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NFL Combine 2015 preview: Defensive tackle

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Seattle's interests at DT may fall closer to the late-round sleepers. Here are my favorites.

Leterrius Walton gets into backfield at Shrine Game
Leterrius Walton gets into backfield at Shrine Game
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Today marks the arrival, tomorrow the weigh-in, and Saturday the field testing of two of the most exciting groups in this year’s draft: defensive ends and defensive tackles. We’ll take a look at both separately, and begin with the DT’s.

As I mentioned on Twitter earlier this week, I’m not sure the collective "we" knows what exactly this class of DT’s is yet. Meaning, I don’t think we grasp the depth. I think everyone has good sense of the 1st round talent…I don’t object to most, if any, of the names projected early…but I think the combine will shine a light on a few of those not getting enough love, and by the end of this piece I will give you 3 names to watch.

Before that though, let’s get an idea of what Seattle could be looking for at DT. It’s actually one of the more varied position groups on the roster. From the 6’1" trio of Brandon Mebane, Jordan Hill and Landon Cohen, to the massive size of Tony McDaniel (6’7") and soon to be free agent Kevin Williams (6’5"), and a couple different spots in between; the Seahawk interior line is a cornucopia of variety.

In terms of what Seattle is at risk of losing in free agency, the list is only Williams and reserve player D’Anthony Smith. And the Seahawks will technically be gaining back Jesse Williams and 2014 draftpick Jimmy Staten. In the recent past, Seattle has seemed to draft DT a year ahead of when they expect to need them, redshirt them for a year, and then revisit where they fit as an NFL sophomore.

If the plan is to redshirt 2015 draftpicks and then use them to replace the 2016 free agents, the Hawks potentially need to draft replacements for both Mebane and McDaniel. (This is, of course, as we sit today…before the beginning of free agency, where we likely see Seattle sign a DT.)

The Seahawks have always seemed to enjoy having at least one DT that pushes 6’5"+ and has really good length. Before McDaniel it was Alan Branch. At the combine, we could potentially see 5 guys 6’5" at DT: Leonard Williams, Jordan Phillips, Carl Davis, Leterrius Walton, and Leon Orr. Three of those names look like 1st round picks, and probably not available to Seattle. A 4th name (Orr), straight up quit the team at Florida a few months ago. So he’s probably not a Seahawk. Leaving us with Walton.

What we know:

Leterrius Walton - 6’5"/321/32 ¼" arms/80 1/8" wingspan (built very similarly to Kevin Williams, actually), team captain, 33 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 FF in 2014.

What we don’t know:

We don’t know much of what he looks like on tape. This is pretty much the most I could find:

(I’m not sure why that particular video editor only includes the splashier plays. I mean, the swim move at the end is great, but we need to see the weaknesses too.)

What we think we know:

He will perform very well at the combine and his interviews will be excellent. This is a name that has helium; as of Saturday, we will be hearing it more.

Another guy that is going to be destroying the combine, but that I’ve seen a bit more buzz on is ASU’s Marcus Hardison. He’s sometimes listed as a DE, but at 6’3"/311 he’s big enough to play DT (or Seattle’s Red Bryant style 5-tech). We’ve heard a bit more about Hardison because he was top 20 in the country in sacks (10.0), to go along with 15.0 TFL, 2 INT, and 3 FF. Hardison sometimes gets bit by the "one-year wonder" tag because he started at the JUCO level, transferred to ASU and didn’t do much in 2013 (played behind Will Sutton though). Marcus currently has a 5th round projection in some places, but I promise you, after Saturday, he won’t get out of day 2.

A guy that has a better shot at making it to day 3, that I like at a 3tech, and that I suspect tests really well is Rakeem Nunez-Roches. Preliminarily listed at 6’2"/305, I LOVE THIS GUY’S MOTOR. 58 tackles, 14.0 TFL, 3 sacks in 2014, but more importantly; watch for the motor…see if you can spot what is one of my favorite hustle plays I’ve watched this year:

If PCJS have put an emphasis on finding guys that finish plays, Rakeem is the kind of guy they have to be targeting. Currently only listed as the #388 overall prospect. Ahem. I’ll see your 388 and raise you to 188 by next Wednesday.

The final guy that I’m curious to see tested is the big Canadian from Rice. I know…that sounds redundant…but Christian Covington is another kid from north of the border that ended up at Rice and now has a 5th round projection. After only playing 7 games this year due to a dislocated knee cap, Covington is a bit of a mystery. This is the only 2014 tape of Christian I’ve been able to find, and it’s a bit cumbersome to watch, but he’s #1 in white jersey on defense:

If THAT is what Covington will be when back to fully healthy, I want him on my team. And if he tests well this weekend, hopefully that’s an indication he is back.

If the Seahawks are looking more at finding a nose tackle to be a future replacement for Mebane, I like Joey Mbu, who should test and interview well, but I’m not sure I like the price that Mbu is running. A preferable option may be to draft a NT that isn’t at the combine from the 5th round back.

Obviously, I’ve skipped over talking about all of the 1st round guys. I’m especially excited to see what Danny Shelton and Jordan Phillips will do on the field tests, but I hold out no hope that they would make it to Seattle anywhere in this draft.