Positional Analysis: Defensive Tackles

Some see this year's defensive tackles class as rich with talent at the top but not much depth. Others see depth for much of the seven rounds. It may be a good thing the Vikings got a strong inside presence from Kevin Williams in the last half of 2003 because the outlook on the defensive tackles in the 2004 draft class is mixed.

VIKINGS' DEFENSIVE TACKLES — Chris Hovan, Kevin Williams, Steve Martin, Billy Lyon.

VIKINGS' NEED — The Vikings have spent considerable effort to shore up the defensive tackle spot, drafting Kevin Williams in the first round last year and adding Martin and Lyon through free agency. Because of that, the need isn't as strong as it has been in recent years and the only use of a draft pick for a defensive tackle would likely be a developmental prospect to challenge Lyon for a roster spot, or as possible replacement for Hovan if he leaves via free agency after the 2004 season. At this point, the Vikings are convinced that Martin will be an adequate replacement for the departed Fred Robbins.

THE CLASS OF 2004 — The class is neither stellar nor deep, but, with so many defensive tackles being taken in the first two rounds last year, the league-wide need has diminished. Tommie Harris and Vince Wilfork are the only guaranteed first-rounders. Beyond them, the pool thins out considerably and, what was one of the strongest positions in the 2003 draft is one of the more pedestrian classes this year.


THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Tommie Harris, Oklahoma, 6-3, 295 —
Third-year junior…A two-year starter who missed most of his sophomore season with a pair of groin injuries…In his two full seasons, he had 69 tackles, 27 for a loss, and seven sacks…Very good burst off the snap, he can collapse a pocket in the middle before a play can get underway…Anticipates the snap very well…Solid pass rusher…Good mobility…Doesn't always give the same effort from game to game and has to be pushed to work hard…Doesn't have ideal size to stuff the run in the middle…Did 29 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine, along with a position-best 4.78 40, a 31-inch vertical jump and a weak Wonderlic score of 11 .

PROJECTION: He isn't a student of the game and has gotten by on talent alone for much of his career. If he can get on a team that can harness his talent and make him consistently push himself, he could be an All-Pro and should go in the top 10 picks — possibly to the Redskins at No. 5.

Vince Wilfork, Miami, 6-1, 323 — Third-year junior…Only a full-time starter for one year, in which he recorded 64 tackles, 11-1/2 for a loss, and six sacks…Has a huge wide body that forces opponents to constantly double-team him…Very good quickness for a big man…Can chase down plays to the outside and rarely gives up on chasing down a running back…Strong upper body — only two other DTs did more reps than his 36 at the Combine…Tends to wear down a little during games if not given a breather on a few plays…Short arms and lack of height — only one of the top 20 DTs at the Combine was shorter than Wilfork…Got his weight down to 323, but has weighed 20 pounds more and most of that is fat…Ran a 5.09 40 at the Combine with a 26-1/2 inch vertical jump.

PROJECTION: Called Baby Sapp, he doesn't have the same level of skill that Warren Sapp had coming out of college. He does a lot of things very well and likely won't make it past the Bears at No. 14.


THE NEXT LEVEL

Darnell Dockett, Florida State, 6-3, 296 —
Fifth-year senior…Four-year starter who struggled as a junior after having leg surgery in 2002 to remove bone spurs…In his last two healthy seasons, he recorded 123 tackles, 39 for a loss and 1-1/2 sacks…Never stops chasing down plays…Has good quickness on the snap to collapse the pocket…Very good at reading plays and rarely gets trapped out of position…Has some nastiness…Had a very good week at the Senior Bowl and impressed scouts at the Combine…Isn't a classic one-gap DT and can get neutralized by aggressive offensive linemen…Was suspended by the team after pleading guilty to theft for accepting clothing at huge discounts…A little undersized for a NFL defensive tackle…Did 26 reps at the Combine, with a 5.00 40 and a 31-inch vertical jump.

PROJECTION: His measurables all look good, but some teams may view him more as a DE and, combined with some off-field problems and an inconsistent work ethic, he should drop into the second round and perhaps behind some of the other DTs listed below.

Marcus Tubbs, Texas, 6-4, 320 — Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 157 tackles (77 last year alone), 31 for a loss and 10 sacks (5-1/2 of those in 2003)…Improved greatly last year and became a dominant force up front…Has very good size…A classic two-gap DT…Has a good rush to the quarterback and can split double teams…Doesn't seem to give the same effort from game to game or series to series…Wears down a little too easy for some scouts…Doesn't have multiple pass rush moves…Did 29 reps at the Combine with a 4.96 40 and a 32-1/2 inch vertical jump.

PROJECTION: Has a lot of upside talent because of his combination of size, strength and speed, but his inconsistent performance vs. the pass make him certain to drop into the second round.

Dwan Edwards, Oregon State, 6-3, 316 — Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 131 tackles, 22-1/2 for a loss and 8-1/2 sacks…Very strong lower body that helps him clog the middle on running plays…Has shown a lot of durability…Has a mean streak…Never stops moving and being disruptive…Coaches love him…Isn't a textbook DT and can get neutralized by talented centers and guards…Has the ability to collapse the pocket, but doesn't seem to do it nearly enough…Doesn't have great speed or quickness off the snap…Did 25 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine, along with a 5.12 40, a 28-inch vertical jump and Wonderlic score of 29 — which tied for second best among the DT prospects.

PROJECTION: He isn't going to be a guy who wows opponents looking at film of him, but he is one of the hardest workers in the class of '04 and should be a solid second-round pick.

Randy Starks, Maryland, 6-3, 314 — Third-year junior…A two-year starter who had 166 tackles, 26-1/2 tackles for a loss and 13-1/2 sacks…Played in a 3-4 defense…Very good upper body strength — he can bench press 425 pounds and set a school record with a squat of 765 pounds…Nice size and athleticism…Very disruptive in the run game…Leg strength is excellent…Gets shut down and frustrated when double teamed…For all his talent, isn't a disruptive playmaker like many of the other top DT prospects…Doesn't always play with the same amount of intensity…Did 27 reps at the Combine with a 5.15 40, a 33-inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 20.

PROJECTION: He's an enigma. Some scouts see him as a first-rounder, while others question his attitude on the field and think he'll drop deep into the second round. Whichever team has a yen for him will have to move quickly in the second round.

Marquis Hill, LSU, 6-7, 300 — Third-year junior…In two seasons as a starter, he had 98 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and nine sacks…Excellent height and long arms to bat down passes…Can get bigger…A solid run defender who can be a load…Can play either tackle or end, much like Vikings first-rounder Kevin Williams…Doesn't have great speed or explosion, which is why some scouts see him more as a DT than a DE in the NFL…Comes out of his stance a little high (he is 6-7 after all) and allows good offensive linemen to use that against him by getting under his pads and creating leverage problems…Did 23 reps at the Combine with a 5.22 40 and 30-1/2 inch vertical jump.

PROJECTION: A monster 'tweener, some coaches will want him to move inside while others will want him to play outside. The lack of any great pass-rushing skills will likely drop him deep into the second round or even beyond.

Donnell Washington, Clemson, 6-6, 328 — Fourth-year junior…Two-year starter who recorded 111 tackles, 15 for a loss and five sacks…Hard to handle one-on-one, he is effective both in the run and pass game…Has the upper body strength to collapse the pocket -— as evidenced by his 34 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine…Has never sustained a serious injury…Doesn't give a consistent effort and has been accused of not giving his best effort all the time…Gets frustrated when double-teamed, and if he loses the push on the snap he will stop working…Ran a 5.00 40 at the Combine with a 33-1/2 inch vertical jump, but just an 8 on the Wonderlic test — one of the worst scores ever posted.

PROJECTION: He's a player that some believe would be a first-rounder if he gave a consistent effort. He does a lot of things well, but his work ethic and poor attitude at times will hurt his draft stock and drop him into the second or third round.

Igor Olshansky, Oregon, 6-5, 317 — Fourth-year junior…Two-year starter who had 128 tackles, 24 for a loss and 10-1/2 sacks…Very good size/strength combination…A beast in the weight room, he set the standards for all players at the Combine with 43 reps of 225 pounds…Almost requires a double team because of his strength…A one-gap tackle…Injuries could be a concern — he had back surgery following the 2002 season…Inconsistent player who, like Chris Hovan, can stop a drive dead in its tracks by making a couple of huge plays and then not be heard from again for the next quarter…Aside from his monstrous rep number at the Combine, he ran a 4.96 40 with a 33-1/2 inch vertical jump and Wonderlic score of 29 — all at or near the top of the DT rankings.

PROJECTION: His upside is enormous because he can still get bigger. He's seen as boom-bust project who may look better in the weight room than on the field in the NFL. Somebody will take a look at him late in the second round, but the questions about his consistency could drop him into the third round.


DAY TWO PROSPECTS

Isaac Sopoaga, Hawaii, 6-2, 317 —
Fifth-year senior who spent two years at the College of the Canyons in California before transferring…In two years, he had 128 tackles, 15 for a loss and four sacks…Very good upper and lower body strength…At his best defending the run…Has good lateral quickness…Had very strong showings at the Senior Bowl and the Combine…Doesn't have much in the way of pass rush skills…Injuries could be a question…Needs to build consistency…Wowed scouts at the Combine with a monstrous 42 reps with 225 pounds, a 4.97 40 and a 30-1/2 inch vertical jump…If he had another year of experience, he would go in the second round, but, as it is, he'll have to settle for the fourth.

Terry "Tank" Johnson, Washington, 6-3, 302 — Fourth-year junior and two-year starter who had 60 tackles, 28-1/2 for a loss and 15 sacks the last two years…Good combination of size and speed…A one-gap tackle…Can chase plays from sideline to sideline…Has ability as a pass rusher as well as a run stuffer…Very poor work ethic…Wasn't well-liked by teammates and coaches…Gave inconsistent effort from one game to the next…A little undersized to be a run-stopping DT in the NFL…Had an impressive Combine performance, doing 31 reps with a position-best 4.69 40 and 34-inch vertical jump…If not for his attitude, he would be a lock for Day 1. Now, all bets are off.

Matthias Askew, Michigan State, 6-5, 308 — A third-year junior whose only full year as a starter was last year when he had 69 tackles, 11 for a loss and six sacks…Big body with wide wingspan…Quick off the snap…Big hitter who causes fumbles…Undersized for the NFL…Still a little raw…Won't be a two-gap DT…Did 20 reps at the Combine with a 5.20 40, a 27-inch vertical jump and Wonderlic score of 10 — all near the bottom of his class…He's a project and the combination of a poor Combine performance and his clear need for a year or two to learn will drop him off the Day 1 board.

Rodney Leisle, UCLA, 6-3, 304 — Fifth-year senior and four-year starter…Missed time in 2002 with a broken wrist…Energetic player with a mean streak…Technically sound in his approach…Weight room leader…Isn't much of a factor in the passing game…Has short arms, which is bad for an NFL defensive lineman…Did 31 reps at the Combine, with a 5.19 40 and a 28-inch vertical jump…He's a guy with a love for the game and is as hard a worker as any player in the draft, but his limitations and his upside have already hit the wall.

Tommy Kelly, Mississippi State, 6-6, 294 — Fifth-year senior who transferred in from junior college…In two years as a starter, he had 92 tackles, 19 for a loss and five sacks…Strong athlete who played tackle, but was moved to end at the Senior Bowl and performed well…Good top-end speed for a big man…Doesn't play up to the level his physical ability would dictate…Seen as a 'tweener who may not excel at either position…Did 20 reps at the Combine with a 4.94 40, a 28-inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 20…If he ever lives up to the physical gifts he has, he could be a great pro — or an expensive bust.



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