Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner's analyzes his top run stuffing and pass rushing NFL Draft 2013 defensive tackle prospects.
2013 Top Defensive Tackles
The defensive tackle group is split into two sections. The first section is the top run stuffers in this year’s class. These players are limited in the pass rushing ability, yet they hold their point of attack and are at the top of the class in terms of shutting down their opponent’s interior rushing attack. The second group consists of the top interior pass rushers. These players have shown they can be a consistent force as interior pass rushers. One statistic that I incorporate is Impact Points. This is based on a formula I created that calculates a defensive tackle’s point value based on total tackles, tackles-for-loss, sacks, forced fumbles, blocked kicks, and their team’s overall rush defense.
1. Sharrif Floyd (Florida): Well-suited for a three-technique position along the defensive line, Floyd has been a consistent producer throughout the 37 career games and 27 career starts on his resume. A powerful force along the line, he rarely gives up ground, consistently holding his point of attack. Usually one of the first guys off the line on the snap, he has good quickness to get into the gaps and the backfield.
This past season, Floyd led Florida to the fourth overall ranking in rush defense, giving up only 12 TDs and 1,234 rushing yards, an average of only 94.9 rushing yards per game.
Floyd had limited production as a pass rusher, with only 4.5 career sacks and 26 career TFL. He tries to use his speed and quickness, so while not a great power rusher, he is effective on slants, twists and stunts.
Floyd can be a difference maker on special teams, where he utilizes his speed and quickness. For his career, he has three blocked kicks.
Floyd is an overall good athlete, who recorded 41 impact plays over the course of his career, an average of 1.12 impact plays per game. Not a finished product by any means, he will need to be used initially in a rotation along the defensive line. If he continues to develop, he could turn into a player similar to current Green Bay Packer B.J. Raji. His stats indicate he most resembles current Atlanta Falcon and former first-round pick, Peria Jerry.
2. Star Lotulelei (Utah): From a physical measurement standpoint, Star Lotulelei is everything you look for in an elite defensive tackle at 6’4” and 320 lbs. He possesses incredible physical strength; this past season against USC, he grabbed USC starting tailback Silas Redd with one hand and threw him to the ground like a tornado dropping a house.
Lotulelei’s skill set isn’t limited to just a bull rush move as a pass rusher; he’s proven to have an above-average swim move as well. With 38 career games played, he registered 77.5 tackles, 17 TFL, seven sacks and four forced fumbles. These pass rush number leave a lot to be desired. Teams will have to be wary about selecting him in hopes of him becoming a dominant interior pass rusher. He had 37.5 career impact plays, an average of .99 impact plays per game for his career.
Utah’s run defense gave up 128.2 yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry and allowed 19 rushing TDs this season. Being the defensive leader, Lotulelei clogged the middle of the offensive line and opposing clubs had to rely on toss sweeps to have any success running the football against Utah. Lotulelei started focusing on the small details of his play, such as working on his hand placement in pass rushing, to make himself a more complete player and not rely on just his pure strength.
3. Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State): This mammoth, run-stuffing defensive tackle/nose tackle held opponents to 3.6 yards-per-carry average for the season. At 6’3” and 335 lbs, Hankins is a rare player who can play anywhere on the line for teams running a 3-4 defense. He shows great effort and consistency on almost every play.
Against Michigan, he was in on 47 defensive snaps, holding the Wolverines to only 108 rushing yards, with only six of those yards coming when they ran at Hankins.
On pass downs, Hankins was able to slide down the line of scrimmage playing both DT and DE positions. He is more adept at occupying blockers, which allows his linebackers to roam free and make plays. Facing double teams throughout the season, Hankins was still able to get a consistent push of 2-to-3 yards into the backfield on most passing downs. With only five career sacks and 16.5 career TFL, don’t expect Hankins to be at the top of your team’s box score.
For his career, Hankins had 24.5 impact plays in 38 career games, an average of .64 impact plays per game. Big, athletic nose tackles don’t come around very often. Hankins is an overall good player who should make those behind him better.
4. Jesse Williams (Alabama): This powerful, wide-bodied defensive tackle is more than capable of holding his ground, even when two or three offensive linemen try to push him out of his gap. One of the strongest players in college football, Williams can bench press over 600 lbs.
This former Australian football player is the tough, tenacious defensive lineman NFL teams covet. Last season, he played in the five-technique; this season he slid inside to the nose guard position. Williams led a defensive unit that was first in rush defense; Alabama only gave up an average of 76.4 yards per game this season, an impressive 2.4 yards per carry, while only giving up 13 rushing touchdowns.
Limited in terms of his pass-rushing ability, Williams usually plays with good leverage but can stand straight up at times. He should continue to develop and understand the nuances of the game.
Williams won’t back down from a fight and will be the first to stand up for one of his teammates. Though he still has only played in 26 career games at Alabama, Williams has the physical talents to be successful at the next level. He had 14 impact plays throughout his career or .54 impacts plays per game.
According to scouts I’ve spoken to, Williams is being compared to former first-round pick and current Denver Bronco Ty Warren.
Best of the Rest:
5: Bennie Logan (LSU): Career impact plays: 32.5: Impact plays per game average 1.08
6. Jordan Hill (Penn State): Career impact plays 35: Impact plays per game average .76
7. Anthony Rashad White (Michigan State): Career impact plays 9.5: Impact plays per game average .37
Top Interior Pass Rushers
1. Kawann Short (Purdue): A four-year starter who started all 50 games during his college career, Short has the production a lot of scouts and coaches are looking for in an interior pass rusher. Second highest number of career tackles amongst defensive tackles this year with 155 tackles, Short possesses long arms and the ability to use his quickness and agility to get into the backfield. He quickly sheds blocks with ease, and he even possesses a decent inside spin move. His long wingspan and attention to detail also led to him making 15 pass deflections and two interceptions for his career.
Short was a real difference maker on special teams where he showcased his quickness and gigantic wingspan to record eight blocked kicks, highest amongst any defensive tackle in this year’s draft class.
With 49 career TFL and 19.5 sacks on his resume, Short is the top interior pass rusher in this year’s class. He had over 111.5 impact plays throughout his career, a 2.23 impact-play-per-game average.
You would expect a player of his size (6‘3”, 299 lbs) to be productive against the run, but, surprisingly, he was more of a liability. This past season opponents gained 2,370 rushing yards against him—an average of 4.7 yards per carry and 193.9 rushing yards per game, along with 28 rushing TDs. These numbers are far below the level other elite NFL defensive tackles produced while in college.
Short is similar to the Colts’ Cory Redding.
2. Sheldon Richardson (Missouri): A prototypical five-technique player, where he can utilize his speed and quickness to quickly get upfield, Richardson has good power and stays low, which helps him win battles with his leverage.
A one-year wonder with only 24 career games played, Richardson made the most of it with 83 tackles, 18.5 TFL, six sacks, four forced fumbles and four pass breakups. He had 36.5 impact plays for his career, a 1.52 impact-plays-per-game average.
Not a dominant force in the running game, his speed and quickness tend to put him out of position; sometimes he leaves his gap to get upfield, opening up a massive hole for the ball carrier to run through.
Richardson’s level of play was inconsistent; he had good games against Alabama and Florida but down games against Texas A&M and Kentucky.
Richardson is a developmental type of player. If given time to develop properly, and he is able to keep himself motivated, then he could turn out to be a consistent producer, similar to a Brandon Mebane.
3. Sylvester Williams (UNC): Sylvester Williams is another player who is green behind the ears but full of potential. He only played one season of high school football, and then played two seasons at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. As a two-year starter for UNC, he had 70 tackles, 20.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks, one forced fumble and three pass breakups.
A player who is stout and rarely ever gives up space, Williams can slide past slower offensive linemen with speed usually reserved for outside speed rushers. A power rusher as well, he can dominate a game with a freakish bull rush.
Williams consistently maintained good pad level throughout the season, but he was inconsistent against the run. This past season, UNC gave up 1,712 total rushing yards, 142.7 rushing yards per game and 20 rushing TD. These are right at and above the cutoff for a quality defensive tackle. A player of Williams’ size and skill set should have been an immovable object along the line of scrimmage.
In 25 career games, Williams had 34 impact plays, an average of 1.36 impact plays per game. An intriguing prospect who likely can play inside in a 4-3 or even outside as a DE in a 3-4, his agility and athleticism is what helps separate Williams from other run-of-the-mill defensive tackles. With time and coaching and a little bit of luck, he could be a destructive force for an NFL team.
Best of the Rest
4. Brandon Williams (Missouri Southern State): Career impact plays 99.5: Impact plays per game average 2.37
5. Brent Russell (Georgia Southern): Career impact plays 106: Impact plays per game average 2.00
6. Christopher Jones (Bowling Green): Career impact plays 84.5: Impact plays per game average 1.69