Blog Entry

Finding the Fits -- Defensive Tackles

Posted on: May 11, 2011 5:48 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 3:07 pm
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Over the last week and a half I have been highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

The quality and depth of the 2011 defensive tackle class was one of the real strengths of this draft. Rather than focus on top 15 picks like Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley for this post, however, I wanted to continue to highlight other, lower-drafted prospects who I feel could surprise because of their combination of talent and schematic fit. For all of the hype that Detroit has gained for adding Fairley, it is worth noting that both he and Ndamukong Suh are both best suited to the three-technique position in Detroit's 4-3 scheme. One of them -- or perhaps veteran Corey Williams -- is going to be taking on an awful lot of double-team blocks on the nose to free up the other. The combination of Fairley and Suh inside could be special, but it isn't as clean of a schematic fit as some have suggested.

Here are the links for the other positions:
Players are listed alphabetically.

Quality Fits:

Jarvis Jenkins, Washington Redskins: One of the real upsets of the draft occurred when Jenkins was selected earlier (No. 41) than his much more celebrated linemate at Clemson, defensive end Da'Quan Bowers (No. 51). Though Jenkins wasn't as highly decorated as Bowers, he did play a significant role in taking on blocks and freeing up a stunting Bowers to rack up easy sacks. Jenkins played defensive tackle in a four-man front at Clemson, but his long arms, good strength and surprising lateral agility make him an intriguing switch to the five-technique defensive end position in the 3-4. 

Drake Nevis, Indianapolis Colts: Before and after Tony Dungy famously brought the "Tampa 2" defense to Indianapolis, the Colts had long valued undersized, penetrating defensive tackles. Nevis, 6-1 and 294 pounds, lacks the bulk and strength most teams are looking for inside, but his ability to collapse the pocket makes him an ideal fit for the Colts -- and at No. 87 overall, he presented very good value considering the early runs on defensive linemen in this draft and the Colts' need for help on the defensive interior.

Jerrell Powe, Kansas City Chiefs: Though I  have reservations about some of the Chiefs' other picks of the 2011 draft, Powe was potential steal, especially considering that the All-SEC selection fell all the way to the No. 199th overall pick. At 6-2 and 335 pounds Powe possesses the ideal measurements of a 3-4 nose guard, an area of concern for the Chiefs. Had Powe come out after the 2010 season, he might have been a second or third round selection. A terribly disappointing 2011 season, however, pushed him down the board. There is no denying Powe's talent nor his fit in this scheme. The payoff on this late 6th round gamble could be significant should the Chiefs be able to light a fire under Powe.

Questionable Fit:

Stephen Paea, Chicago Bears: Like the three teams listed above, the Chicago Bears entered the 2011 draft with considerable needs along their defensive front, especially inside at defensive tackle. The Bears elected to release former first round pick Tommie Harris and may need to fill a hole at nose guard should scheduled free agent Anthony Adams play elsewhere next season. Like Adams, Paea is shorter than most teams want at defensive tackle and relies on a combination of explosive strength and leverage to control his opponent. Should the Bears plug Paea in at nose as a replacement for Adams, I don't know that the former Beaver will prove as successful as Adams has been in Chicago. Simply put, Paea is not a particularly instinctive defender. He'll blow up his share of plays due to his incredible strength (Combine record 49 reps of 225 pounds), but he won't make many plays outside of the guard-center-guard box. Even worse, Paea is not ideally suited to take over for Harris. Besides the lack of instincts, Paea isn't particularly quick, making him a tough projection as a three-technique who is expected to penetrate and create havoc in the backfield. I like Paea's upside, his value in the mid second round and the fact that he'll be reasonably protected by Julius Peppers on the outside. However, Paea is not the dominant force his reputation has led some to believe.


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