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Breaking Down Which Defensive Line Prospects Would Fit Philadelphia Eagles' 3-4

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IJuly 29, 2016

Breaking Down Which Defensive Line Prospects Would Fit Philadelphia Eagles' 3-4

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    The key to a successful 3-4 defense is a quality nose tackle. Chip Kelly will need a mammoth-sized man in the middle of the line, a la Haloti Ngata or Vince Wilfork.

    The Philadelphia Eagles already signed former San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, a 31-year-old veteran who also has experience playing end in the 3-4. He’s not the nose tackle of the future but rather a stopgap until the team finds a quality player to play the position.

    The 2013 draft has two elite defensive tackles or 3-4 ends who could conceivably go in the top five overall. Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd are in a class of their own, but the next tier after them fills out nicely as well. This is as good a time as ever to get a top-notch defensive lineman.

    *This article focuses mainly on the defensive tackles coming out in the draft. My previous article focused on the pass-rushers that played 4-3 end and 3-4 outside linebacker like Damontre Moore and Jarvis Jones.


    All Scouting Combine results are courtesy of NFL.com.

Star Lotulelei, Utah

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    Size: 6’3”, 311 pounds

    Position He Played in College: 3-4 nose tackle

    2012 Stats: Five sacks, 42 tackles, 11 tackles for loss

     

    Potential or Proven Production

    Star Loutulelei has both a proven track record of success and a ridiculous amount of potential to succeed at the next level. Lotulelei’s incredible size and strength make him a near certainty to succeed in the NFL.

    If he didn’t have a heart condition, Lotulelei would be in the running for the first overall pick. As it stands, he still has a chance.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance

    Lotulelei didn’t work out at the Scouting Combine because of his condition.

     

    Injury Concerns

    The heart condition may be a big deal and it may not be. Lotulelei has been cleared to play by doctors, which is certainly good news. Lotulelei also briefly quit football after his freshman season of college, but that shouldn’t factor into the discussion for his NFL future.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Yes. Absolutely. If the Philadelphia Eagles pick Lotulelei, they’re getting a Star. He can play nose tackle in a 3-4, defensive tackle in a 4-3 or defensive end in a 3-4. Lotulelei has the frame to fluctuate between 320-340 pounds.

    Players of his ability don’t come around very often. He is a supreme pass-rusher who also excels at stopping the run. Lotulelei would require constant double-teams, which would make life significantly easier for Brandon Graham, Trent Cole and Fletcher Cox.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Assuming Lotulelei’s condition checks out, he’s worth the No. 1 overall pick, and there's a very good chance he won’t be around at pick four.

    If Chip Kelly passes on Lotulelei, he better have a fine alternative.

Sharrif Floyd, Florida

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    Size: 6’3”, 297 pounds

    Position He Played in College: 3-4 nose tackle

    2012 Stats: Three sacks, 46 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, one forced fumble

     

    Potential or Proven Production

    Sharrif Floyd wasn’t a game-changer in college, but he was a very fundamentally sound player that projects very well at the NFL level. Floyd’s quickness and strength will make him an immediate starter in the National Football League.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance

    Floyd didn’t bench press at the scouting combine but he did run a 4.92 40-yard dash with a timed split of 1.68 seconds in the 10-yard dash. That’s fast, and that quickness matters a lot more than a 40 time.

     

    Injury Concerns

    A lack of injury concerns on Floyd’s part is what could vault him ahead of Star Lotulelei. Floyd has no significant injury history, while there are serious concerns about Lotulelei.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Floyd is a terrific fit for any NFL team, whether the defense is a traditional 4-3 or a 3-4. Floyd would project to play defensive tackle in a 4-3 and 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4. He’s slightly under 300 pounds, so he wouldn’t be an ideal nose tackle.

    The Philadelphia Eagles do need a nose tackle of the future, but Isaac Sopoaga could certainly be a stopgap with Fletcher Cox and Floyd on the edge.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    There’s little about Floyd that should be cause for concern. He played at a steady level thoughout college. He’s not a one-year wonder, he has stayed healthy and he can play anywhere on the defensive line.

    That’s why the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars will both strongly consider Floyd. In fact, there’s a chance both Lotulelei and Floyd could be gone by pick four.

Sheldon Richardson, Missouri

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    Size: 6’2”, 294 pounds

    Where He Played in College: 4-3 defensive tackle

    2012 Stats: 4.5 sacks, 75 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss

     

    Potential or Proven Production

    Sheldon Richardson had a very strong senior season at Missouri, registering sacks and tackles for loss. Richardson was honorable All-Big 12 in 2011 and followed it up by being named second-team All-SEC last year.

    That’s enough potential to get him in the top half of the first round.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance

    Richardson ran a 5.02 40-yard dash, which isn’t too shabby for a defensive tackle. He also benched 225 pounds 30 times, which is solid enough for a defensive lineman.

     

    Injury Concerns

    Richardson does have some injury concerns. He had shoulder surgery in the 2011 offseason after playing through the injury for most of the year.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Richardson won’t be the nose tackle of the future for the Eagles considering his frame. But he’s worth taking to be the 3-4 end starting opposite Fletcher Cox. As of now, Cedric Thornton is the likely starter at the one spot, but he’s best suited as a rotational player.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    The fourth overall pick is just too high to select Richardson. He’s a mid-first-round talent who very likely won’t fall to the second round. If he does happen to be around at pick 36 (or if the Eagles trade down, which is much more likely), Richardson is an ideal fit as a 3-4 defensive end.

Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State

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    Size: 6’3”, 320 pounds

    Position He Played in College: 4-3 defensive tackle

    2012 Stats: One sack, 55 tackles, four tackles for loss

     

    Potential or Proven Production

    Johnathan Hankins has an extremely impressive track record at the collegiate level. He made an instant impact at Ohio State as a freshman and played a significant role for all three years. Hankins would have a chance to go top five overall if he stayed through his senior season.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance

    A 5.31 second 40-yard dash isn’t very impressive ,but who really cares? Hankins didn’t bench press at the scouting combine, but it shouldn’t impact him either way.

     

    Injury Concerns

    Hankins has played three relatively injury-free seasons at Ohio State. He wore a knee brace the last two years but it was more of a precautionary thing.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Hankins would be a phenomenal fit for the Eagles. He’s the nose tackle of the future, should Chip Kelly draft him. Hankins can line up at 3-4 end as well as 3-4 nose tackle, but nose tackle just makes much more sense.

    Hankins is a three-year starter at Ohio State, and he would be an instant starter for the Eagles too.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    No one expects Hankins to go fourth overall, but he would be a tremendous addition at the 35th selection. If the Eagles can trade down into the middle of the first round, Hankins is a solid choice for Philly.

John Jenkins, Georgia

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    Size: 6’4”, 346 pounds

    Position He Played in College: 3-4 nose tackle

    2012 Stats: One sack, 50 tackles, two tackles for loss

     

    Potential or Proven Production

    It’s difficult to look at the stats and conclude John Jenkins was one of the best defensive players in the nation in 2012. But the numbers don’t tell how much easier he made it for his teammates. Requiring constant double-teams made life way easier for Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones, each of whom is a first-round talent.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance

    Jenkins elected not to run the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, which is probably a good idea. He only participated in the bench press, putting up 30 reps. That’s a good total, although not as elite as Jenkins’ size.

     

    Injury Concerns

    Other than a fairly minor hamstring injury in 2011, Jenkins had no injury problems during his collegiate career.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Men of Jenkins’ size don’t come along very often. He played most of his senior season pushing 360 pounds. Such size doesn’t necessarily guarantee success in the NFL. Terrence Cody of Alabama was every bit as large, and he’s struggled in the pros. Jenkins’ size makes him only a fit in a 3-4, which means he would work for the Eagles since they’re now running a 3-4.

    The Eagles have good pass-rushers in Fletcher Cox, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. Jenkins occupying double-teams would make the defense work, assuming Jenkins has the athleticism to succeed.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Jenkins has boom-or-bust potential. He’s a borderline first-round prospect that could still be around when the Eagles pick 35th. If the Eagles don’t pick Star Lotulelei or Sharrif Floyd, Jenkins could be an ideal candidate.

    I think his size makes him risky, though. Players that big are scarce for a reason.

Kawann Short, Purdue

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    Size: 6’3”, 299 pounds

    Position He Played in College: 4-3 defensive tackle

    2012 Stats: Six sacks, 47 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss

     

    Potential or Proven Production

    Kawann Short produced at every level in college. He was a freshman All-American and eventual second-team All-American and first-team All-Big-Ten player by his senior season. Short’s success as a pass-rusher and run-stopper will make him a force in the NFL.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance

    Short had an undisclosed injury that kept him out of the scouting combine but that shouldn’t be an issue. He did register at just 299 pounds, which was the lightest he’s been since his middle school days.

     

    Injury Concerns: Short was kept out of the combine due to a minor hamstring injury. That shouldn’t impact his stock in the NFL draft.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

     Adding Short to their roster would be a great move for the Eagles. The team can get away with Isaac Sopoaga as the nose tackle for a year, but they really need another defensive end to play in a 3-4.

    As of now, it’s likely to be Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton. Cox is a terrific player but Thornton is best utilized as a rotational player.


    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Chip Kelly wouldn’t possibly pick Short fourth overall, but in the second round, Short would be a great addition. He likely won’t go in the first round, so if players like Johnathan Hankins are gone by Round 2, Kelly would be wise to take a good look at Short.

Margus Hunt, SMU

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    Size: 6’8”, 277 pounds

    Position He Played in College: 3-4 defensive end

    2012 Stats: Eight sacks, 31 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, one interception

     

    Potential or Proven Production

    Margus Hunt was a one-man wrecking crew at SMU, picking up sacks and blocking kicks like they were tackles. And he did all that from a 3-4 defensive end position.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance

    No one player elevated his stock more at the scouting combine than Hunt. Hunt’s 38 repetitions on the bench press tied for the most among defensive linemen, and he also ran a very impressive 4.60 40-yard dash.

     

    Injury Concerns

    Hunt dealt with a left shoulder injury early in 2011 but that shouldn’t be a lingering concern.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Hunt should be a fine 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. He’s a similar player to Calais Campbell, who has dominated with the Arizona Cardinals for the last several seasons. Hunt would also make a strong impact on special teams, where he blocked a ton of kicks in college.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    No coach would select Hunt fourth overall, but he’s got a chance to go late in the first round. The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens seem like logical fits. If Hunt gets past them, Chip Kelly should take him at pick 35.

Sylvester Williams, North Carolina

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    Size: 6’3”, 313 pounds

    Position He Played in College: 3-4 nose tackle

    2012 Stats: Six sacks, 42 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss

     

    Potential or Proven Production

    Sylvester Williams played pretty well at North Carolina his senior season, picking up five sacks in his first six games. He trailed off as the year went on but still made a big impact as an interior lineman.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance

    Williams put up average totals at the scouting combine, running a 5.03 40-yard dash and benching 225 pounds 27 times.

     

    Injury Concerns

    Williams has stayed relatively injury free during his college days.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Williams has experience playing as a 3-4 nose tackle which would make him an ideal fit for the Eagles. He has experience as both a 0-technique, 1-technique, and 3-technique tackle.

    Adding Williams would allow Chip Kelly to be versatile with his defensive line. He could use traditional four-man fronts with Williams and Isaac Sopoaga as the tackles and Trent Cole and Brandon Graham as the ends. And he could go with a true 3-4 defense with Williams playing directly over the center.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Williams’ stock seems to be rising as of late. He’s got a chance to even go in the top 20 overall. There are much better defensive linemen to be selected fourth by the Eagles, but if he’s around in the second round, Williams would be a tremendous addition.

Bennie Logan, LSU

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    Size: 6’2”, 309 pounds

    Position He Played in College: 4-3 defensive tackle

    2012 Stats: Two sacks, 45 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss

     

    Potential or Proven Production

    Bennie Logan was a standout defensive lineman at LSU, especially when he played next to Michael Brockers. Logan has the size to play at nose tackle. He didn’t make a ridiculous amount of plays in college but he did allow his teammates (Kevin Minter, Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu, Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo) to play well by constantly requiring double-teams.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance

    Logan didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine but he did put up a solid 30 reps on the bench press.

     

    Injury Concerns: Logan had no injury problems while at LSU.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    The Eagles need a quality nose tackle. Logan is a quality nose tackle. It’s a terrific match. Logan could afford to add 10 or 15 pounds to his frame to get up to the ideal NFL nose tackle size. But he has experience playing as the centerpiece of a 3-4, and he would be a great fit for Philadelphia.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Obviously Logan won’t go fourth overall but he could move up the board. Teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 17) and Indianapolis Colts (No. 24) would benefit from a nose tackle like Logan. If Logan slips to Round 2, Chip Kelly should grab him.

Jesse Williams, Alabama

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    Size: 6’3”, 323 pounds

    Position He Played in College: 3-4 defensive end, 3-4 nose tackle

    2012 Stats: One sack, 37 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss

     

    Potential or Proven Production

    Jesse Williams was a key piece of an Alabama team that has won consecutive national championships. Williams played 3-4 defensive end in 2011 and then moved inside to nose tackle in 2012. He is versatile enough to line up anywhere on the line in a 3-4 defense.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance

    There was no reason for a nose tackle like Williams to hurt his stock by running a poor 40. Williams did 30 reps in the bench press.

     

    Injury Concerns

    Other than a concussion that proved to be minor setback, Williams played regularly at Alabama with no injuries.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Williams is a good nose tackle, although he doesn’t project to be an every down player in the NFL. While he can plug the middle, he offers almost nothing as a pass-rusher. That wouldn’t really matter on the Eagles, though, as there are plenty of strong pass-rushers already on the roster (Brandon Graham, Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Fletcher Cox).

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Williams won’t go in the first round. He’s a borderline second-round talent that probably projects best around pick 50 or so. It would be a reach for the Eagles to grab him in the second round. If he’s available at the top of Round 3, Kelly should take him.

Brandon Williams, Mississippi Southern State

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    Size: 6’1”, 333 pounds

    Position He Played in College: 3-4 nose tackle

    2012 Stats: 8.5 sacks, 68 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles

     

    Potential or Proven Production

    It should be noted that Williams played college football at the Division-II level. He was absolutely phenomenal, winning 2012 National Division II Defensive Player of the Year.

    Then again, most of the guys on this list probably would have done the same. It’s difficult to know whether Williams' dominance at the Division II level will project to the NFL level; that will probably drop Williams to the second or third round.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance

     Willams put up some pretty solid numbers at his pro day, running just a 5.37 40-yard dash but benching a ridiculous 38 times and posting a vertical jump of 29.5 inches.


    Injury Concerns: Williams had no injury problems in college.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Williams’ success in college is definitely intriguing. He could be the nose tackle the team needs. Or he could struggle to excel at the NFL level.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    If the draft gets to the Eagles’ pick early in Round 3 and Chip Kelly hasn’t added a nose tackle, Williams would be a good fit. He’s a bit of a risk, but then again, it’s a third-round pick.

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