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2016 NFL Draft: Jared's Gems at defensive tackle

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Profiling some of the more intriguing 2016 draft options at DT.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Seahawks are currently functioning with a defensive line crew that will see both starting DT hit free agency upon the conclusion of 2015 season: Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin. They could also be seeing the departure of Demarcus Dobbs (UFA) and David King (ERFA). The youth of the position was completely decimated with the cutting of Jimmy Staten, TY McGill, and another injury-lost season for Jesse Williams (also an ERFA). At the moment, Jordan Hill is kind of our only lock to be back next year.

I think Seattle will have the option/space to re-sign one of Bane/Rubin (likely the cheaper of the two), they have a history of finding DT bargains on the free market, but it would still be nice to find another quality, club-control rookie DT for 2016.

We’re only two weeks in to the 2015 college football season, but the good news is: I’m already very impressed with the 2016 defensive tackle draft class. Granted some of my favorite guys are only juniors, but they are draft-eligible should they decide to declare.

In this two-part series, we’ll take a look at handful of guys from each of the Senior and Junior classes. Up first, the Seniors:

Adolphus Washington – Ohio State

Washington lists at 6’4"/290lbs, and gives you more of that pass-rushing 3-tech kind of look. He’s pretty long, with a big powersource, but he struggles to hold the line versus doubles. He’s at his best hitting the OL with his great swim-move in pass rushing situations. Rumor has it he’s a fairly nice athlete…a former highly accomplished high school hooper…and he definitely checks off the box in the interview portion of the competition.

Washington has a line of 10 tackles, 0.5 TFL, and 1 QB hurry on the young season. He is draftscout’s #32 overall prospect, meaning he would cost your 1st round pick. I’m not sure that’s the value Seattle likes for DT.

Jonathan BullardFlorida Gators

Bullard continues in the line of recent Gator hybrid DE/DT’s after Dominique Easley and Dante Fowler. Bullard lists at 6’3"/283lbs and like the two men just mentioned that preceded him into the NFL, Bullard has pretty remarkable getoff. That was the first thing I noticed. The next thing I noticed in the 4 games I watched of him, it appears in 2014 Bullard was predominantly an Edge player under ex-Florida coach Will Muschamp. Jim McElwain seems to be using Bullard more as an interior player this year (maybe 60-40 :: inside-outside).

As a DT, Bullard is conceding 20-30lbs on other DT and OL, but shows surprising anchor versus double-teams. On the attack, Bullard has an extremely violent initial punch, but otherwise a seemingly limited pass rush repertoire.

In the early going of the 2015 season, Jonathan has 7 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1 sack, and 2 QB hurries. Draftscout has Bullard ranked #67 overall. I can start getting interested in a DT in the 2nd round, so at 67 Bullard could be good value.

Sheldon Day – Notre Dame

Okay, right off the bat, this might be the best dude in this story. Day will win the combine in the team interviews. Period.

But he’s probably not going to win at the weigh-in. At listed 6’2"/285lbs, Day is probably closer to 6’0" and draft media (and maybe even some NFL personnel) will try to sell him as Aaron Donald-esque, but the fairer comp may be former ASU lineman Will Sutton.

The first obvious thing to note in this edit is that big ol’ "C" on Sheldon’s jersey. Team captain. The next things to note: how often is Day just swallowed up by bigger, longer OL? He’s almost non-existent against the run. How often does Day miss tackles? Even when Sheldon is right on the cusp of making a big play, he misses somehow. He’s not a closer.

The season stats seem to support my view of the tape: 2 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 4 QBH in two games. And in a bigger sample size, Day had only 1.0 sack in all of 2014. Draftscout has Sheldon ranked #70 overall, but that is simply much too rich for my blood.

Sheldon Rankins - Louisville

Easily my preferred Sheldon in this story, Rankins lists at 6’2"/303lbs and he’s a guy I’ve been following for a while.

Pro Football Focus recently came out with their list of the best run-defending college DT from 2014, and Rankins was #1. So we know he can play 1st-2nd down. But…in 2014 Rankins also tallied 8.0 sacks; which puts him in the top 10 for interior DL (including 2015 draftpicks). Although different body types, Rankins’ junior year pretty closely resembles that of Indianapolis Colts’ 2015 3rd round pick (and week 1 NFL standout) Henry Anderson.

Henry: 65 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 8.0 sacks, 2 PBU, 9 QBH.

Sheldon: 53 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 8.0 sacks, 1 PBU, 2 INT, 2 QBH.

On film, Rankins excels with his hand use. Really active and violent hands consistently keep Sheldon’s chest clear, and OL unable to latch on. I’ve tweeted before that I thought Rankins resembled Jordan Hill, but upon spending more time on him for this piece, I kinda think he’s Brandon Mebane. Or at least Rankins today is what Mebane was in 2006.

Rankins is 6’2"/303…Mebane came out of Cal measuring 6’1"/309. Rankins had 8 sacks as a Junior…Mebane had 7. Mebane destroys Centers when lined up in nose…Rankins is doing the same thing.

The one (minor) complaint I have with Rankins’ 2014 tape is that he just doesn’t have the same snap-fire that the previous names have. Rankins does have better fundamentals and plays more assignment sound football, though. As a result, Rankins has yet to splash the backfield this year (0 TFL, 0 sacks), but he does have a staggering 15 tackles already in 2 games. That's a crazy number for a DT. For reference: in his 1st round pick year in 2014, Danny Shelton averaged 6.64 tackles/game. Rankins is at 7.50.

Rankins is draftscout’s #118 overall prospect, which would currently put him in range of either Seattle’s native 3rd round pick OR their Byron Maxwell 3rd-comp pick. Awesome value if it holds true.

Javon Hargrave – South Carolina State

It wouldn’t be a Gems without unearthing a few sleepy, sleepy sleepers. Hargrave is a guy I found a couple weeks ago while just digging through crates. He’s listed 6’2"/295lbs and in 2014 he finished the year with 16 sacks and 24 TFL in 12 games. On tape, he reminds me quite a bit of Hawks’ preseason scene-stealer TY McGill.

Hargrave opened his final season with 7 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, and 3 QBH in the following game:

Javon is lightning quick for a guy his size. Within 10 snaps of the edit, he’s shown punch, a good rip move, a good swim move, and a great bullrush. He’s truly dominant against this level of competition. My big question on him (other than his occasional over-pursuit): does he have long enough arms? We might be looking at 31". Generally, we’ve seen PCJS try to find guys with 33" arms on their DL. Hargrave is draftscout’s #233 overall prospect, which means 7th round. Totally fine value.

Jihad Ward - Illinois

Jihad Ward is going to be the 180 degree opposite of Hargrave; at 6’6"/295lbs, Ward is almost entirely length. A former JUCO transfer, Ward is in his 2nd season in Illinois. In 2014 he posted 51 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 1 PBU, 5 QBH, and 2 forced fumbles.

In 2015, Ward opened the season as a question mark to even play the opener after having arthroscopic knee surgery in mid August. But, low and behold, I check the Illinois-Kent State boxscore after week 1 and Jihad not only played, but he picked up 3 tackles, including one for loss. I don’t have tape yet on him from Illinois, but here is some of his work in community college:

http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2275647/highlights/33845374/v2

Ward is the body type that I’ve been looking for, and that I think the Seahawks have been looking for that can fill that Tony McDaniel, Alan Branch, Jason Jones role. Draftscout has Ward at #269 overall, but I think the buzz is building.

Personally, I'm very fond of the idea of Sheldon Rankins in the 3rd round. I like that spot for a DT in general...it would theoretically allow OL in 1st, RB in 2nd, and then flip a coin for DT and OL2 with the 3rd and 3rd-comp picks...but also because Mebane and Jordan Hill were 3rd rounders.

I also like coming back somewhere in the 6th or 7th to get a guy like Jihad Ward.