Draft preview: Nose tackle analysis

You know about B.J. Raji and Ron Brace ... here are the rest of the guys who could help the Packers build needed depth at a critical position. Included in that group are two Division II studs, a Canadian standout and some short run-stoppers.

Editor's note: This is Part 14 of our 14-part position-by-position breakdown heading to the April 25-26 NFL Draft. We conclude with the nose tackles. The prospects are listed in order based on analysis by Scout.com draft expert Chris Steuber and Packer Report, with the comments that follow them based on the beliefs of league experts and insiders.

The Packers' perspective:

With incumbent starter Ryan Pickett returning, the Packers have a rock in the middle of their new 3-4 defense. But Pickett can't play every snap, and there are questions about his durability with his 30th birthday approaching.

The Packers need to add a player or two to the mix. The only other nose tackles on the roster are Anthony Toribio, who hasn't taken an NFL snap as an undrafted free agent out of Carson-Newman, and Brian Soi, who hasn't played in a real game since 2005 with Utah State.

Cream of the crop:

B.J. Raji, Boston College: He's got everything you'd want, along with some things you don't. The 6-foot-2, 337-pound Raji has the potential to be a destructive force in the middle of a defensive line. Big and strong enough to gobble up blockers and athletic enough to be a regular in the opponents' backfield. He provided eight sacks last season, so he wouldn't have to come off the field on third-and-long. Not a bad person by any stretch, but there are some off-the-field issues teams like the Packers surely have investigated. Reports of a failed drug test at the Scouting Combine proved false, but teams are concerned nonetheless. Academically ineligible in 2007.

First-round prospects:

No others.

Just a notch below:

Ron Brace, Boston College: Brace (6-3, 331) was Raji's tag-team partner. He was a dominant force, in part because opponents were so worried about Raji. But he was an honorable mention on the all-ACC team in 2007 when Raji was ineligible. A big run-stuffer. Has short-range quickness to slide from side to side but lacks the burst to be a regular in the backfield. Just 5.5 sacks for his career. He's a lot like Pickett at this stage of his career.

Others to remember:

— Chris Baker, Hampton: Red flags mark Baker's resume after he was kicked off the Penn State team following his sophomore year. Baker (6-2, 326) landed at Hampton, which at that time was coached by ex-Packers cornerback Jerry Holmes. Baker dominated his Football Championship Subdivision opponents with 8.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. Departing after his junior season. Hampton coach Donovan Ross vouches for Baker's character, as do at least a couple Penn State assistants.

— Dorell Scott, Clemson: Scott (6-3, 312) averaged 50 tackles and 3.5 sacks during his sophomore and junior seasons but mustered just 39 tackles and one sack as a senior. Could play end and nose, though Scott told Packer Report that the Packers are considering him as a nose tackle. Decent quickness off the ball but needs to refine his technique to take advantage of his strength.

Sammie Lee Hill, Stillman: Division II is a long way from the NFL, butt Hill has the size that teams covet. At 6-4, 329, he seems like a natural for the nose, though he played end in college. As a senior, he tallied 7.5 sacks and a conference-leading 15.5 tackles for losses. Also batted down seven passes. Even played goal-line tight end. Four-year starter with immense potential.

Roy Miller, Texas: Miller (6-1, 310) is a big guy, pure and simple. Not huge and not athletic, though he did have 5.5 sacks last season to be first-team All-Big 12. Put up 36 bench-press reps at the Combine. He's a blue-collar player who will tie up two blockers. Dominated Ohio State to win defensive MVP honors in January's Fiesta Bowl.

— Vaughn Martin, Western Ontario: Martin (6-4, 330) was worked out by the Packers and later came to Green Bay on a predraft visit. Excellent size, and ran a 5.04 40 with 33 bench-press reps at his pro day. Not overly productive with 3.5 sacks in two seasons at a low level of college football, but guys with his size and athletic ability are rare.

— Terrence Knighton, Temple: Knighton (6-3, 321) was a high school teammate of Baker. He averaged 7.5 tackles for loss during his three years as a starter. Just one sack as a senior. Decent lateral movement with the desire to run down the line to try to make a play.

Myron Pryor, Kentucky: Pryor (6-0, 319) is another pile-creating prospect. OK lateral quickness but relies on his strength and natural leverage to stymie the blocker(s). The four-year starter had 11 career sacks.

Terrance Taylor, Michigan: Taylor (6-0, 306) is like Miller and Pryor in that he's short, squatty and strong. Put up 37 bench-press reps at the Combine. A three-year starter for the Wolverines, he had 1.5 sacks and four tackles for losses last season. Less explosive than Miller with less of a motor than Miller and Knighton. Just ties up blockers and creates a pile.

Chris Steuber's sleeper:

Louis Ellis, Shaw: Ungodly production. Ellis (6-2, 315) was a Division II All-America after piling up eight sacks and 21 tackles for losses. He led all Division II players in TFLs, an amazing figure for a defensive tackle facing constant double teams. Similar production as a junior. More quick than strong. Could play 3-4 end, too.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.


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