Finding a game changing defensive tackle can change a team. Whether they are a run stuffer, pass rusher, or both it changes defenses. The problem is they hard to come by and this year’s draft will not change much. 2016’s class does feature elite talent at the position but it comes with question marks and beyond that there is not much depth. Here is N2K’s top 5 defensive tackle prospects.
- Robert Nkemdiche: Nkemdiche is one of the most talented players in the draft, and off that alone could be a top 5 pick. He offers an athleticism that cannot be matched along the defensive line and because of that he is a constant mismatch. Nkemdiche is also extremely versatile and can line up anywhere on the line. He is sliding down draft boards now though because of character concerns. Heading into Ole Miss’ bowl game he was arrested for possesion of weed after falling 15 feet from a hotel ledge. His drive and motivation have also come into question as his elite talent has not transferred into stats. In my mind Nkemdiche is one of the top players in the draft but he has a lot to prove in team interviews and that is the only way he can save his stock.
- A’Shawn Robinson: Coming out of Alabama Robinson will most likely be the first d-tackle taken in the draft. Robinson is extremely well rounded in both stopping the run and rushing the passer. He creates great penetration and comes off the ball extremely quick. His game against LSU shows why NFL teams love him as he was the main reason they stopped Leonard Fournette and gave the Tigers no time to pass the ball. Robinson also projects to make an immediate impact upon arriving in the NFL. He is a top 15 player and could develop into a pro bowl caliber player.
- Andrew Billings: Billings is a massive man on the line coming in at 6’2” 310 lbs. He plays nose tackle almost exclusively and most guards and centers will struggle to move him. Billings is the definition of a run stuffer who rarely lets running backs make it past the line of scrimmage. His biggest issue is he struggles to create penetration and is a non factor in rushing the passer. Billings will be great in the run game and could all but take out inside runs for opposing teams, but he will have to seriously work on his pass rushing abilities if he wants to become elite. He projects as a late first rounder and should not find it hard to get on the field especially in first and second down situations.
- Kenny Clark: Clark has played all over the line for UCLA but he best projects as a d-tackle. Clark is a master at winning leverage with a quick first step and low pad level. He also has an extremely quick burst that he uses wisely on pulling guards which allows him to create havoc in the backfield. The main concern around him is his change of direction when it comes to pass rushing. He reaches top speed quickly and creates penetration but he can struggle tracking down quarterbacks that can get around in the backfield. Clark will be a starter in the NFL and he could become a very good starter even if he struggles with more mobile quarterbacks.
- Jarran Reed: Reed is the second tackle out of Alabama on this list. He was a great run stuffer for the Tide this year and shows surprising quickness and speed for someone of his size. He has a great feel for offensive line schemes and uses that to get into the right position almost all the time. Reed is also extremely strong and can stuff holes by just not moving. He does not offer much in the pass rush but he can be an upside at times. Reed is an extremely smart player that does a great job of stuffing the run. He can develop into a starter and could sneak into the first round.