NFL Draft 2013: Defensive tackle rankings & 3-technique/5-technique rankings

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Below are three separate rankings for the 2013 DT group.

First (the body of the article), I've listed overall rankings with analysis on each prospect.

The second list (table 1) is Seattle-specific and ranks the "3 technique", pass-rushing DTs, which I believe to be Seattle's biggest need.

The third and final list (table 2) is also Seattle-specific and ranks the top "5 Technique" candidates for Seattle's strong-side run-stopping role, currently occupied primarily by Red Bryant. For this role, you need a long, powerful athlete with quick get-off, strong instincts against the run, and an ability to consistently collapse the right side of the offensive line.

1. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri - 6'3, 295:

Long, muscular, athletic-looking frame. Rare explosiveness and quickness for his size. Fires off the line low, and has a knack for knifing gaps, utilizing his explosive first step to set opposing linemen off balance early. Exhibits agility, flexibility and quickness in space, to re-direct while giving chase in the backfield. Strong closing burst, and plays a highly physical brand of football.

Flashes the ability to counter effectively, with a quick swim move to either side, and has displayed a nice spin move at times as well. Utilizes active, violent hands to keep his frame clean and disengage. His motor is always running high, as he'll often be seen chasing plays 20+ yards down the field. Fluid in space when asked to drop, and recognizes where the ball is going early on. Exhibits accurate anticipation and takes good angles to the outside against the run.

Plays with a lot more quickness than power, and when he comes off the snap too high, can be stalled and rendered ineffective. Struggles to consistently finish plays despite constantly disrupting and being in position to close. Richardson is already the most giften pass-rusher among interior DTs in the class, but may only have scratched the surface of his true potential to this point. He struggled in the classroom at times at Mizzou, and really only had one great year, so it will be interesting to see how this effects his draft position, despite being a top-5 talent.

2. Star Lotulelei, Utah - 6'3, 320:

Combination of power, quickness and short-area burst to go with massive frame, make him one of the top all-around DT prospects in the draft. Absorbs impact nicely with his lower half and exhibits the flexibility and core strength to break down and redirect with suddenness in space. Exhibits hand power and quickness when chopping or swatting at his opponent, and is able to create significant space when active with his hands.

Needs to play with more consistency off the snap, in terms of timing and pad levels, as he'll get a late jump and come off high at times. Relies on shoulders more than hands to fire gaps and shed blocks. Tends to get stood up off the line more than he should, and can get pushed off the line when pads get too high. Displays an ability to beat everyone off the snap and knows where to be when he does so. Flashes big time power on contact, and when he maintains low pads, can drive anyone off the block relatively easily.

Lotulelei flashes dominant capability, and although he's not as consistent as you'd like him to be, I think he shows enough both physically and instinctively to warrant a top-10 pick, and I see a guy who we could be talking about as one of the top 5 interior linemen in all of football in just a few years. Consistency will be the determining factor in whether he turns out to be a solid starter, or ends up becoming a truly elite, dominant All Pro. Has the versatility and athleticism to play the 5 technique or nose in a 3-4, or either of the interior 4-3 DT positions.

3. Sharrif Floyd, Florida - 6'3, 303:

Long, muscular frame with stout, thick lower half. Floyd exhibits good timing off the snap and a strong, though not elite first step. Best hand use of any of these prospects, in terms of swatting, ripping, swimming and humping, to clear lanes. Flexibility and body control to twist and knife through gaps. Strong surge in space, with good use of length to extend and wrap up.

Takes good angles off the snap, establishing leverage and displaying flexibility in his lower half to get under his opponent. Maintains backfield vision and displays relentless motor to the whistle. Can rush from any of the four spots and hold his own, both as a pass-rusher and run defender. Needs to stay low off the snap more consistently, as he's an effective bull-rusher when he does. Is still instinctively raw as he'll react late to the run in terms of taking proper angles. Isn't an extremely flexible or agile athlete in space and lacks suddenness when breaking down and changing direction.

Floyd is still technically raw in some areas, but two things really jump out about this guy - he's versatile, and he's physical. You could put him at the 3 technique to rush the passer in a 4-3, or line him up at DE in a 3-4. He'll push for a starting job day-one, and although he's not the athlete that Richardson or Lotulelei are, he could be preferred by some teams due to the versatility and impressive use of hands.

4. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina - 6'3, 313:

Williams has been deemed a "run plugger" by many, but he has potential to be far more than that. His first step is explosive, and he's quick to fire through the line when he incorporates his powerful hands to swat and rip opponents out of the way. He can be effective as a bull-rusher as well, when he's able to maintain low pad levels. Is flexible enough to break down in space and finish plays once he's into the backfield. Isn't a very long athlete but is able to use extension to keep his frame clean and disengage.

Exhibits a strong closing burst in space, and can really lay a thump on his target. Good awareness against the run and takes good angles sideline to sideline. AT 320 lbs, is right there with Lotulelei in terms of the rarity of his blend of size and quickness. Despite exhibiting a strong initial burst off the snap, doesn't always time it right, and will go through phases where his jump is late. Williams doesn't seem to apply the same effort game-to-game and may play down to the competition at times.

He's not as relentless on plays that flow away from him, and seems to tire at times, late in games. Williams is clearly a first-round talent with Pro Bowl potential if he can maintain strong effort, and continue to improve his timing off the snap.

5. Jesse Williams, Alabama - 6'3, 320:

Anchors well, and exhibits raw natural power on contact to compensate for inconsistent lower-half bend. High motor athlete who fights relentlessly to the whistle. A bit stiff in the hips, and lacks natural agility to cover significant ground laterally. Good backfield vision and awareness. Not the athlete of the other three, but superior natural power and ability to establish leverage consistently put him in position to make plays against the run. Primarily a run-stopper, who lacks explosive first step and quickness to consistently get up field, but good closing burst straight-ahead when in the clear. Doesn't break down extremely well in space and struggles to change direction once he gets going one way. Won't blow by anyone off the snap, but could be one of the league's best run-stuffing tackles considering what he's shown in terms of being able to utilize his brute strength to generate a bull rush.

6. Kawann Short, Purdue - 6'3, 308:

Flashes some impressive hand work to swat, rip and swim around his opponent. Deceptively quick. Lacks explosive first step but can get up to speed rapidly. Appears to be a bit stiff in space, and looks to be at his best in a straight line. Good balance and agility laterally when crashing.

Good vision and ability to adjust to backfield movement. Diagnoses the run early. Isn't the most naturally explosive or powerful athlete of the crop, but knows how to use his quickness and hands, to free himself up. Anchors well enough to hold the point against the run, but is really at his best getting upfield. Good pad levels and use of hands, with quickness and timing to disengage and close.

Lacks raw power to get a consistent bull-rush and should rely more on the quickness element of his game to be effective at the next level. Short will need to quell concerns that many have about his motor, as he'll take the occasional play off, and appears to tire easily. He's not the natural athlete that some of the other top-half DTs are, but his production (7 sacks in '12) and tape indicate that he has what it takes to be a disruptive force at the next level. I have a mid-2nd round grade on Short.

7. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State - 6'3, 320:

Long, flexible athlete with "plus" fluidity and closing burst in space. When he gets his arms extended, exhibits an ability to control his opponent and disengage at will. Absorbs contact well with his lower half. Can be disruptive with his hands in terms of generating a solid "pop" to jar his opponent and knock him off balance.

Possesses extremely light, quick feet for his size and can break down in and redirect with suddenness in space. Doesn't utilize his length consistently, too often allowing his opponent into his chest. Struggles to diagnose the run and is constantly late to disengage. Doesn't have the explosive first step, but will find the seam, dip and accelerate with low position. Will lead with his shoulder or head off the snap, causing him to double-over at the waist. Balance to crash and close on the sidelines through traffic.

Hankins possesses the athleticism and tools to be an effective 3 technique or 5 technique depending on the scheme, but his lack of consistency, and concerns about his effort leave a lot of scouts disappointed in the results thus far. He's a first round athlete who hasn't played like a first round defensive tackle, and I could see him falling to the bottom of the first round as a result. I've got a 3rd round tape grade on him despite how impressed I am with his unique size/athleticism combo, which suggests he should have gotten to the QB a lot more in school (4 sacks over the last 2 seasons - only 1 in '12).

8. Montori Hughes, Tennessee-Martin - 6'4, 328:

Long, well-distributed frame with balanced upper and lower halves. Flashes quick hands with a rapid arm-over swim. Good balance to stay afoot through gaps and when sandwiched between blockers, exhibits strong effort to finish penetration.

Good run awareness and timing to disengage on his target. An effective wrap-up tackler who plays with a high level of physicality on contact. Fluid and agile when asked to change direction in space. Exhibits quick hands that transition nicely to power on contact, when swatting or clubbing. Gets upright far too often and is stood up regularly when he isn't able to work in space.

There are many character questions with Hughes in the wake of several suspensions and an ultimate dismissal at Tennessee. Best suited as a 5-technique where initial space will allow him to generate low leverage and first-step burst to either penetrate or set the edge with a strong bull-rush. A high-2nd round talent who will probably fall due character concerns.

9. Bennie Logan, LSU - 6'3, 295:

Thick frame with long arms and powerful lower half. Gets arms extended off the snap and uses hands well to keep his frame clean. Utilizes low center of gravity to bull rush and collapse the pocket from the inside. Impressive hand quickness to swat and clear. Good burst to close on space in front of him. Maintains backfield vision while engaged, and disengages nicely to close the running lane to either side.

Quickness and punch of a 3-technique, but exhibits awareness and anchoring strength to be a 2-gap player as well. Stays low off the snap and displays good bend to absorb impact. Appears to lack "plus" lateral quickness. Will get turned around with his back to his opponent when rushing, and can be taken out of the play altogether. Isn't very powerful in his upper body, struggling to throw defenders off his frame when locked on. Closing burst appears to be average, in open space.

Has a tendency to lose leverage/position and doesn't look nearly as powerful when asked to pinch/squeeze down and move his opponent laterally, as he does in a straight line. Appears to take the occasional play off from an effort standpoint. Logan has ideal quickness, athleticism and flexibility to be an effective interior rusher from the 3-technique spot. He's still raw and inconsistent when asked to hold position or defend the run, but further technical coaching could help mold him into an extremely disruptive interior force, as there are no apparent limitations in terms of natural tools.

His length and burst should allow a team to utilize him on the outside in either scheme (4-3 or 3-4) as well, so considering the versatility, he could definitely be a first-round value come April.

10. John Jenkins, Georgia - 6'4, 359:

Thick, massive frame with long arms, and impressively quick get-off for his size. Exhibits some nice burst in a short area, and does a good job of transitioning that quickness to power on contact, with a powerful bull rush. Displays ability to use his arm length to stay clean, then disengage and close the running lane. Comes off the line too high, too often and is surprisingly easy to push back in these situations, considering the weight he carries.

Good balance on contact, and maintains footing well for his size when taking on cut-blocks. A confusing prospect in that he should anchor better considering his size and would be an ideal run-plugger if he did, but at the same time, his length and initial quickness suggest you could line him up at the 5 technique and ask him to set the edge as well. Effort appears to be inconsistent, appearing stronger at the start of games, and waning as time goes on.

Just like with Hankins, I love the rare combo of size and quickness that Jenkins possesses, but it would need to have shown up a lot more consistently on tape for me to give him anything close to a first-round grade here. Jenkins' size and athleticism will have him off the board by the end of round 2, but I've graded him as a late-3rd, early-4th round prospect.

11. Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State - 6'2, 341:

Thick, powerful frame with impressive quickness for his size. Gets off the snap with a strong initial burst. Maintains low pad levels on contact and exhibits good flexibility in his lower half to get under his opponent and establish leverage.

Flashes a quick spin move and good balance when changing direction. Displays quick hands when chopping or swimming, and exhibits upper body strength to throw or swat his opponent. Isn't a guy with a ton of closing burst, and seems to bog down after his first step. He's not a guy who will consistently generate a strong bull rush due to lack of plus power in his lower half, but good flexibility and leverage allow him to hold position.

Williams looks like a rotational interior DT at the next level whose first step and natural strength could give a team solid depth both against the run and the pass.

12. Jordan Hill, Penn State - 6'2, 294:

Sort, compact frame with thick upper half. Exhibits an explosive first step off the snap. Active hands on contact with strength to rip loose of his blocker's grip and find space. Fluid laterally with the agility to step around blockers quickly in conjunction with a quick swat or arm-over swim. Will often come off the line "on top" of his blocker leaving him susceptible to losing the leverage battle and being shoved off the block. Good straight-line speed when asked to chase the runner down field.

Can break down and change direction in space rapidly, and exhibits a relentless nature in pursuit. Is an aggressive, feisty battler in the trenches who has the ability to wear his blocker down over time. Lacks lower body strength to anchor against the run, and is walked back easily at times by his blocker. Is not an effective bull-rusher. Hill is one of the more athletic middle-rounds linemen in the draft, and may be the most agile of the group.

His quick get-off and ability to create space when combining lateral movement with aggressive hands, make him an intriguing situational pass-rush prospect, but his limitations as a run defender will make it tough for him to establish himself as an every-down lineman at the next level.

13. Everett Dawkins, Florida State - 6'2, 288:

Thick, compact frame with flexible lower half. Gets a good jump and exhibits an explosive first step off the snap. Does a good job of maintaining low leverage on contact. Exhibits good bend in his lower half when asked to hold position at the point of attack. Consistently gets his hands into his opponent's frame.

Flashes quick hands and a nice swim move to bypass his blocker to either side. Impressive agility and break down ability for his size. Above-average closing burst in space. Displays solid backfield vision and awareness as a run defender. Hip flexibility to effectively dip and turn the corner on stunts to the outside. May be considered somewhat undersized for the position. Lacks ideal arm length, and is locked up often as a result. Doesn't rip or swim as much as he should when considering his plus hand quickness and lack of length. Struggles to disengage when attempting to close running lanes from his anchor.

Hand power is marginal at best, as he appears to "bounce" off his opponent at times when initiating contact off the snap. Resorts more to the bull rush than he should, as he lacks the natural power to consistently drive opponents off the block. Dawkins possesses explosiveness and athleticism that could make him a feared interior rusher at the next level. However, to be a more consistent threat to quarterbacks, he'll need to become more active with his hands, and continue to develop a repertoire of counter-moves that utilize his "plus" athleticism and quickness.

14. Cory Grissom, South Florida - 6'1, 313:

Despite his shorter stature, possesses ideal arm length and proportional thickness throughout. Routinely times his jump well, gets good extension and stays low on contact. Quick first step to establish advantageous position early on in play. Exhibits strong lower half and good use of leverage to establish a bull-rush and consistently generate push from the interior.

Displays good inside hand placement when battling at the point of attack and does a good job of disengaging in the backfield against the run. Can take on, and even drive back multiple blockers with impressive power. Displays relatively light feet when moving laterally, but lacks suddenness and loose hips to break down and change direction effectively in space. Good awareness against the run and does a nice job of collapsing to either side when asked to disengage and plug running lanes.

Is constantly swatting and chopping at his opponent to create space. Exhibits adequate short area burst, but range is limited to one or two steps in any direction, before losing steam. Won't chase down a lot of plays from behind due to lack of quickness when flipping his hips, despite possessing decent acceleration once he gets going. Uses length well to extend and wrap up his target.

Isn't very balanced through contact and ends up on the ground more than he should. Grissom is a high-effort competitor who never lets up, and knows how to utilize leverage to get push up the middle. He's not a guy who will finish a lot of plays in the backfield due to flexibility limitations, but his ability to disrupt is something that teams will find appealing, and should see him selected somewhere between rounds 4 and 6.

15. Akeem Spence, Illinois - 6'1, 305:

Lacks natural explosion in his first step, appearing sluggish off the line at times. Lacks hand quickness on clubs and chops, and does not exhibit a dynamic "punch" on contact. Possesses desireable length, but doesn't use it well to disengage, and finds himself locked up through the play far too often. Bends at the waiste when engaging off the line, and as a result struggles to consistently generate a bull rush.

Flashes impressive power in his lower half, but needs to avoid bending at the waist in order to put that power to best use. Is not a sudden athlete laterally and struggles to correct when over-pursuing. Will quit mid-play on some runs that appear to be headed out of his area. Good backfield vision and run awareness at the point of attack. Comes off the line too high and can be swept out of plays as a result.

Decent straight-ahead closing burst in space. Tends to lose track of the ball carrier, dipping his head on contact at times and bending at the waist. Spence isn't an explosive enough athlete to be a legitimate pass-rush threat at the next level, and although he exhibits some awareness and instincts against the run, his inability so far to disengage consistently has neutralized his effectiveness there as well. His length and natural power could make him an interesting prospect at the 5 technique, or even inside as a run-stuffer in a 4-3 alignment, but he's technically raw and is more a rotational contributor with a 3rd day grade from me at this point.

16. Kwame Geathers, Georgia - 6'5, 355:

Geathers possesses a massive frame, with long arms and well-distributed weight to both halves. Flashes burst off the snap, and when able to keep his pads low, exhibits an ability to drive opponents off the ball rapidly. Is limited laterally and looks sluggish changing direction. Offers almost no re-direct or suddenness in space, and is more of a straight-line bull rusher than anything else.

Struggles to adjust his feet with enough quickness to maintain footing when attempting to thwart cut-blocks. Doesn't use his hands enough to create space, and relies on his shoulder or chest more than anything else to generate push. Drops his head on contact, and is easily controlled by his blocker when he does. Anticipates the run well when his head is up, and has a relatively easy time maintaining backfield vision, but isn't looking around enough and will miss opportunities as a result.

Geathers seems to be a story of a guy who hasn't figured out how to use the incredible size and natural power that he's been blessed with. There are flashes that indicate he could have dominant upside, but he's far from having put it all together at this point. I have a 5th round grade on Geathers, as a developmental 2-gap DT who provides depth as a space-eater against the run. No guarantees that he makes a final roster, year 1.

17. Josh Boyd, Mississippi State - 6'3, 312:

Boyd possesses a leaner frame, initial burst and a strong closer in space as a rusher, but frequently finds himself stood up at the line due to high pads and late get-off. When he's able to get a good jump, flashes a strong first step and knack for knifing the gap. Short arms make it tough for him to disengage consistently despite seeming to have decent awareness against the run.

Is stiff-hipped in space, struggling to break down and redirect. Initial burst does not translate to power on contact as he lacks "pop" at point of attack and is too easily pushed around, even in cases where he's able to get a good jump. Flashes a quick arm-over swim, that he uses most effectively when he beats his opponent off the snap. Struggles to establish leverage as he lacks hip flexibility to drop and get under his opponent. Isn't nearly active enough with his hands to consistently create space as a rusher.

Boyd's first step and closing burst are what you look for in an interior rusher, but flexibility limitations and lack of aggression at the point of attack have hampred his ability to be a consistent rushing threat. If he's not able to become more active with his hands and work to improve his overall strength, he may have a hard time solidifying a roster spot at the next level.

18. Anthony McCloud, Florida State - 6'2, 309:

Thick frame with ideal girth to play the nose or 1-technique. Impressive quickness off the snap for his size. Exhibits surprisingly quick closing burst in space. Displays good backfield vision and awareness as a run defender. Flashes some lateral quickness with the occasional countermove to get upfield as a pass-rusher. Has a non-stop motor and exhibits an "attack" mentality when engaging off the snap.

Exhibits good short-area quickness. Retracts his arms on contact often, and will allow his opponent into his frame. Is a bit top-heavy and thin through his lower half. Despite possessing some flexibility, struggles to consistently anchor at the point of attack as he'll come off the line high and lose leverage quickly. Lacks the length to consistently disengage and close running lanes at the line, or to recover and close on cutbacks. Bends at the waist too frequently when engaging off the snap.

McCloud reminds me of Rocky Bernard in that despite lacking ideal strength or power in his lower half, his relentlessness and surprising short-area burst enable him to find a way to get the job done. If he's to be a regular at the next level, McCloud will need to find ways to generate leverage more consistently, and improve his overall strength.

19. T.J. Barnes, Georgia Tech - 6'6, 378:

Barnes is an imposing physical specimen, with length and ideal weight distribution throughout. Possesses some raw power when asked to get push up the middle, and can be a pass-lane disruptor with his height and long arms. Lacks explosiveness and appears sluggish coming off the snap. Bends at the waist on contact and lacks lower-half flexibility to establish leverage and hold position.

Is too easily knocked off balance by smaller blockers, and isn't nearly active enough with his hands to keep opponents out of his frame. Lacks fluidity when asked to slide his feet laterally while engaged with a blocker. Looking at Barnes, you want to find a spot for him simply due to his massive size and athletic looking frame. Unfortunately though, he'll be nothing more than a space filler who will struggle to make an NFL roster, unless he's able to become more consistent off the snap, and learn to use leverage - which may be tough considering his lack of flexibility.

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Seattle’s "3 Technique" Rankings

Rank Name Position School Year Height Weight
1 *Sheldon Richardson DT Missouri rJr 6'3' 295
2 *Sharrif Floyd DT Florida Jr 6'3' 303
3 Sylvester Williams DT North Carolina Sr 6'3' 313
4 Star Lotulelei DT Utah Sr 6'3' 320
5 Kawann Short DT Purdue rSr 6'3' 308
6 *Bennie Logan DT LSU rJr 6'3' 295
7 Montori Hughes DT Tennessee-Martin Sr 6'4' 328
8 *Johnathan Hankins DT Ohio State Jr 6'3' 320
9 Everett Dawkins DT Florida State rSr 6'2' 288
10 Jordan Hill DT Penn State Sr 6'2' 294
11 *Akeem Spence DT Illinois rJr 6'1' 305
12 Cory Grissom DT South Florida rSr 6'1' 313
13 Josh Boyd DT Mississippi State Sr 6'3' 312

Seattle’s "5 Technique" Rankings

Rank Name Position School Year Height Weight
1 Star Lotulelei DT Utah Sr 6'3' 320
2 *Sharrif Floyd DT Florida Jr 6'3' 303
3 Montori Hughes DT Tennessee-Martin Sr 6'4' 328
4 Jesse Williams DT Alabama Sr 6'3' 320
5 *Johnathan Hankins DT Ohio State Jr 6'3' 320
6 John Jenkins DT Georgia Sr 6'4' 359
7 *Kwame Geathers DT Georgia rJr 6'5' 355

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You can find more of Derek's analysis at his Seahawks-centric draft, free agency, & pro player personnel site called "ScoutTheSeahawks." Head over and bookmark it - he maintains a really great free agent tracker in addition to his Draft focus that is much more in-depth than most places because of his background doing deep scouting of NFL Draft prospects.

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