Draft Decision: Defensive Tackles

It's widely acknowledged that the Colts need to find some help in the middle of the defensive line. But should they use a high draft pick on a defensive tackle? Inside, ColtPower compares two prospects the Colts might think about taking on the first day of the draft. Who's the better choice for Indianapolis ... and who should they draft?

Peria Jerry versus Ron Brace

Reputation:

Jerry is an explosive player with good hands that has the initial quickness to penetrate into the backfield and disrupt the play.  He was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week four times last season. In a conference that prides itself on its defense, is quite an accomplishment.


Peria Jerry
Chris Graythen/Getty

He has some injury concerns to go along with those accomplishments — though he did play in 38 games in four years, missing most of his opportunities on the bench rather than due to injury — and scouts have to be concerned about the fact that he's only played at a high level for the past two seasons.  But his playmaking ability and the fact that he can be unblock able at times jumps off the film.

Brace has lived in the shadow of the highly touted and first-ranked defensive tackle B.J. Raji for most of his career, but is known as a solid player, exceptional run stopper, and excellent gap filler up the middle.  The question is whether he will sink or swim now that Raji will no longer be his teammate.

Character:

Both are seniors and are accustomed to the attention and questions that accompany men of their position and status, but both have struggled with inconsistency and have been accused of taking plays off. 

Jerry fought through a nagging knee injury in 2008 and only missed one game, which shows his toughness and dedication, but also warrants a medical check.  Brace's big question mark is how motivated he is to succeed and get better, which was brought into the forefront at the Combine.

Measurables:

Brace certainly has the size advantage at 6-feet-3 and 330 pounds, which would make him comparable to Antonio Johnson, who became more and more valuable to the run defense as the season wore on.  Jerry is a shade under 6-feet-2 and tips the scales at 299, which would compare him favorably to Ed Johnson, if Johnson were faster and more explosive.

Athleticism:

Jerry did not participate in the bench press or 40-yard dash, so scouts will have to wait and see what he has to offer in terms of workout numbers at his Pro Day.

Brace, on the other hand, might be wishing he hadn't participated in the 40.  He posted a time of 5.52 seconds which, even for a man of his size, is a huge disappointment.

The obvious comeback to that comment is to recommend that the Colts not have him run any fly routes, but the fact remains that Indianapolis defensive tackles need to be able to penetrate and get off blocks and Brace will need to improve on that time if he is going to wearing blue and white in the future.

He did redeem himself somewhat by posting 32 reps on the bench press, but Chris Steuber did identify him as one of the prospects whose stock dropped at the Combine, which is never a good thing.

Production:

Brace was consistent throughout his career at Boston College, but ultimately failed to put up eye-popping statistics, finishing with 85 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, and five sacks in 47 games.

Jerry almost matched those numbers in his senior season alone with 45 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and seven sacks.  In his 38 total games, he added an interception, two fumble recoveries (one returned for a touchdown), had 132 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks.

In terms of production, Jerry blows Brace out of the water, but scheme and opportunity must be taken into account, as well as potential and the fact that scouts still have concerns about the consistency of Jerry's motor.

Value:

Jerry is currently the second-rated defensive tackle and 23rd-rated player overall — a pretty big drop-off from Raji, who is ranked first and fourth, respectively — so he would represent a great value for the Colts if he were available at 27.


Ron Brace
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

He actually helped his stock by standing pat at the Combine as most of his competition at the position floundered.  His Pro Day looms large, though, as it will be his last chance to impress scouts and general managers before the draft.

Brace needs to take advantage of the second chance that he has been given in order to make up for his issues in Indianapolis.  As the fifth-ranked defensive tackle and the 64th-ranked player overall, he actually holds more value if he continues to slide down draft boards.

At this point, he holds more value as a second round selection for a 3-4 team looking for a nose tackle than he does as a nose tackle for the Colts.

Who They Should Pick:

Out of the two, Jerry is more of a known quantity, a better fit for the defense, and has more upside than does Brace.  Additionally, if Jerry is available at 27, Indianapolis would be hard pressed to pass him up in terms of value and need.

If they are to select Brace, as it stands now, they would probably have to use their second-round pick and he simply doesn't have enough value at that juncture.

Who They Would Pick:

With Antonio Johnson already on the roster, their need for Brace is not as great as their need for Jerry.  If Percy Harvin were not available, defensive tackle is their next highest area of need.  Even though they have not historically taken defensive tackles high in the draft, there is a new head coach and new defensive coordinator, so all bets are off.  They could certainly do a lot worse than pulling the trigger on Peria Jerry at 27 overall.

At the End of the Day:

It's unlikely, given Bill Polian's track record, that the Colts will use a first-round selection on a defensive tackle, but Jerry could be too good to pass up if his Pro Day and medical exam are positive and he is still available when they draft in the first round.

Brace could certainly redeem himself after his poor Combine performance, but he could also fall to the third or fourth round, where he would also hold considerable value.


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