We're turning the bend and entering the home stretch. Here are my round by round picks for Seattle at defensive tackle. We're putting an emphasis on 3-techs, but when a 1-tech is good enough, has certain hybrid 3-tech abilities, we can assume that he'd slot into the 1 and Marcus Tubbs could become Bernard's primary backup at the 3. Before we jump into this, you'll notice I'm short on space eaters. Every Seattle defensive tackle must be able to excel in a one gap system, that's just the defense. So, apologies to the "We Need Some GODDAMN unadulterated FaTnEsS!!" Camp, but that's not how Tim Ruskell, John Marshall or Jim L. Mora run a defense.
No surprise here. Laws is the player I've best scouted, know the most about and feel most confident in. I've even conversed with his brother. Here's something I haven't delved too deeply into. Laws played within a mediocre front seven, and alongside a poor defensive line. Line play is, foremost, a team effort. When Julius Peppers, the greatest defensive talent I've ever witnessed, can be shutdown by the poor efforts of his linemates, anyone can. Nearly every defensive tackle considered a first round talent had partners in crime but Laws.
-Lawrence Jackson: First day defensive end
-Everson Griffen: Elite frosh prospect
-Tyson Jackson: 1st rated DE, 5th overall prospect for the 2009 draft
-Kirston Pittman: Mid-level pro prospect
-Quentin Groves: Sometimes end, top pro prospect
-Sen'Derrick Marks: Standout sophomore
-Josh Thompson: Top NT, fringe pro prospect
The closest Kentwan Balmer had was Hilee Taylor, a fringe NFL prospect because of concerns about his size/athleticism, but a top performer his senior season, recording 10.5 sacks. More than half of Notre Dame's team sack total, 18. If Balmer didn't have much help, Laws was playing alone. The best talent, Ian Williams, was a freshman. He recorded 45 tackles and no sacks. The starting crew featured 272 pound NT, Pat Kuntz, and Justin Brown, the 4th ranked NFL prospect among players named Justin Brown. Laws faced double and triple teams for much of the season. This is the especially tough part of scouting, how to adjust not just for competition, but overall team quality. In 2008, Dorsey and Ellis will transition from elite lines relative to competition to below average lines relative to competition. Laws will enjoy the opposite.
The two prospects that slot into round 2, Pat Sims and Dre Moore, each carry red flags. The knock on Sims is obvious: He quit football in 2005. Rejoined Auburn in 2006, put up a decent showing before having a good season on a stacked defense in 2007. Sims is talented - though watching him, I don't know what all the hullaballoo is about - but has massive downside. Like out of the league in two years downside. From a GM standpoint, I'd rather have a troublemaker than a flake. I wouldn't be the least surprised if Sims' newfound "love" of football quickly fades after he cashes his first check.
I'm not nearly as down about Moore, but I wouldn't spend a second round pick on him. Maryland is famous for producing workout warriors. That's no knock, they have an excellent strength and conditioning department. The problem is, Maryland is and has been a mediocre program for some time. They've beat two top 10 teams since 1990, a squeaker over Florida State in 2004 (20-17) and a 34-24 win over a badly over-ranked Rutgers squad last season. The Terrapins have produced a ton of pro talent, in no small part due to their ability to look good in shorts, on tracks and in weight rooms, but that talent has not translated well. Shawne Merriman rode his roid rage to a dominant 2006, but other than him, you have a lot of role players, MOR talent and roster filler. Moore looks good, and maybe will be good, but I can't endorse him in the second.
One wonders what could have been for Bryant had he not languished under Dennis Franchione. Coach Fran has since been run from the ranks of college football, and Bryant enters the draft slotted two rounds lower than his talent would imply. That's right, Bryant looks like a first round talent, but plays like a NDFA. Because of this, Bryant wins the duel distinctions of the Memorial Baraka Atkins Project Pick and the Someone's Gonna Need To Kick This Kid In The Ass awards. What sets Bryant apart from so many underachievers is that he's a mature, motivated team leader. Bryant became a captain as a red shirt freshman. He considers his college degree, in agricultural management, his finest accomplishment. Something you can appreciate; he was the first in his family to graduate from college. There's a difference between an underachiever who just doesn't care or care enough and someone (not talking about his parents here) who's behind the curve because he was raised by wolves. Bryant is nearing 24, a knock on any prospect, but is just tremendously physically gifted. The right team, the right environment, patience and the right coaching, and the fast, powerful, quick, agile and prototypically framed Bryant could become a star.
Fluellen has a great first step and excellent closing burst. He's a bit of a 1/3 tweener, and would benefit from playing in a rotation. Needless to say, he's a good fit for Seattle's D. Fluellen's name was all over the place in the preseason: Outland Trophy watch list, Bednarik Award watch list, All-America, All-ACC etc. But the season was not kind for Fluellen. He was nicked up, most notably suffering a hyperextended elbow, and underperformed. Before the bite of his senior season, Fluellen was a 3 year starter (37 straight games started), in a top program and an assumed pro prospect. Not maybe the safest pick, but Fluellen could rebound nicely, providing first day upside, after a return to health.
Someone must have been doing something right on Virginia Tech's 3rd ranked defense. We know about Chris Ellis and Xavier Adibi, but not Carlton Powell. Powell was a team leader, a force on the inside and a self-improvement/workout fanatic. The problem for Powell is that at 292, but presumably a NT, he doesn't fit cleanly anywhere on a pro roster. Nevertheless, Powell has a huge motor and is a manic hand fighter. He looks a bit like a more athletic Craig Terrill. A good value, low upside/low downside defensive tackle that should stick because of his athleticism, will and football smarts.
Not exactly the money round for defensive tackles, if you're looking at a DT in the seventh, you're thinking longshot. Tommy Blake is a very interesting defensive end talent. In his first three seasons, he recorded 19 sacks. His senior season was mostly lost to a severe case of depression and social anxiety disorder. As dangerous to his career as any knee, hip or shoulder injury, and a sad burden beyond the gridiron. If Blake can overcome his demons, his potential is excellent. For Seattle, he'd play the Ellis Wyms situational pass rush DE/DT. Though his very serious condition puts any production in the pros into question, he's considered a high character, good athlete and a top performer. He's earned a shot, but it'll take the right franchise, the right coaching and the right group of guys.