2015 NFL DRAFT PRIMER: Breaking down defensive gaps | Scouting interior D-line prospects | Top-tier DTs on the board | Marinelli’s Maulers

2015 NFL DRAFT PRIMER - Understanding and filling gaps - Scouting interior D-line prospects - The Boys Are Back website

Looking at different positions in the 2015 NFL Draft, there’s an encouraging pool of talent among interior defensive linemen. They are broken up into five different groups. Certainly, some prospects cross into other groups — depending on the level of versatility — but identifying the player’s No. 1 trait is important. The reason there are no two draft boards alike among the 32 clubs is because of the scheme they play, position requirements, the subjective analysis during the interview process and the traits some teams prioritize. 

These are the position IDs for the defensive tackles:

0 (zero) technique (3-4 Nose Tackle): This is the bulky nose tackle for a 3-4 defense asked to force a double-team and free linebackers to make plays. He must control the line of scrimmage and needs power and push to collapse a pocket. He is thought of as a short-area player. Any range he possesses to make a play two or three gaps away from his alignment is a bonus.

1-technique (4-3 Nose Tackle): He is a shade nose tackle, lining up on an edge of the center and needs size, but also quickness, to penetrate a gap and get into the backfield. He may also be asked to stunt all the way around the end of the line of scrimmage to contain a quarterback in the pocket.

3-technique (4-3 Under Tackle): This is a premier defensive lineman who costs millions if he can do this job. He lines up on the outside shoulder of a guard and is asked to penetrate through the A or B gaps. A great 3-tech could have double-digit sacks. One coach calls this player as “a 300-pound man with 4.7 [40-yard dash] speed.” He’s hard to find and often described as a “Warren Sapp-type” player. Last year, Aaron Donald was the best to come into the league since Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh.

2-technique: He’s a combination of all three above but not necessarily great in one area. He will line up on the head of the guard and at times be asked to two-gap the guard and hold the point of attack. He could occasionally be asked to stunt. There aren’t as many teams seeking this player as in the past, but those with two massive defensive tackles will line up with both in two-techs at times.

5-technique (4-3 LDE/RDE): He’s listed as a defensive end by some teams and a defensive tackle by others. Height, bulk and long arms are the requirements and he’s most common in 3-4 defenses as an end. They are asked to lock out their long arms on an offensive tackle and control the line of scrimmage at the B and C gaps.

Scouting interior D-line prospects

In this draft, up to nine defensive linemen could wind up with first-round grades. In the 2014 draft, only two interior defensive linemen went in the first round (Donald, No. 13; Dominque Easley, No. 29) and only four in the second (Ra’Shede Hageman, No. 37; Stephon Tuitt, No. 46; Timmy Jernigan, No. 48; Ego Ferguson, No. 51).

This should be a better year than 2014, but aside from Leonard Williams, finding a player as good as Aaron Donald will be tough. Even so, this draft could produce more first-rounders, even if they are not stars. Here are the guys on the radar for inside D-line jobs in the first round.

1. Leonard Williams, Southern California: He can play anywhere across the defensive line and in any scheme but is going to be looked at as a 3-technique. He’s potentially the best player in the draft. In three seasons he made 57 plays behind the line of scrimmage.

Leonard Williams, DT, 6-4, 290, 4.88, Jr., Southern Cal: Strong, athletic and passionate, the Trojans’ star is earning comparisons to everyone from Texans defensive end J.J. Watt to Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for his ability to dominate the line of scrimmage while alternating between defensive tackle and defensive end. He’s too quick for guards and too strong for tackles, wreaking havoc along the line of scrimmage against the run and pass.

2. Danny Shelton, Washington: After watching him during Senior Bowl week, any team looking for a (3-4) 0-technique has him high in the first round. He also has the quickness and effort to be a 1-technique in a 4-3 package.

Danny Shelton, DT, 6-2, 323, 5.17, Sr, Washington: Broad-shouldered, powerful and surprisingly passionate in pursuit, Shelton is a classic two-gap run defender with the gaudy statistics to catch the attention of scouts. He has flashed first-round talent throughout his career but has played at a different level as a senior, boosting his stock considerably. Shelton was nearly unstoppable during Senior Bowl practices, cementing his top-20 status.

3. Malcom Brown, Texas: A fine athlete with quickness to penetrate and will get strong consideration as the second-best 3-technique. He recorded 31 plays behind the line of scrimmage the past two seasons. He is also a candidate at defensive end and 5-technique. His game vs. UCLA (six tackles, three TFL, one sack) was a solid glimpse at what’s ahead.

Malcom Brown, DT, 6-4, 320, 5.24, Jr, Texas: Much quicker than his well-proportioned frame would indicate, Brown proved a relative bright spot in 2014 for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors with 72 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Though Brown is leaving Austin as just a junior, the NFL may be impressed with his maturity, as he’s married with two children.

4. Eddie Goldman, Florida State: Strikes most as a 1-technique. He has the bulk and quickness to be disruptive. Made 13 plays behind the line of scrimmage in 2014. There are games the production isn’t there and there are teams that see him as a second-round talent.

Eddie Goldman, DT, 6-3, 314, 5.28, Jr, Florida State: Teams are willing to gamble on difference-makers along the defensive line almost as much as they are quarterbacks, and no defensive tackle has captured the imagination of scouts more than Goldman this season. Goldman is broad, powerful and surprisingly athletic, having stood at defensive end in 2013 before making the switch back inside this year. Goldman was carted off the field with an ankle injury during the ACC Championship and didn’t play up to his normal standards in the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon.

5. Arik Armstead, Oregon: He’s a (3-4) 5-technique who has the size and athletic ability to become a solid player. His college basketball background is intriguing. There is room for growth and strength improvement. During his Ohio State game he was in on nine or 10 tackles, but he might not produce big sack numbers. In the NFL he could block his share of passes.

Signed as a highly regarded prep and recorded 26 tackles in 13 games (including one start) in 2012. Progress slowed as a sophomore (15 tackles in 13 games, including five starts) but helped the Ducks win the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl and qualify for the national championship as a junior after quitting Oregon’s basketball team to focus on football.

Dedicated to football in 2014, Armstead’s incredible talent began to show through. He recorded 46 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks despite facing constant double teams.

Lacks the explosiveness off the snap to ever wreak havoc as a pass rusher but his size, strength and length make him an obvious five-technique candidate for traditional 3-4 clubs and he’s light enough on his feet to potentially slide inside to defensive tackle in a four-man front. That kind of versatility and upside is likely to earn Armstead top 50 consideration. Some teams will pass on the raw prospect with questions about how important football really is to him.

6. Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma: He is a massive 0-technique who is raw but interesting for teams looking for a (3-4) 0-tech. He had back surgery in 2013, but experienced no problems last season. He might not be as high up draft boards for teams in 4-3 defenses looking for one gap penetrators. A team like Tennessee or Pittsburgh might value him more.

Jordan Phillips, DT, 6-6, 334, 5.10, rJr, Oklahoma: With only 16 career starts, Phillips would be a gamble in the first round but given his freakish combination of size and quickness, don’t be surprised if it occurs. For that to happen, however, teams will need to confirm Phillips’ health as he missed most of the 2013 season after undergoing back surgery.

7. Carl Davis, Iowa: Nice skills, motor and attitude. He fits in most schemes but probably should be viewed as a 1-technique.

8. Mario Edwards, Florida State: He’s labeled a defensive end, but some teams like him much more inside. His 26 plays behind the line of scrimmage the past two seasons indicate penetration skills. Probably a candidate for a 3-technique spot if he has the mindset for inside work. He had four TFLs against Virginia, but only one in the five games after that.

9. Michael Bennett, Ohio State: Makes plays but he has to be on the move in a 4-3 stunt front to be at his best. He had five sacks in his final five college games and impressed vs. Wisconsin. Teams like Dallas, Seattle, and Jacksonville like one-gap penetrators and Bennett will be higher on their draft boards than others.

Courtesy: Pat Kirwan | Rob Rang


TOP-100: NFL DRAFT PROSPECTS – DEFENSIVE TACKLES

RANK PLAYER POS. POS. RANK SCHOOL CLASS HT. WT. PROJ. ROUND
1 *Leonard Williams DT 1 Southern Cal Jr 6-5 298 1
7 Danny Shelton DT 2 Washington Sr 6-2 343 1
20 *Malcom Brown DT 3 Texas Jr 6-4 320 1
23 *Jordan Phillips DT 4 Oklahoma rSo 6-6 334 1
30 *Eddie Goldman DT 5 Florida State Jr 6-3 320 1-2
39 Carl Davis DT 6 Iowa rSr 6-5 321 1-2
49 Michael Bennett DT 7 Ohio State Sr 6-2 288 2
62 *Xavier Cooper DT 8 Washington State rJr 6-4 298 2
78 Gabe Wright DT 9 Auburn Sr 6-3 299 2-3
94 Joey Mbu DT 10 Houston Sr 6-3 315 3
97 Grady Jarrett DT 11 Clemson Sr 6-1 288 3

MARINELLI’S MAULERS: Defensive Tackles

Brent, Josh

DT

6-2

320

27

4

Illinois

Hayden, Nick

DT

6-4

303

29

7

Wisconsin

McClain, Terrell

DT

6-2

300

26

4

South Florida

Melton, Henry DT 6-3 290 28 6 Texas

Whaley, Chris

DT

6-3

272

24

R

Texas

Okoye, Amobi

DT

6-2

292

27

7

Louisville

Coleman, Davon

DT

6-2

300

24

R

Arizona State

It’s commonly believed that Henry Melton will be released to save $8.5 million on the salary cap. It’s possible that he could be resigned at a lower rate. Melton had five sacks after nine games, putting him on pace for about nine sacks on the year. He failed to register another one in the final seven games, and he was placed on injured reserve the week before the wildcard game against Detroit.

The Dallas Cowboys officially re-signed exclusive-rights defensive tackle Davon Coleman this past Friday. Coleman, an undrafted rookie in 2014 from Arizona State, spent most of the season on the active roster before being cut on Nov. 22. He was re-signed to the practice squad for the rest of the year. By starting against San Francisco in Week 1, Coleman became the first rookie defensive tackle since Guy Reese (1962) to start a season opener and the fourth rookie ever to start, along with Bob Lilly and Greg Ellis. Coleman played only the first two games and posted four tackles.

Nick Hayden is an unrestricted free agent. Hayden’s 52 tackles was the most by a defensive linemen, and his four tackles for loss were tied for second on the team.

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