B/R NFL 1000: Ranking the Top 55 Defensive Tackles from 2014

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterJune 26, 2015

B/R NFL 1000: Ranking the Top 55 Defensive Tackles from 2014

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Who is the best player in the NFL? Not based on the last 10 years or one game, but over the last year, who was the best? Good luck answering that one without starting a fight, right?    

    Well, that's what the NFL 1000 aims to do by scouting, grading and then ranking the best players at each position before putting them in order and breaking ties to come up with the top 1,000 players. No narratives, no fantasy football points, no "QBR"—this is cold, hard scouting.

    You can find rankings for all other positions on our B/R NFL 1000 main page.

    The B/R 1000 metric is based heavily on scouting each player and grading the key criteria for each position. The criteria are weighted according to importance for a possible best score of 100.

    Potential is not taken into consideration. Nor are career accomplishments.

    Defensive tackles are judged on their run defense (40 points), pass rush skills (55) and their value as a starter or backup (5). How do we value starter points? If a player is a consistent starter, he gets the full five points. Spot starters received four points. Players scoring in the three-, two- or one-point range are not considered starting caliber.

    In the case of ties, our team asked, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly.

    Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.

    Each player was scouted by me and a team of experienced evaluators (Dan Bazal, Cian Fahey, Dan Hope, Marshal Miller, Justis Mosqueda) with these key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the work of months of film study from our team.

    All statistics from Pro Football Focus. Players' heights, weights and seasons played from NFL.com.

55-51. Kitchen, Hill, Bunkley, Hood, Guion

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    55. Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, Cleveland Browns

    73/100

    Run Defense: 28/40; Pass Rush: 42/55; Starter: 3/5

    Ishmaa'ily Kitchen is a massive 330 pounds and utilizes his strength to hold his ground and redirect blockers. Used almost exclusively as a run-stopper, Kitchen had his most productive year in 2014 and will try to show the Browns he can be a regular player on the defensive line in 2015.

    54. Jordan Hill, Seattle Seahawks

    73/100

    Run Defense: 33/40; Pass Rush: 37/55; Starter: 3/5

    Jordan Hill played in 13 games for Seattle in 2014 and was a member of a very good defensive line. Hill rotated in with Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane and disrupted offenses almost every week. Hill recorded 5.5 sacks in addition to being a solid run-stopper in just his second season out of Penn State.

    53. Brodrick Bunkley, New Orleans Saints

    73/100

    Run Defense: 25/40; Pass Rush: 45/55; Starter: 3/5

    Brodrick Bunkley has been the starting nose tackle for the Saints for the last three seasons, but his production and snaps have declined over that time. Many believed the Saints would release the veteran tackle as a part of their rebuild, but it looks as if he will be given another chance to prove he is a reliable starter.

    52. Ziggy Hood, Jacksonville Jaguars

    73/100

    Run Defense: 33/40; Pass Rush: 37/55; Starter: 3/5

    The Jaguars will need Hood to be healthy and consistent in 2015. With Sen’Derrick Marks rehabbing from an ACL injury, Hood may start until Marks recovers.

    51. Letroy Guion, Green Bay Packers

    74/100

    Run Defense: 33/40; Pass Rush: 38/55; Starter: 3/5

    Letroy Guion had his most productive year in 2014 with the Packers recording 3.5 sacks and starting all 16 games at nose tackle. Guion has been effective against the run and shows promise on passing downs too. Guion has shown good production but will have to compete with a healthy B.J. Raji in 2015.

50. Ego Ferguson, Chicago Bears

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    Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    Run Defense

    29/40

    Ego Ferguson is a rare athlete for 315 pounds and has elite strength to go with it. Selected in the second round out of LSU, Ferguson has good lateral quickness for his size and the ability to redirect blockers. He will be a force if he can learn to use his hands and not take downs off.

    Pass Rush

    42/55

    Ferguson recorded two sacks in 2014 and has the tools to be a pass-rushing threat in the league. He has good closing speeds but needs to work on getting past doubles and playing with strength.

    Starter

    3/5

    Ferguson did not start any games in his rookie year, but he did play in all 16 games for the Bears and will play alongside other young tackles Will Sutton and Eddie Goldman in 2015.

    Overall

    74/100

49. Justin Ellis, Oakland Raiders

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    Run Defense

    23/40

    A fourth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech, Justin Ellis proved to be a great find for the Oakland Raiders in 2014. The rookie started 14 games and did a phenomenal job of filling gaps and eating blocks. With his size (6'2", 334 lbs), Ellis is able to be stout in his foxhole, but he lacks the leverage instincts to consistently outplay blockers. Once he learns to use his hands and athletic tools, Ellis could dominate.

    Pass Rush

    48/55

    A true nose tackle, Ellis' size keeps him from being a great pass-rusher. And while he doesn’t have or need much speed, his initial quickness is good enough to beat blockers to the gap. His raw strength could develop into a solid bull rush, but he did not show much of a rush in 2014.

    Starter

    3/5

    Ellis started 14 games in his rookie season, but the addition of Dan Williams in free agency could push him to the bench or to a new position. If Ellis shows the promise we saw in 2014, he will see his name shoot up the board in the coming years.

    Overall

    74/100

48. Sean Lissemore, San Diego Chargers

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    Run Defense

    33/40

    Sean Lissemore is a run-clogger of a nose tackle and has seen his playing time increase with the Chargers during his career. Lissemore is a classic nose tackle who plays to the whistle and uses every bit of his ability. Lissemore doesn’t have the size or strength that many teams look for, but he is a consistent tackler and gap-filler.

    Pass Rush

    38/55

    Lissemore won’t be used much on passing downs, like many nose tackles, but he has a good first step and high motor. Lissemore lacks closing speed and lateral quickness to be an effective pass-rusher.

    Starter

    3/5

    Lissemore will be the regular nose tackle for the Chargers in 2015 after starting eight games in 2014. He will have to show that he has the potential to be disruptive on defense and more than a block-eater.

    Overall

    74/100

47. Da'Quan Bowers, Free Agent

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    30/40

    Da'Quan Bowers has never lived up to the potential he had coming out of Clemson. Drafted as a defensive end, Bowers has athletic ability that most don’t at tackle, but he has never produced or worked his way into regular playing time with the Bucs. Bowers plays high and relies on his quickness more than trying to fill gaps and and eat blocks.

    Pass Rush

    41/55

    Bowers was an exceptional pass-rusher at Clemson and constantly in the backfield; however, he has not been able to transition his abilities to the NFL. Bowers is slow off the ball and is not able to do much if his initial rush move is shut down.

    Starter

    3/5

    Bowers is still looking to catch on with a team for the 2015 season and may have a hard time doing so. Bowers is versatile and can play both end and tackle but needs to be consistent and show he can produce in the NFL.

    Overall

    74/100

46. Bennie Logan, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Run Defense

    23/40

    Bennie Logan lacks the size and brute strength of most NFL nose tackles, but few move like Logan. And no other tackle accumulated more tackles in 2014 (57 combined tackles). By using his hands and good instincts, Logan was great against the run in 2014 and gave the Eagles consistent and reliable play on the defensive line.

    Pass Rush

    48/55

    As athletic as Logan is, one would assume he would rack up great sack totals; however, Logan did not record a sack in 2014 but pressured the QB 15 times. There is no doubt Logan has the closing speed to get to the QB, but that may decline if the Eagles want the undersized nose tackle to put on weight.  

    Starter

    3/5

    In just two seasons Logan has been very productive for the Eagles and will look to solidify the defense as a centerpiece in 2015.

    Overall

    74/100

45. Kevin Williams, New Orleans Saints

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    30/40

    Kevin Williams is still finding ways to be productive after 12 NFL seasons. Production and ability may be slipping, but the veteran tackle is still able to bring down ball-carriers and beat offensive linemen off the ball.

    Pass Rush

    41/55

    In his first two seasons, Williams recorded an amazing 22 sacks. By using an outstanding burst, Williams was one of the top tackles in the NFL for many years. Williams may be slowing down, but he is still a force inside, recording 10 QB hurries and three sacks in 2014.

    Starter

    3/5

    Williams started eight games for Seattle last season, but he will look to be a solid and consistent backup in the rotation now that he's in New Orleans.  

    Overall

    74/100

44. Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta Falcons

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Run Defense

    34/40

    Jonathan Babineaux is a very versatile defensive lineman and has started at both tackle and end for the Falcons. Babineaux has the quickness Dan Quinn looks for in a defensive lineman, as well as good functional strength for an undersized tackle. While his quickness is impressive, so is the fact that he once again led his position in missed tackles (12).

    Pass Rush

    36/55

    Babineaux is one of the better pass-rushers at his position. He pressured opposing QBs an amazing 34 times in 2014. Babineaux does have impressive quickness for the position, but he is unable to beat linemen with a bull rush, and he doesn’t generate much pressure if his first couple of moves do not work.

    Starter

    4/5

    Quinn will love a guy as versatile as Babineaux in his defense. Babineaux has been a regular starter in Atlanta for nearly eight seasons, and with young defensive linemen coming in, you can bet he will be starting again in 2015.

    Overall

    74/100

43. Pat Sims, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Run Defense

    29/40

    Pat Sims had, what many thought, was a breakout season in 2013. However, Sims was unable to produce on that same level in 2014. He is a strong tackler but doesn’t excel at getting off blocks. Sims holds his ground at the line and moves well enough to make plays.

    Pass Rush

    43/55

    Sims has a good first step and uses quality power at the point of attack but lacks the athletic ability and technique to be a pass-rushing threat.

    Starter

    3/5

    Sims moved on from the Bengals to the Raiders to be their starting tackle in 2013. Sims had a solid season, starting 16 games in 2013, but he was replaced as a starter in Week 3 of 2014 and will look to provide depth to the Bengals defense in 2015.

    Overall

    75/100

42. Cullen Jenkins, New York Giants

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    Run Defense

    35/40

    Cullen Jenkins is somewhat small for an NFL defensive tackle, 305 pounds, and lacks the raw strength most players at his position have. For Jenkins to excel, he needs to use his low center of gravity and keep good leverage. Otherwise, he gets pushed around. Jenkins moves very well for his position and is at his best when he uses his quick first step.

    Pass Rush

    36/55

    Jenkins only recorded one sack in 2014 but has proved to be a solid pass-rushing defensive tackle over his career. Using his hands and quickness, Jenkins is able to stunt and create pressure that most tackles wouldn’t be able to create. 

    Starter

    4/5

    When Jenkins stays healthy he consistently starts, but he will have to prove he is still a capable and reliable starter as a 34-year-old in 2015.

    Overall

    75/100

41. Clinton McDonald, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    33/40

    Clinton McDonald, in his first season with Tampa Bay, showed good promise in 2014. The undersized defensive tackle uses his quickness to beat interior linemen and shoot gaps. When faced with physical linemen, McDonald is unable to overpower stronger players and struggles to be effective against double-teams.

    Pass Rush

    38/55

    McDonald played well in his last season in Seattle in 2013 and brought similar production to Tampa last year. In the past two seasons McDonald has racked up 10.5 sacks and seems to be finding moves that work for him in the pass rush. Tampa Bay played many young players last season and will need consistent play out of McDonald again next season.

    Starter

    4/5

    McDonald played in 13 games last season for Tampa Bay and started all 13. McDonald was a good acquisition for the Bucs and will provide a good veteran presence on the young defensive line moving forward.

    Overall

    75/100

40. Roy Miller, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    31/40

    Roy Miller is a run-stopping tackle who shows good instinct and the ability to disrupt running lanes. At 6’2” 310 pounds, Miller is not a physically imposing player, although he does play with adequate strength and quickness for his position.

    Pass Rush

    42/55

    Miller is not going to give you much pass rush and is most likely going to be rotated out during passing situations. He comes off the ball low and shows quick feet. However, he has only recorded four sacks in his six seasons.

    Starter

    3/5

    Miller has been a regular starter in his career but has never played for a strong defense. The Jaguars are having an injury outbreak on their defense, and Miller will need to recover from a December knee surgery, like some of his fellow defensive teammates.

    Overall

    76/100

39. Earl Mitchell, Miami Dolphins

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    Run Defense

    33/40

    Earl Mitchell has good lower-body strength and uses a strong punch to hold his position on the line, which make him a good run-stuffing tackle. Mitchell can be very productive when he fires off the ball low and doesn’t get upfield too far.

    Pass Rush

    39/55

    Mitchell has the quickness to penetrate gaps but does not have much closing speed, recording only two sacks and 15 hurries in 2014.

    Starter

    4/5

    Mitchell has been quietly productive as a run-stuffer and has provided his teams with a solid rotational player throughout his career.

    Overall

    76/100

38. Brandon Mebane, Seattle Seahawks

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Run Defense

    31/40

    When it comes to anchoring the defensive line, not many have done a better job than Brandon Mebane. At 6’1” Mebane plays with great leverage and is able to lock his arms against opposing blockers, pushing them off the ball.

    Pass Rush

    42/55

    Mebane recorded just one sack in nine games in 2014 after going sackless in 2013. Mebane is not known for his pass rush, but he is able to generate pressure up the middle, and that's what many teams look for out of their DTs. In just nine games Mebane had seven QB hurries and two QB hits.

    Starter

    4/5

    Mebane has been a consistent force in the Seahawks defense for eight seasons now, but his season was cut short in 2014 because of a torn hamstring. Mebane will look to bounce back in 2015 and be the dominant run-stuffer he has been.

    Overall

    77/100

37. Al Woods, Tennessee Titans

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    28/40

    Al Woods has been solid against the run as an undersized nose tackle. He doesn’t have ideal size or strength for the position but uses his hands well to free himself from blockers. Woods can eat up blocks and clog lanes.

    Pass Rush

    46/55

    Woods lacks pass-rushing moves but has the lower-body strength to develop a good bull rush and help collapse the pocket. He recorded just one sack and five hurries in 2014.

    Starter

    3/5

    Woods has few career starts and has played for more teams than most his age. He will most likely be the No. 2 nose tackle in Tennessee behind Sammie Lee Hill in 2015.

    Overall

    77/100

36. Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    34/40

    Dontari Poe has wowed everyone with his exceptional athletic ability, especially at 345 pounds. He is able to shed blocks and disrupt offenses behind the line of scrimmage with his Hulk-like strength. However, Poe failed to get off the ball in a lot of run situations this season and relied on his upper-body strength rather than getting good push with his legs.

    Pass Rush

    38/55

    Poe has shown the ability to get to the passer with closing speed that not many players his size have. His rare strength and athleticism helped him sack the QB six times and create 18 QB hurries for the Chiefs defense. Our biggest issue came in his lack of production versus opportunities. In an aggressive Kansas City defense, Poe didn't produce the type of numbers he's capable of.

    Starter

    5/5

    Poe is a freak of an athlete and an ideal NFL nose tackle. He is still young and will look to get back to his Pro Bowl-caliber play in 2015.

    Overall

    77/100

35. Kendall Langford, Indianapolis Colts

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    29/40

    Kendall Langford has the lateral quickness to make plays along the line of scrimmage and shoot gaps to get to the backfield. Langford does not have exceptional strength at tackle, but he can still use his length and strength to redirect opposing blockers. However, at times, Langford was unable to get into the Rams' deep rotation of defensive linemen.

    Pass Rush

    44/55

    With all-world defensive tackle Aaron Donald taking reps from Langford this season, Langford's production and playing time diminished in 2014. Langford is agile at tackle and able to get his arms extended to keep linemen from getting into his body but still recorded only one sack in 2014.

    Starter

    4/5

    In 2015 Langford will look to get more playing time by making the move to defensive end in the Colts' 3-4 defense. In his seven NFL seasons, Langford has proved he can be a solid starter on the line and will look to re-establish his role with the Colts.

    Overall

    77/100

34. Corey Peters, Arizona Cardinals

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    Run Defense

    28/40

    Corey Peters had a breakout 2013 season but was unable to maintain his production in 2014. Peters is solid against the run and does a good job at getting off the ball but can struggle to disengage blockers and get pushed around.

    Pass Rush

    45/55

    After posting five sacks in 2013, Peters recorded only two in 2014. Peters generates a good rush and is able to pressure the QB, 15 hurries in 2014, but he lacks the strength to bull rush and be a dominant sack artist.

    Starter

    4/5

    Peters only started two games in 2014 after starting 15 in 2013. Peters will compete for playing time in Arizona, most likely at DE.

    Overall

    77/100

33. Terrell McClain, Dallas Cowboys

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    29/40

    Terrell McClain has been a bit of a journeyman in his young career. At just 26, he has already played for four different teams. McClain is solid against the run and used mostly in short-distance situations. His ability to occupy blockers and hold his ground has allowed his teammates to make more plays in running lanes and stay free of blockers.

    Pass Rush

    45/55

    McClain has good quickness but lacks any closing speed and pass-rushing moves to be any type of pass-rusher. McClain has played mostly in goal-line or short-yardage defense as an extra tackle to stop the run.

    Starter

    3/5

    McClain has not started a game since his 2011 season with the Panthers. He will have some stiff competition for playing time, with Nick Hayden, Tyrone Crawford and Chris Whaley also on the Cowboys roster.

    Overall

    77/100

32. Marvin Austin, Denver Broncos

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Run Defense

    30/40

    Marvin Austin has always had great talent but lacked production and playing time. Austin is very athletic and strong, and the Broncos hope he can finally start to show the production he is capable of. Austin uses his strength to shed blockers and hold his ground against the run in addition to utilizing his quickness to shoot gaps and get off the ball.  

    Pass Rush

    44/55

    Austin lacks consistency as a pass-rusher and does not possess the pass-rushing moves to be effective in passing downs. Physically, Austin has the skill set to be a top tackle in the league but has not shown the drive to capitalize on his talent.

    Starter

    3/5

    Austin has never been a regular player for any of the four teams he has played for. After being drafted by the Giants he has since played for the Dolphins, Cowboys and last year with the Broncos. Austin will compete for a spot in the Broncos defensive line this offseason as the team moves to a 3-4 defense.

    Overall

    77/100

31. Paul Soliai, Atlanta Falcons

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    30/40

    Paul Soliai is the ideal run-stopping defensive lineman. His exceptional strength forces offenses to use a double-team or chop block on the massive tree trunks he has for legs. You can often find Soliai holding ground at the line of scrimmage and getting up from the pile after a run stop.

    Pass Rush

    44/55

    The Falcons won’t use Soliai much in pass-rushing situations, opting for quicker linemen. That is represented in his career sack total, just 5.5 in nine seasons. Soliai is limited in his pass-rushing moves, but when he is in on passing downs, he does most of his damage by helping free up the edge-rushers by occupying double-teams.

    Starter

    4/5

    Soliai started in 14 games for Atlanta last year and has been a regular NFL starter the past five seasons. In 2015, Soliai will try to keep that streak going by beating out rookie Grady Jarrett and other young defensive tackles in Dan Quinn’s defense.

    Overall

    78/100

30. Linval Joseph, Minnesota Vikings

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    29/40

    Much like Paul Soliai, Linval Joseph is a massive nose tackle with amazing strength. He is also able to his lateral quickness to make plays away from the line of scrimmage. Joseph was key in getting the Vikings to be a top-10 defense against the run in 2014.

    Pass Rush

    45/55

    Joseph, much like all nose tackles, rotates out during passing situations. However, on tape Joseph utilizes an effective bull rush to get to the QB. Joseph has tallied 12 sacks in the past four seasons.

    Starter

    4/5

    Joseph proved to be a solid nose tackle during his time with the Giants and has only missed one game since the 2011 season, starting in all but one game he played in during that time frame.

    Overall

    78/100

29. Michael Brockers, St. Louis Rams

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    Run Defense

    34/40

    Michael Brockers is an elite athlete who has shown the ability to play well in the Rams' 4-3 defense. Much like the other Rams defensive linemen, Brockers shows good lateral movement and a great ability to slide off blocks. At just 24 years old, Brockers is still developing his game and technique.

    Pass Rush

    42/55

    At 6’5” and 326 pounds, Brockers is able to pressure the quarterback better than most players his size. He's not your typical 326-pound nose tackle, especially in his ability to generate a pass rush. Brockers is able to play outside the nose and does not rely heavily on the bull rush that most nose tackles use as a crutch. With his massive frame and length, Brockers still needs to work on overpowering offensive linemen and being more consistent inside.

    Starter

    3/5

    As a first-round pick in 2012, Brockers has been key to the Rams defense for three seasons now, starting in all 16 games each of the last two seasons as he becomes the anchor for the defensive line.

    Overall

    79/100

28. Tom Johnson, Minnesota Vikings

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    34/40

    Tom Johnson is undersized (6'3", 288 pounds) at tackle but makes up for it by clogging lanes and shedding blockers. He uses his leverage and quick burst to beat opposing blockers. He has not been a regular starter in the league but had a breakout year in 2014.

    Pass Rush

    42/55

    Johnson recorded a career-high six sacks in 2014, showing he has adequate burst and quickness to be a solid role player and work into the regular rotation at defensive tackle.

    Starter

    3/5

    Johnson has only started two games in his four seasons, but he is proving he can be reliable and make plays when given playing time. After a very good 2014, he will most likely see more playing time in 2015.

    Overall

    79/100

27. Henry Melton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    38/40

    Henry Melton is one of the most athletic defensive linemen in the league. His rare combination of strength and lateral quickness make him very tough to block. Melton is able to use his quickness on stunts to the outside and his strength to beat interior linemen with various moves. Melton can be too aggressive at times, which makes him susceptible to to draw plays.  

    Pass Rush

    36/55

    Melton uses his exceptional quickness in the pass game. He saw limited snaps in his one year with the Cowboys but was still able to record five sacks. Melton uses his rare quickness to close in on the quarterback and beat blockers with various moves, such as spins and swims.

    Starter

    5/5

    Melton was a rotational player for the Cowboys in 2014 after being a regular starter for the Bears. He will reunite with Lovie Smith and team up with Gerald McCoy to make for a scary pass-rushing defensive tackle tandem.

    Overall

    79/100

26. Quinton Dial, San Francisco 49ers

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Run Defense

    32/40

    Quinton Dial is a big and athletic nose tackle. At 6’5”, 318 pounds, Dial is surprisingly quick. He is able to drop his hips and hold his ground in the run game, as well as use his long arms and shed blockers.

    Pass Rush

    45/55

    Dial’s length and agility make him dangerous on passing downs also. While Dial did not have any batted balls, he is able to close passing lanes by getting his arms up and penetrating the middle of the line.

    Starter

    3/5

    Dial will be a focal point as the 49ers rebuild their defense after losing multiple players to retirement and free agency. Dial has been a promising nose tackle and showed, in limited snaps, he can be great.

    Overall

    80/100

25. C.J. Mosley, Miami Dolphins

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    32/40

    C.J. Mosley is an agile tackle with adequate size and strength. When given the opportunity to fill in for Nick Fairley, Mosley played well and helped keep the Lions defense among the best in the league.

    Pass Rush

    44/55

    Mosley can be effective in the pass rush when he is able to get off the ball quickly and shoot gaps. However, Mosley has lacked consistency in the pass rush and failed to record a single sack in 2013.

    Starter

    4/5

    Mosley saw much more playing time in 2014 and will push for more playing time in 2015, but he has to prove himself to teams on and off the field. In Miami he looks to be a rotational piece. 

    Overall

    80/100

24. Sealver Siliga, New England Patriots

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Run Defense

    30/40

    Sealver Siliga is the ideal nose tackle for the New England Patriots. At 6’2”, 325 pounds, Siliga is a gap-filling, powerful nose tackle. He maintains his position on the line of scrimmage and holds blocks to free up linebackers to make plays.

    Pass Rush

    47/55

    Siliga recorded 2.5 sacks in just seven games for the Pats in 2014, after recording three sacks in five games in 2013. The bull rush Siliga uses is a rarity in the NFL, and most offensive linemen are unable to handle Siliga's phenomenal strength.

    Starter

    3/5

    While Siliga has only started nine games in two seasons, he has been making the most of his playing time and showing everyone that he should be on the field. Siliga started all three postseason games for New England, including the Super Bowl win.

    Overall

    80/100

23. Steve McLendon, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Run Defense

    29/40

    Steve McLendon isn’t the physical run-stuffer the Pittsburgh Steelers have grown accustom to watching at nose tackle; however, he can hold his own in the trenches. Like Casey Hampton before him, McLendon is best against the run. Unlike Hampton, he will get pushed off the ball on a double-team. Good luck moving him off the line of scrimmage consistently with one man, though, as he is a consistent tackler for the Steelers.

    Pass Rush

    48/55

    McLendon is not a pass-rushing nose tackle, and in that role he only recorded one sack in 2014. McLendon will generate pressure and help edge-rushers get free by occupying double-teams, but his individual production isn't going to show up on a stat sheet.

    Starter

    3/5

    McLendon started 11 games last year and will look to stay healthy as the Steelers will rely heavily on him to start.

    Overall

    80/100

22. Stephen Paea, Washington

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    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    39/40

    Stephen Paea has been a force for the Bears for the past four seasons. His natural strength and ability to play with leverage allows him to disrupt running plays by getting a good push and shedding blocks. Paea had his best year in 2014, recording 33 tackles and six sacks.

    Pass Rush

    37/55

    Stephen Paea’s six sacks as an interior defensive lineman reflects his athletic ability and his motor. Paea will have to adjust to playing in Washington's 3-4 defense. 

    Starter

    4/5

    Paea has been a regular starter in his four seasons and capitalized on his best season in the NFL by signing a four-year deal with Washington. Paea will need to show that 2014 was no fluke and that he can be effective in the 3-4 defense.

    Overall

    80/100

21. Akiem Hicks, New Orleans Saints

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    Rogelio Solis/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    31/40

    Akiem Hicks is a massive run-stopper with great strength. Hicks is able to hold his ground, shed blockers and plug running lanes. After having an outstanding 2013, Hicks had similar production in 2014, tallying 41 tackles. Hicks will need to be a more consistent tackler in 2015 after missing six tackles in 2014.

    Pass Rush

    46/55

    Hicks has not been much of a pass-rusher in his short career. Hicks has a solid bull rush, as one would expect, but lacks secondary moves that would help him get to the QB.

    Starter

    4/5

    In his three seasons with the Saints, Hicks has shown great promise and production, making him a solid and versatile lineman.  

    Overall

    81/100

20. Tyrunn Walker, Detroit Lions

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    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Run Defense

    34/40

    Tyrunn Walker is a young player who has looked solid in limited snaps. He is able to use his hands to keep blockers off him and shoot gaps with a solid first step. Walker is still very unproven in the league and needs to be more consistent if he plans on getting the snaps he is looking for.

    Pass Rush

    44/55

    Walker’s numbers won’t stand out to anyone, but he has been effective. Recording 2.5 sacks in just 284 snaps. Walker has a good initial burst and quickness for a tackle, and playing next to Haloti Ngata will hopefully free him up to be a solid pass-rusher for his position.

    Starter

    3/5

    The Lions hope that Walker and Ngata can fill the roles of Suh and Fairley, two top-10 tackles, in 2014. While Walker was a role player for the Saints, he did shows flashes in limited snaps.

    Overall

    81/100

19. Damon Harrison, New York Jets

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    25/40

    Damon Harrison is an amazingly strong man. At 6'4" and 350 pounds, Harrison has ideal size and uses his strength and long arms to keep blockers off him. Harrison makes most of his plays against the run by clogging the middle and disrupting the line of scrimmage.

    Pass Rush

    51/55

    Harrison does an excellent job at bull rushing his opponents but lacks speed and quickness to be as effective in pass-rushing situations. Harrison racked up seven quarterback hurries and three QB hits, but he accumulating no sacks after recording just one in 2013.  

    Starter

    5/5

    Harrison was an undrafted free agent in 2012, and you wouldn’t know it from watching him play. After sitting most his rookie season, Harrison has been a centerpiece in the Jets defense, starting 32 of 32 games the past two seasons and becoming a premier nose tackle in the AFC.

    Overall

    81/100

18. Tyrone Crawford, Dallas Cowboys

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    36/40

    At just 285 pounds Tyrone Crawford is undersized for his position, but he makes up for it with an exceptional first step and top-tier quickness. Crawford, while not experienced, has the instinct to disrupt run plays and chase down ball-carriers. Crawford played only one year of football at Boise State, and he is still coming into his own as a football prospect.

    Pass Rush

    41/55

    Crawford has not had the opportunity to excel in pass-rushing situations, but he shows the athletic ability to get to the quarterback. With 12 QB hits and 25 hurries, he showed great potential in 2014.

    Starter

    5/5

    Crawford lost his 2013 season due to an Achilles injury but had a breakout year in 2014, starting in 15 games and proving he has a bright NFL future.

    Overall

    82/100

17. Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers

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    Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

    Run Defense

    33/40

    Star Lotulelei has been an exceptional run-stopper since entering the league. He and teammate Kawann Short are arguably the best DT tandem in the league. Lotulelei is massive (6’2”, 320 lbs) and incredibly strong. He uses his strength and quickness to dictate where his blockers go and close would-be rushing lanes.

    Pass Rush

    45/55

    Lotulelei has not been utilized often in the Panthers' pass rush but does possess a skill set that would be conducive to getting to opposing passers. Lotulelei excels at getting off the ball and putting pressure on interior linemen but lacks the speed to chase down quarterbacks and tally up sacks.

    Starter

    5/5

    Lotulelei has been a force in the Carolina defense and continues to show teams he was the right selection at pick No. 14 in 2013. He and his wrecking mate, Kawann Short, will be feared once again in the NFC South.

    Overall

    83/100

16. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    35/40

    Geno Atkins is often making plays in the backfield and stopping ball-carriers. His ability to play the 3-technique position is top-tier, and his lower-body strength is too. Atkins has great instincts for a defensive tackle and has shown he can perform at a high level against the run-heavy AFC North.

    Pass Rush

    43/55

    In 2012, Atkins dominated with 12.5 sacks, but he has not been able to match that same production since—partially because of injuries. Atkins has remarkable initial and lateral quickness, which he uses to get into the backfield, but needs to use his leverage and quickness like he has in the past to be the dictating pass-rusher he once was.

    Starter

    5/5

    Atkins had an outstanding 33 quarterback hurries last season, showing he is still capable of being a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive lineman.

    Overall

    83/100

15. Nick Fairley, St. Louis Rams

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    33/40

    A big man out of Auburn, Nick Fairley wasn’t at his best in his fourth NFL season, but when on the field he showed the ability to impact the game as a run defender. Fairley’s size (6’4”, 308 lbs) is both a strength and a weakness—he’s strong as an ox but struggles with leverage against guards and centers, especially when blocked by both in a combo block. Injury could be a major issue with his 2014 tape—and he did miss time with a knee injury—but a lack of discipline in his leverage and technique kept Fairley from cracking our top 10.

    Pass Rush

    46/55

    In 2014, Fairley posted just two sacks, but he added three quarterback hits and 17 hurries in his eight games. Those are low numbers for Fairley’s ability, but taking into account his season was cut in half, the numbers average out. When viewing Fairley you see a quick, powerful player off the line of scrimmage, but his pad height and leverage must be more consistent over the course of a season.

    Starter

    4/5

    Fairley may not be an every-down player for the St. Louis Rams, and that may be better for his career. His conditioning and effort have been questioned in the past, so Fairley is on a bit of a “prove it” deal.

    Overall

    83/100

14. Jared Odrick, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    35/40

    Jared Odrick has the ability to get through the line and make plays in the backfield. After a move from defensive end, Odrick has used his quickness and length to beat interior linemen. However, that same length has Odrick playing too high at times, and he can be seen being driven back by stronger linemen and unable to beat them with quickness.

    Pass Rush

    44/55

    As the Jaguars look to get more pressure on the likes of Andrew Luck, Odrick will play a big role in a revamped Jacksonville defense. He shows great burst off the line and excels in using his quick feet and swim move to get to the quarterback. When Odrick doesn’t get to the passer, he is efficient at getting his long arms up and closing passing lanes for opposing quarterbacks.

    Starter

    5/5

    Odrick started all 16 games in Miami last year and will hope to duplicate that next season with the Jaguars. He has proved his ability and will need to solidify himself as a top defensive tackle after being moved inside.

    Overall

    84/100

13. Terrance Knighton, Washington

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    Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    31/40

    Terrance Knighton has the prototypical size you want for a one- or two-gap tackle. When Knighton comes off the ball high, he is much more blockable, but when Knighton stays low, he is a force in the backfield and at eating up ball-carriers. Knighton uses his long arms to beat blocks and grabs ball-carriers in space and in crowds.

    Pass Rush

    50/55

    When Knighton comes off the ball low, he generates good push and moves the line of scrimmage, but when he gets tired late in games, he tends to get high and get pushed around by blockers he would usually handle with ease.

    Starter

    5/5

    Knighton matched his production from 2013 this past season and will try to bring that same consistency to Washington’s young 3-4 defense. Knighton did not receive the lucrative long-term contract he hoped for this offseason and will play 2015 with a chip on his shoulder and probably a few in his stomach, too.

    Overall

    86/100

12. Brandon Williams, Baltimore Ravens

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    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    30/40

    Brandon Williams has provided the Ravens fanbase the big block-eating nose tackle it thought it was getting in Terrence Cody. Drafted out of Missouri Southern State, Williams rocketed up draft boards after teams noticed his exceptional strength (38 reps of 225 lbs) at the combine. In just his second season, Williams showed he can be a dominant force in the middle of the Ravens defense. Williams profits from his low center of gravity and rare upper-body strength to get off a good punch and drive linemen back.

    Pass Rush

    51/55

    Much like other nose tackles, Williams is not going to record many sacks in a 3-4 defense. Instead, Williams uses his power to push through the line and create quarterback pressures and allow his teammates to get sacks.

    Starter

    5/5

    Williams started in 14 games for a strong Ravens defense that ranked No. 8 in total yards allowed. After a solid sophomore season, Williams will continue to open eyes and make plays in the backfield.

    Overall

    86/100

11. Dan Williams, Oakland Raiders

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    Ralph Freso/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    32/40

    Dan Williams offers ideal size and strength to be a disruptive run-stopper and gap-filler at nose tackle. He utilizes top-tier ability to play with leverage and lateral quickness to track down runners in the 3-4 defense. He may not always be making the plays, as his stats show, but he allows his teammates to make key stops by occupying blockers and filling running lanes.

    Pass Rush

    50/55

    Williams recorded just his second sack in five seasons in 2014. However, what Williams offers in the pass rush can be seen on tape. Williams’ ability to put pressure on the center and guards allowed Alex Okafor to tally eight sacks and Calais Campbell seven sacks.

    Starter

    5/5

    Williams signed a new four-year deal with the Raiders this offseason after being one of the most sought-after nose tackles on the market. Williams will look to solidify himself as one of the top tackles in the league as the anchor of the Oakland defense.

    Overall

    87/100

10. Sen'Derrick Marks, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    35/40

    Sen’Derrick Marks has been solid against the run throughout his career by using quickness to penetrate gaps and disrupt the backfield. Marks is not the strongest defensive tackle, and, at times, has trouble holding his ground, allowing linemen to push him around. In 2014 Marks was a much better tackler, only recording two missed tackles, down from eight in 2013.  

    Pass Rush

    48/55

    Marks has a skilled first step and uses his quickness to his advantage in the pass rush. He has the athletic ability to be used in stunts but struggles at times getting off blocks. Marks was exceptional in pressuring the QB in 2014, recording nine sacks, tying for second for his position. He's an ideal fit for the Jacksonville scheme thanks to his quickness and versatility as a pass-rusher.

    Starter

    5/5

    Marks suffered a torn ACL and hopes to get back for Week 1 in 2015. He is a proven starter in the league, coming off his best season, but he will need to make a full recovery to prove he is the player he was before the injury.

    Overall

    88/100

9. Kyle D. Williams, Buffalo Bills

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    40/40

    Kyle Williams remains one of the best run-defending tackles in the game. With his 41 tackles in 2014, Williams was active behind the line of scrimmage, and when asked to bring down the ball-carrier, but he also excels at anchoring against offensive guards and centers to free up his linebackers to make plays. Williams is versatile enough to play head-up on the center, in a gap or head-up on the guard in Buffalo’s hybrid defense.

    Pass Rush

    43/55

    Williams isn’t known for his pass-rushing skills, but don’t sleep on his production. In 2014 he turned in eight sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 29 hurries for a very respectable season as a pass-rusher. Williams’ stout stature (6’1”, 303 lbs) allows the former LSU Tiger to beat blockers with leverage, but he has impressive lower-body power to push and drive blockers back off the ball.

    Starter

    5/5

    Williams has long been a star, and in 2014 he continued to show the ability of a top-10 defensive tackle. Barring injury, he looks to be ready for another great year in 2015 at 32 years old.

    Overall

    88/100

8. Jeremiah Ratliff, Chicago Bears

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    35/40

    In his 10th NFL season, Jeremiah (Jay) Ratliff had one of his best years. Against the run he proved to be a stout gap-stuffer in the Chicago Bears’ 4-3 scheme and used his 6’4”, 303-pound frame to keep blockers from getting upfield and locking up linebackers. But more than “just” anchoring the defensive line, Ratliff got involved and had 37 tackles in 11 starts.

    Pass Rush

    48/55

    Most fans remember Ratliff from his time as a nose tackle in the Dallas defense—a scheme that didn’t ask him to get after the quarterback often. In Chicago he was freed to attack and turned in a performance worthy of Pro Bowl consideration. With seven sacks, seven quarterback hits and 19 hurries in less than full-time action, Ratliff was one of the more active and versatile defensive linemen we studied.

    Starter

    5/5

    He is getting older (he’ll turn 34 in August), and the move to a 3-4 defense may push his limits, but Ratliff was a legitimate top-10 starter in 2014.

    Overall

    88/100

7. Kawann Short, Carolina Panthers

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    35/40

    The No. 44 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Kawann Short has outplayed expectations from the get-go. The 6’3”, 315-pound defensive tackle is able to line up in a gap or head-up on a blocker and make plays in the backfield against the run. Short, whether he’s being asked to penetrate the line or hold his ground to shut down rushing lanes, has impressed with his athleticism. He will still get lost on misdirection and play action at times, though, so improving his awareness is a big key for 2015.

    Pass Rush

    49/55

    Short has a great first step out of his stance and the power to follow through with a big bull rush that stuns blockers. And while his recovery speed isn’t great when asked to counter move a guard or center, he’s able to convert his burst into power and drive back the line of scrimmage. Short only posted four sacks in 2014, but he affected the game with hurries and hits, while also opening up opportunities for teammates.

    Starter

    5/5

    Short’s second NFL season was a good one, and his future looks exceptionally bright as the Carolina Panthers look to continue their reign atop the NFC South.

    Overall

    89/100

6. Johnathan Hankins, New York Giants

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Run Defense

    35/40

    Johnathan Hankins was at one time thought of as a first-round talent at Ohio State, and in 2014 he played like a top-10 pick, emerging as one of the best in the game. Against the run he’s stout (6’2”, 320 lbs) enough to stack up blockers and quick enough to get into the backfield to make stops. Hankins’ awareness must continue to improve, but he showed himself to be a dangerous defensive weapon with 51 total tackles last year.

    Pass Rush

    50/55

    With eight sacks, six quarterback hits and 21 hurries in 2014, Hankins was one of the most productive and impactful defensive tackles we studied. His quick first step allows him to make hurry plays and get offensive guards and centers turned off the snap, and he can counter with power to explode past or through blockers when met head-up.

    Starter

    5/5

    In his second year as a pro, Hankins lived up to the talent he showed at Ohio State. With his balanced skill set and upside, Hankins is another year of production away from being a top-five tackle.

    Overall

    90/100

5. Sharrif Floyd, Minnesota Vikings

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    35/40

    Sharrif Floyd has the ideal build for a stout defensive tackle at 6’3” and 305 pounds and plays with the toughness inside to shut down rushing lanes in the A- and B-gaps. He added 27 solo tackles in his breakout 2014 season, while owning the right defensive tackle position in Mike Zimmer’s defense.

    Pass Rush

    51/55

    The Vikings liked Floyd enough to spend a first-rounder on him back in 2013, and he produced to that level as a pass-rusher in 2014, with five sacks, five hits and 20 quarterback hurries. Floyd has quickness off the ball and improved his anticipation, allowing him to be better at attacking the quarterback and beating blockers to their spot. Floyd can wreak havoc on centers and guards.

    Starter

    5/5

    His rookie season wasn’t great, but Floyd flourished in Zimmer’s defense and has become a top-tier tackle to build around in Minnesota.

    Overall

    91/100

4. Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills

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    Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

    Run Defense

    34/40

    Marcell Dareus was a top-tier prospect coming out of Alabama, and he’s lived up to that status as a versatile key player for the Buffalo defense. Playing as the left defensive tackle on the Bills line, Dareus is often asked to stuff interior rush lanes and get penetration to stop right-handed teams running hard to his side. Dareus’ ability to split blockers and then find the ball allowed him to add 32 solo tackles to his resume in 2014.

    Pass Rush

    52/55

    Dareus is often asked to take on blockers to free up outside rushers, but he’s also a proficient producer on his own. In 2014, Dareus added 10 sacks, three hits and 19 quarterback hurries, while also setting up Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams on the edge. Dareus' size makes him a talented bull-rusher, and his ability to shed blockers with his upper-body strength and then accelerate to close on the ball makes him a dual threat on third downs.

    Starter

    5/5

    The No. 3 pick from the 2011 NFL draft has lived up to the expectations placed on him. Dareus has become one of the game’s best.

    Overall

    91/100

3. Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    31/40

    A natural 3-technique in the Tampa Bay defense, Gerald McCoy is paid to get to the quarterback, but he also does a nice job stuffing the run and making plays in the middle of the line. He totaled just 18 solo tackles in 2014, though, and does need to improve his ability to sit down on blockers and shut down rush lanes. McCoy can be dominant if the run defense needs his penetration, but he can also be a liability if teams run at him.

    Pass Rush

    55/55

    McCoy received the highest pass-rushing grade of any defensive tackle this season—a perfect 55 overall. With nine sacks, nine hits and 27 hurries, McCoy didn’t have the best numbers, but he did have the best impact when on the field as he produced those numbers in just 688 snaps. McCoy has the ideal mix of speed off the snap, natural leverage and the technique to beat blockers if they get their hands on him. Even with teams keying on McCoy exclusively as the Buccaneers’ outside pass rush struggled, he continued to produce.  

    Starter

    5/5

    McCoy was back to his Pro Bowl ways in 2014, proving once again that he's cemented himself as a blue-chip defensive tackle and leader in Tampa Bay.

    Overall

    91/100

2. Ndamukong Suh, Miami Dolphins

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Run Defense

    36/40

    Early in his career teams used Ndamukong’s Suh’s upfield burst against him in the run game, but he’s developed patience and awareness, while still being a deadly penetrator when lined up in the gaps. His 37 solo tackles in 2014 were the most of any defensive tackle ranked in our top 10. With great power, length and rare movement skills, Suh is able to change the game on first down.

    Pass Rush

    52/55

    Eight sacks. 12 quarterback hits. 37 hurries. That’s what Suh did to quarterbacks in 2014, and we don’t have a number for how many times he scared them into a bad decision. Suh's quickness off the snap makes him almost impossible to stop without great recovery speed, and as he’s developed better awareness and keys, he’s become the player he was hyped up to be. If Suh can eliminate some penalties, his All-Pro status will be cemented.

    Starter

    5/5

    Long recognized as an elite defensive tackle, Suh lived up to his billing in 2014 before earning a record-setting contract with the Miami Dolphins.

    Overall

    93/100

1. Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Run Defense

    37/40

    Playing the 3-technique position for the St. Louis Rams, Aaron Donald is asked to shoot gaps more than he’s asked to stop the run. That didn’t stop him from being a menace in the gaps and key cog in stuffing the inside run. Donald’s leverage and quickness are great assets on passing downs, but they also allow him to blast into the backfield and make stops or get guards and centers turned so they can’t execute their blocks.

    Pass Rush

    51/55

    Donald took no prisoners in 2014, producing an amazing nine sacks, six hits and 29 quarterback hurries, while playing in a division loaded with offensive line talent. His low center of gravity makes it tough for blockers to get their hands under his pads, and his first-step quickness might be the best in the game.

    Starter

    5/5

    The rookie first-rounder was exceptional in his debut season, putting up the kind of impact and production to earn the No. 1 defensive tackle ranking without question.

    Overall

    93/100