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Top Five 2018 NFL Draft Prospects- Defensive Tackle

Updated on February 18, 2018

These guys will be brought in to plug up the hole in the defensive line and be a forceful run stopper. Today I rank the top five defensive tackle prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.

Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Vita Vea, DT, Washington

1. Vita Vea, Washington

Bio: Even though he only started five games as a sophomore, Vita Vea was still named second team All-PAC 12. Although he weighs nearly 350 lbs., he was able to line up as an edge rusher.

Strengths: NFL ready size with massive hips and strong upper body. Intimidating at point of attack. Able to overpower smaller guards and usually smashes centers when isolated on them. Has power to press blockers off of his frame and the hip rotation and flexibility to discard them. Utilizes bump move that can topple blockers off their base as a counter move. Able to plant feet and stand his ground when pad level is even. Ideal nose tackle. Can punch, strip out, and find the ball. Above average pursuit quickness for a someone his size. Sheds blockers and has range to down the line of scrimmage to stuff running lanes and make tackles. Dangerous hands can clear o-linemen's hands from his frame or soften their edge when he's rushing the passer. Has serious bull-rush ability once he gains momentum early. Still very raw with much more talent to unleash.

Weaknesses: Frustrating game tape. Shows All-Pro potential one possession but then looks average the next. Loses his feet and lands on the ground too often. Base and footwork can be hampered when he gets too far out over his toes. Has a tendency to allow pad level to rise too much during the play. Doesn't have a feel for double teams or blocking schemes. Second block catches him by surprise and he often does not have hands in right position to work against multiple blockers. Initial quickness off the snap is below average. Heavy footed as a pass rusher. Doesn't have flexibility or foot quickness to win around the edge as pass rusher at the pro level. Too quick to default to brute force over proper technique. Many teams may see him as run down player only.

Projected Round: 1

Compares to: Danny Shelton

Possible landing spot: Washington Redskins

Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

2. Da'Ron Payne, Alabama

Bio: Over the last three years, Da'Ron Payne continued the tradition of great Nick Saban era defensive tackles. As a junior, he was named second team All-SEC after recording 53 tackles, one sack, one interception, and three passes defended.

Strengths: Built like a castle with exceptional muscle mass. Tremendous, natural strength. Could bench press 400 pounds in high school. Elite Run stopper with exceptional contact balance and body control. Only on the ground when making a tackle. Plays like a veteran. Has feel for pressure against double teams. Quick to drop his anchor and plant feet. Typical Alabama defensive tackle. Devastating first punch jars offensive linemen off their assignment. Shoots gaps with arm extension and always has his eyes in the backfield. Offenses couldn't run at him. Consumes blocks, keeping linebackers free. Teams HAVE to plan for him. Hands and feet work as one. Talented athlete who showed improvement as a pass rusher. Increased QB pressures from 15 to 27 in 2017. Smooth motions with above average range to chase down ball carriers. Utilizes slap and arm over to work around blocker's edge. Can push interior linemen back towards the quarterback with bullrush. Considered one of the most respected leaders during Saban tenure by teammates and coaches.

Weaknesses: Doesn't come off the ball with much burst and will raise up a little tall. Has athletic ability but works better in a box rather than the open field. Squared up player with average change of direction quickness and lacks ability to get the upper body turn to climb over the top. Pass rush can come to a grinding halt if his first move is doesn't work. Ability to play on rush downs could be the difference between first and second downs. Little tackle for loss and sack production for all of his talent.

Projected Round: 1

Compares to: Jonathan Allen

Possible landing spot: Los Angeles Chargers

Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

3. Maurice Hurst, Michigan

Bio: A two time All-Massachusetts high school football pick, Maurice Hurst spent his first two seasons as a reserve for Michigan before starting as a junior. As a senior, he was a first team All-Big Ten selection after recording 59 tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss.

Strengths: Disruptive initial quickness once the ball is snapped. Comes off the ball low and looking to get into the backfield. Once he gets into the hole, he can get skinny and squirm through. Too quick for blockers to reach or trap him. Motor and movement get him to the pocket as a pass rusher. Uses his hands like a lightweight boxer. Swats away early punch attempts keeping blockers off balance. Light feet help him move from gap to gap challenging heavy footed linemen. Makes plays well beyond his assignment thanks to quickness and A+ motor. Quick to punch and disengage against zone schemes and sweep runs. Effective on twists. His father played cornerback in the NFL.

Weaknesses: Undersized for a defensive tackle. Doesn't have the thick frame that lends itself to adding a lot more muscle mass. Bigger offensive linemen can give him a hard day when they square him up. A hard punch will bounce him way out of his lane. Has to close the gap on longer, stronger blockers or he will be ineffective. Uses forward lean to create power that upper body is missing. Goes head first into contact and loses sight of the ball carrier. Sticks to blocks and is slow to get free. Pass rush comes from movement and twists over hand work and counter moves. Limited to 4-3 defenses as a three technique.

Projected Round: 1-2

Compares to: Maliek Collins

Possible landing spot: Dallas Cowboys

Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford

4. Harrison Phillips, Stanford

Bio: The Nebraska Gatorade Player of the year and junior wrestling champion, Harrison Phillips is an NFL team's dream. As a junior, he led Stanford in tackles with 103 while also recording 17 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Strengths: Big boned, sturdy frame. Not the greatest athlete in the world, but makes a $#!+ load of plays. Extremely high tackle count in 2017 for interior defender. Three time high school state wrestling champ with strong core strength and power to torque blockers from his frame. Plays even against double teams and can recover his anchor. Quality edge setter. Can sneak into either gap to follow the runner. Background in wrestling makes it hard for offensive linemen to finish their blocks against him. Active and determined. Able to drive up field through blocks and change the run lane. Uses basic but effective spin move to disengage from blockers. Pocket pusher who can make quarterbacks uncomfortable. Arm over move can give him early access to quarterback against one on one blocks.

Weaknesses: Built more like a lighter guard than a defensive tackle. Has higher center of gravity than most nose guards. Lack of knee bend robs him of base width and balance. Finds himself on the ground far too often. More energetic than athletic. Looks slow in lateral movement and while changing direction. Unable to sink and shift with decent twitch. Quick lineman can get in front of him and wall him off. Lacks moves as a pass rusher. Must get better at using hands while rushing. Secondary rush can get stuck easily.

Projected Round: 1-2

Compares to: Ryan Glasgow

Possible landing spot: New England Patriots

Tavon Bryan, DT, Florida
Tavon Bryan, DT, Florida

5. Tavon Bryan, Florida

Bio: A Wyoming all-state offensive and defensive lineman in high school, Tavon Bryan played as reserve before finally being named a fulltime starter as a redshirt junior. That year, he posted 40 tackles, six tackles for loss, and four sacks.

Strengths: Athletically blessed with fluid lower half. Plays with the flexibility and agility of a defensive end. Great up field acceleration off the snap. Gets skinny and slithers through gaps causing disruption for ball carriers. Flashes big time potential that is waiting to be fully achieved. Initial lateral quickness allows him to get ahead of the block. Rare pursuit speed and closing burst for interior lineman. Good range as a tackler and plays with durability in his motor. Extremely tough and focused. Uses explosive techniques to win at the point of attack.. Has the turn in both his upper and lower body to get around his blocker. Works quickly to an edge to attack as pass rusher. Can bend under the guard's side and corner right around to pressure the quarterback.

Weaknesses: Unusually body type for a defensive linemen. Narrow lower body. Lacks muscle mass to hold his ground against stronger blockers. Slow to get free from blocks when blocker gets in his frame. Will stumble along interior pile and end up on ground due to small base width. Below average power and balance. Jolted by redirections. Still a development project. Production has been hindered by lack of awareness and instincts at this point. Has to learn to keep his head up and keep eyes in the backfield. One year as a starter. Just 62 career tackles and 5.5 sacks despite his athletic ability and overall talent.

Projected Round: 1-2

Compares to: Cameron Jordan

Possible landing spot: Detroit Lions

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