Defensive tackles are gradually becoming more important in the NFL.
With guys like Kevin Williams and Ndamukong Suh being forces in the NFL, they can make a big impact on games. Good defensive tackles take up space so the defensive ends can get one-on-one matchups against offensive tackles. They also have to have the ability to collapse the pocket on a quarterback.
A prototypical defensive tackle in the NFL is 6'4" and weighs 300 pounds, while a 3-4 defensive tackle is usually around 330 pounds. They have long arms, great strength, a good first step, good instincts, show great effort and get off blocks. Defensive tackles also need to have great stamina and have the ability to hold up the line of scrimmage.
This year's class of defensive tackles is deep, with many projected to go in the first two rounds.
Here are my Top 10 Defensive Tackles for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Nevis has good speed and can generate pressure on the quarterback. He is very strong and quick off the ball and earned a SEC first-team selection in 2010. He uses his hands very well.
Nevis doesn't play with good balance and is undersized. His arms are short and get pushed around by bigger offensive linemen.
Jenkins is an explosive defensive tackle that gets in the backfield. He is stout against the run and displays good strength and power. He plays within himself and does his job. Jenkins is more of a guy who stuffs the middle rather than getting pressure on the quarterback.
He plays high against the pass and generally wasn't on the field in passing situations at Clemson because of his lack of stamina and pretty poor skills rushing the passer. Only had 4.5 sacks in four years at Clemson.
Heyward is projected by most to be a 3-4 defensive end, but I think he is more suited to be a 4-3 defensive tackle. He would have to add 10-15 pounds; he certainly has the frame to do it. He is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery which could have him out for awhile.
He was lined up everywhere on the defensive line for Ohio State. He has good speed and quickness, has long arms and plays with good effort. He's able to penetrate in the backfield and make plays with good agility and body control.
Heyward could slide into the second or third round because of his injury but has first-round potential. He isn't a great pass rusher and doesn't seem to give full effort on plays at times.
Taylor is a behemoth-sized man who will play in the nose tackle position in the 3-4 defense. He has a strong lower body and can take up a lot of space in the middle. Gets double-teamed often and can get penetration. Has solid potential and moves pretty well.
One red flag is his dismissal from Penn State after academic issues and his involvement in a fight on campus. He's also had weight issues, topping out at 375 pounds and tends to stand upright at the snap. His focus needs to be on staying low holding his ground and improving his football IQ.
He is a disruptive player who has excellent upper body strength. Paea can move really well and gets in the backfield on runs often and had seven sacks his senior year at Oregon State. He shows good effort throughout games and was a captain for the Beavers.
Paea's draft stock has fallen due to his lack of height and lack of pass rushing skills. He isn't very versatile.
Muhammad was a two-time first-team MAC selection at Temple. He is very versatile and could play 3-4 defensive end. He may be a sleeper.
He plays with good technique, power and strength. Has very good closing speed on the ball and has a high football IQ. He totaled 16 sacks in his last two seasons with the Owls.
He plays high at times, and the competition in the MAC wasn't that great, but he was a man amongst boys.
Liuget is a player with a great motor and is solid against the run along with getting after the quarterback. Uses his arms and hands well against lineman getting by them and is a good tackler. He won't get pushed around and has a solid base staying low.
Liuget needs to keep working on getting his stamina up so he can stay in the game for more snaps. He isn't really explosive for a defensive tackle and doesn't have good pass rushing moves.
Austin has seemed to mature some after being suspended for the 2010 season due to his involvement with an agent. He said all the right things at the Senior Bowl and played like he had something to prove.
He has all the talent in the world to be great in the NFL. His first step is great and he has good power. He can move very well and is very stout against the run to go along with solid pass rushing skills.
While at North Carolina, Austin was very inconsistent in his level of play. He would take plays off and not show enough effort. He played too high at times and was benched by coaches due to his effort. Austin needs to play like he did at the Senior Bowl to go anywhere in the NFL.
Dareus is a disruptive force who anticipates the snap well getting into the backfield. He shows tremendous power and strength, bull rushing offensive lineman back with ease. He plays the run well and is very mobile for his size.
However, he does give up on plays where he feels he won't be able to make a play. He has pretty short arms and was suspended for two games after attending an agent's party.
Fairley was the 2010 SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Was double-teamed often in 2010, yet still managed to get 11.5 sacks along with many tackles in the backfield. He has an attitude that a team's best lineman won't be able to block him. Very solid against the run and has huge upside.
He could be a one-year wonder and has questionable work habits. Gets tired as the game goes on and has dumb penalties that would kill an NFL defense.