2018 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles

This is a deep tackle class. Vea, Payne, Bryan, and Hurst are all quality options, with distinct play styles.

Vita Vea: The knocks on Vea are burst and effort. He’ll conserve energy if the play is moving away from him. This didn’t bother me much when watching film though. His play style is to read and react. It’s very difficult to run at him and his 6’5, 347 pound frame. The dude is also strong AF. You just don’t see a single offensive linemen move him when he doesn’t want to be moved. Double teams were hit and miss. Sometimes he’d split or destroy them. Other times they’d get leverage on him and take him down. In terms of a pass rush, he had different modes. On first and second down he’d take a wait & see attitude and attack if given the opportunity. On third and long he’d aggressively bull rush from the start. His technique is raw, but he made it work with pure power. As per Bill Parcells “Planet Theory”, I’d be happy to pick up Vea as he’s one of the few mammals on the planet with the size, strength, and athleticism to dominate at tackle in the NFL. His upside with better conditioning and technique is just enormous, as is he.

Da’Ron Payne: In some ways he’s the opposite of Vea. He’s much more aggressive on a play-by-play basis. He’s quick off the ball and a lower center of gravity. Payne has a good mix of power and athleticism. My problem with him is that he just wasn’t as productive as he should have been. His football instincts just aren’t great. He also doesn’t have the same upside as Vea, and is expected to be on the board until late in the first round.

Taven Bryan: Made me yelp with his explosion off the snap. Excellent reaction time gives him an early advantage. Overall is technique is a bit raw. Actually, so are his instincts. If he breaks through the line, great, but then what? It’s odd to see a player with such great reactions off the snap play oddly slowly after the play starts. He wasn’t an elite athlete coming out of high school. He’s been hit with an “underachiever” label, but my sense is that he’s doing the absolute best he can. I’d be a little concerned that his ceiling isn’t as high as the other potential options at defensive tackle.

Maurice Hurst: This is a binary. His heart condition is a major concern. He’s been medically cleared to play, but each medical and coaching staff will have to come to their own conclusion. If he can play, he’s an absolute monster. His penetration skills are elite, especially in the 4-3. He’s a bit smaller than the guards he’ll be facing, so power is a concern, but they have to get their hands on him first. Hurst was just awesome on film, attacking both the run and the quarterback. We won’t know until Thursday how serious the medical concerns really are. If he’s good to go, he’s Vea’s main competition to be the first DT off the board. If he falls out of round one, teams really are scared about his condition.

Nathan Shepherd: I have absolutely no idea what to make of Shepherd. I watched exactly zero Fort Hays Tigers games. What I have seen is his highlight package. It includes four counts of battery, two counts of aggravated assault, and at least one count of attempted murder (thankfully the quarterback survived). Seriously, Shepherd had no business playing against these guys. What I can tell you is that he’s potentially elite. He dominated practices at the Senior Bowl. Shepherd skipped a couple of years and will turn 24 before his rookie season. He’s an intriguing prospect with a lot left to learn. High upside project. Might be a potential first-round value.

Harrison Phillips: On one hand he was highly productive at Stanford. This is true when he was playing with Solomon Thomas, and even more so after Thomas was gone. On the other hand, his film was awful. Too often the offense was able to dominate him and take advantage of his poor technique. Technique can be improved at the next level, but I didn’t see the kind of power or athleticism to make it worth the effort.

Derrick Nnadi: Plays like a man bigger than he is. Low center of gravity with long arms (32.5 inches). Knows how to attack and split a double-team. Remarkably poor agility, and limited athletic upside. Didn’t have nearly the range you’d like to see. Old school football scouts would call him a “plugger”. He can be a good fit for a defensive scheme that doesn’t ask him to do too much.

Tim Settle: Always making plays. On defense. On special teams. Dude has tremendous range. Can hold his position or attack the line of scrimmage. He’s young (he won’t turn 21 until July) and has a fair amount to learn. I absolutely love him as a prospect and wouldn’t have any problem bumping up his grade a full round.

B.J. Hill: Pure replacement-level 4-3 tackle. No lateral movement. Limited pass-rush. Did his job well at NC State, but doesn’t look like he has much upside beyond that. I’d take Settle over Hill in a heartbeat.

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