As the NFL off-season continues to approach free agency and the upcoming Draft, Stampede Blue is breaking down the top prospects at each position. Last week, we analyzed the top 5 defensive ends in the 2019 class. Our readers requested that we move onto the defensive tackle position this week. Be sure to participate in the poll at the end of this story and we will keep the series going.
Quinnen Williams, DT Alabama:
Weight: 295 pounds
Quiennen Williams is a sure-fire top 5 pick. I could see him going number 2 to the Niners — imagine DeForest Buckner, Quinnen Willams, and Solomon Thomas on the same D-line — or number 3 to the Jets. Of course, he would be a great fit for the Colts, but it would take a big trade for Chris Ballard to get a shot to draft him.
Williams’ explosiveness is exceptional and his understanding of hand use and leverage is elite. He knows where to attack and how to establish control of the block and get work his way through the offensive line. When you add his incredible strength and unrelenting motor, which tends to be a recurring pattern with Saban prospects, you get a dominant penetrator who constantly finds himself in the backfield.
Oh yeah, he is good against the pass (8 sacks last year) and the run (19.5 tackles for a loss last year); and he also stunts well, something Eberflus does often.
Jeffery Simmons, DT Miss State:
Weight: 300 pounds
Simmons is a big and strong 3-tech who regularly and easily collapsed the pocket in college football’s most talented conference. He doesn’t have the same finesse and hand use as Williams, but he is a little stronger and can bull rush the guard into the backfield. For this reason, he excels against the run, especially when opponents try to run up the middle. He also excels in the passing game when the quarterback is forced to abandon the pocket and fight for positive yards. Finally, Simmons is a sound tackler with a non-stop motor who consistently plays through the whistle.
His big red flags?
First, in 2016 he participated in an altercation between his sister and another woman. During that conflict, Simmons hit the other woman. While he has since apologized and has not had any other character issues pop up, his Combine invite was rescinded and there is little doubt that it will give teams pause.
Second, last week he tore his ACL while training in Florida. The extent of his injury has not been yet disclosed, but he did state that he will be getting surgery. An injury like this all but guarantees that Simmons will miss the entire 2019 season. Gauging the impact of an injury like this on his future is difficult.
Overall, Simmons is a top-15 talent that will slip due to his red flags. If the Colts find Simmons on the board pick 34, I believe it would make absolute sense to take him as one of the team’s future piece on the interior of the defensive line. Bringing back a player like Margus Hunt and continuing to rely on Denico Autry is good enough in 2019 that Ballard shouldn’t feel the need to rush him back.
Ed Oliver, DT Houston:
Weight: 290 pounds
Ed Oliver entered the season as the favorite to be picked first in the 2019 NFL Draft. Some have even compared him to reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald because they share physical traits and smaller school origins.
Oliver is listed at 6’3’’ and 291 pounds, but he certainly doesn’t appear that big when he is standing next to other players in the trenches. If would guess that he is 6’1’’ or 6’2’’ and around 280 lbs. This would be slightly undersized to play the 3-tech position, consider that Autry is 6’5’’, but OIiver makes up for it with natural talent. He has natural get off, amazing leverage, outstanding penetration (better against the run than the pass, but good nonetheless), and very fluid hips.
His red flags are that he played 8 games his senior year due to a knee injury and that he got into a verbal confrontation with his coach over a coat on the sidelines.
Overall, Oliver is an undersized 3-tech that is extremely talented and has incredible potential. He will need to overcome health concerns and doubt revolving are the fact that he played against lesser competition in the AAC.
Christian Wilkins, DT Clemson:
Weight: 311 pounds
Christian Wilkins is one of tremendous DL prospects Clemson produced this year. He might be a little on the heavy side if the Colts want him to play at the 3-tech.
Technique wise, he’s very good. He can shed tackles and his relentless motor along, along with his ability to penetrate the pocket, make him a threat against both the pass and the run. NFL scouts will be impressed that he has produced all four years and that his production either stayed the same or went up. Further, Wilkins could have declared for the NFL draft last year but chose to go back to school and chase a championship, something teams may value.
For all the positive, some will be skeptical about his length and radius. Some analysts have expressed concern about his arm length and indicate that his Combine measurements could weigh heavily on his draft stock. To me, this is nitpicking.
While Wilkins was projected to go in the early 20s a few weeks ago, Simmons’ injury could move him up into the teens.
Dexter Lawrence, DT Clemson
Weight: 340 pounds
Dexter Lawrence is a great player who will certainly go in the first round but there are numerous reasons he might not be a great fit in Indianapolis.
First, he may not be a good schematic fit. If Colts take Lawrence he would be relegated to the nose tackle, or 0-tech, position previously played by Margus Hunt. Hunt is 6’8’’ and 275 pounds and play with great leverage and uses his fluid hips to shoot the gaps. Lawrence is 6’4’’ and 340 pounds (!) and uses decent hand placement and amazing strength to control the line of scrimmage. He is not a penetrator and it reflected in his numbers (1.5 sacks a senior). If the Colts still ran a 3-4 defense, Lawrence would be an ideal bit, but Eberflus prefers speed and agility.
Second, Lawrence enjoyed his best season as a freshman when he gathered 6.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL and 62 total tackles. His sophomore and junior combined? 9 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 69 tackles. He had a bad sophomore season and bounced back last year.
While Lawrence is a talented player, he doesn’t make sense in the Colts current scheme — especially not at pick 26.
Dre’Mont Jones, DT Ohio State
Jerry Tillery, DT Notre Dame
Raekwon Davis, DT Alabama
Gerald Willis, DT Miami
Which group to look at next?
This poll is closed