Two elite players sit head and shoulders above the rest of the class, and they know each other very well from opposite sides of the Iron Bowl. Alabama's Marcell Dareus and Auburn's Nick Fairley ruled the trenches of the SEC and emerged as two of the nation's most dominant defenders. Dareus has all but assured himself a top-three selection and is versatile enough to fit into any scheme. Fairley, on the other hand, is the prototype three-technique defensive tackle (4-3) – a disruptive interior player that can penetrate and wreak havoc in the backfield. Although he's seen his stock suffer due to questions about his work ethic, he's may be too talented to slip out of the top 10 picks.
Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson and Illinois' Corey Liuget are two fast-rising prospects and may find themselves chosen as high as the middle of the first round. While the two aren't familiar with each other on the battlefield, they offer contrasting styles similar to Dareus and Fairley. Wilkerson likens to Dareus, as he fits into either defense. He's talented enough to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme and defensive tackle in a 4-3 alignment. In fact, he's played both spots during his college career. Liuget, meanwhile, is a "shoot the gap" defensive tackle who will excel at getting up field in a four-man front, similar to Fairley.
The class contains two more fringe first-round prospect that could be selected late on day one if the right team values their skill sets. North Carolina's Marvin Austin is another gap-penetrating three-technique with outstanding athleticism for his size. Although he owns first-round talent, he was one of many Tar Heels defenders suspended for the entire 2010 season. Baylor's Phil Taylor is a truly massive prospect that moves quite well for his size. He's the perfect fit at nose tackle and teams running the 3-4 will covet his skill set.
POSITION REPORT CARD
Aside from the six potential first-round players, there are plenty of other quality interior defensive linemen available. They may not all be the most well-rounded, but teams running either defense can certainly find players to contribute in specific roles. This group is loaded in talent – both in elite prospects and later round depth – and receives an A grade.
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