We’ve become accustomed to seeing highly talented defensive tackles drafted early. This year Marcell Dareus went 3rd overall and the year before, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy were early picks at #2 and #3. Indeed 2011 in particular had good depth at the position with the likes of Nick Fairley, Phil Taylor and Corey Liuget ensuring numbers went alongside high quality.
As we preview the players to watch during the 2011 college season, it looks like the 2012 class may break the trend and could be a down year at defensive tackle.
The top ranked DT I had on my 2012 board last week was Fresno State’s Logan Harrell, a senior not many people talk about but someone I believe has the opportunity to significantly raise his stock. He had 10.5 sacks last season and returns to Fresno State hopefully having added an extra 10-15lbs, so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs with extra weight. So far he’s relied on quick feet and great hand placement to get away from blockers and into the backfield. Can he maintain that agility? He’s also lost prolific edge rusher Chris Carter to the NFL, which could lead to more double teams inside. However, he’s the defensive tackle I’m looking forward to watching the most in 2011.
Jerel Worthy looks every bit the NFL prospect at 6-3, 303lbs. When I watched Michigan State’s win over Penn State last season, he caught the eye with five tackles and a sack. However, it was in contrast to non-factor performances against Alabama and Wisconsin – tape of which you can find below. In both games he offered very little threat as a pass rusher and that’s what’ll get him drafted early. He’s got the frame to hold up against the run, but occasionally you see him driven back and that has to be a concern. Worthy has big-time potential if he can take the next step as a junior by contributing 6-8 sacks and continuing to improve against the run. Even so, my position of 20th on the big board may equally look generous in 12 months time.
Jared Crick of Nebraska is equally brilliant and frustrating. Despite losing Ndamukong Suh as his partner in crime for 2010, he actually managed to maintain his sack totals and has 18.5 in total for the last two seasons. You can’t argue with that kind of production. However, in the first half of 2010 he barely registered as he struggled to impact games. He was surprisingly quiet in the blowout over Washington and only seemed to burst into life after the upset defeat to Texas. Maybe a light switched on somewhere, but this is a player capable of explosive pass rushing ability and also a player capable of being easily blocked out of a game entirely. He’s at around 286lbs and his future may like at the five technique in the NFL. Crick should maintain his production in 2011, but probably also the inconsistency and that’s why I have him at #33 on the board.
The final prospect I’m going to mention didn’t make the top-50 but Marcus Forston is another name to watch out for at Miami. He missed the 2009 season through injury but returned to play 13-games for the Hurricanes last year, recording three sacks. He’s athletic for the position and certainly moves well on his feet, but too often he’s driven back by mediocre interior lineman and he could be a liability in the run game. Teams looking for a three-technique to play alongside a productive one-technique could show interest in Forston in the middle rounds but given his obvious benefit comes as a pass rusher, three sacks in 2010 isn’t enough to make up for the average run stopping ability. He needs to show more.
Logan Harrell vs Cincinnati (2010)
Jerel Worthy vs Michigan State (2010)
Jared Crick vs Oklahoma (2010)
Marcus Forston vs Ohio State (2010)