Defensive tackle preview: 2012 could be a down year

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)


  1. Kip Earlywine

    I think its important to note that just because a class is weak at a position doesn’t mean you can’t find a great pick there. Aaron Rodgers is arguably the most valuable QB in the NFL right now, and he was drafted in one of the weakest QB classes of the decade. Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow could end up having pretty good careers out of another bad class of talent.

    Regarding DT, Seattle got a very good DT in Brandon Mebane with a 3rd rounder in a year that saw only 3 DTs taken in the first two rounds combined. Of those 3, Okoye had a blazing first month with 4 sacks but in the 4 years since then has only 7 sacks combined. Harrell has been a massive bust, and Branch was a bust until the Cardinals pulled a Red Bryant and moved him to strong side DE with similar success.

  2. Dude

    I was a little surprised they didnt spend any picks on DT. It really felt like they needed depth here. They must feel that Mebane is coming back, but I will be concerned if they cant bring in one or two free agents.

    Also, not really a DT, but do you guys feel that Ray Edwards has a shot to land here?

    • Morgan

      We certainly need to do something if\when FA begins. I’m struggling to think of a more uninspiring DL than the ‘hawks current lineup.

      • Dude

        True, not to many coordinators will be loosing sleep game planning for Colin Cole. Sadly though, I personally think when healthy this was the strength of the defense last year.

  3. Attyla the Hawk

    I’m surprised Alameda Taa’mu isn’t mentioned. In the latter half of the season and in particular against Nebraska, this guy was the best player on the field. Although I understand it’s tough to separate such a small sample size, his late blooming dominance reminded me of Walter Jones/Cortez Kennedy. Jones taking the JUCO route and blossoming late. I don’t recall Tez even starting until his junior year and wasn’t anything close to being a #3 overall selection after his junior year.

    Funny too, because 90 was a pathetic year for DTs as well.

  4. Cliff

    Rob, I think it’d be pretty helpful to compare 2012 prospects to 2011 or maybe 2010 prospects to get a feeling for where guys compare. Do the top DTs in 2012 compare to someone like Liuget or higher? Just an idea to compare and it’ll show how strong/weak a position is for each draft.

    • Rob

      Nice idea.

  5. ScozzRocket

    Look out for Mike Martin – DT – Michigan. Go Blue!!!

  6. Trenchtown

    When I watched Nebraska this year, I was looking in particular at Jared Crick as he was projected to be a possible first round pick this past year. I saw the same things you did, but I also saw something you didn’t mention is that he was excellent and relentless in pursuit. I know in the NFL especially you want your lineman stopping the run at the point of attack and creating pressure, but there is something to be said for a 6’5″ lineman who is able to get out to the flat or catch up an make a tackle in the second level. I give Crick some brownie points for those skills.

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