By Michael Stewart
Introduction: Continuing with the Defensive Line prospects, we’ll focus on the Defensive Tackles that should be available for the Giants in each round. Based on projections for the upcoming draft, twenty three Defensive tackles could be taken in the draft; which averages out to three per round. The Giants are committed to beef up both sides of the line of scrimmage and if they decide not to address the Defensive Tackle position through free agency, then the draft would be next option. Here’s a look at some of the prospects courtesy of Walterfootball.com:
DT-Da’Ron Rayne-6’2/319 (Alabama): Payne had 47 tackles, two sacks and a pass batted in 2017. He was superb, showcasing his freakish speed and athleticism. Payne was a tremendous run defender all year, shutting down his gap and keeping teams from running the ball on Alabama. When the Crimson Tide let him rush the passer, Payne demonstrated the ability to collapse the pocket and pressure the quarterback as well. He was superb in the playoff games against Clemson and Georgia. DT-Vita Vea-6’5332 (Washington): Vea has a serious combination of size, length, strength, and quickness at the point of attack. He is a heavy nose tackle who is a rock against the run and can occasionally collapse the pocket in the pass rush. Vea totaled 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks and four passes batted in 2017. He has shown the ability to contribute somewhat in the pass rush while being big, strong, and having a burst at the point of attack.
DT-Tim Settle-6’3/335 (Virginia Tech): Settle put together a strong 2017 season and was one of the better defenders on a tough Virginia Tech defense. The big nose tackle totaled 36 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, and one pass batted for the year. That was a big improvement over his 2016 season when he had 17 tackles and no sacks. The physical defender is probably more likely to be a second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft given how nose tackles are downgraded. DT:Taven Bryan-6’4/295 (Florida): Bryan has a tremendous get-off with serious explosion off the snap. He also has developed strength with active hands to shed blocks. With his length, Bryan can play end or tackle, and he would be a perfect fit as a five-technique. He had a late start in football, however, from growing up Wyoming, and that shows up in him not demonstrating good instincts. Bryan can also go late in the 1st round, but I believe he’ll into the early 2nd round as well.
DT: Maurice Hurst-6’2/282 (Michigan): Hurst totaled 56 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, one pass broken up and five sacks. He has superb first-step quickness as he can constantly fire his gap and get into the backfield. Hurst is so fast off the snap that he often breaks into the backfield while offensive linemen are still getting out of their stances. If Hurst were bigger, he would be a sure-fire first-rounder. Hurst still might be a Thursday night pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but a lack of weight and length could cause him to go lower. Sources from multiple teams have told me they are grading him in the late second to early third round.
DT: Harrison Phillips-6’4/295 (Stanford): Phillips turned himself into a NFL prospect with a tremendous senior season. He had 103 tackles with 17 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the year. In speaking with a director of college scouting who was scouting at Stanford, they felt that Phillips is a mid-rounder. They said that Phillips struggles with double teams and has limitations as a pass-rusher for the NFL that pushed him down, but they think Phillips is a good run stuffer for the next level.
DT: Justin Jone-6’2/311 (North Carolina State): Jones played well in 2017 for N.C State, showing some quickness at the point of attack to fire into the backfield and cause disruption. He also rushed the passer pretty well for an interior lineman. He had 2.5 sacks, 34 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss on the year.
DT: B. J Hill-6’4/315 (North Carolina State): Another Wolfpack joins his fellow DT in the 4th round as Hill was part of a talented defensive line for the Wolfpack, and all four of their 2017 starters are future NFL contributors. Hill is a tough run defender at the point of attack who is tough to move and reliable to fill his gap. The senior recorded 57 tackles with 5.5 for a loss, three sacks and three passes batted in 2017.
DT: Nathan Shepherd=6’3/310 (Fort Hays State): Shepherd was one of the Division II products who did well enough to earn a Senior Bowl invitation. In Mobile, he held his own before getting injured. In 2017, Shepherd totaled 38 tackles with 12.5 for a loss and four sacks. He had 61 tackles with three sacks in 2016 and 69 tackles with three sacks in 2015. Shepherd could play tackle in a 4-3 and or five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense. DT: Folorunso Fatukasi-6’4/303 (Connecticut): Fatukasi notched 45 tackles, 7.5 for a loss and four sacks in 2017. He had an impressive week at the East-West Shrine. Fatukasi was quick at the point of attack and also strong to hold his ground. He showed the versatility to fit a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
DT: Christian LaCouture-6’4/290 (LSU): LaCouture would fit best as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense in the NFL. As a senior, La Couture totaled 66 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, 6 sacks and five passes broken up. He had a solid week at the Senior Bowl as well. With the Giants possibly moving or using more 3-4 schemes, LaCouture could a solid late round addition as a rotational Defensive Linemen.
DT: Greg Gilmore-6’3/318 (LSU): Gilmore has some versatility to fit as a three-technique or nose tackle in a 4-3 defense. In a 3-4, he can play end or tackle given his weight with enough length. In 2017, Gilmore totaled 53 tackles with 10 behind the line of scrimmage. Gilmore has some size and strength at the point of attack, but looks limited.
Final Thoughts: As I mentioned earlier, 23 Defensive Tackles are projected to be drafted and that’s not including the many others that will be UDFA. So if the Giants are planning on adding beef along the Defensive Line, he is there chance to do so.