2013 Draft Countdown: Defensive tackles
Cream of the crop
Just as the big men are the best part of the draft offensively, the same applies on the other side of the ball. Top-20 prospects abound and there’s versatility within the group between straight nose tackles (over the center), three-technique (outside the guard) and five-technique (outside the tackle).
Patriots pecking order
At the end of last season, the best interior players the Patriots had were Vince Wilfork and Brandon Deaderick. Kyle Love, who played well earlier in the season, tailed off some. Marcus Fortson, a rookie, also made some plays as a pass-rushing defensive tackle. Since the end of the season, the Patriots added Armond Armstead (left) and Jason Vega – former CFL players – and veteran DT Tommy Kelly. Armstead is the most intriguing addition for the Patriots and his joining the team serves as a pseudo-draft pick. The Patriots haven’t spent a high pick on a true defensive tackle in some time and given the class of players available, this could be a year they look to get Wilfork some high-end support up front. Others in the mix: Tracy Robertson
Shariff Floyd, Florida
Shariff Floyd, Florida: Generally regarded as the best prospect on the defensive line, Floyd is explosive and can play inside or outside the offensive tackle. He’s 6-2, 297 -- not overwhelmingly big -- but extremely quick and powerful. Probably a top-10 pick.
Star Lotulelei, Utah
At 6-2, 311, Lotulelei plays over the center or across from the guard as an interior defensive lineman. He’s got great power and plays with nimble feet and fluid motion for a player of his size. He had a heart condition that limited his Combine participation and teams may be wary of that, although he was cleared by doctors soon after.
Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
At 6-2, 294 pounds, Richardson is extremely disruptive with excellent quickness and athleticism. Also a relentless worker. His size isn’t ideal and may be better as a penetrating, one-gap lineman than one who’s asked to take on blockers.
Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
Another interior prospect, the 6-3, 313-pound Williams, does a good job getting upfield in a hurry. A hard worker, he has some time to make up since he only played one year of high school football. Has the potential to become a very good player and with his work ethic, he’s a good project to bet on.
Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
A 6-3, 320-pound load that is very hard to move making him an ideal two-gap player. His conditioning is a concern as many experts noted his tendency to wear down as games got late. A nose-tackle prospect in a three-man front.
John Jenkins, Georgia
At 6-4, 346, Jenkins is the biggest of the promising prospects near the top of the draft. Impossible to root out and a fairly savvy interior player, Jenkins – like Hankins – is a player whose conditioning and motor would be a concern.
It’s hard to pin down exactly what the Patriots want in their defensive linemen these days as they alter their fronts often and have gone from primarily a 3-4 team to one that uses four-man fronts about as often. As we’ve seen over the past decade, a dominant defensive tackle like Vince Wilfork can be a game-wrecker. The 6-4, 320-pound Jesse Williams from Alabama could be an interior target for the Patriots because of his size and power and the fact he played in Nick Saban’s sophisticated defense. Richardson, even though he doesn’t fit the normal profile of a huge interior guy, is an intriguing player as well because of his athleticism. He’d be a first-round option, perhaps, if the Patriots have fallen for him.