Top Five 2019 NFL Draft Prospects- Defensive Tackle
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.
1. Quinnen Williams- Alabama
Bio: Coming to Alabama in 2016, Quinnen Williams redshirted his first season to learn behind future first round picks Johnathan Allen and Da'Ron Payne. As a sophomore, he was named first team All-American and first team All-SEC after leading the Tide with 18.5 tackles for loss, 70 stops total and seven sacks. As a junior, he was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski, Bednarik, and Outland Trophies.
Strengths: Plays low to the ground with consistent position leverage. Gets into blockers frame with quick and precise hands. Able to adjust hands and body according to the blocking scheme. Can anchor and use offensive linemen's momentum to redirect them off assignment. Approach varies against type of blockers. Decent strength and body control as a two gap man. Keeps eyes in the backfield to spy on the ball carrier. Intelligence to diagnose the play like he was in the offensive huddle. Efficient and smooth in his technique. Plus pursuit speed to extend radius as a tackler. Good footwork and punishing slap softens the gap in the hole. Keeps knees bent and pads low on counter moves inside. Burst through blocks to pressure the quarterback. Good closing speed once he locks on target.
Weaknesses: Physical traits aren't obvious. Will take a lot of effort to keep his weight up. Lacks necessary mass to withstand the force of double team blocks. Lacks thick frame and wide shoulders overall. Winning with leverage via play strength is just average by pro standards. Struggles to slow down bigger power running backs. Can't get unglued from longer, stronger interior linemen. Lacks the length to consistently control NFL guards. Could struggle to generate bull rush at the next level.
Pro Comparison: 1
Projected Round: Fletcher Cox
Possible Landing Spot: Oakland Raiders
2. Christian Wilkins- Clemson
Bio: Christian Wilkins broke out in a big way as freshman year, earning Freshman All-American honors by racking up 84 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. In Clemson's 2016 national championship season, he was a third-team Associated Press All-American and second team All-ACC selection, registering 56 stops, 13 for loss, 3.5 sacks, and set a school record for defensive linemen with 10 passes defended. As a senior, he was a first team All-American and first team All-ACC selection for his play which helped the Tigers win their second national title in three seasons.
Strengths: Locker room leader and off the chart high character traits. Received the prestigious William V. Campbell Trophy after his senior season for his work in the classroom, in the community, and on the field. Face of the team personality. Experience at both tackle and end. Quick snap reaction and fast hand into contact. Extremely efficient movements. Stays under opponents pads throughout the play. Enough lateral quickness to disrupt gaps. Can shift and slide around blocker's frame. Can generate balance from awkward positioning thanks to rare flexibility. Agility of a linebacker in short spaces. Works to improve rush leverage. Lowers hips to counter back inside the pocket. Can drop in coverage on zone blitz packages. Batted down 15 passes at the line in his college career.
Weaknesses: Initial pop leads to fatigue as the play goes on. Improvement is needed in overall play strength. Doesn't get much extension or separation after first punch. Thick lower half has no developed anchor. Struggles to maintain balance on down blocks. Lacks strength and length to operate in a two gap scheme. Folded under pressure against double team blocks. Has to do a better job of discarding reach blockers. Can have a problem with lengthier offensive linemen. Length doesn't help him get free of blocks. Average strength against redirect blocks in pass rush. Three technique scheme dependent.
Pro Comparison: Gerald McCoy
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Atlanta Falcons
3. Ed Oliver- Houston
Bio: In order to stay close to his hometown, Ed Oliver became one of the first five-star recruits to sign with a non-Power Five conference program. He earned first team All-American and All-AAC honors as a true freshman after ranking second in the country with 23 tackles for loss. He won the Outland Trophy and was a finalist for the Nagurski Award as a sophomore while also being named the American Athletic Conference's Defensive Player of the Year.
Strengths: Elite athlete with top tier quickness and agility. Built low and plays with natural leverage. As quick as any interior lineman you're likely to come across. Will test will for explosiveness and quickness traits. Instinctive and diagnoses the play early. Bursts into blockers with powerful punch to gain upper hand. Rare first step to fill up holes. Racked up 53 tackles for loss in just three seasons. Directs hands inside and under opponents pads. Linebacker speed with larger tackle radius than most defensive tackles. Lack of motor won't be an issue. Forces blocker off balance with first jab before swimming over in the opposite direction. Plus body control for effective counter moves. Combines athletic ability with spin move to gain ground as a rusher.
Weaknesses: Short, undersized frame well below NFL standards. Played well under 280 pounds at Houston. Functional length is lacking. Gets steamrolled by down blocks and double teams. Struggles at times against downhill running backs. Gets plugged up against wider offensive linemen. Can't sustain anchor against raw power. Goes around blocks in pursuit rather than powering through. Needs to work at disengaging from blocks. Failed to turn explosive traits into high sack numbers. Rush attack is predictable and lacks diversity. Struggled with a knee injury throughout his junior season and had a televised blowout with head coach Major Applewhite over whether he should be wearing a heavy jacket on the sideline meant for suited players while nursing said injury.
Pro Comparison: Aaron Donald
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Tennessee Titans
4. Dexter Lawrence- Clemson
Bio: The North Carolina state Player of the Year, Dexter Lawrence was recruited by every major school in the country before deciding on Clemson. He was a Freshman All-American, the ACC Defensive Freshman of the Year, and second team all- ACC after posting 79 tackles, 9.5 for loss, seven sacks, and two blocked kicks. In his three seasons, he was a first team All-ACC selection twice and help the Tigers to two national championships.
Strengths: Enormous frame with intimidating combination of size and strength. Stayed healthy and was quicker as a junior. Surprising athleticism for his body type. Footwork allows his disruptive power to work across the line. Agility to eliminate or recover from cut down blocks. High tier upper body strength. Can get free from single blocks at will. Able to discard seals and down blocks that are off the mark. Can occupy multiple blockers in order to let linebackers to roam free. Ball carriers are in immediate trouble once he gets his hands on them. Punishing bull rusher with the leg drive to collapse the pocket.
Weaknesses: Has failed to match the impressive production from freshman season. Average ability as a pass rusher may hinder his value. Lacks fluidity as a rusher to get to the edge. Rush counters are basic and ineffective. Relies more on brute strength rather than actual technique. Gets mauled over by double teams when he doesn't set his feet. Inconsistent hand placement for early control at the point of attack. Will shortcut his path to the ball causing him to lose the gap. Was suspended for Clemson's two playoffs games in 2018 after testing positive for ostarine, a performance enhancing drug. Lawrence maintained that he did not knowingly ingest the substance.
Pro Comparison: Damon Harrison
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Philadelphia Eagles
5. Jeffrey Simmons- Mississippi State
Bio: Despite only starting three games as freshman, Jeffrey Simmons was named to the SEC All-Freshman team. Over the next two years, he was named first team All-SEC twice and lead the Bulldogs 29 tackles for loss.
Strengths: Looms the part with athletic, defined frame. Unusual combination of strength and fluidity. Played every alignment on the inside. Quick reaction off the snap. Gets under blockers pads with well timed and placed punch. Impressive body control and core power. Has the power to drive through double teams. Able to slide through gaps with swim move. Good agility for lateral slides and pursuits. Early explosiveness can break the pocket and cause havoc. Has the athletic skill to find the edge as a rusher. Shows a lot of power with rip move. Smooth feet when free on stunts. Natural stride with enough pursuit speed to chase across the field.
Weaknesses: Very average instincts. Can be slow to discover and react against certain blocking schemes. Allows edge blockers to get a hold of him on down blocks. Will go off schedule rather than stick to his gap assignment. Doesn't always properly set the edge. Focuses too much on his blocker and loses track of the ball carrier. Inconsistent at holding his own in two gap sets. Needs to be more decisive when shedding blocks. Pass rush needs a staple move and counters to balance it. Major character concerns. Was arrested for his part in a fight prior to attending Mississippi State where a video showed him punching a woman. He was found guilty of malicious mischief and pled no contest to simple assault, paying fines and restitution for the woman's medical bills. Tore his ACL in preparation for the NFL Draft.
Pro Comparison: Michael Brockers
Projected Round: 1-2
Possible Landing Spot: Indianapolis Colts
Other Notable Prospects
Jerry Tillery- Notre Dame
- Mammoth size, lacks quickness
Dre'Mont Jones- Ohio State
- Good initial quickness, allows blockers into his frame easily
Isaiah Buggs- Alabama
- Good balance through contact, lacks length
Gerald Willis- Miami
- Compact frame, "me first" mentality
Kingsley Keke- Texas A&M
- Excellent length, jack of all trades but master of none
Khalen Saunders- Western Illinois
- Senior bowl star, more agile than strong
Terry Beckner- Missouri
- Quicker than most nose guards, slightly undersized
Dontavius Russell- Auburn
- Naturally large, lacks consistent motor
Renell Wren- Arizona State
- Good size, bad instincts
Greg Gaines- Washington
- Strong run stopper, short and stubby
Trysten Hill- UCF
- Explosive, unimpressive body type