Penn State DT Devon Still could be a good value in the second round in a very deep class of talented defensive tackles.
According to the experts, there is no position in this year’s NFL Draft more stocked with talent than defensive tackle.
If, indeed, you subscribe to that notion then that’s good news for a Rams team in serious need of an influx of young talent on the interior of the defensive line even after signing the emerging
“I think it’s the best position in the draft and I think there is a number of good players there in the first round,” NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly said. “Off the top, you’ve got Fletcher Cox, Dontari Poe and Michael Brockers. People you talk to will give you different opinions on those three guys but the system those teams run will probably dictate how you would rank them. Jerel Worthy, Kendall Reyes, Brandon Thompson, Devon Still, those guys will all get first round consideration. There are just a lot of good players there.”
In fact, there is so much talent at defensive tackle in this year’s draft that the hard part might be figuring out whether to snatch one in the first round who might not be but marginally better than one you could get in the second round.
Making matters more difficult in discerning who is the best of the talented group is the fact that certain players in the class didn’t produce a lot in college but are gifted athletically while others were productive in college but don’t have the matching athletic ability.
LSU’s Michael Brockers and Memphis’ Dontari Poe are two players drawing the most scrutiny for being considered dynamic athletes but not having the production to match it. But Casserly points out that the chance to sit down with players like that and watch film gives teams a chance to get a feel for where those players will fit at the next level.
The Rams have visits scheduled with Poe, Brockers and Washington’s Alameda Ta’amu in addition to Cox and potentially a few others.
The aforementioned conundrum could mean that a team might be able to get a tackle early in round two with comparable ability to one that could go as high as the top 10 potentially.
“To me, there is no top 10 value tackles in this class but there is a whole bunch of guys from the mid first to the mid second that are going to be starters in the league,” NFL Network draft analyst Chad Reuter said. “I think you’ve got Brockers and Poe as two guys with limited numbers and limited experience but a lot is made of Poe’s lack of production and part of it is he doesn’t see the ball on every play and I think the other thing is at 346 pounds, you can line him up at nose tackle, three technique, five technique, outside the shoulder of the right tackle and you don’t see a 350 pound guy doing that very often. Of course he’s not going to get a sack out there but he got pressure and forced the quarterback to make decisions. I don’t think you can be too quick to say his stats aren’t that good. I think some team may reach for him in the top 10 but I don’t see any of these guys as being top 10 value.”
Poe falls into the category of athletic anomaly who became a popular name after an impressive performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. At 6’3, 346 pounds, he ran a sub 5 second 40-yard dash and more than 40 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press.
But Poe didn’t post much in the way of numbers for the Tigers, coming up with 33 tackles and one sack in 2011. Casserly said he didn’t have many problems with Poe based on his tape but said if you did have questions about his effort you’d be able to tell from the chance to sit down with him.
“The thing on him is this and this is what you can’t judge unless you spend time on the kid and work him out: there’s an underlying current with him is whether he’s competitive or not,” Casserly said. “We can get that solved in a workout and getting a background on him.”
On the more accomplished end of the spectrum is Cox, a 6’4, 295 pounder with athleticism and a strong motor. He could fit into just about any scheme, be it as a 5-technique in a 3-4 or as a three-technique in a 4-3. He even has the versatility to line up outside in certain situations.
The Rams have been mentioned as a possible destination for Cox, who visited St. Louis on Monday afternoon. Were they to draft Cox, he’d likely line up next to Langford and be expected to be a penetrating up the field type player.
Reuter believes that would be a fine role for him but one that would need some polish.
“I think he’d be fine in that but again he wasn’t really dominant in that role for Mississippi State either,” Reuter said. “He flashed it but he wasn’t dominant. He’s got some of the tools for that but just because he ran a good 40 doesn’t mean he can just become a great penetrator. He wasn’t great at that. He was good. But I think people might be a little carried away with that.”
More than likely, the Rams won’t be in play for someone like Cox, Brockers or Poe, all of whom are expected to go in the top 15-20 picks of the draft but not as high as the team’s No. 6 overall pick.
Should the Rams find a trade partner to move down, they could be in the mix for one of them but there’s little doubt that a tackle could be a prime target for one of the Rams’ two second-round picks – Nos. 33 and 39 overall.
Players such as Clemson’s Brandon Thompson, Worthy, Connecticut’s Kendall Reyes and Penn State’s Devon Still would be outstanding value in the second round. Michigan’s Mike Martin and Ta’amu could be intriguing options even further down in the draft.
Without many bodies coming back next to Langford on the interior, look for the Rams to take advantage of the draft’s deepest position at some point and potentially add a first-round caliber player early on the draft’s second day.
“I think so,” Reuter said. “You have to look at other positions in that. If he’s still the No. 1 player on the board at 12, I’m not saying he’d be a bad pick depending on who else would be available but there’s going to be a Reyes, Brandon Thompson, Devon Still, there’s going to be somebody in the top 40 still that is going to be a pretty good player I think.”
Top Five Defensive Tackle Prospects
1. Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
2. Michael Brockers, LSU
3. Dontari Poe, Memphis
4. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
5. Brandon Thompson, Clemson
Sleeper: Loni Fangupo, BYU