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Rating the defensive tackles

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A conference-by-conference look at the top senior NFL defensive tackle prospects.


Dre' Moore, Maryland – An incredible all-around athlete for his position and size, Moore is likely to be considered an upper-echelon pick after the NFL Combine. He was given a late-round grade after an inconsistent junior season, but this season has four sacks, 40 tackles, six tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Moore can generate great power at the point of attack when he keeps his pads low and fires out off the snap. He needs to make better use of his hands as he can stay blocked and struggle to escape. Has drawn comparisons to former first-round pick Ty Warren as scouts believe he is versatile and athletic enough to play at both defensive tackle and defensive end in the NFL.

Kentwan Balmer, North Carolina – A raw-skilled, unpolished defender who has improved and could earn a third-round grade. At 6-foot-5, 295 pounds, he has shown power and quickness off the ball while recording 47 tackles. He has long arms, has shown improved technique and has flashed a much higher motor than in past seasons. Balmer was considered an underachiever, so some scouts think he is a one-year wonder. Others believe he is worthy and could play some downs at defensive end.

DeMario Pressley, N.C. State – Pressley is talented, but has been hampered by injuries. He has played most of this season with a right knee injury and has also suffered wrist, toe and elbow injuries that cost him time last season and this spring. He has a lot of potential and shows great flexibility, quickness and strength at the point of attack.

Andre Fluellen, Florida State – Fluellen has the quickness and up-field burst to dominate the line of scrimmage, but often looks ordinary on game film. He has good but not great size. Not a great worker from series to series. He moves well in space and makes plays in pursuit, but has trouble shedding blockers who lock onto him off the snap. He gets pushed around by bigger/physical interior linemen at times.

Carlton Powell, Virginia Tech – Powell was one of the best athletes this past spring, running in the 4.9 range while bench pressing nearly 450 pounds. He is well-known for his work ethic and plays with great desire. More of a one-gap, up-the-field defender as he lacks great bulk, but he can get after the quarterback and makes a fair amount of plays.


Nick Hayden, Wisconsin – Hayden has gone through an attitude transformation this season. He has shown renewed leadership skills as a senior and has been one of the team's most productive defenders. A bit of an underachiever who was not seen as very coachable, he has 44 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and two fumble recoveries. Still too tall and stiff off the ball, will locate the play a little late and lacks ideal quickness to get down the line in pursuit. But he has good-size (6-4, 300 pounds) and flashes a powerful punch to drive blockers back into the pocket. Good late-round guy who would work best in a rotation-based scheme.

BIG 12

Frank Okam, Texas – Okam was thought to be a possible first-round pick after a solid sophomore season. An up-and-down junior year forced him to return to impress scouts. He has good size, strength and is a good student. He already has his degree and has taken the LSAT. Some scouts wonder if he has the desire to become a great pro. Tends to get too tall out of his stance and just occupy space rather than looking to fight through blockers. Will flash power and quickness, but often doesn't play with a high motor for four quarters.

Red Bryant, Texas A&M – Coming off a right knee injury (ACL) that required surgery almost a year ago, Bryant has not been nearly as dominating this season. He has great size, power and can clog multiple gaps, thanks to his wide frame and long arms. He knocks down a lot of passes and gets into the passing lane when he gets penetration. Will stand up straight and look ordinary for stretches, especially when he gets winded. He needs to keep his weight in the 325-pound range. Can line up at either nose tackle or defensive tackle in a scheme that needs the security of a two-gap run-stuffer.

Derek Lokey, Texas – Lokey stands out for his hustle, power and willingness to sacrifice. He has come back from a broken right leg that cost him to miss time at the end of last season. Plays with leverage and shows his 500-pound bench press power when battling blockers, but will struggle as a pass rusher if his first move does not work.

Henry Smith, Texas A&M – A first-year starter who has made waves with his play. Smith is a junior-college transfer, recruited out of high school by most of the SEC. He is a powerfully built interior defender who has flashed initial quickness and the ability to shake off blockers and make plays at-or-behind the line of scrimmage. His effort and ability to locate the ball off the snap have improved.


Sedrick Ellis, USC – At 6-2, lacks the height of others at this position. But he can penetrate opposing blockers using his quickness and strength. Has the attitude, toughness and willingness to play through injuries that impress NFL defensive line coaches. Plays with good balance, stays active when he is blocked and rarely is seen getting off the ground without being around the ball or ball carrier.

Lionel Dotson, Arizona – One of the hardest workers on his team, Dotson's efforts have not gone unnoticed. He can get upfield and create pressure from his interior position. He leads the Wildcats with 5.5 sacks and has 40 tackles, eight for loss.


Glenn Dorsey, LSU – The best interior lineman in next year's draft. Dorsey returned to the Tigers even though he had mostly first-round grades after his junior season. He has great quickness, can dominate a game for long stretches and shows the ability to pressure the quarterback. Might need to watch his weight, but he has a rare combination of power, quickness, instincts and a nasty streak on the field.

Marcus Harrison, Arkansas – This strong, well-built run-stopper will face scrutiny after an arrest on drug and traffic charges. He was suspended by the Razorbacks. He packs a punch at the point of attack and can bully opposing linemen, but plays out of control at times, missing assignments or overpursuing. Can get too high off the snap and stay blocked when he gets winded. Needs to get into better shape and improve his stamina.


Maurice Murray, New Mexico State – A junior-college transfer who has grown into a legitimate NFL prospect. He leads his team with 3.5 sacks and has shown the ability to play either defensive end or defensive tackle. Has a strong upper-body, long arms, but stays low and can either attack off the snap or play contain equally well. He will take off some snaps and is not recognized as an ideal practice player. But he has a good motor on the field and could really up his grade in the postseason.

Trevor Laws, Notre Dame – An impressive swingman who has played both defensive end and tackle. Fights through blocks, makes good use of his hands and shows the quickness to defeat his man, but also make plays in pursuit. Is best when lined up in a 4-3 where he can penetrate, be used on stunts and create plays in pursuit.

Jason Shirley, Fresno State – Massive run stopper who was suspended last month after being cited for a DWI. Has shown potential as a guy who can come in and help dominate the line of scrimmage, but he needs to make better use of his hands and stay in shape.

Nate Robinson, Akron – Robinson is a double-transfer having signed with the University of Miami and then at Rutgers before ending up with the Zips. He has many of the tools teams desire, but is not known for having a great motor and his maturity has been questioned. A raw-tooled kid who might tease for a few years before rounding into form if properly motivated.


Kurt Hout, Ferris State (Mich.) – A Division II standout, Hout is quick off the ball and has shown the ability to create pressure when lined up inside. He might need to bulk up to the 290-pound range in order to handle the physical nature of the NFL. He is versatile enough to play some defensive end at the next level. Would impress scouts if he can run in the 4.8 range at 280-285 pounds.

Brandt Hollander, Yale – His smarts, hard-working style and steady improvement on the field have not gone unnoticed. Over the past four years, he has gained nearly 50 pounds. Could work well in a scheme that likes to rotate defenders.

Brian Schaefering, Lindenwood (Mo.) – An Illinois transfer, Schaefering has started to dominate at the NAIA level for a team that is 10-0. He stands 6-5, 285 pounds and leads his team with 6.5 sacks while adding 37 tackles and a blocked punt. Has a long, lean frame and could add 20-30 pounds over time.

Vernon Bryant, Hampton – An underrated run stuffer, Bryant plays in the shadow of All-MEAC defensive lineman Kendall Langford. He has good size and plays hard. He has recorded 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks this season, earning him priority free-agent status.

Cory Clark, Jackson State – A Mississippi State transfer, Clark has a run-stuffer body at just under 6-3, 330 pounds. He leads his team with 12 tackles for loss and has four sacks. He has a compact build and shows some area quickness off the ball, but tends to wear down.

Anthony Toribio, Carson-Newman (Tenn.) – A skilled interior defender who displays good hustle, power and the ability to make plays. Scouts wonder if he has the athleticism to play against faster/more talented competition. He has been timed in the 5.2 range at just under 6-2, 310 pounds.

Tywain Myles, Tarleton State (Texas) – Built more like a nose tackle – low to the ground, with broad shoulders and a thick base that allows him to gain leverage and push the pocket. Surprisingly quick off the ball, but not a great pass rusher. He eats up space and allows others to make the play. He has been timed in the 4.9 range at nearly 320 pounds and just under 6-2.

Adrian Grady, Coastal Carolina – Grady has played both defensive end and tackle in college, moving inside thanks to his strong upper-body and sturdy frame. Missed most of last season, but was able to get a medical redshirt. He is the school's career leader in sacks with 19, but has not been overly productive this year. He currently weighs about 265-268 pounds, so he could bulk up and remain inside or be tried at strong-side defensive end at the next level.

Keith McCleary, Mary U. (N.D.) – A thick-bodied run stuffer, McCleary could contend for a free-agent opportunity. He's just about 6-2, 300 pounds and plays with both good strength and balance. He shows the ability to take up space and handle double-teams at his current level of competition. A hard worker, he will not go down without a fight at the line of scrimmage.

Viliami Akoteu, Idaho State – A massively built run-stopper who at roughly 6-2, 340 pounds can create havoc for opposing blockers when he plays low and uses his hands. He's more of an enforcer type against his current level of competition, but shows just adequate quickness and may be too heavy-legged for the NFL.

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