There are several positions that you have to have difference makers to win in the NFL, and it's becoming increasingly clear that Defensive End in a 3-4 is one of those positions. Where's the best place to find difference makers? The first round of the draft of course. Enter Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins.
Hankins is a three year player who started every game as a Sophomore and Junior before deciding to enter the NFL Draft. He made the First Team All-Big Ten Defensive Line this past season, after being named an Honorable Mention in 2011. He recorded 138 tackles over his career, with five sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss, but that doesn't tell the entire story. He probably would have had more, except for the fact teams just decided to run away from him, as we see time and again with great players. He anchored the Defensive Line of the 12-0 Buckeyes this past season, playing all over the line.
Hankins had some weight issues when he arrived in Columbus, which is why he was lightly recruited, even by his home state Spartans and Wolverines. After his Freshmen year, however, he dedicated himself to getting into shape, which meant he was down to 330 for his Sophomore season, then down to 317 before last season, trying to increase his stamina, athleticism, and agility. It worked for the most part, but I've seen several scouting reports say he still has some work to do to increase the number of snaps he's on the field.
As you'll see below, one of the players Hankins is being compared to is Dontari Poe, who was drafted 11th overall last year by the Chiefs. They have the same body type - big, massive DTs that are very athletic - which is why Hankins is being talked about as a first round pick. Poe started all 16 games last season, and the fact the Chiefs went 2-14 probably didn't help his cause, but he didn't make nearly the impact some thought he would. Personally I think he went a little high, so if his clone goes to the Colts at 24, it's definitely a better value.
If selected by the Colts, Hankins would easily step in as a starter Day 1 with Cory Redding and the NT (presumably Josh Chapman?). He'd instantly improve their run defense, which is his strong suit, and something we know we've heard Chuck Pagano say he wants to do. The value may be slightly higher with a couple other guys, if they fall to this spot, but the Colts could certainly do a lot worse that a big, athletic DT/DE.
Nice job against the run, tracking the play with his eyes and using his body to force the issue. Taller nose tackle prospect with thick upper body and extra girth in the middle. Plays all over the line, often outside the tackle despite his build because of his rare agility.
Lacks the burst to be an elite pass rusher, though he can make quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket. Can play with high pads, giving better linemen a chance to stand him up.
Strictly looking at his size, many think that Hankins is merely a nose tackle. While he did line up over the center, Hankins was often used as a five-technique lining up on the outside shoulder the offensive tackle on pass downs. On run plays, Hankins was typically playing three-technique.
Ohio State made a point of using Hankins more in 2012, and he may have been overused. Playing so many snaps, Hankins wore down late in some games. Had questionable effort at times as a junior. Maybe it was because of overuse or because he was discouraged by consistent double teams.
Hankins isn't quite as big as Taylor, but they play in a similar fashion. They're both massive defensive tackles with athleticism to make plays at the sideline. Like Taylor, Hankins can be utilized in several different ways on the defensive line, but teams will have to aware of how many snaps he plays.
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