Vance Walker will be the breakout player of 2013 in his new role as starting defensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders. He's a perfect fit as the 3-technique defensive tackle and will do well with Christo Bilukidi, Tommy Kelly and Pat Sims on the roster.
He’s been spending the past four years as part of the Falcons roster and defensive tackle rotation. Before that, Walker was a standout defensive tackle from Georgia Tech, and I personally had him with a second-round grade in the 2009 NFL draft.
When he was available in the seventh round in 2009, it was shocking. But he has turned out to be a better player than Peria Jerry has been for the Falcons. He’s got the potential to really break out now that he’s had some time to develop behind Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters in the rotation.
Walker has been excellent as a run-stuffer, but he really showed his worth with his versatility in multiple sets as a penetrating 1-technique and 3-technique. His pass-rushing still has room to grow. The best comparison for his career will be Rod Coleman.
As a run-stuffer, there were few better.
When Vance Walker was drafted in 2009, he was barely even expected to play in the NFL. However, his ability as a run-stuffer earned him the third spot in the defensive tackle rotation. He was able to stop the running back 11 times behind or at the line of scrimmage despite playing just 133 run defense snaps.
He did more of the same in 2011 and improved despite the increase in snaps from 297 to 389. With the scheme switch in 2012, he truly performed to his best abilities. He earned another snap increase from 389 to 539 and was the second man in the defensive tackle rotation all season.
He was used all over the formation and truly saw a spike in the run defense. Despite getting the 24 stops at or behind the line on his 267 snaps, the Falcons played better run defense with Walker on the field. He drew double teams flipping between the 1-, 3- and 5-techniques.
Atlanta will miss the run defense that Vance Walker provided.
However, Oakland will love having him start at the 1-technique and rotate with Pat Sims. He will be able to draw multiple double teams. The Raiders should see a spike in their run defense because of his play.
As a pass-rusher, Vance can be something special.
As good as he is as a penetrating run defender, Vance Walker could be even better as a pass-rusher. He's already proven in 2012 that he has an excellent first step off the ball. His 6'2", 304-pound frame does give him excellent bull-rush strength.
However, he has so much untapped potential. It will be interesting to see how the Raiders rotate him around the formations, but he could easily play the same kind of 1-, 3- and 5-tech role that he did in Atlanta under Mike Nolan.
He's got three very effective pass-rushing moves between his bull rush and rip and swim, but the most effective thing that Walker does in pass-rushing is take up multiple blockers on stunts so that the players to the side of him can get a more free rush up the middle.
The combination of being the sweep-man in the stunts and a penetrator against the standard fronts will give the Raiders someone to be a primary interior pass-rusher.
He will complement Tommy Kelly and Pat Sims on the interior and has potential to get eight or more sacks every year.
Walker will be the next Rod Coleman—only the journey is reversed.
One of Atlanta's biggest free-agent coups of all time was when they brought in excellent pass-rusher Rod Coleman right before the 2004 season. They stole him away from the Raiders with a tremendous five-year contract that led to him taking over the new 3-technique spot in Jim Mora Jr.'s defense despite not being a full-time starter until 2003.
He rewarded Atlanta with three years of six or more sacks and a pass rush on the interior that was almost impossible to stop.
Vance Walker's move from Atlanta to Oakland reminds me of it because Walker was a reserve who had to earn his way into the equivalent of a starter's role.
Walker should have a similar impact on the Oakland defense. He will provide an interior pass rush that will help mold the Raiders defense into one of the better pass-rushing units in the league. And the rest of the defense will definitely benefit from the improved pass rush.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac and Rotoworld. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He also runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.
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