2018 NFL Draft rankings: Hand use, one gap vs. two gap and everything to know about DTs

This is the draft to pick a defensive tackle. The class of interior defenders features a handful of blue-chippers at the top and a plethora of quality prospects who'll likely be available anywhere from the second to the fifth round. 

Michigan's Maurice Hurst is the standout among the defensive tackles, and Vita Vea from Washington is one of the most dynamic athletes among 340-plus pound linemen. Taven Bryan from Florida emerged as a disprutive force in the SEC and probably has his best football ahead of him. The same can be said about Da'Ron Payne from Alabama, who'll only be 20 years old when he's drafted.

Below I've ranked each of the consensus top defensive linemen in the qualities I deem most necessary to be successful at those positions in the pros (listed in order of importance). I've also added one player who should be available a bit later in the draft who excels at each particular trait.

Other installments in this series: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Tackles, Interior Offensive Linemen, Edge-Rushers.

Pass-Rushing Moves/Hand Use

  1. Maurice Hurst
  2. Taven Bryan
  3. Harrison Phillips
  4. Vita Vea
  5. Da'Ron Payne
  6. B.J. Hill
  7. Derrick Nnadi

Hurst's swim move and club through the line of scrimmage are both devastatingly effective wrecking offensive plays before they can materialize. Bryan uses his long arms to his advantage often, and Phillips isn't super-consistent with his hand work, yet when he deploys his arm over or straight-arms offensive linemen, it's over. Vea certainly knows how to use his heavy hands at times, and Payne flashed that ability too. Hill and Nnadi are better with their hands in the run game. 

Sleeper: Will Geary

Geary is the blue-collar defensive tackle prospect with the greatest likelihood to outplay his draft position. Always a stout run defender due to his low center of gravity and active hands, Geary flourished as a pass-rusher in 2017 with a variety of pass-rushing moves that allowed him to out-leverage bigger, stronger, and more athletic blockers and get the angle advantage on them en route to the quarterback. 

Burst/Quickness

  1. Hurst
  2. Bryan
  3. Payne
  4. Vea
  5. Phillips
  6. Hill
  7. Nnadi

This is another area in which Hurst is clearly the best at his position in his class. The former Michigan star has a Geno Atkins-like first step and the lateral quickness to make plays moving down the line of scrimmage. Bryan is a supremely gifted athlete for his height and weight -- as evidenced by a combine performance that was close to as impressive as J.J. Watt's. Payne is an explosive mover. The final four prospects on this list don't win with their burst off the ball. 

Sleeper: Poona Ford

Somehow, Ford wasn't invited to the combine. Being a hair under 6-foot at the East-West Shrine Game likely didn't help him in that regard. The long-time, high-caliber producer at Texas is incredibly quick in one-gapping situations, and his smaller size actually helps him slip between bigger interior offensive linemen. There's a spin move in his pass-rushing arsenal too. 

Run Defense

  1. Hurst
  2. Phillips
  3. Vea 
  4. Payne
  5. Nnadi
  6. Bryan
  7. Hill

Because of his excellent blend of hand use and explosiveness, Hurst is a run-stopper extraordinaire. Phillips, Vea, and Payne clog running lanes and devour backs with strength, proper hand placement, and the refined ability to shed blocks at the point of attack. Bryan and Hill are no slouches against the run either. Hill is a pure nose tackle who's nearly immovable on the interior.

Sleeper: Deadrin Senat

Similar to Hill, Senat has an outstanding anchor and plays with constantly moving hands against the run. The former South Florida standout plays with a high motor and quickly finds the football then does what he needs to do to get there. He's strong enough to dispatch blockers on occasion but actually can make plays with sheer quickness as well.

Scheme Fits 

One Gap

  1. Hurst
  2. Bryan
  3. Payne
  4. Hill
  5. Vea
  6. Phillips
  7. Nnadi

Let Hurst get upfield, and he has the potential to be a double-digit sack interior lineman who'll also affect the opposition's run game. Bryan too would be best in a free, one-gap role but has the frame to play at an edge spot as well as inside if need be. Despite his nose-tackle frame, Hill would flourish if given the opportunity to get between the guard and tackle at three technique. Vea, Phillips, and Nnadi are better suited for two-gapping roles, where their strength and block-shedding skills would be accentuated best. 

Sleeper: Tim Settle

At 6-foot-2 and 320-plus pounds, Settle is deceptively quick off the ball and hits offensive linemen with a crazy amount of momentum. He looks like a space-eating nose tackle. He's not that type of defensive tackle prospect at all. In a one-gapping role, even at the one-technique, the former Virginia Tech Hokie would be able to reach his maximum potential in the NFL

Two Gap

  1. Vea
  2. Payne
  3. Phillips
  4. Nnadi
  5. Hill
  6. Bryan
  7. Hurst

Vea does have a good amount of potential in a one-gap role, yet would the most impactul with read-then-react duties. The same concept applies to Payne and Phillips. Nnadi, too is a wonderful run defender when he can see what's in front of him first. Hill certainly can two-gap and anchor against double teams. So can Bryan. Putting Hurst in a two-gapping role would be wasting his strengths as a penetrator.

Sleeper: Foley Fatukasi

An old-school two-gapping run-defender, Fatukasi can be the pivot man on a defensive line with an emphasis on stopping the ground game between the A and B gaps. Despite being taller than mose nose tackles, Fatukasi is generally good keeping his pad level relatively low, and he boasts a strong upper body. 

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