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Top Five 2015 NFL Draft Prospects- Defensive Tackle

Updated on January 29, 2015

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. Leonard Williams, USC

Bio: In three years at USC, Leonard Williams was a force on the defensive line. He recorded 21 sacks and was a two time All-American. He is widely considered the best overall prospect in the draft.

Strengths: Extremely gifted interior lineman with length, athleticism and elite power. Lined up just about everywhere along the line at one point or another. Able to jolt offensive linemen with powerful hands and is extremely hard to redirect for offensive linemen once he gets going downhill. Explosive hip snap to leverage blockers and is rarely moved from his gap. Too much play strength for zone blockers to face him. Fires out with low pad level when playing the run and is difficult to submarine on short yardage. Has feet and brute force to recover and get back into a play after being beaten early. Effort rusher who will eventually get home if single blocked. Showed intriguing potential as a pass rushing end in space. Body able to hold more weight and muscle.

Weaknesses: Late out of his stance off the snap. Must learn to consistently fire hands out as weapons. Slow to transition from run stopper to pass rusher when teams throw on first down. Pad level rises and legs straighten out as pass rusher. Base will narrow slowing momentum and limiting full potential of his bull rush. Hasn't learned to set up offensive linemen or string together pass rush moves. Doesn't always play to capacity and pursuit is lacking when play heads away from him. Wins with physical tools over skill.

Projected Round: 1

2. Danny Shelton, Washington

Bio: In his four years at Washington, Danny Shelton was the teams starter at nose tackle for three seasons. He was a three time Academic All-American and PAC 12 first team member.

Strengths: Bends well for a big man and has ability to play with leverage. Space eater who is able to maintain good positioning against double or triple teams. Consistently gets his hands inside offensive linemen first. Controls, sees it, and sheds to make tackles. Surprising ability to swat cut blocks and chase stretch plays laterally. Played a high percentage of Washington's defensive snaps. Has the strength and athletic ability to dominate in the running game.

Weaknesses: Can be a little inconsistent at getting push off snap. Dominates lesser centers but doesn't seem to look nearly as dominant against more talented centers. Will quit on a play when he's blocked. Produced eyecatching sack numbers for his position, but much of it was against lesser competition. Must work to keep weight at the right level.

Projected Round: 1

3. Eddie Goldman, Florida State

Bio: in his three years at Florida State, Eddie Goldman anchored an excellent defensive line. In his two years as a starter, he recorded over 60 tackles and six sacks.

Strengths: Has broad shoulders and well proportioned frame. Explodes out of stance and into defenders with force and leverage. Violent hands that jar offensive linemen and force them into defensive posture. Able to shed blockers with hands or with clubbing arms and spring into ball carrier. Can two gap at the point of attack and plays square throughout leveraging gap when offenses try to block him on an angle. He's a bull rusher with ability to invert pocket.

Weaknesses: Incomplete player due to his lack of consistent pass rush. Only marginal burst upfield. Square rusher who hasn't learned to get to shoulder of the guard consistently yet. Rushes with leg stiffness and plays too tall when attacking. No pet move to create an opening. Questions about whether or not he can be an explosive penetrator in a 4-3 defense.

Projected Round: 1

4. Malcom Brown, Texas

Bio: In three years at Texas, Malcom Brown made a name for himself on the defensive line. as a junior, he recorded 69 tackles and 6.5 sacks and was named Big 12 defensive player of the year.

Strengths: Good bend in his hips to play low off the snap. Athletic big man who improved his quickness from last year. Began to impose his will more frequently late in the season. Excels once he reaches a lineman's edge. Discards blockers when ready as a read and react DT and uses a punch to keep himself clean and scrape down the line after ball carriers. Eyes stay glued on ball carrier no matter what battle is in front of him. Can recover and improve positioning if he is losing early in snap. Light on his feet and diagnoses very quickly. Hard defender for offensive linemen to face. Too athletic and talented to consistently single block.

Weaknesses: Not consistently physical at the point of attack. Has average power in his lower body and struggles to hold his ground against double teams. Looking for secondary motor as rusher. Effort level stalls when his pass rush stalls. Is in need of a more polished counter move as a pass rusher. Would benefit from improved strength and ability to vary game from penetration to power.

Projected Round: 1-2

5. Michael Bennett, Ohio State

Bio: In his four years at Ohio State, Michael Bennett was the anchor of the Buckeyes defensive line. He amassed 17.5 sacks in his career as a Buckeye.

Strengths: Great burst off snap coming in low and looking to disrupt. Good arm length for a player his height. Active hands are his calling card and uses them to snatch and pull guards off their spot. Gets initial pop and arm extension to stay clean and can shed. Has shoulder turn to make himself skinny and shoot gaps. Constantly changing angles post snap making it tough for linemen to get clean, sustained blocks on him. Tougher against double teams than most interior linemen his size. Efficient arm over move to defeat centers quickly.

Weaknesses: Inconsistent motor occasionally. Will charge in headfirst and lose sight of running back. Sometimes defaults to garden variety hand-fighting when pass rush stalls. Can lose gas with too much wasted motion as a pass rusher. Pass rush is tied to hands and winning early so he must develop a counter move. Lacks power and girth in his lower half.

Projected Round: 1-2

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