This week’s look at the top prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft includes the best defensive tackle prospects in this year’s group. The Redskins have already added depth along the defensive line by signing Jason Hatcher from the Cowboys and Clifton Geathers from the Eagles since the free agency period began. So, as I said last week with defensive end, tackle probably won’t be a top priority for a Washington team that needs help in the secondary, at linebacker, at wide receiver, and along the offensive line (although free agency has also seen the Redskins add depth at all those positions).
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Washington would pass up a shot at any of the names on this list if the opportunity presented itself.
Defensive tackle is one of the deeper positions in the draft, with all ten of the following prospects possibly going in the first two rounds. As with the other deep positions, this is a double-edged sword for the Redskins: While a greater supply of talent means that Washington might have a chance to get a really good player, the Redskins’ lack of a first-round selection means that several of these guys will be gone before Washington is even on the clock.
1. Louis Nix (Notre Dame):
Nix presents a rather unusual situation. He’s considered the top defensive tackle prospect in the draft, but he suffered a knee injury (torn meniscus) at the end of last season that required surgery. As a result, despite being the top DT prospect, he may not be the first taken. He has a rare combination of tremendous size (over 330 pounds), strength, and surprising quickness. He’ll be a first-rounder in any case.
2. Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh):
Donald isn’t as big as Nix, at 6’1″, 285 pounds, but he’s got ridiculous measurables: 4.68 speed, 35 reps at 225, a 32″ vertical leap, and a broad jump of a little under ten feet. He’s also healthier than Nix, and, as indicated above, could be the first DT pick in the draft. Either way, he’s another sure-fire first-round pick.
3. RaShede Hageman (Minnesota):
At 6’6″, Hageman has a much different frame than most of the compact, low-to-the-ground prospects on this list. Scouts think of him as less polished than Nix, Donald, or Timmy Jernigan (see below), but as a tremendous physical talent whose impressive physique gives him more versatility than most. He’s a first-rounder whose stock has been rising.
4. Timmy Jernigan (Florida State):
An All-ACC pick, Jernigan is seen as having great lateral movement and overall technique. His first step needs to improve, but he’s a very accomplished college player (and a 300-pounder) who should also be gone by the end of the first round.
5. Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame):
The second Golden-Domer on this list, Tuitt came into 2013 a little out-of-shape and didn’t perform up to expectations early in the season. He’s another one whose frame (6’5″) and versatility are appealing to a lot of NFL teams. He’s got great all-around physical talent, and he will also be taken late in the first round or early in the second.
6. Dominique Easley (Florida):
Easley is a prospect with a lot of good points, including adept use of his hands to get rid of blockers, excellent penetration, and a high level of natural leverage with his 6’2″, 288-pound frame. However, he blew out both knees while in college, and he comes with some concerns over his health. As a result, he could go as high as the second round, or be taken much later.
7. Will Sutton (Arizona State):
The biggest knock on Sutton is probably his size. He’s only six feet tall with short-ish arms. The upside of that frame is that he’s got good leverage, but his size is seen as a limitation. Otherwise, he’s strong with good quickness off the ball. Sutton projects as a second- or third-round pick.
8. Kelcy Quarles (South Carolina):
Quarles has a lot of the ingredients that scouts love, boasting quickness at the snap, long arms, and a powerful build. One knock on Quarles is that he benefitted greatly from the fact that opponents had to commit extra blockers to handle his teammate, Jadeveon Clowney. Nonetheless, Quarles won’t have to wait long to join his teammate in the NFL, and should be gone by the third round, if not before.
9. Ego Ferguson (LSU):
Ferguson molded himself into a bona fide NFL prospect during his career with the Tigers, packing on 40 “good” pounds over the course of his time at LSU. He’s got a good frame and lengthy arms. Concerns include his quickness off the ball and his ability to rush the passer. He’s a likely second- or third-round pick.
10. DaQuan Jones (Penn State):
An All-Big Ten defensive lineman, Jones is big (322 pounds) and powerful. He also dedicated himself to getting in better shape prior to his senior year. However, he’s also been criticized for “taking plays off,” a red flag that always worries NFL teams to an extent. His success this past year is encouraging, though, and he’s another one who seems worth a second- or third-round selection.
To be honest, a combination of need and opportunity probably means that the Redskins won’t wind up with anyone on this list. Still, if one of these top prospects slips through the cracks for whatever reason, the Redskins would be fortunate to land one of the Top 10 DT in the NFL Draft.