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John Lund's Top Defensive Tackles in the Draft

Posted Mar 4, 2014

Columnist and 95.7 The Game personality John Lund continues a position-by-position look at the top players available in the 2014 NFL Draft with the defensive tackles.

Columnist and 95.7 The Game personality John Lund continues a position-by-position look at the top players available in the 2014 NFL Draft with the defensive tackles.

Over the last couple of years the Raiders defensive tackle position has seen major changes. Last off-season Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly left the Raiders and this off-season Pat Sims, Vance Walker and Daniel Muir are free agents. Versatile Lamarr Houston, who can play tackle and end, is slated to be a free agent as well. It’s a group which needs attention both in free agency and in the draft. 

My 2014 NFL Draft defensive tackle rankings and one sleeper who could fit with the Raiders:

Aaron Donald - Pittsburgh - 6’1” – 285 pounds: Arguably the best defensive player in the nation in 2013. Recorded 11 sacks, 28.5 tackles for loss and won the Outland Trophy (best college interior lineman) and Chuck Bednarik Award (best college defensive player). He continued his dominance at the Combine with an interior lineman-best 4.68 40-yard dash and 35 reps on the bench press. Undersized but extremely quick off the snap. Penetrates well inside off first step, high motor, high effort, good character. Has been compared to Bengals All-Pro Geno Atkins. Only knock is his size.

Where he’ll go: First round. He isn’t for every scheme, but if a team is looking for a penetrating interior lineman to rush the passer and shoot gaps in the run game, he’s the best in the 2014 Draft. If the Raiders trade down in the first, he could be a target.    

Louis Nix - Notre Dame - 6’4” – 331 pounds: If Donald could be Geno Atkins, Nix could be Vince Wilfork. A massive man who is hard to move out of the middle but does have quickness and athletic ability for his size. Had a better 2012 when Notre Dame reached the national title game, missed five games in 2013 with an injured knee. A run stuffer who demands double teams, he’ll never put up flashy stats but will impact the run game and push the pocket.

Where he’ll go: First round. Defensive linemen with his size and athletic ability are hard to find. How early he goes depends on the fit. Like Donald, not every team is looking for his skill set.  

Will Sutton - Arizona State - 6’ – 303 pounds: If a team is getting the 2012 version of Sutton (23.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks), he is a first round talent who can make an immediate impact. If a team is getting the 2013 version (13.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks), he’s a third rounder who needs some work. The drop in production is thought to be about his weight gain form 2012 to 2013. He played at an athletic and quick 285 pounds as a junior but gained 20 pounds as a senior and lost his burst. An NFL scout told me he’s best at no more than 290. Weighed in at 303 at the combine and did not look like he had regained the quickness that had made him special in 2012.

Where he’ll go: Second to third round. A quick penetrator when in shape and weight is under control, a team will think it can get the most out of him and could get a steal in the right scheme. If he slipped to the third, Raiders could take a look.   

RaShede Hageman - Minnesota - 6’6” - 310 pounds: The wildcard of the defensive tackles. A size-speed-weight prospect who could hit big, but was not consistent in college. Was impressive at the Combine with 32 reps on the bench press and showed athletic ability in drills. Long arms and perfect size for the position, will get drafted earlier than production because of upside.

Where he’ll go: Late in first round or early second. I’m told he could be JJ Watt good or Albert Haynesworth bad, boom or bust.

Timmy Jernigan - Florida State - 6’2” – 299 pounds: One of the key cogs in a defense that won the national title in 2013 at Florida State. Good size and strong. Not as quick off the ball as Donald, but can penetrate. Made a lot of plays inside in 2013 with 63 tackles and 11 tackles for loss. Posted 27 reps on the bench at the Combine and ran a 5.06-second 40-yard dash. Some scouts were concerned he took off a key drive late in the national championship, took himself out of the game. Only started one season at Florida State.

Where he’ll go: First round. Teams seem to either love him or see a guy who isn’t big enough to be a run stuffer or quick enough to be a penetrating tackle. Solid production cannot be ignored.  

SLEEPER:

Daniel McCullers - Tennessee - 6’7” – 352 pounds: Nicknamed “Shade Tree” due to his massive size. He’s not going to sack the quarterback, he had 1.5 career quarterback take downs in college, but he could make it tough to run the ball anywhere near the middle of the field. Tough to root out of the box and played with decent leverage despite 6’7”-frame. He’s raw and will need refinement on his technique, but he’s strong, could play in short-yardage situations to start.

Where he’ll go: 4th-5th round type. A situational player who could develop into something more with the right coaching.

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed in John Lund's Wheel Route column represent those of John Lund, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Oakland Raiders organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. The author's views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Raiders officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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