Scout's take: Weight an issue for some DTs

The Vikings will take a long look at some of the defensive tackle prospects this year, but their selection could be based in part on their level of trust that some prospects can control their weight. NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas gives his take on the best of the bunch and some Day 2 possibilities to consider.

The Vikings' quest to rebuild the Williams Wall that thrived for so long with Kevin Williams at under tackle and Pat Williams at nose tackle began last year. It likely will continue this year.

Pat Williams hasn't played since 2010 and Kevin Williams might have played his last season in 2013, although he would like to continue for another year or two. Still, the Vikings started preparing for his exit last April when they drafted Sharrif Floyd in the first round. They should be looking for a complementary nose tackle in this May's draft.

There are several defensive tackles that could be selected in the first round of this year's draft, but many of the top ones are considered under tackles, the position that Floyd plays. That's not the case with Notre Dame's Louis Nix. The NFL will get an official weight on him at the NFL Scouting Combine over the next week, but he is currently listed at 345. NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas indicated that could be shrinking the truth a bit.

"I think his problem is he not only read into his press clippings before the season but he ate them," Thomas said. "I mean, this son of a gun, they generously listed him at 345 but we had him at 392 during August camp. That led to his knee problems this year."

With his weight fluctuating the last two years, Nix suffered a torn meniscus that limited him in 2013 after strong campaigns in 2011 and 2012. His medical check at the Combine will be critical to his draft stock, which is expected to be somewhere in the first round.

Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald may have the opposite issue. He checked into the Senior Bowl at 6-foot-1 and 288 pounds, which has some observers, including Thomas, wondering if he can hold up in the NFL.

"Look what happened with Glenn Dorsey, Anthony Adams, Mike Peterson – you got some decent play out of them," Thomas said. "I wish the kid was 260; I'd make a middle linebacker out of him in the 3-4. Unless he's in a scheme where he's going to be isolated, and that's not going to be the 3-4, I don't know if he's got enough oomph in his burst to play defensive end."

Donald had a terrific Senior Bowl week and displayed his explosiveness off the snap by regularly beating offensive linemen in one-on-one drills. The measurables might hold down his draft stock, but his quickness and moves are too much to be ignored.

Arizona State's Will Sutton was also undersized before his senior season, but he may have tried to correct that too dramatically. He bulked up to around 330 but was down to 315 at the Senior Bowl.

"Sutton fell into the same boat, like most of these undersize guys, that he felt like he had to bulk up. Unfortunately, when you go from 260 to 333, that's a little bit too much bulk," Thomas said.

Sutton likely isn't a first-round talent, but there are others in addition to Nix at nose tackle and Brown at under tackle that could hear their name on the first day of the draft.

One of them is Florida State's Timmy Jernigan. At 6-2, 298, he is closer to prototypical under tackle size in the NFL.

"Classic under tackle. I like this kid a lot," Thomas said. "To me, he's (Nick) Fairley up there in Detroit but more controlled on the football field."

Perhaps the defensive tackle with the most versatility in the draft is Minnesota's Ra'shede Hageman. He said at the Senior Bowl he could play nose tackle or under tackle, and he has legitimate first-round possibilities.

Hageman casts an imposing shadow at 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds, and displayed power and quickness at the Senior Bowl. But he was also inconsistent there, sometimes being overpowered by offensive linemen.

"If I had to take any guy in a 4-3 alignment, it would be Hageman," Thomas said. "That would be my first pure defensive tackle in this draft."

Thomas isn't as impressed with a few other prospects being listed at defensive tackle. He believes Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt will be a better defensive end in the NFL, despite being 312 pounds, and he doesn't believe LSU's Anthony Johnson will be a long-term starter in the NFL.

But there is an LSU product the NFL scout likes, along with a few others that might not be as highly regarded in some of the draft rankings.

"I've got a little bit of an ego and I'll take Ego Ferguson and I'll have a starter from Day 1," Thomas said. "Same thing with Daniel McCullers out of Tennessee, same thing with Caraun Reid out of Princeton. These are three guys that I can get in the second day of the draft that I know can come in and contribute immediately to my system."

McCullers, at 6-foot-7, 348 pounds, had a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl and could be a consideration for the Vikings at nose tackle in the third or fourth round.

Per usual, there are many sizes and flavors of defensive tackles in this draft, but the Vikings likely will be looking for one to team with Floyd as they rebuild their defensive wall.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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