With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on Feb. 24, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done.
We continue our series with Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. In 32 games for the Crimson Tide, Dareus, who faced double teams on nearly every play in 2010, put up 67 tackles (38 solo), 18 tackles for loss (16 solo), nine solo sacks, six passes defensed and 17 quarterback hurries.
Suspended for the first two games of the 2010 season after it was discovered that he'd received illegal benefits from an agent, Dareus nonetheless played very well in his junior year, and he's going to be in the top 10 of just about any draft board. Dareus' best game was probably his biggest, the 2010 BCS title game, where he returned an interception for a touchdown and knocked Texas quarterback Colt McCoy(notes) from the contest.
Pros: Plays effectively all over the line. Drives off the snap with decent quickness from a five-tech position in three-and four-man fronts, though his size (6-foot-3, 309 pounds) leads more naturally inside to the three-tech position. Inside, he splits double-teams well with quick rip and swim moves, getting into the backfield with authority. Gets good push at the start of a play against slide protection and can extend to the sideline without getting washed out.
Slips off blocks to help with run tackles. Generally comes up from a lower stance that affords him leverage, though he'll revert to a higher point once in a while. Excellent quickness and ability to redirect for a tackle – he'll peel off blocks and get downfield to stop a play with alarming quickness. Upper-body strength shows up not only at the line, but in space, where he can make tackles at times with just one hand. Reads well and closes in quickly on ballcarriers trying to split gaps inside.
Cons: If he's playing straight over the head of a bigger guard, Dareus can get bulled out of the play at times; in such instances, he's better off using his speed and hands to get by as opposed to getting in a strength battle. Doesn't possess consistently dynamic pass-rush moves from the end position.
Conclusion: Dareus doesn't play a "sexy" position; he's not going to explode on the scene like Ndamukong Suh(notes). But he's going to be a key cog for his NFL team as the player who commands double-teams and can make plays despite them. Most NFL teams prefer a taller five-tech in any front, though he could kick outside in certain situations. Versatile, tough and consistent, Dareus has the tools to become the centerpiece of a defense for many years.
More Shutdown 40
#40 -- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State | #39 - Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
| #38 - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor | #37 - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | #36 -- Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami | #35 -- Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor | #34 - Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State | #33 -- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State | #32 - Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida | #31 - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado | #30 - Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame | #29 - Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois | #28 - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State | #27 - Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA | #26 - Brandon Harris, CB, Miami | #25 - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin | #24 -- Jake Locker, QB, Washington| #23 -- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado| #22 - J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin | #21 - Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois| #20 - Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State | #19 - Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland | #18 - Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue | #17 - Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama | #16 - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa | #15 - Tyron Smith, OT, USC | #14 - Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri | #13 - Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College | #12 - Cam Newton, QB, Auburn| #11 -- Cameron Jordan, DL, Cal| #10 - Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri | #9 - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama | #8 - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska