’t coming off the ball with the same quickness. Babineaux will get worked by blockers if he’s not the first man off the line, as he lacks the strength to overpower linemen.

    Overall

    67/100

    Babineaux took a step back in 2012 but is still a quality starter at defensive tackle. If he can get his pass-rushing production back to where it was in 2011, he’ll shoot back up the board.

34. Dan Williams, Arizona Cardinals

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    Run Defense

    41/50

    A big run defender with the size and bulk to play over the center, Dan Williams is asked to clog rushing lanes, and he does that well. He shows the leverage and strength to really sit down and hold anchor against centers and guards. Williams won’t make many tackles alone in the run game, but he frees up lanes for his linebackers to crash the backfield.

    Pass Rush

    26/50

    Williams doesn’t have the quickness off the line to penetrate the line of scrimmage with his first step, but he is strong and relentless in his approach. Williams will draw attention to the middle, which frees up other rushers, but don’t expect him to make many plays behind the offensive line.

    Overall

    67/100

    A good nose tackle, Williams excels on rushing downs, where he can plug rushing lanes and push the line of scrimmage. He won’t add much on third downs as a pass-rusher, though.

33. Josh Brent, Dallas Cowboys

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    Run Defense

    36/50

    With a solid base and good natural leverage, Josh Brent has the strength to take on blockers and hold his ground in the run game. He’s able to handle the nose tackle position due to his lower-body strength and leverage. He keeps blockers from getting upfield to take on linebackers at the second level. Brent will make some tackles coming off the 0-technique position, but that’s not what his job is there.

    Pass Rush

    31/50

    While not asked to be a pass-rusher in the Cowboys' 3-4 scheme, Brent does have some activity in passing situations. He’s quick off the snap and has the momentum to drive the center or guard back. The follow-up speed to chase the quarterback is lacking, but good strength allows Brent to pressure the quarterback.

    Overall

    67/100

    A midseason driving tragedy is all most remember about Brent’s season, but before all of that, he was making his name as a good rotational defensive lineman.

32. Derek Landri, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Run Defense

    37/50

    A smaller player with a good first step, natural leverage and strength, Derek Landri can be a force against the run if he gets off the ball in time. Interior blockers have shown an ability to drive him off the ball and prevent him from plugging running lanes or making tackles in space. Landri has the strength to hold his ground, but his footwork was inconsistent in 2012. Blockers were able to drive him off the line.

    Pass Rush

    30/50

    Landri doesn’t make many plays as a pass-rusher, but he does generate pressure and create havoc in the middle of the line. He does well to split blockers but doesn’t have the speed to close on the pocket and bring down quarterbacks. Landri can create openings for teammates, but his own production is limited.

    Overall

    67/100

    A solid defensive tackle in the middle of the line, Landri isn’t flashy, but he is someone who can be relied on in the trenches.

31. Gary Gibson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Run Defense

    39/50

    A stout veteran, Gary Gibson is at home stopping the run and clogging up running lanes on the inside. He doesn’t have elite size for a tackle, but Gibson plays with good strength and leverage to keep blockers from pushing him off his spot. He’s a fighter at the line and will get enough push to make plays against the run.

    Pass Rush

    29/50

    A limited pass-rusher, especially in space, Gibson doesn’t have the burst or closing speed needed to chase down quarterbacks. He’ll generate some pressure with a bull rush and by driving blockers back a step or two, but Gibson is largely ineffective in passing situations.

    Overall

    68/100

    A good two-down inside presence at tackle, Gibson is a run-stuffer, but he doesn’t show up on film as a pass-rusher.

30. Phil Taylor, Cleveland Browns

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    Run Defense

    38/50

    Phil Taylor is an active defensive tackle in the run game, moving well laterally to make tackles and showing high awareness off the snap. Taylor’s strength was limited in 2012 coming off an injury, which affected his ability to shed blockers. Taylor was getting pushed around more than would be expected for someone his size. He lacks the speed to be great in pursuit, but he plugs holes well and frees up his inside linebackers to make plays.

    Pass Rush

    30/50

    A limited pass-rusher, Taylor would excel in a system that allowed him to draw attention in the middle with power and didn’t ask him to split gaps and go after the quarterback. Taylor has good strength to drive the center back off the ball but cannot counter that with enough speed to chase down quarterbacks.

    Overall

    68/100

    An injury kept Taylor off the field until Week 9 and was an obvious factor in his lack of strength throughout the first few games. He’ll be back strong in 2013.

29. C.J. Mosley, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Run Defense

    40/50

    A good tackler in the run game, C.J. Mosley shows up on film cutting through the offensive line and attacking inside rushes. He has good strength to generate push off the ball and does a nice job shedding blockers once he reads the play. Mosley has an underrated second gear once he diagnoses the play. He needs to play with better leverage and more consistently use his hands to get free from blockers early in the play.

    Pass Rush

    28/50

    Mosley is not a pass-rushing specialist. He will struggle to beat blockers with speed on the inside and can get caught up if the offensive lineman beats him off the ball. Mosley doesn’t have a bull rush that can push the line and lacks the speed to try to split gaps to get to the quarterback.

    Overall

    68/100

    Mosley is a very good run defender, but the Jacksonville Jaguars need a pass-rushing threat at defensive tackle. He could become a role player in 2013.

28. Justin Bannan, Denver Broncos

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    Run Defense

    43/50

    A strong run defender who sees the ball well and is strong enough to keep blockers from moving him off the ball, Justin Bannan excels on run downs. He has very good vision to read and recognize the play and won’t get tricked with misdirection. What Bannan lacks in quickness, he makes up for in strength and awareness. When working down the line of scrimmage, Bannan shows good agility. His hand use to break free from blockers is top-notch.

    Pass Rush

    25/50

    Bannan didn’t record a sack all season, but his job is to crash the line and create opportunities for outside pass-rushers. The Broncos would be OK with Bannan getting more pressure from inside, but he doesn’t show the burst off the line to consistently beat blockers.

    Overall

    68/100

    Bannan is a versatile, lunchpail lineman who will play any alignment along the defensive front. He could see more action in 2013.

27. Alex Carrington, Buffalo Bills

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    Run Defense

    33/50

    Alex Carrington has the bulk and length to play multiple spots along the defensive line. As a tackle, he’s a bit light in his lower body and can get pushed around inside. He has the long arms to create distance between himself and the blocker, and he can come off those blocks to make tackles if he’s not tied up early on. Carrington is an active tackler who fights to the ball.

    Pass Rush

    35/50

    With average speed and inconsistent leverage, Carrington can be neutralized as a pass-rusher on the inside. He has to learn to play lower and faster to beat interior linemen. He will get pressures with a nice countermove into the B-gap, but when Carrington is locked up one-on-one, he can be shut down.

    Overall

    68/100

    Carrington is a solid rotational defensive tackle and will give you some production, but he doesn’t look at home inside against bigger blockers.

26. Jay Ratliff, Dallas Cowboys

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    Run Defense

    33/50

    A nose tackle in the Dallas 3-4, Jay Ratliff is a powerful run defender and anchor. He was limited to just six games in 2012 but showed his trademark strength against the run in that time. Teams were coming at him with a guard-center combination, at least initially, and that was something he couldn’t beat to get to the ball. Ratliff struggled to show the strength to hold on to blockers and free up his linebackers.

    Pass Rush

    36/50

    Not a natural pass-rusher, Ratliff will get pressure on the pocket and can drive back blockers. In a 3-4 defense, he wasn’t asked to get penetration or split blockers to get to the pocket. He did get great pressure from the middle of the defense, though, driving back linemen and showing good quickness to come off blockers and pursue the passer.

    Overall

    69/100

    Ratliff could have been ranked higher in 2012 if not for injury. He was on a hot streak when his season ended after Week 11. As the Cowboys move to a 4-3 defense, Ratliff could have an even bigger impact.

25. Jason Jones, Detroit Lions

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    Run Defense

    33/50

    A tall, lean defensive tackle, Jason Jones can get pushed around off the ball but counters well with the quickness to make plays in space. Jones does a good job in pursuit, but when hit off the ball, tackles and guards can get him walking back off the line. Jones does rip away from blocks well and will shoot through the line to flush the pocket.

    Pass Rush

    36/50

    Jones is quick off the ball, and when matched up inside against guards, he’s often too quick and too slippery for them to get their hands on. Jones comes off the ball low and fast, especially considering his natural length. He’ll get into the backfield and make plays, even if he’s not accumulating many sacks.

    Overall

    69/100

    Jones is a versatile defender who can line up at end or tackle and make an impact on the offense. His value comes in his match-up potential.

    /100

    Jones is a versatile defender who can line up at end or tackle and make an impact on the offense. His value comes in his matchup potential.

24. Akiem Hicks, New Orleans Saints

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    Run Defense

    38/50

    Akiem Hicks is a big body to handle at the line of scrimmage, and NFL offensive linemen didn’t have great success against the rookie. Hicks has the powerful base to hold anchor at tackle and shows with his great length that he can pull down runners and keep blockers off his frame. Read-and-reaction time was average from Hicks in his first season. He’ll need to become quicker at reading his keys and adjusting to take on blockers or ball-carriers.

    Pass Rush

    31/50

    Not a true pass-rusher, Hicks lacks the quickness to be able to cut through gaps and get to the passer. He does create some pressure with his frame and leg drive, but he’s largely acting as a gap-plugger. In an ideal scheme, Hicks would be collapsing the pocket and allowing outside rushers a clear path to the quarterback.

    Overall

    69/100

    A very good rookie season from Hicks has him trending up the rankings. A move to the 3-4 defense should benefit him in 2013.

23. Randy Starks, Miami Dolphins

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    Run Defense

    33/50

    Randy Starks is a smart player against the run, but blockers controlled him and otherwise moved him off his spot last season. Starks has the strength to hold his ground against moving blockers, but too often he took himself out of the play by overpursuing and/or letting his feet go dead when engaged. Blockers had success turning Starks’ shoulders and driving him back off rushing lanes. His production dropped against the run because of this.

    Pass Rush

    36/50

    Starks is quick enough to get past blockers and put pressure on the passer. He has a good first step and nice initial leverage but can be inconsistent in maintaining that leverage. Blockers had success driving up under his pads and keeping him from further penetrating the pocket. Starks did a good job putting pressure on quarterbacks and flushing them out of the pocket, but outside of Week 1, he had little success finishing and creating sacks.

    Overall

    69/100

    Starks was inconsistent in 2012, and depending on which games are viewed, he either looked like a superstar or a failure. He’ll need to be more consistent to earn his paycheck in 2013.

22. Sammie Lee Hill, Tennessee Titans

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    Run Defense

    33/50

    Sammie Lee Hill is an average run defender who will make some plays as a rotational defensive tackle. He is a quick player off the line, showing the ability to beat blockers off the ball and attack. He struggles to shed blocks, though, and will get pushed off the ball if he doesn’t beat his man off the line.

    Pass Rush

    36/50

    A good athlete with nice quickness, Hill has the agility to split blockers and get into the backfield. He has enough burst to win off the ball and attack before linemen are set up. He can struggle to convert quickness to power if a blocker recovers. Hill has to win with his first step or he’ll get stood up. He does a good job putting pressure on the pocket.

    Overall

    69/100

    Hill has very good quickness and nice size but doesn’t always show the strength on the field to consistently beat blockers who get their hands on him. He’s a very good No. 3 tackle.

21. Vance Walker, Oakland Raiders

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    Run Defense

    39/50

    Vance Walker has adequate strength and good quickness off the snap. He can take on a double-team and is still able to make plays. He's a solid tackler who rarely misses when a rusher comes through his zone.

    Pass Rush

    30/50

    Most of Walker’s sacks come through pure effort and good coverage downfield or missed assignments on the offensive side of the ball. He is able to get under the pads of his opponent and drive him back into the pocket.

    Overall

    69/100

    Walker showed marked improvement and became much more consistent this past year. The newly acquired Oakland Raider should really excel next year playing on that defensive front.

20. Roy Miller, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Run Defense

    40/50

    Roy Miller has good quickness to shoot inside gaps against the run and make stops in the backfield. He’s strong enough to take on blockers and not get moved back off the line. A bit of a liability in 2011, Miller really improved his read-and-react skills against the run in 2012.

    Pass Rush

    30/50

    Our team was tough on Miller’s pass rushing in 2011, but he showed improved strength and technique this past season. Miller has the quick feet and first step to cause problems for guards and centers in the middle of the line. He comes off the ball low and can be tough to push back. Miller will be a bit slow off the ball at times and can stand up out of his stance, allowing blockers to control his frame. He doesn’t have the speed to run down quarterbacks, but he will push the pocket.

    Overall

    70/100

    One of the more improved defensive tackles in football during the 2012 season, Miller is a balanced defender with top-level run-defense skills.

19. Linval Joseph, New York Giants

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    Run Defense

    39/50

    Linval Joseph has the size and strength to be a headache for blockers in the middle of the line. When run blockers try to get into his frame and push him off the ball, Joseph is strong enough to hold his ground and prevent teams from finding rushing lanes inside. When asked to move and make plays, Joseph is limited. He’s great in a phone booth but poor outside his first few steps.

    Pass Rush

    31/50

    Joseph has very good strength off the ball and can push linemen back into the pocket, which is how he picks up sacks and pressures. Quarterbacks also get rushed from outside and tend to step up into Joseph’s reach. His quickness off the ball is just average, though, and he doesn’t have good enough speed to give chase.

    Overall

    70/100

    An ideal nose tackle in a 4-3 defense, Joseph has upper-level strength and drive but lacks the agility to be counted on as a pass-rusher.

18. Spencer Johnson, Buffalo Bills

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    Run Defense

    34/50

    Spencer Johnson is a good run defender who can make tackles in space and control the middle of the line. He doesn’t show the natural quickness to make plays in pursuit outside the tackle box, but Johnson can be slippery enough inside to crash the line of scrimmage and either make a tackle or force the back to redirect.

    Pass Rush

    36/50

    Johnson shows good quickness moving off the snap. He’ll get into gaps and can pressure the pocket with nice hustle. Johnson doesn’t have a great countermove in a pass-rushing situation. He’ll get bogged down by a good guard who can hold his ground against his bull rush. Johnson has natural leverage, but he lacks the strength to push and drive a blocker sunk into their set.

    Overall

    70/100

    A solid No. 3 defensive tackle, Johnson is balanced enough to make an impact on first, second or third down when needed to rotate in. He could be a starter elsewhere.

17. Fred Evans, Minnesota Vikings

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    Run Defense

    41/50

    Fred Evans made his money in 2012 stuffing the run. One of the league’s biggest surprises in run defense, Evans has the strength to hold up against blockers, but he’s long enough to make tackles. Evans lacks the speed to give chase against the run, but he will slide and work down the line of scrimmage to pick up backside tackles.

    Pass Rush

    29/50

    Evans didn’t offer much in terms of pass-rushing ability, failing to show the quickness needed to get through gaps and find the quarterback. He does have good arm length to keep blockers off his frame and then to reach to pressure the pocket. Evans’ pass-rush skills come down to his lack of quickness and burst. Offensive linemen are able to shuffle and slide to keep him out of the backfield.

    Overall

    70/100

    A situational defensive tackle in the Vikings' scheme, Evans played very well when on the field. With size and length, he can be a change-of-pace asset.

16. Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans

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    Run Defense

    46/50

    Jurrell Casey isn’t the biggest defensive tackle on the field, but he plays with strength and leverage. That’s enough to keep most blockers from holding him back. Casey is a natural nose tackle, even in a 4-3. He’ll get inside gaps to shut down the run and force multiple blockers to converge on him. That frees up Colin McCarthy and friends to make tackles. If looking at defensive tackles who make tackles, Casey is one of the best in the game at pulling down runners from his spot on the line.

    Pass Rush

    25/50

    Casey is a run-stuffer who doesn’t bring much as an inside rusher. He has a strong first step, but he isn’t quick enough to get past blockers and find a path to the quarterback. Casey will contribute pressures by driving linemen back into the pocket, but he doesn’t counter that bull rush well or use his hands to come free of blocks.

    Overall

    71/100

    A strong anchor in the middle of the defensive line, Casey may not get recognition from most due to limited sacks, but his play jumps off the screen on rushing downs.

15. Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Run Defense

    36/50

    Fletcher Cox has exceptional short-area quickness and can really cause some problems for bigger, slower, offensive linemen. He is much more effective when he is able to stay low and hold his ground, but if he comes off the snap too high, he is easily moved out of the play. He has the agility to chase plays down from the backside.

    Pass Rush

    35/50

    Cox really started to come into his own during the second half of the season. He has a great first step and a nice bull rush. There are times where he will try to do too much and take himself out of plays, but as he develops, he should become one of the most fearsome pass-rushing tackles in the league.

    Overall

    71/100

    Cox was solid as a rookie, and if he continues to build on the second half of this past season, teams will have to start game-planning around him.

14. Michael Brockers, St. Louis Rams

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    Run Defense

    40/50

    An excellent run defender, Michael Brockers is able to get a good initial push and shed blocks with ease. He will need to work on his technique and hand placement, but he should be stout against the run for years to come.

    Pass Rush

    32/50

    Brockers has a high motor and doesn’t stop until the whistle. He has a powerful bull rush but will need to develop a few other moves and countermoves if he wants to be more effective. At times, he will come off the ball too high, which causes him to struggle against the bigger, stronger offensive linemen.

    Overall

    72/100

    Brockers showed flashes of being a top-end defensive tackle, but he will need to become more technically sound and develop another pass-rush move or two if he wants to be more consistently dominant.

13. Chris Canty, Baltimore Ravens

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    Run Defense

    36/50

    Chris Canty played in just nine games for the New York Giants in 2012, but he showed his trademark toughness against the run. He has great length to affect the run game by making pull-down tackles and by shedding blockers to chase down the ball. He is a penetrating run defender who doesn’t have the bulk or strength to plug rushing lanes. Leverage can be a problem for Canty if locked up by defenders.

    Pass Rush

    36/50

    An active pass-rusher, Canty does his best work in one-on-one situations on the edge. Playing inside at tackle, he struggled to get low enough to beat blockers into gaps to make plays. Canty isn’t strong enough to simply bull rush through interior offensive linemen. He uses his hands well and can get past blockers who are already set up in their stance.

    Overall

    72/100

    Versatile enough to play end or tackle, Canty is one of the more balanced defensive linemen in the NFL.

12. Richard Seymour, Oakland Raiders

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    Run Defense

    41/50

    Injuries plagued Richard Seymour’s 2012 season, limiting him to just eight games. He is still able to penetrate the line against the run and make plays in space. His strength to anchor was on display again this past year when healthy. Seymour is at his best playing on the tackle or slightly inside, where he can shoot gaps and make tackles in space.

    Pass Rush

    33/50

    Seymour plays with good natural quickness to shoot gaps, but this was an area where he seemed to fall off in 2012. He can rush from inside or outside and has a good swim move to beat tackles on the edge. He’ll rip and use his hands inside against interior linemen with some success.

    Overall

    74/100

    A veteran defender with good balance, Seymour has started to slow down near the end of his career. He still has value but is not the elite player many remember.

11. Kevin Williams, Minnesota Vikings

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    Run Defense

    38/50

    Kevin Williams has been a mainstay among the top defensive tackles in the league for some time now. His 2012 season showed a strong run defender who can get pushed around at the line of scrimmage, but he was still an active defender in space. Williams missed too many tackles for our liking, which brought down his score, but he is adept at getting into rushing lanes. He will take on blockers with good leverage and technique.

    Pass Rush

    37/50

    Williams doesn’t produce the amount of sacks that he used to, but he is still very good at creating pressure and creating havoc in the backfield. Williams’ first step isn’t what it used to be, but he does have good initial quickness to get off the ball and into a gap. Williams is strong enough to bull rush with some effectiveness, but he could do a better job driving his feet throughout the play.

    Overall

    75/100

    A balanced veteran on the Vikings line, Williams may not be the elite pass-rusher he once was, but there are few tackles with his three-down ability.

10. Mike Martin, Tennessee Titans

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    Run Defense

    38/50

    A big body with agility, Mike Martin wasted no time acclimating to the NFL in his first season. He played with strength against blockers, using his frame and natural leverage to squat against the run and take away rushing lanes. Martin can do better to read and react to the play. He was a bit slow to move off the ball at times, but his athletic ability is already at a high level for a power tackle in a 4-3 defense.

    Pass Rush

    39/50

    Martin isn’t a natural pass-rusher, but he generates pressure off his first step by jumping into gaps and then using his speed and strength combination to attack the backfield. Martin has shorter arms, which limits his ability to stack and shed blockers, but he’s quick when closing on the ball. He will put pressure on the quarterback through sacks, hits and hurries.

    Overall

    77/100

    One of the best rookie defensive tackles coming out of a loaded crop in 2012, Martin quickly showed that the Titans have a steal at defensive tackle.

9. Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills

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    Run Defense

    35/50

    Marcell Dareus continues to be one of the most promising tackles in football. He makes tackles behind the line of scrimmage with his quick first step, but we noted a few games (notably San Francisco and Tennessee) where athletic guards were getting into his body and driving him away from the play. Dareus is a fighter, but if blockers turn his shoulders, he’s out of the play.

    Pass Rush

    43/50

    Dareus plays fast, showing the speed to beat blockers off the ball and get into space to attack the quarterback. He can win inside or outside consistently against good blockers and shows the hands to keep linemen off his frame. He moves like a player 30 pounds lighter than his 330-pound frame, showing good lateral quickness to counter blockers and the raw speed to simply beat them to the hole.

    Overall

    78/100

    Dareus has the speed and strength to become one of the best in the game, but he has to work on consistency and technique in the run game first.

8. Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots

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    Run Defense

    48/50

    People as big as Vince Wilfork should not move the way he does, and yet he’s in on almost every play that happens between the tackles for the New England defense. He has natural leverage and strength to shut down rushing lanes, and he moves well enough laterally to slide and adjust on the go. He’s a power player up front who can either sit down and anchor or move to stop the rush. For a big man who primarily plays nose tackle, Wilfork makes a surprising number of tackles.

    Pass Rush

    31/50

    Wilfork isn’t a pass-rusher; you can tell that by looking at him. But he does move well within a three-yard box to create pressure. His first step is quick, and he brings enough momentum and power to walk back linemen once he makes contact.

    Overall

    79/100

    A picture of what NFL nose tackles should look and play like, Wilfork is a first-class athlete and elite defender.

7. Desmond Bryant, Cleveland Browns

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    Run Defense

    38/50

    A college defensive end, Desmond Bryant has the quickness and agility to get through the line to make plays in space. The 2012 season didn’t show him making many tackles, but he was asked to take on blockers and free up linebackers as often as he was freed to attack the run. Bryant shows good awareness and quick reaction time, but he doesn’t have the speed to chase down runners outside of the tackle box.

    Pass Rush

    42/50

    Bryant has excelled as an inside pass-rusher. He’s quick enough to get into gaps and can pressure the pocket with his burst and closing speed. He uses his hands well, but he has to because his leverage can be inconsistent at times. Learning to better free himself from blockers would lead to more sacks to match his high number of pressures. He would be an interesting player on the edge in a 3-4 scheme, where his quickness would be an asset in one-on-one situations against tackles.

    Overall

    80/100

    Bryant’s athleticism and versatility were excellent in the Raiders scheme, but he can be special unleashed in Cleveland.

6. Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions

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    Run Defense

    35/50

    It is well documented that Ndamukong Suh plays too fast to effectively stop the run at times, but he’s pretty good the rest of the time. He will get caught flying into the backfield too hot, which allows teams to run underneath him or use a pulling guard to knock him off-balance. Suh’s speed helps him in pursuit, as he’s able to make plays from behind. He’s naturally strong at the point of attack, and if asked to hold his ground, he can.

    Pass Rush

    45/50

    Suh has one of the best first steps in the NFL. He has a rare blend of quickness, balance and strength to come off the snap and get into pass-rushing gaps. He’s incredibly fast in his first three yards, making it very tough for blockers to catch up to him without losing balance. He can get stood up at times, but he’s strong enough to counter that. On the rare occasion that he’s stopped, it’s because he loses his head and gets too tall in his stance. Suh contributes sacks, pressures, hurries and hits in the backfield.

    Overall

    80/100

    One of the more scrutinized players in the NFL, Suh plays hard, and he plays fast. That will lead to mistakes—and penalties—but his 2012 season was his most complete year yet.

5. Henry Melton, Chicago Bears

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    Run Defense

    37/50

    Henry Melton is an attacker. He is versatile and fluid coming off the ball against the run. He has the quickness to beat blockers to the hole and can shrug off hands once he’s there. You will see him play too aggressively at times, which gives linemen a chance to knock him off-balance. He has good strength but will get driven off the ball at times. Melton is fast enough to recover and still make plays even after initial contact, though. When he gets through the line, he’s a terror on the ball-carrier.

    Pass Rush

    44/50

    A true 3-technique defensive tackle, Melton excels at beating blockers into gaps and then closing on the quarterback. He developed a better bull rush in 2012, showing the strength and leverage to drive blockers back off the line. A good, hard chip from a second blocker will throw Melton off when engaged in one-on-ones, but he has nice balance and recovery speed. His burst off the ball is one of the best in football.

    Overall

    81/100

    I scouted Melton in person his freshman year as a running back alongside Jamaal Charles at Texas. The big man has come a long way since his ball-carrying days, but he’s still a freakish athlete with unlimited potential.

4. Nick Fairley, Detroit Lions

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    Run Defense

    41/50

    Nick Fairley came on strong in 2012, playing like the first-round draft pick the Lions saw in him in 2011. He is an athlete, and he uses his speed and strength to attack gaps and meet runners head-on. While Fairley tends to go all-or-nothing into gaps, he plays with good awareness and is able to reset and recover to make tackles or pursue the ball.

    Pass Rush

    43/50

    Fairley has a nice blend of speed, strength and balance off the ball to frustrate offensive linemen. His ability to come off the ball and beat blockers to the gap is his trademark. But we saw great technique from him in his ability to use his hands to keep blockers from stopping him or getting an angle on his frame. Fairley protects his body and limits blockers as well as any defensive tackle in the league. By playing with good leverage and keeping his pads low, he can be impossible for blockers to reach and grab on to.

    Overall

    84/100

    Nick Fairley may not get the recognition that his teammate Ndamukong Suh receives, but he was better in 2012.

3. Kyle Williams, Buffalo Bills

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    Run Defense

    42/50

    A true nose tackle against the run, Kyle Williams can play anywhere from head-up on the center to shading and attacking the gaps off the guards. He is stout and plays low to the ground, making it tough for linemen to drive-block him out of rushing lanes. He won’t make a ton of tackles; that’s not his game. But he will pile up blockers and close holes that backs are trying to come through. Williams is at his best coming off the snap and slamming into blockers to force a pileup.

    Pass Rush

    43/50

    A better pass-rusher than you might think. Williams creates sacks, but he piles up a ton of pressures on the pocket with his quickness and strength from the tackle position. He fires off the ball hard and has the agility to attack gaps. He doesn’t have great length, but he’s slippery in tight spaces and uses his hands very well to disengage blockers.

    Overall

    85/100

    One of the best all-around defensive tackles in the league, Williams was a major impact in 2012.

2. Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Run Defense

    42/50

    A healthy Gerald McCoy went on a tear in 2012, showing why he was taken No. 3 overall in 2010. He has good strength to shed blockers and get to the football. While he doesn’t make a ton of tackles behind the line of scrimmage, he shoots gaps and causes runners to change direction and find other rushing lanes. McCoy will get shoved around some in the run game, but he shows the balance and quickness to recover well and still close on the ball.

    Pass Rush

    45/50

    McCoy didn’t have a huge number of sacks in 2012, but he is constantly pressuring the backfield and making plays on the ball. He plays fast, and he has the quickness to get into gaps and force the quarterback into mistakes. The Tampa system allows McCoy to shoot gaps and attack, and that’s what he does best. We’d like to see better hand use to free himself from blockers—which would lead to more sacks—but he is already one of the best.

    Overall

    87/100

    If his first full season is an indicator of what’s to come from McCoy, he’ll be near the top of this list for a long time.

1. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Run Defense

    45/50

    An athletic, active defensive tackle, Geno Atkins makes plays in the run game by crashing lanes and taking on the ball-carrier. Unlike many defensive tackles, he makes tackles in the backfield instead of standing up blockers to allow linebackers to come in and clean up. He has the footwork to beat blockers to the hole, and from there, he’s quick enough to chase the ball-carrier. Atkins will get pushed around a little by firing off the ball too fast and then getting “whammed” by guards or fullbacks, but he’s still fantastic against the run.

    Pass Rush

    50/50

    Atkins led all defensive tackles in sacks in 2012, showing off his dangerous first step and follow-up quickness. He beats his man to the gap and has the versatility to win with speed or power when engaged. He plays with leverage and has the flexibility to dip and drive blockers, which allows him to put pressure on quarterbacks even when he has only one free arm.

    Overall

    95/100

    Atkins is the best defensive tackle in football. He’s an elite run defender and has the quickness and speed to be a terrorizing presence as a pass-rusher.