2011 NFL Draft: Ranking the Top Defensive Tackles for April's Draft

Keet Bailey@@KeetBaileyCorrespondent IIJanuary 4, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Nick Fairley #90 of the Auburn Tigers cheers during pregame warmups before facing the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 SEC Championship at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Having a great defensive tackle is a must for any NFL football team. A versatile tackle that can make plays against the run and penetrate the offensive line is huge. If you can stop the run and make an offensive one-dimensional then you will most likely have a successful defensive performance.

But having a penetrating pass rusher is a nice commodity as well. Warren Sapp dominated the NFL for years, getting to the quarterback and making offenses game plan against him. Ndamukong Suh has made a name for himself in his rookie season as well.

So who will be the next great defensive tackle? Find out in NFL Soup’s defensive tackle rankings:

1) Nick Fairley-Auburn*-6’5'' 298 pounds

You have to love what Fairley has done in 2010 to solidify his draft status as a first rounder. He is a dominant, penetrating defensive tackle with great quickness and first step despite being nearly 300 pounds. Fairley is inexperienced at the NCAA level, only starting for one full season in 2010. He has a good motor and doesn’t take plays off. Fairley has top 10 potential talent. Projection: 1st

2) Christian Ballard-Iowa-6’5'' 295 pounds

Ballard is quickly rising up draft boards with his play in 2010. He’s a versatile lineman, playing both defensive tackle and defensive end. He’s excellent in contain as an end, and just needs to work on his strength to become a great five technique player in a 3-4 defense. Ballard is a penetrator, and moves very well laterally. He could be taken before fellow Iowa defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn. Projection: 1st

3) Drake Nevis-LSU-6’2'' 290 pounds

Nevis has really come into his own in 2010. He has turned into a dominant and penetrating defensive tackle, often disrupting the backfield and making a tackle for loss. He’s not easy to block as he is fairly strong. However, his athleticism and lateral ability is what separates him from most of the defensive tackles in the SEC. Projection: 1st

4) Stephen Paea- Oregon State- 6’1'' 305 pounds

Paea is a very athletic defensive tackle who uses his quickness to penetrate the offensive line consistently. He takes up double teams quite often despite not being the biggest tackle, and his strength is above average. He needs to get stronger at the next level and get better at getting off of blocks, but he is a wrap-up tackler that is as solid as they come. Projection: 1st

5) Jerel Worthy-Michigan State**-6’3'' 305 pounds

When you think of Jerel Worthy, the term “beast” comes to mind. For such an inexperienced player, he’s very talented. Worthy’s best trait is how strong he is. He uses his strength to bull rush guards and centers to disrupt the backfield. He is quick enough to play defensive end at times, and utilizes his hands very well. Worthy is excellent at getting off of the ball quickly, and holds the point of attack very well. Projection: 2nd

6) Marvin Austin-North Carolina-6’3'' 310 pounds

To open up the season, Marvin Austin looked like a sure-fire Top 10 pick. He was dismissed from the UNC football team after being investigated for receiving benefits from NFL Agents. But Austin’s talent just cannot be ignored. He has an excellent blend of size and quickness as well as strength. Austin can penetrate backfields, but he’s so strong he often requires a double team. Austin is a pure 4-3 tackle that could also move to a five technique at the next level. Character concerns are what may make him slide into the second or even third rounds, but it’s likely that a team takes a chance based on his talent alone. Projection: 2nd

7) Jared Crick-Nebraska*-6’6'' 290 pounds

Nebraska just keeps producing defensive lineman. Crick may stay in school for another year and bulk up a bit, but he’s already a stud with a very high ceiling. He’s a big body who is a force against the run. He’s a very solid pass rushing defensive tackle as well, and uses his hands well in penetration. He consistently demands double teams and is an excellent candidate for a 3-4 defensive end playing a five technique. Projection: 2nd

8) Jerrell Powe-Mississippi-6’2'' 330 pounds

Powe is a very strong defensive tackle that holds the point of attack well. He will end up as a nose tackle in either a 3-4 or 4-3 as he is versatile. He’s surprisingly quick for his size as well, but he uses his hands well and gets a good push off of the ball. He does tend to take plays off at times, and isn’t always reliable to stay on the field for most of the game, but that’s something that a great strength and conditioning coach could fix. Projection: 3rd

9) Muhammad Wilkerson-Temple*-6’5'' 320 pounds

When you think of the term run-stuffer, Wilkerson comes right to mind. The big defensive tackle is a tackling machine and doesn’t let much get past him. He’s a solid penetrator that can get to the quarterback, but his strength is what really allows him to get a great push against the interior line. Wilkerson’s best bet is to play in a 3-4 defense where he can utilize his strength and double team ability at the most. He could play both nose tackle and defensive end most likely, as he’s surprisingly versatile. Projection: 3rd

10) Jarvis Jenkins-Clemson-6’4'' 315 pounds

You have to love what Jenkins brings to the table. Unfortunately, playing for Clemson and being overshadowed by DaQuan Bowers doesn’t help Jenkins garner a ton of attention. But Jenkins is a force in his own way. He’s a strong defensive tackle that can get in the backfield and break up a play. He’s tall and he’s quick as well. Jenkins and Bowers both command double teams, and Jenkins may be able to move to a 3-4 defensive end at the next level. He could improve his play laterally. Projection: 3rd

11) Kenrick Ellis-Hampton-6’5'' 340 pounds

Ellis is a very strong defensive tackle who dominates at the point of attack. Playing at a smaller school may hurt him in terms of competition, but he has the potential to be a dominant nose tackle at the next level. Projection: 4th

12) Jurrell Casey-USC*-6’1'' 305 pounds

Casey is one of the best pure pass rushing defensive tackles in the draft and could be drafted higher than round four. However, he’s one-dimensional and struggles to stuff the run. Overall, he’s an excellent penetrator who gets off of the snap as quickly as anybody in the nation. Projection: 4th

13) Phil Taylor-Baylor-6’4'' 340 pounds

How about those Baylor Bears? Taylor leads a solid Baylor defensive line with pure strength. He takes up a lot of space and forces double teams consistently. His ceiling is as a pure 3-4 nose tackle at the next level. Projection: 4th

14) Lawrence Guy-Arizona State*-6’5'' 300 pounds

Guy is a very talented tackle who utilizes his strength well in stopping the run. He’s not much of a penetrator, but he holds the point of attack well and makes his name stuffing the run and getting double teamed. Projection: 4th

15) Adrian Taylor-Oklahoma-6’4'' 302 pounds

Taylor is an unfortunate story. He’s a very talented player who’s battled through a few big injuries. Taylor is a strong penetrator who makes his presence felt against the run. His inability to stay on the field has cost him a few rounds in the draft, however. Projection: 5th

16) Kheeston Randall-Texas*-6’5'' 295 pounds

Randall is a big run-stuffing defensive tackle who can afford to make the move to the five technique at the next level. He doesn’t use his hands very well, but he does command double teams and can stuff the run. Projection: 5th

17) Sione Fua-Stanford-6’2'' 310 pounds

Fua is another run-stuffer who can also get in the backfield and make plays. He plays nose tackle in Stanford’s 3-4 defense right now, and could make the transition at the next level as well. Projection: 5th

18) Saia Falahola-Arizona State-6’2'' 310 pounds

Falahola has been a consistent surprise for Arizona State. His numbers aren’t flashy, but his ability to use his strength and command double teams is what makes him an excellent candidate for a nose tackle in the 3-4. Projection: 5th

19) Anthony Gray-Southern Miss-6’0'' 320 pounds

If you haven’t noticed, the trend right now is 3-4 nose tackles, and Gray is another big guy who gets a good push playing the zero and one technique. Gray gets double teamed regularly, helping to free up the linebackers to make tackles. Projection: 5th

20) Lawon Scott-Ole Miss-6’2'' 320 pounds

The 3-4 nose tackle trend continues yet again with Scott, who is dominant against the run. He’s a part of a heavily rotated Ole Miss defensive line that keeps its linemen fresh. He can shut down the run and holds the point of attack well. Projection: 6th

21) Lazarius Levingston-LSU-6’3'' 295 pounds

Levingston is a quicker defensive tackle who can get in the backfield and disrupt plays. He could improve his overall tackling ability. Projection: 6th

22) Ian Williams-Notre Dame-6’2'' 305 pounds

Williams is a stronger defensive tackle who excels against the run, and moves well laterally. He won’t make a ton of plays on the defensive line, however. Projection: 6th

23) Derek Wolfe-Cincinnati*-6’6'' 295 pounds

Wolfe is a big bodied defensive end who is strong and commands double teams. He could move to a five technique at the next level if he chooses to come out. Projection: 7th

24) Colby Whitlock-Texas Tech-6’3'' 294 pounds

Whitlock is another quick defensive end who moves well on the defensive line. He’s versatile and can play defensive end as well. Projection: 7th

25) Ted Laurent-Ole Miss-6’1'' 305 pounds

Laurent is another solid tackle coming out of the rotating Ole Miss defensive line. He gets a good push off of the ball and is a wrap up tackler. Projection: 7th

26) Ladi Ajiboye-South Carolina-6’1'' 290 pounds Projection: 7th

27) Karl Klug-Iowa-6’4'' 283 pounds Projection: 7th

28) Cory Grant-TCU-6’2'' 308 pounds Projection: 7th

29) Mike Blanc-Auburn-6’4'' 298 pounds Projection: 7th

30) Ollie Ogbu-Penn State-6’1'' 287 pounds

31) Lawrence Marsh-Florida-6’5'' 290 pounds

32) Chris Neild-West Virginia-6’2'' 301pounds

33) Derrick Hill-Cal-6’2'' 308 pounds

34) Scooter Berry-West Virginia-6’1'' 291 pounds

35) Terron Sanders-Florida-6’1'' 310 pounds

36) Cedric Thornton-Central Arkansas-6’5'' 295 pounds

37) John Graves-Virginia Tech-6’3'' 280 pounds

38) Corbin Bryant-Northwestern-6’4'' 287 pounds

39) Terrell McClain-South Florida-6’3'' 310 pounds

40) Brandon Bair-Oregon 6’7'' 285 pounds

41) Martin Parker-Richmond-6’3'' 285 pounds

42) Dexter Larimore-Ohio State-6’2'' 315 pounds

43) Ernie Hodge-Ohio-6’2'' 290 pounds

Check out NFLSoup's full 2011 NFL Draft player rankings

Follow me on Twitter! @NFLSoupKeet


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