These players are not just big, they're important to the success of the entire defense. They make the defensive ends better because they're usually left one-on-one with an offensive tackle due to the ability of the defensive tackle to take on two blockers. They are a middle linebacker's dream, allowing the linebacker to read and react and not have to worry about shedding blockers who get to the second level. The linebacker can play more physically at the line of scrimmage because there will be an opening to make a play.
There are plenty of teams in the NFL that will looking for some beef up front, and finding a defensive tackle who's good against the run is easier said than done.
Analyzing the draft-eligible run-stuffing defensive tackles for the 2008 draft, you'll find some great players who'll be selected on day-one such as Glenn Dorsey (LSU), Frank Okam (Texas) and Red Bryant (Texas A&M).
But what about the players your favorite team can get later in the draft if they either don't want to or can't afford to spend a first-day pick on one? Here are five Day-Two run-stuffers that you'll want to keep an eye on between now and next April:
Nick Hayden (Sr.), Wisconsin
Hayden, a 6-foot-5, 301-pound versatile interior lineman, works extremely hard inside and is good against the run. He's a competitive defender who has good explosion off the snap. Hayden has quick feet, keeps his pad level low, and has good leverage against the opposition. He has a good motor and locates the ball quickly to make plays. Using great technique inside, Hayden's able to gain leverage against bigger opposition and gets in position to defend the run. Through six games he's made 23 tackles -- five for a loss -- and three sacks.
Boston College DT B.J. Raji
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B.J. Raji (Sr.), Boston College
At 6-foot-1, 325-pounds, Raji is a big, physical interior lineman who commands a lot of attention. A good athlete who has a solid burst off the line, he plays with leverage, and bull rushes opponents up the field. Raji also has a quick first step and immediately penetrates upfield and makes plays in the backfield. With his great strength, he brings down the opposition with his initial push, gets off blocks very well and can handle double-teams. But there's an interesting twist about Raji and his draft status. He was ruled academically ineligible this season and was redshirted. Boston College is trying to convince him to come back for his senior season, but the risk of suffering an injury next year will only hurt his draft status even more. Expect Raji to enter the draft and be a high Day-Two selection.
James McClinton (Sr.), Kansas
McClinton, who's generously listed at 6 foot 1, 285 pounds, is an explosive interior lineman limited only by a lack of height. He has a quick first step, great balance, and great instincts. He has excellent lateral quickness and is able to change direction well. He plays with a high motor and is always around the ball. A great tackler who possesses outstanding closing speed, McClinton is a lineman who sheds blocks well, but tends to struggle against a bigger opposition. He has good technique and hand placement that gives him leverage. Through five games this season, McClinton has 26 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and two sacks. This defensive tackle out of Kansas has a chance to elevate his stock into Day One of next April's draft with a strong finish.
Jason Shirley (Sr.), Fresno State
A monster in the middle, Shirley, who's listed at 6 foot 5, 330 pounds, has the ability to take over a game with his physical play. He can take on a double team with ease, shed blocks, and make a play in the backfield. Shirley has great strength and gains instant leverage against the opposition, making it almost impossible to block him one-on-one. He holds his ground well and is tough to knock to the ground. Shirley's another player with an interesting footnote as he missed the first two games of the season for conduct detrimental to the team. It's unknown what Shirley did, but since his return he's played in three games and has collected seven tackles, four tackles for a loss and two sacks. He's a good prospect with excellent size, but he lacks proper technique. He relies on his raw strength too much and gets worn down as the game moves forward, so he'll need some coaching and will need to improve his conditioning to be successful at the pro level.
Frank Morton (Sr.), Tulane
Morton is a huge defensive tackle with a lot of promise. At 6 foot 2, 331 pounds, Morton has the ideal size to be a dominant run stuffer. He has flashes of dominance, but then he'll fade and become inconsistent. He plays low, gains leverage, and gets a quick initial push. He gets good penetration, but has to improve his footwork to get off blocks better. Morton has good instincts, displays a good burst into the backfield and is a hard worker -- but he has to improve his technique. A high ankle sprain to start the season hampered Morton, but in the three games he's played so far, he's recorded six tackles, two tackles for a loss and half a sack.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his NFL draft analysis on the web and on the radio since 1999.