Ninth in a series exploring the April 26-28 NFL draft. Next: Safeties.
This is not a bad crop of defensive tackles. There are several players who should have productive careers at every level of the draft, including in the first round. As many as six tackles are first-round considerations.
1. Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State, 6-4, 298. This is the best interior pass rusher in the draft. He has an explosive first step and can run down ball carriers. Cox plays with good strength and leverage and shows good reactions. He came out of school early and has the potential to keep developing and improving. He still is learning from a technical standpoint, but he is far enough along to contribute early. Cox is a former defensive end and could play there in a 3-4 defense. He is tough and has solid intangibles.
2. Dontari Poe, Memphis, 6-3, 346. He has amazing movement skills for a player his size, which he demonstrated at the combine. Poe is the premier nose tackle prospect in the draft, and 3-4 teams love him. He is a powerful man with great balance and body control. Even though he is huge, he is not fat. He did not play up to his athleticism in college. He is raw and has a lot to learn, especially with hand usage. Poe probably never will be a pass rusher, but he should be an outstanding run stuffer. Some scouts question his motor, but others believe he plays hard but wore down at times because he played so many snaps.
3. Michael Brockers, LSU, 6-5, 322. This is a big run defender who can be dominant. He probably would fit best as a 3-4 end but could be an interior player in a four-man front. Brockers has not offered much as a pass rusher and often was off the field on passing downs in college, but he could develop in that area. The early entrant is a raw player with potential to develop. He plays hard and has excellent strength. He can collapse a pocket.
4. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State, 6-2, 308. Worthy is a big, physical player who can get off the snap and penetrate the gap. He is stout at the point and has a good presence on the field. He is athletic and flexible. He left school early and still is developing. If he gets with the right coach in the right system, he can really take off. Worthy was penalized quite a bit for undisciplined play.
5. Kendall Reyes, Connecticut, 6-4, 299. Reyes is a safe pick who can play multiple positions and fit in multiple schemes, including the under tackle in a four-man front. He can rush the passer and push the pocket with power. He is a strong run defender. He moves well for his size and has surprising athleticism. He doesn't always play as hard as he could, and his pad level sometimes gets high.
6. Devon Still, Penn State, 6-5, 303. The son of former NFL player Art Still is a gifted lineman. Still is strong and athletic, and he can penetrate. He is very explosive off the ball, but his motor does not always run high. He was inconsistent in college. He can dominate at times, and he often stepped up against better competition. He would fit in a 3-4 as an end as well. He has played for four years and is NFL-ready.
7. Alameda Ta'amu, Washington, 6-2, 348. A gigantic space eater, Ta'amu is an ideal nose tackle candidate. He flashes great power and can be very disruptive. He has some pass-rushing ability for his size, and he gets his pads low. He can dominate one-on-one and hang in versus double teams. He was the talk of Senior Bowl practices. Ta'amu has been an inconsistent player who does not always give full effort. His conditioning has been problematic. He also has some medical issues that could cause him to fall in the draft.
8. Brandon Thompson, Clemson, 6-2, 314. This is a powerful nose tackle prospect who will clog the middle of the field. He isn't flashy and doesn't make a lot of big plays, but he is solid and doesn't make many mistakes. Pass rushing is not his thing. He is best as a running-down player.
9. Billy Winn, Boise State, 6-4, 294. He has the ability to play three technique, nose tackle or five technique in a 3-4. Winn has not made a lot of plays, but he is explosive and quick and could develop as a pass rusher. He is well-built and has strength and athleticism. He needs to play with more consistent effort.
10. Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati, 6-5, 295. This is a productive player who finds ways to be disruptive. Wolfe has a feel for the game but is not a premier athlete. Some consider him an overachiever. He runs well and plays with intensity. He plays with power in the running game. He uses his long arms to create separation. His best fit could be as a 3-4 end.
11. Mike Martin, Michigan, 6-1, 306. A high-effort player who wears down blockers, Martin is not the most gifted athletically. He doesn't have the kind of quickness the best interior pass rushers have, but his relentlessness might make up for it. He is powerful and has been a consistent player. He is durable and reliable. Some see him as a two-down player only.
12. Kheeston Randall, Texas, 6-4, 293. He is probably best suited to be a nose tackle in a 4-3. He has an explosive first step, then uses leverage to his advantage. He shows good play strength. Randall is not the most athletic tackle and has not been very productive or consistent.
13. DaJohn Harris, USC, 6-3, 306. Harris fires off the ball and uses quickness and athleticism to defeat offensive linemen. He uses his hands well. Harris has a knack for batting down passes. He is a better run player than pass rusher. He could improve his strength and needs to be more consistent with his fundamentals.
14. Josh Chapman, Alabama, 6-0, 316. This nose tackle prospect wears down blockers with power. He has a thick lower body and can hold the point of attack, and he is strong from the waist up. Some teams consider him a running-down player only. Chapman is coming off a knee injury that could affect his stock.
15. Akiem Hicks, Regina, 6-4, 318. This transfer from LSU has great size and strength. Hicks has long arms and is surprisingly athletic for his size. He is raw and needs a lot of technique work. He can play end in a three-man front or nose tackle in any front. He is not very quick.
16. Markus Kuhn, North Carolina State, 6-5, 299. He has drawn a lot of attention with impressive workouts. Kuhn has good size and athleticism and plays with very good power. He gets off the snap in a hurry and can bull rush effectively. He can hold the point of attack. Kuhn ends up on the ground a little too much.
17. J.R. Sweezy, North Carolina State, 6-5, 298. His workout showed he might have more athleticism and potential than some scouts originally gave him credit for. Sweezy is a tough guy who plays to the whistle on every snap. He has some size and length and could play end in a 3-4. He could develop into a backup who is used at multiple positions.
18. Mike Daniels, Iowa, 6-0, 291. He was a really good college player, but his lack of size limits his pro potential. Daniels is a one-gap tackle who can be disruptive. He gets off the snap well and has some athleticism. He goes all out. Daniels can be bulled by powerful interior blockers. He played better as a junior than as a senior.
19. Rennie Moore, Clemson, 6-3, 268. He is a tackle-end tweener. He might not have the bulk to play inside, and he might not have the athleticism to play outside. A 4-3 team could try to bulk him up and line him up as a three technique. He is a high-energy player with good strength.
20. Matt Conrath, Virginia, 6-8, 290. The St. Rita alumnus has an NFL body. He might be too tall to play tackle for some teams; 3-4 teams will consider him at end. There even has been talk of converting him to offensive tackle. He is at his best on first and second down, as he is not a very effective pass rusher. Conrath plays hard and uses his hands well.
21. Tydreke Powell, North Carolina, 6-2, 311. He can get some interior rush going with quickness and suddenness. Powell has decent size, but he isn't very stout, in part because he sometimes plays high. He is an energetic player.
22. Marcus Fortson, Miami, 6-1, 301. He is an athletic tackle with suddenness to rush the passer and was one of the country's highest-ranked players coming out of high school, but he was not much of a producer in college. A serious knee injury limited him to three games last season, and he decided to leave school early. Fortson plays tall and sometimes gets blown off the line.
23. Jaye Howard, Florida, 6-3, 301. He has the size and strength to play in the NFL. He looks good in a uniform and worked out well. However, Howard has not produced up to his potential. His functional athleticism is limited.
24. Dominique Hamilton, Missouri, 6-5, 313. He has size and an innate ability to find the ball. Hamilton plays the run fairly well but doesn't offer much in pass rush. He does not have the best movement skills. Because of his height, he is a candidate to play end in a 3-4.
25. Tony Jerod-Eddie, Texas A&M, 6-4, 305. He has long arms and knows how to use them to create separation, so Jerod-Eddie offers some pass-rushing potential. He is not the most effective in the running game and has not made an abundance of plays.
26. John Hughes, Cincinnati
27. Brett Roy, Nevada
28. Travian Robertson, South Carolina
29. Hebron Fangupo, BYU
30. DeAngelo Tyson, Georgia
31. Matthew Masifilo, Stanford
32. Chas Alecxih, Pittsburgh
33. Jordan Nix, North Carolina
34. Vaughn Meatoga, Hawaii
35. Patrick Butrym, Wisconsin
36. Craig Wilson, Illinois
37. Christian Tupou, USC
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