Scouting the Draft: Defensive Line

In the second part of our defensive line preview, we look at the 3-4-specific nose tackles and defensive linemen projected to go in Day 3 of the draft.

In Part 11 of our Green Bay Packers draft preview, we examine the Day 3 defensive line prospects.

NOSE TACKLES: ROUNDS 4-7

Tyeler Davison, Fresno State (6-2, 316): Davison was a three-time all-Mountain West performer, including first-team honors as a senior and sophomore. Compared to most nose tackles, Davison was statistical juggernaut. As a senior, he posted 61 tackles – including 8.5 sacks and 13 TFLs, both of which ranked among the league leaders and set career highs. Only Shelton had more sacks as a nose tackle. Among nose tackles in this breakdown, only Northern Iowa’s Xavier Williams had more career tackles for losses (29.5) than Davison (28.5). He put up 32 reps on the bench in spite of his long arms (34 inches).

“His strength comes into play as he gains leverage. The thing I like about him is that he will usually keep his feet free, using his hands well to stave off low blocks. He shows good mobility working down the line and is able to locate the ball quickly. His problems occur when he runs underneath blockers, as it causes him to have a bad angle and he then has to chase down the ball carrier from behind.”


CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SCOUTING REPORTS on the nose tackles from the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas.


Leterrius Walton, Central Michigan (6-5, 319): Walton anchored the MAC’s best defense with his 33 tackles, which included two sacks and 3.5 TFLs. The former offensive lineman is going to need a year of grooming and strength training but his quickness and size are undeniable.

“Walton is quick and strong with his hands. He discards blocks and doesn't stay occupied too long in trench battles. He is still a bit raw using his hands on the pass rush (needs better rip and swim moves), and is still a work in progress there, but improving. He gets good extension to put full force behind his punch and shows good shock ability attacking the blocker’s body on the bull rush.”

Xavier Williams, Northern Iowa (6-2, 320): The three-year starter was a Scouting Combine snub. He dominated as a senior with his 93 tackles including eight sacks and 14 tackles for losses to earn FCS All-American honors. He’s got incredible length, as evidenced by his eight career blocked kicks.

“Williams knows how to get underneath to get a piece of the blocker’s pads and is very effective stacking and controlling in one-on-one situations. When he gets too tall in his pads, he struggles to shed and stack, causing him to lose some battles in attempts to play off those blocks.”

Joey Mbu, Houston (6-3, 313): Mbu was first-team all-conference during a senior season in which he posted 32 tackles, including 2.5 sacks and 4.5 TFLs. The two-year captain started 34 games over his final three seasons. His father, Charles, is a FIFA soccer scout, and it’s the sport he grew up playing until he moved to Texas.

“Teams looking for an immovable object in the middle of the field to line up over the center’s head and crush double team blockers, are keeping close tabs on Mbu, feeling much like the emergence Pittsburgh saw from a player with similar athletic ability and minimal statistical production – Daniel McCullers – a sixth-round steal in the 2014 draft, might have another find on their hands in this Houston prospect.”

Deon Simon, Northwestern State (6-4, 321): Simon started 19 games in his career, including seven during a senior season cut short by injury. In 2014, he recorded 26 tackles, including 5.5 for losses and one sack. He’s a powerful man with his defensive line-high 35 reps on the bench press.

David Parry, Stanford (6-1, 308): Parry was an honorable mention on the all-Pac-12 team and a first-team all-academic choice as a senior. He tallied 34 tackles, including 4.5 sacks and 7.5 for losses, in 2014. His 34 reps on the bench tied Shelton for second-most among the 3-4 defensive linemen. His 31-inch arms are the shortest at the position.

Ellis McCarthy, UCLA (6-5, 338): It was three years-and-done for the former five-star recruit. It was an underwhelming career, though, for a player who battled his waist line and knee problems. He had eight sacks in his three seasons but didn’t start in 2014

“With his wide hips and thick lower body, it is very tough for blockers to gain movement off the snap vs. him. He is not the type to pile up large amounts of tackles, but like former Steelers great Casey Hampton, McCarthy is better served at neutralizing multiple blockers. However, he has battled weight problems, which has led to his poor stamina.”

Darius Kilgo, Maryland (6-3, 313): We had Kilgo’s story following his predraft visit.


CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SCOUTING REPORTS on the 3-4 linemen from the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas.


DEFENSIVE LINE: ROUNDS 4-7

Christian Covington, Rice (6-2, 299): Covington’s junior season — and college career — ended with a dislocated kneecap that required surgery. The preseason All-American finished with 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in seven games. As a sophomore in 2013, he was first-team all-Conference USA with four sacks and 11.5 TFLs among his 59 tackles. His father, Grover, is a member of the CFL Hall of Fame with a record 157 sacks.

“Covington is undersized and might be better suited for a scheme that utilizes the under-tackle position, but he is similar to Timmy Jernigan (Patriots), as he has solid muscle tone in his lower body, a good bubble and wide hips. He shows good feet, adequate change of direction agility and good body control in space. He plays with a high motor and is quite quick shooting his hands. He lacks great playing strength (335-pound bench press) or explosiveness and is just an adequate overall athlete, but he shows good balance on the move.”

Henry Anderson, Stanford (6-6, 294): There aren’t many prototype 3-4 ends in this draft but Anderson is one of them. The fifth-year senior was first team all-Pac-12 on the field and academically. Anderson recorded 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for losses. He dominated down the stretch. He had at least one sack in each of the last five games for a total of 6.5 during that period.

“Even at 6-foot-6, Anderson can sink and run the horn to flush the quarterback out of the pocket, as he will usually stay active until the whistle. With his big hands and long arms, he can shed and pursue, crashing into ball carriers with arms extended to wrap and secure. When he plays at a low pad level, he is quick to get his hands into the blocker’s chest, but he needs to be quicker using his hands to escape from the low blocks.”

Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Southern Miss (6-2, 307): Nunez-Roches started 24 games in his three seasons. In 2014, his 58 tackles included three sacks and 14 for losses.

“Right now, in this early stage of his development, it is hard to determine if Nunez-Roches will become an instinctive playmaker, a requirement if some team is going to utilize him as a gap-control defensive tackle. He does a nice job of finding the ball after engaging the isolated blocker. While he can split double teams, he sometimes spends too much time in hand-to-hand combat, forgetting about his gap control responsibilities.”

Gabe Wright, Auburn (6-3, 300): The senior recorded 24 tackles with one sack and 4.5 TFLs. He started 23 games in four seasons and wound up with 20.5 TFLs. He’s got impressive athleticism (5.07) and strength (34 reps).

“While some teams might have written him off as an early-round draft pick due to his inconsistent performances at Auburn, especially during his senior year, he further puzzled team decision makers with his 2015 Senior Bowl practice display – in a good way. In Mobile, he showed that he had the raw power and aggressive hands to walk interior blockers back into the pocket, making him a viable candidate for a team looking for a three-technique defensive tackle who can penetrate the line.”

Bobby Richardson, Indiana (6-3, 283): Richardson started 27 games in four seasons. As a senior, he had 5.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for losses and two blocked kicks to earn honorable mention all-Big Ten. He’s got long arms (34 5/8 inches) and a nice combination of speed (5.00 40) and strength (24 reps).

"Richardson has above average overall strength. He is a force to be reckoned with when he plants himself in the middle of the line and is very combative with his hands. He strikes with suddenness and force, easily walking back a blocker once he gets under the opponent’s jersey. He does a good job of keeping his hands inside the framework and will dominate and shed blockers with them."

Kristjan Sokoli, Buffalo (6-5, 290): Sokoli made a lot of money on pro day. How’s this: 4.86 in the 40, 38-inch vertical and 31 reps on the bench. In four seasons, he tallied 95 tackles, including 2.5 sacks and 15 for losses. He came to the United States from Albania when he was 9.

"Sokoli has developed into a physical run defender, one that has the explosive initial step to defeat combo blocks (1.55-second 10-yard dash) when he uses his hands to fend them off and is a disruptive penetrator who does a fine job of riding blocks and moving laterally."


CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SCOUTING REPORTS and biographies from the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas.


Derrick Lott, Tenn.-Chattanooga (6-4, 314): Lott took advantage of a sixth year of eligibility to earn all-Southern Conference honors. Playing as a reserve in 14 games, his six sacks ranked fourth in the league and his 13.5 tackles for losses ranked third. He ran a sizzling 4.99 with 30 reps on the bench at the Combine. He spent three lost seasons at Georgia, missing 2009 with an ankle injury, playing only three games in 2010 and just two more in 2011 after a July scooter injury required surgery.

“When Lott plays with solid leverage and uses his hands aggressively, he can easily toss the blocker off and make the tackle on runs directed right at him. He is also effective at sinking his pads and going low to gets into gaps to disrupt blocking schemes. For a 300-pound player, he also displays impressive playing speed.”

Kaleb Eulls, Mississippi State (6-3, 305): Eulls started all 52 games at Mississippi State. His senior season was his first as a full-time defensive tackle, and he contributed career-high totals of 34 tackles and three sacks.

“Eulls has good short-area explosion off the ball, but needs to be more aggressive. He has only average reactions, but he is not a quick-twitch type coming off the snap and does not show the quickness needed to get on the edge of blockers. He is best working in-line, as he does not have the sudden quickness to make plays on the move.

Ray Drew, Georgia (6-4, 265): Drew dropped about 20 pounds since the end of the season but, in a 3-4 scheme, scouts believe he is best as a five-technique end rather than an outside linebacker. The weight loss helped him turn in a 4.83 at pro day. As a senior, he was named the team’s Most Improved Player with his 39 tackles (one sack, 1.5 TFLs) and three blocked kicks.

Angelo Blackson, Auburn (6-4, 318): The senior had three sacks and 5.5 tackles for losses as a senior. He had 26 tackles as a sophomore starter but just 28 tackles in his final two seasons combined. But he’s got terrific size and length to fit as a base 3-4 end.

Louis Trinca-Pasat, Iowa (6-1, 290): Trinca-Pasat was second-team all-conference and the team’s MVP on defense during a senior season of 69 tackles, which included team-leading figures of 6.5 sacks and 11.5 TFLs. He started all 38 games over his final three seasons. He’s short with short arms but is a scrappy battler with strength and balance.

Corey Crawford, Clemson (6-5, 283; 5.01): Crawford had a senior season of 27 tackles, including two sacks and seven for losses. He was honorable mention all-ACC as a junior with three sacks, 10.5 TFLs and a team-high 16 quarterback pressures. He was listed at 275 at Clemson, 283 at the Combine and 299 at pro day. He put up just 17 reps on the bench.

"Where his problems occur is with a lack of consistency. He does not always generate a good push coming off the snap, especially when he challenges the offensive tackle head-on. While he recognizes the play developing, he is a little slow locating the ball when working inside, as he seems to want to finesse rather than combat opponents too often in 2014, unlike what he did the previous season when he played with a valid mean streak."

B.J. Dubose, Louisville (6-4, 284; 5.06): Dubose had 41 tackles, including four sacks and 7.5 TFLs, to earn honorable mention all-conference as a senior. It was his first season as a full-time starter. In 2012, Dubose got himself in then-coach Charlie Strong’s doghouse and, eventually, suspended.

SIX WILD CARDS

If you’re looking for the “prototypical” 3-4 defensive end, here are a few guys with potential as late-round picks or free agents:

Travis Raciti, San Jose State (6-4, 288): Raciti started 45 games, was a two-time all-conference pick and one of just seven players in program history to be a two-year captain. As a senior, he led the Mountain West’s defensive linemen with 72 tackles. He had 8.5 of his 14.5 career sacks as a sophomore. He ran in 5.12 with 27 reps at pro day.

Rodney Gunter, Delaware State (6-4, 298): We had Gunter’s story before his predraft visit.

Caushaud Lyons, Tusculum (6-4, 284): Lyons moved up draft boards with a 4.86 at pro day. The three-year starter was dominant. He led the team with 89 tackles, nine sacks and 19 tackles for losses as a senior.

Joe Okafor, Lamar (6-6, 305): Okafor had six sacks as a senior. He left Oklahoma State after a coaching change; he started two games there in 2012. For his size, his 5.15 in the 40 (and 26 reps on the bench) was impressive.

Tory Slater, West Georgia (6-4, 290): Slater had a dominant season for the Division II semifinalists. He finished third on the team with 69 tackles and second with 10 sacks and 16.5 TFLs. He runs a 5.12 40.

James Rouse, Marshall (6-5, 277; 4.89): Given a sixth season after missing most of the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to back and Achilles surgeries, Rouse had 2.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles as a senior. He had six sacks and 14 TFLs in 2013. At pro day, he put up a staggering 38 reps on the bench.


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