Headed into the season, William Joseph (Miami, Fla) was expected to be a very high pick and maybe even the top DL drafted. He has good size at a listed 6'5" and 297lb's and as a junior absolutely dominated in the interior running game, using his quickness off the ball and strength to come off blocks to penetrate the backfield with frequency and was an absolute terror as a pass rusher. Watching him this earlier this season against both Florida & Boston College (thanks BBC), I wondered whether I was watching the same guy!
In both games he found himself with a lot of one-on-one opportunities against the run but he was too easily trapped and he never really got into the backfield with any consistency (his lone good play against BC came in the 4th QTR when the game was long since over as a contest). Against Florida, he got to the passer on a few occasions but was shut out for much of the day against BC. I can't recommend ANY player whose production dropped as a Senior – just 5 sacks, 15 TFL's this year after 10 sacks, 19 TFL's as a junior – without injury being a major factor. However, he rebounded somewhat from his slow start and I will watch him again in a few late season games to see him back nearer his best. Right now, whilst I'm sure he'll still be a 1st round pick, I can't see him landing in the top 10 unless he has an outstanding Combine/personal workout and can't understand why he isn't at the Senior Bowl proving himself.
On just about every internet draft site, Joseph has subsequently been surpassed as the top rated DT by Jimmy Kennedy (Penn State). He isn't a prospect I've seen much of at all as yet – I caught a few defensive series of the games against both Illinois and Virginia and he seemed to be tossing opponents around like skittles in the middle of the line to stop the run – but he certainly has the size at a reported 6'5" and 316lb's (down from the 330lb's+ he weighed in at a year earlier) to be a stud in the NFL and his production against the run as a senior registering 87 tackles (2nd on team!) inc. 16 TFL's is top rate. I'm not sure about his pass rush skills though as whilst he chipped in with a more than respectable 5.5 sacks, it's worth noting that 4 were in one game against Wisconsin. I'll be studying his play in the near future against Iowa and maybe a couple of other teams with quality interior linemen I can gauge his skills against. Currently, the consensus of opinion is that he appears ‘nailed on' for a top 10 selection and could very well be the 1st defensive player chosen in the entire draft.
PFW's Joel Buschbaum (RIP) believed that junior entry DeWayne Robertson (Kentucky) was the best DT prospect in the nation and the NFL Draft Advisory Board also felt likewise as he was given a 1st round grade by them when asked for an evaluation on where he projected in the draft. I've only seen him on a couple of drives against LSU and he appeared to be a big wide-bodied guy – listed on the college website at 6'3" and 311lb's – with some quickness off the snap and a lot of strength. His production this year wasn't outstanding – just 8.5 TFL plus an SEC DT leading 5 sacks – but he doesn't exactly play on a defense blessed with quality athletes and he likely faced a lot of double teams each week. He is most definitely on my ‘watch' list in the lead up to the draft
Rien Long (Washington State) won the Outland Trophy as the Nations top lineman but only decided to enter the draft after his Head Coach took the Alabama job. Listed by his university at 6'6" & 285lb's, he has very similar size to Keith Hamilton during his most productive year at DT and the long arms and strength to separate from blockers. I saw him a couple of times as a sophomore and he didn't stand out but he made dramatic strides as a junior to become a dominating force as he has began to fill out his frame. While I haven't had time to study him as yet this season, I saw a fair amount of him in action this year against Arizona State and he seemed to be constantly battering the QB! Even considering the lack of quality interior OL prospects in the PAC 10, racking up 13 sacks and 52 tackles carrying a knee injury all season (undergoing surgery shortly and may miss the Combine) certainly opens eyes and he is another player I'll be reviewing tapes of.
Kevin Williams (Oklahoma State) is a player the Giants reportedly have shown interest in during the Senior Bowl practices but not one I have ever seen anything of ever. A huge man at 6'4¼" and 301lb's, he has the size to be a dominant player inside and the added attractiveness of experience at both DE and DT positions during his four years as a starter. Reports from the Senior Bowl indicate that a dominant week of work has seen him rising quickly up the draft boards and some teams are even projecting him as a DE, albeit in a 3-4 not 4-3 defense. That superior combination of size and quickness allowed him to produce 7 sacks and 14 TFL's last season and he is very definitely one I'll be watching in the near future…
Jonathon Sullivan (Georgia) is yet another talented junior entry. I haven't seen him this season at all as yet but saw several Georgia games last year when he was new in the starting role following the graduation of twin 1st round picks Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud. As a first year starter, he had looked good at times but got blown off the LOS at others. While inconsistent back then, he did show excellent initial quickness and the strength to shed blocks and get into the backfield at times even against a first day draft choice like Fred Weary (then of Tennessee). As a junior, he added some 20lb's of weight and muscle to his frame – now standing at a university listed 6'4" and 300lb's – and turned in a productive season with 18.5 TFL's and 4 sacks. The NFL Advisory Board rated him as a potential late 1st/early 2nd round pick but I need to see him play this season to evaluate him properly.
Kenny Peterson (Ohio State) is a player whose reputation has been enhanced recently by a dominant Fiesta Bowl performance (2 sacks) but one I had a liking for over the years anyway. A back-up until this year at both end and tackle, he had always seemed to make plays when given the opportunity to do so, particularly as a pass rusher. He was listed in the combine entries under ‘DE' but having weighed in at just over 6'2½" and a rock-solid 293 lb's for the Senior Bowl practices I don't think there is any doubt now that he has the size to play inside in the pro ranks too and I believe he has the athleticism to play outside also. He does a nice job of anchoring and staying on his feet, can shed blocks in the middle of the line and has a nice closing burst to the ball carrier or QB racking up 6 sacks and 9.5 TFL's during the regular season and using his long arms to bat down a further 6 passes at the LOS. If he continues to improve, he should be a very good pro and one who I would definitely consider as a prospect for the Giants to look at hard as they complete their draft evaluations.
Ty Warren (Texas A&M) is currently ‘below the radar' having had his senior year interrupted twice by ankle injuries (missed two games) but at his best has proved quite devastating at either 3-4 LDE or from the NT position though I prefer him at the latter. Testament to his ability was that the Aggies defense got ‘bombed' when he was either unavailable or was very limited in his play. I had started to key in on him during the Oklahoma game earlier this season and he had already registered 5 first half tackles when he was ‘taken out' from behind and forced to leave the contest.
Even with the injuries, he still racked up 11 TFL's, 4 sacks and blocked a pair of kicks on the season whilst increasing his production in the tackles department from 41 to 52. Reports from the Senior Bowl practices suggest that whilst he has not been consistently dominant, he has shown the talent to be a stud pro if he can put it all together. I had half expected him to enter the draft last year so had reviewed a few of his games and have seen him up against some quality prospects. Another big man at 6'4"and 298lb's, he has superior quickness at the snap, the size to take on and defeat double teams at the point of attack and a nice swim move with a short burst to the QB in the pass rush.
Speed is considered a knock against him – reportedly runs a 5.2 40 yard dash – but as DT's don't run 40 yards on a play, I'm not too worried and John Henderson (Jags) ran a similar time last year and was drafted 10th overall! He's one I definitely like a lot and would be happy to see in Giants blue provided there are no continuing medical concerns with him (missed some time with a shoulder injury as a junior). Where does he rate? That will depend on his health and how far down the list the above players push him.
I love watching Jarrett Johnson (Alabama) but his physical skills – just over 6'2½" and 286lb's – don't quite match his ability to make big plays or his relentless style of play. He has trouble getting off of double-team blocks but one-on-one can embarrass his opponent at the snap and he offers production against both the run (54 tackles, 5 TFL's) and pass (5 sacks, 3 FF's). I consider him a ‘poor man's Chris Hovan' (but without the make-up!) but don't think he'll be an NFL star unless he is paired with a Pro Bowl type next to him though I do believe he'll have a productive career in the pro's. I've a number of games lined up to watch where he will go against quality opponents this season so should be able to give a good bead on him nearer to April. While a step down from the top dogs at the position, I certainly think he's a first day choice.
Colin Cole (Iowa) has excellent size at a hair under 6'1" and 315lb's but watching him in action against Wisconsin – a game that I have reviewed on tape – and highly-rated OC prospect Al Johnson earlier this season I got the distinct impression that his strength lay not in his size but in his athleticism as he was handled fairly easily one-on-one but showed the body control and burst to get past blockers running stunts. He had a hugely productive senior season (85 tackles inc. 18TFL's and 9 sacks) and some reports from the Senior Bowl suggest he has done well in practice sessions but I'll see more of him nearer the draft to guess where he rates as a prospect.
Ian Scott (Florida) is a player I saw a lot of in 2001 and he made a number of plays in big games penetrating the backfield and stopping runners for losses and doing a very good job at the point of attack, controlling the line of scrimmage but didn't offer too much as a pass rusher. Despite not being as productive as a junior due to an ankle injury as he was as a sophomore (when he had 49 tackles inc. 8 TFL's and 2.5 sacks), he also entered the draft early even though advised by the NFL that he may not be taken until the 4th round. At a university listed 6'3" and 305lb's he has the size you need at the position but I'm not sure he is what the Giants are looking for and his ‘stock' is definitely hurt by a very strong group rated ahead of him this year.
Opinion is very mixed on Eric Manning (Oregon State) who some see as a quality prospect, others a no more than a solid college lineman. I haven't seen him for 2 years but consider him a little short and under-sized at a listed 6'1" and 297'b's (so likely to be shorter and lighter than advertised!!) but know that he played on a small, quick type of defense. His production against the run was OK this past year (40 tackles inc. 14 TFl's) but he doesn't appear to be a great pass rusher (2.5 sacks) and his size may prove a problem in the pro's. I'll get around to watching him at some point but he's not a top priority on my schedule by any means.
Any other DT's that stand out on tape, I will review as I go through them.