Defensive tackle is the most underwhelming position on the defensive side of the ball this year, but still has elite talent at the top. Most of these players fit as a 3 technique or a 3-4 defensive end, and it will be tough to find a nose tackle ready to start from day one. Most of the defensive tackles won’t serve as three down players to start and teams are going to have to look to develop them.
Jaleel Johnson, Iowa: Johnson is a solid athlete with good tools to get after the quarterback. He’s not much of a run stuffer but he has great hands and controls blockers at the line of scrimmage. He struggles against stronger lineman and gives a little ground but he stays low to the ground and can beat them with speed. He’ll work as an interior pass rusher but don’t expect to see him much in run situations. Johnson is a third round round prospect that had effort concerns so it may be tough for him to get into a rotation early.
Chris Wormley, Michigan: Wormley impressed teams during senior bowl week and improved his pass rushing skills throughout his senior season. Wormley is at his best playing DE in a 3-4 scheme but there’s questions over whether he can function in a 4-3 scheme. He can get to the quarterback and create penetration but it’s not at a consistent level. He’s much better against the run game where he has great anticipation. Wormley isn’t a second round prospect but 4-3 teams will most likely stay away from the former Wolverine.
Malik McDowell, Michigan State: McDowell might be the most talented player on the list but teams have some serious questions about his effort. Following a stellar sophomore season his numbers dropped a little and it was clear on tape that he was not giving it his all. Following an injury in the middle of the season he was pretty much useless and seemed like he was ready to get to the draft. This could show teams that he’ll be a contract player but he still has insane talent. He’s a freak downhill athlete that finds his way into the backfield consistently. He has the rare skill to cause non stop pressure on the quarterback from the interior of the line and finds running backs in the backfield more often than not. He’s a first round prospect that should find himself playing passing situations if effort is still a problem, but if not he’s an every down player.
Caleb Brantley, Florida: Brantley offers great speed and burst from the interior and works as a pass rusher. He does most of his work in the backfield by blowing past offensive lineman but has the strength to stop the run game at the line sometimes. Teams don’t think he offers the size and strength to play in a 3-4 but in a 4-3 where he’s shooting gaps he has pro bowl potential. Brantley is a first round prospect that will most likely play during passing situations early in his career before becoming a three down player.
Jonathan Allen, Alabama: Allen is far and away the best defensive tackle prospect and has top 10 skill. Following his combine there’s questions over how his shoulders will hold up in the NFL but if healthy he’ll be a freak. He’s a complete prospect that can stop the run and pass rush, and has no problem switching between a 3-4 and 4-3. He’s an elite prospect on a similar level of Suh or Donald when they left school. He’s also one of the best athletes in the draft with scary speed for someone his size, look up his 75 yard pick 6. Allen is a top 10 prospect with game changing talent and even if injuries are a concern one team will value his talent more than the risk.