Defensive Tackles- NFL Draft 18

1. Vita Vea (Washington)- Anytime the Washington Huskies were playing, I was always looking to see what damage in the interior would this guy create. As I kick off things for the defensive prospects in this year’s draft, Vita Vea comes in as my top defensive tackle in the 2018 NFL Draft. The first thing you immediately take away from him when you watch the film is the rare combination of size and light feet. Although his primary position is defensive tackle, the Huskies would use him as a edge rusher and it’s definitely rare to see a 350 pound defensive player lined up on the edge as a pass rusher, but he can do it. He’s very intimidating at the point of attack and has the power to bully offensive guards and pummel centers in isolation like situations along with a serious bulrush ability once he gains momentum early in his rush. He’s able to shed blockers and range to down the line of scrimmage to squeeze running lanes and make tackles.

2. Da’Ron Payne (Alabama)- With Jonathan Allen now playing on Sunday’s, Da’Ron became the anchor of the Crimson Tide’s defensive line and the playmaker of the interior and his great season earned him second-team All-SEC honors as he recorded 53 tackles, one sack, one interception and three pass break ups. When he needed to step it up when it mattered, he did just that as he single-handedly dominated the Clemson Tigers offensive line by himself. He’s an elite run stuffer and he possesses tremendous natural strength and it doesn’t matter who was running in his direction, he was always there to stop it whether it was a running back or quarterback. Weighing at 311 pounds, he plays this position with great instintcs and impressive range. I’ve seen teams try to run halfback stretch plays and the big guy was always there showing his quickness and footwork to get to the ball-carrier. He can also handle his business as a pass defender and the playoff game against Clemson is a perfect example. When he’s in the right position at the perfect time, he will get an interception and he still finds ways to be a thorn in the quarterback’s side as he can get his hands up and knock the football down.

3. Maurice Hurst (Michigan)- After Jabrill Peppers left Ann Arbor, this became Maurice Hurst’s time to shine as he became their best all-around defensive player and one of the top defensive tackles in the country. He’s so active up front and has disruptive initial quickness and always finds a way to burst through and get to his destination. Once he gets to the gap, he can play skinny and slither his way to make a tackle. He has a natural nose for the football and can shift himself to the edge to bring down running backs. Hurst has some of the most violent hands and scouts will say he flurries with his hands as if he were a lightweight boxer. He’s that pocket pusher, the term that I often use to describe those interior defenders that aren’t necessarily pass rushers, but they can still impose their will and affect the quarterback. At the combine, he was sent home due to a heart condition. I’m offering my best wishes to Maurice and hopefully he will be able to pursue his dreams of playing in the NFL.

4. Taven Bryan (Florida)- In 2014, he was a redshirt freshman and the following year, he became a reserve. In 2017, NFL scouts were able to see what he could bring to the table and he didn’t disappoint. Although he’s an interior defensive lineman, he plays with the agility and speed of a defensive end. He’s a rangy tackler that plays with an extended motor and he’s extremely tough and determined. He works quickly to attack as an edge rusher and when it comes to pass defense, he can bend under the guard’s edge and get around the corner to rush the passer. I see him being used as a situational defender in the NFL.

5. Harrison Phillips (Stanford)- The Stanford Cardinal will always pride itself on defense and they had a nice anchor of their defensive line in the middle when it came to Harrison Phillips. The first thing I always took away from watching him play was how active he was up front and when the opportunity presented itself, he found a way to get after the quarterback. He has quick hands to shed blockers and even when he’s tripped up, he still finds a way to get to the ball-carrier. He’s as good at stopping the run as some of the best in this draft class. He has the speed to come off the snap, push the offensive lineman back into the pocket and then, he gets after the quarterback and brings him down. He’s physical at the line of scrimmage and can disrupt an offensive drive by pushing them back when they are driving the football down the field.