POSITION OVERVIEW: Perhaps no position in the 2002 draft is being looked at more closely as it relates to trade talks than this one, which is why this area is of extreme interest to the Vikings, whether they want to grab one of the DTs available or trade down for multiple picks using the DT crop as a bargaining chip.
While the DT Class of 2002 isn't extremely deep, the "Fearsome Foursome" of Albert Haynesworth and John Henderson of Tennessee, Ryan Sims of North Carolina and Wendell Bryant of Wisconsin will likely all go in the first 12 picks of the draft, meaning anyone with pick No. 13 on down that wants one of them has just one way to get them — move up and grab them ... period.
THE TOP OF THE HEAP
Ryan Sims, North Carolina, 6-4, 310 — Fourth-year senior...Three-year starter who was two-time All-ACC and All-American in 2001...In three years as a starter, he had 136 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks...Never missed a game in college...Considered the most coachable athlete among the top defensive linemen in the draft...He was the guy on the Tar Heels line that was always double-teamed, not Julius Peppers...Can play under tackle, defensive tackle or nose tackle...Good strength and balance to throw off blockers...Explosively quick coming off the ball...Initial quickness doesn't last, as he rarely chases down plays...Perhaps no player had a bigger impact on his draft standing at the Senior Bowl than Sims, who was loved by coaches and teammates alike...Did 27 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine. PROJECTION: May be the third d-lineman taken in the draft, but, if the Vikings have all four of the top guys available, our money says they'll take Sims over the other three. Whether other teams do is still up to debate.
Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee, 6-6, 320 — Third-year junior who played as a true freshman, but didn't become a starter until last season...Second-team All-SEC last year...In his only full season, he had 36 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks...Incredible size and ability...His quickness at the point of attack is the best of any of this year's crop...The stat that stood out most in his senior year was 51 quarterback pressures, which led to many incompletions and interceptions due to his disruption...Maturity and consistency are his biggest drawbacks...Doesn't give the same effort on every play, but on those he does, he is viewed as almost unstoppable...Declined to work out at the Combine. PROJECTION: Some believe he will be the first d-tackle taken in the draft because, if you base the draft strictly on the physical numbers, he has the potential to be the best interior defensive lineman to enter the NFL since Warren Sapp. However, he could also be the biggest potential for a bust among the group. If you compare this draft to the 1999 QB top-heavy draft, he's the Donovan McNabb — the most gifted pure athlete. With McNabb it worked out, but the jury is still out on Haynesworth.
John Henderson, Tennessee, 6-7, 307 — An all-state football and basketball player who was recruited as a center in basketball...Fourth-year senior who had to sit out as a partial qualifier as a freshman...A part-time starter as a sophomore and full-time starter the last two years...Played injured most of his senior season, but was still a finalist for the Outland Trophy, given to the best lineman in the country...As a junior, had an amazing season with 71 tackles, nine for a loss, 12 sacks four fumbled forced and three recovered...His numbers dropped because of his injury last year, with just 48 tackles, nine for a loss and 4.5 sacks...Excellent size helps him clog the middle effectively...Can play from sideline to sideline and make big plays...Is a brawler who likes to throw centers and guards out of his way...His biggest drawback is his height, which, while great for defensive ends, doesn't allow him to get under centers and guards and often results in his being cut down...His ability to keep his level of play high throughout a game is a concern, since he tended to get tired in games he was on the field for long periods of time...From the coaching standpoint, a better player than Haynesworth, but some teams may view him more as a DE than a DT...Did 24 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: While he has more of a pedigree than Haynesworth, his injuries last year hurt him a bit, but he was doubled more often than Haynesworth and is seen as the better prospect right now.
Wendell Bryant, Wisconsin, 6-4, 306 — Fourth-year senior who started two games as a true freshman...Full-time three-year starter who was All-Big 10 three times and an All-American last year...In three years as a starter, he had 160 tackles, 36 tackles for a loss and 21 sacks...For a 300-pounder, he has excellent speed and has the ability to add 20 pounds or more and play a full-time nose tackle instead of a standard DT...Has decent upper and lower body strength, but scouts are most impressed with his feet, which never seem to get tangled...Almost every play his last two seasons, he was double- or even triple-teamed, making his production even more amazing...He always seemed to have his best games against the best QBs, including Drew Brees, Joey Harrington and Antwaan Randle-El...Very dedicated worker who never lets up on plays...While his upper-body strength is good, it may need more refining at the NFL level to be effective...Doesn't have the pure nastiness a lot of the best DTs possess...Did 27 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: Viewed by most as the lowest rated of the Big Four DTs, he has the ability to be the best of the bunch if he bulks up on his arm and shoulder strength.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Anthony Weaver, Notre Dame, 6-4, 295 — A fourth-year senior who was a four-year starter with the Irish...Began his career as a defensive end before moving to DT as a sophomore in a time share between DT and DE...Full-time DT last year after going back to DE as a junior...In the last two years, he posted good numbers — 108 tackles, 34 tackles for loss and 15 sacks...A player who is a tireless worker on the field, in the weight room and in practice...Is thought to be a prospect at both tackle or end...Has the troubling "tweener" tag, since scouts think he may not be fast enough to play end or bulky enough to be a top-notch DT...Viewed by Notre Dame observers in the same breath as former Irish standout Bryant Young...Did 24 reps at the Combine and had a 32-1/2 inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: His lack of pure commitment by his coaches to one position makes him a somewhat risky first-round pick. However, his talent could be enough to slide him in late in the first round.
Eddie Freeman, Alabama-Birmingham, 6-5, 309 — Fifth-year senior who redshirted after coming to UAB as a tight end prospect...Became a starter early in redshirt freshman season and started ever since...In three years as a full-time starter, he had 145 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 11 sacks...After his junior year, he had foot surgery and had to have pins implanted, but didn't seem to have any problems in 2001, since the surgery was corrective surgery for a bad toe...Great speed-size ratio makes him a handful and for teams that use the computer to rate players, his numbers are outstanding...Excellent upper body strength, he bench presses 400 pounds and showed that skill with 32 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine — the most of any DT viewed as a high draft pick — and had an impressive 34-1/2 inch vertical jump...A little thin in the lower body, he has been jammed a bit too often...His numbers don't always translate on the field. PROJECTION: His versatility to play DT, DE or nose tackle will likely land him somewhere in the second round, but his inconsistent play will likely keep him out of the first round and possibly the top half of the second round.
Larry Triplett, Washington, 6-1, 303 — Fifth-year senior who likely improved his stock by deciding not to come out a year early...Three-year starter who split time between end and nose tackle as a sophomore and played NT his final two seasons...Three-time All-Pac 10 and got All-American votes as a senior...In three years as a starter, he had 111 tackles, 31 tackles for a loss and nine sacks...Not a classic two-gap DT, but very impressive in the one-gap set...Excellent special teamer known for blocking field goals and extra points...Two-time team captain who commanded the respect of his teammates...At 6-1, is viewed as much too short for a nose tackle in the NFL...Wasn't a great pass rusher in college (just nine sacks in three years) and isn't expected to be one at the next level...Didn't lift at the Combine. PROJECTION: He seems destined to play inside and, because of the need for defensive tackles by NFL teams, might slide into the second round, but won't be a guy sitting in a suit in New York April 20, because it will be a long wait.
Dorsett Davis, Mississippi State, 6-5, 302 — All-state football and basketball in high school...Began his career at a community college, but spent the last three years at MSU...Started the last two seasons, but missed time with injuries (ankle, knee, back) the last two years...As a starter, he had 99 tackles, nine for a loss and two sacks...Great size and long arms give him leverage advantage...Good upper body strength evidenced at the Combine, when he did 30 reps, among the top numbers for DTs...Is a little flabbier than most and isn't seen as a player who has fully committed to the rigors of being an NFL player...Doesn't always seem to have field awareness. PROJECTION: Great ability makes him attractive to coaches, but work ethic is in question, which makes him a real boom-bust project that some teams will rate in the top six or seven and some with have down in the middle teens among DT prospects. However, enough teams likely have him rated high enough to have him go off the board late in the second or early in the third round.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Justin Bannan, Colorado, 6-3, 299
Alan Harper, Fresno State, 6-2, 293
Nate Dwyer, Kansas, 6-3, 312
Chad Beasley, Virginia Tech, 6-5, 303
Mike Collins, Ohio State, 6-3, 296
Monsanto Pope, Virginia, 6-3, 294
Josh Shaw, Michigan State, 6-3, 281
VU Draft Profiles: DT
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