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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Top Ten Defensive Tackles

For me, along with the wide receiver group, the defensive tackle class is a very deep one. While there may not be the elite players we've seen at the top in recent years (Dareus, Fairley, Suh, Raji, etc.), teams will find better value on the second day than we've seen. In addition, I can't remember a group consisting of so many players that are as scheme diverse as this one. Defensive coordinators will have a lot of fun lining up some of them in multiple positions whether they run a 4-3 or 3-4.

Fletcher Cox, my top-rated tackle is a perfect example. His talents and size will allow him to play either end or tackle in either a 4-3 or 3-4. Now in the latter, you wouldn't be taking advantage of his strengths if you had him on the nose the entire time, but he would be a terror in passing situations on the inside. What sets him apart are his quick and nimble feet, violent hands and polished pass rush moves, and a great motor for a man his size. In addition, his 34.5 inch long arms don't hurt, either, which keep offensive linemen from getting to far into him.

Many of you will probably be surprised at my relatively low ranking of Dontari Poe. There's no doubt about it, he's a great athlete, and his performance at the Combine was awe inspiring. Unfortunately, his play just doesn't match up to the numbers. It wasn't like he was a complete dog, but his game is very raw at this point and I'm not sure the effort is always there. After all, if he played like he performed in Indy, why did he only have five sacks in his career? He definitely has the tools, but a coach is going to have to teach him to play with more consistency and help develop his technique.

Here are the rest of the rankings:

1Fletcher CoxMississippi St.6040298
2Michael BrockersLSU6050322
3Jerel WorthyMichigan St.6023308
4Dontari PoeMemphis6034346
5Kendall ReyesConnecticut6041299
6Devon StillPenn St.6047303
7Brandon ThompsonClemson6020314
8Mike MartinMichigan6013306
9Alameda Ta'AmuWashington6030348
10Derek WolfeCincinnati6051295

Two other players that really intrigue me at the bottom of the list are Mike Martin and Alameda Ta'Amu. Martin has a motor that just won't stop, and although he's a short squatty guy, he's much stronger and more athletic than you'd think. With his experience in wrestling (he was a state champion in Michigan in high school) and his build, he does a great job of staying low off the snap and using leverage to get the job done. Because of his effort level, work ethic, and nasty demeanor on the field, I think he'll be a very good rotational 3-technique at the next level.

Ta'Amu grabbed my attention watching a couple of Huskie games this year. He's very quick for a 348 pounder, and strong enough to hold up against multiple blockers. But it was at the Senior Bowl that I really took notice. He made most of the offensive linemen look really bad in the individual drills, and he seemed to get penetration on every snap in practice and the game. In my opinion, he's the best true 3-4 nose tackle in this draft.

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