Birthday: April 10, 1989
Position: Defensive Tackle
College Stats: 75 tackles, 22 assists, 41 tackles for a loss, 7 assists for a loss, 12.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 3 passes defended, 1 interception, 1 blocked kick.
My take: Brandon Mebane excelled for two seasons as Seattle's starting over tackle. The Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts have each sought a player of Mebane's type and ability for many years. He's the rare talent that can attack a gap but still force a double team and a perfect fit for any team that wants to run a disruptive, Tampa 2-style system. Jim Mora prioritized stopping the run and so Seattle shifted Mebane to under tackle and imported Colin Cole. The move exposed some of Mebane's limitations like agility and quickness shedding blockers. It also exposed a leaner Mebane to double teams typically reserved for run stuffing, 320+ pound defensive linemen. His production declined and though he was still among the best players on Seattle's defense, 2009 was Mebane's worst season as a pro.
The move achieved what Mora wanted, but failed anyway. Seattle squashed runs up the middle, outperforming even the Williams wall, and ranking 4th overall in Football Outsiders adjusted line yards on runs behind the center-guards. However, to achieve this modest feat, Seattle sacrificed interior pass rush and by doing so, severely damaged their overall defense.
The Seahawks are likely stuck with Cole for another season because of his contract, though given his stature and the likelihood of more teams transitioning to a 3-4, he could be traded. Barring that, he is a semi-valuable rotational tackle that could resume his center stopping ways in obvious rushing situations.
Seattle started the season absolutely stacked at defensive tackle. It had decent starters in Mebane and Cole, good situational players in Craig Terrill and Cory Redding, and a couple rookie prospects in Michael Bennett and Derek Walker. It lost Walker and Bennett, will likely lose Redding, could move or cut Terrill and certainly should replace Cole. That makes defensive tackle a need position.
Defensive tackle is very important -- perhaps paramount in importance among defenders in a 4-3. Tackles are the heart of a run defense, and for the very few that are capable, perhaps the most disruptive pass rusher a defense can have. Gut pressure arrives more quickly and is harder to evade or game plan against. It also aids edge pressure and can force sacks and bad throws. The range of ability among defensive tackles further supports their value. Many good professional defensive tackles contribute little to the pass rush. The few that can, like Albert Haynesworth and Kevin Williams, provide the core of a great defense for years to come.
Seattle is a significant step towards that goal, but until it pairs Mebane with an equal or near-equal talent, he will be quieted with consistent double teams. We're in luck.
The upshot of a great class is that the teams that miss out on the top tier talent are still very likely to find special talent later in the draft. It happened with Terrell Owens, Bobby Engram and Marvin Harrison in the 1996 draft. Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn headlined, but their presence atop draft boards forced other worthy talent into later rounds. It happened last year, when after Aaron Curry, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews were selected, James Laurinaitis, Rey Maualuga and Kaluka Maiava, among others, fell.
It should happen in this defensive tackle class, where after Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy are selected, other defensive tackle prospects should slip. Specifically, Suh and McCoy should be drafted by 4-3 teams, and nose tackle types like Dan Williams and Terrence Cody should be selected by 3-4 teams. That means Price is battling for the top spot among the second class of 4-3 tackles and because of that could easily fall into the second if not farther.
There's plenty of talent behind Suh and McCoy, enough that a patient front office could wait and pick someone like Geno Atkins, Earl Mitchell or Lamarr Houston and still get value, but between Suh and that final tier is a group of defensive tackles of great talent and ability. And no tackle looks half as good as Price.
The Bruins went 4-8 in 2008 and 7-6 in 2009 and so Price's contribution show up as tackles for a loss, but for a defensive tackle especially, the skills are largely the same. Price was ranked fourth nationally in FBS, i.e. D1 college football, in tackles for a loss per game. UCLA had little line talent and Price became a focus for opposing coordinators. His weight makes him strictly an under tackle, but his huge contributions at such a young age give him potential nearly equal Suh or McCoy. He's over a year younger than McCoy and over two years younger than Suh. That means, accounting for surrounding talent and age (Suh had one sack and six tackles for a loss his age 20 season; McCoy had 11 and 6.5), Price has done more with less.
If you watch him, it's obvious how. He's MeBeastly.