DTs Suh, McCoy have ability to go No. 1 in draftFeb. 27, 2010
By Chad Reuter
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INDIANAPOLIS -- It's rare that a pair of defensive tackles get as much attention at the combine as the elite quarterbacks. Then again, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy are rare talents.

Suh and McCoy are likely rated higher on many teams' boards than quarterbacks Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) and Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame), a rarity in today's offense-happy NFL.

The St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions have the top two picks, and could use McCoy and Suh on their porous defenses. But two questions remain:

Who is better? And is either worth taking in the top two selections?

Neither question is easily answered. Suh said on Saturday that he would be happy for his "good friend" McCoy if he went No. 1. But he added that he'd "definitely be disappointed with myself not getting it. I'm a competitor. I want to be No. 1. So that's what I'm going to strive for."

That attitude is just one of the reason teams like his game. But despite Suh finishing fourth in the Heisman voting (85 tackles, 24 for loss, 12 sacks) while riding the wave of a dominant performance against Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game, McCoy will be ranked higher on some boards because of his ability to explode into the backfield as a three-technique. His quick first step especially works well in a one-gap system where he is full-go from the snap.

Because he redshirted, McCoy could have entered the draft after the 2008 season and been a first-round pick. But there was little doubt after an All-American junior year (15.5 tackles for loss, six sacks) that he would take his game to the NFL. After McCoy made his decision to leave school early, Sooners head coach Bob Stoops said: "I've never been associated with a young man who was any more impressive than Gerald." That's pretty high praise, even coming from a head coach.

Suh can play any position on the line but is not quite as explosive off the snap. His strength and motor allow him to be extremely effective pressuring the passer (he had 26 quarterback hurries along with those 12 sacks), although there is some concern that NFL interior linemen won't give in as easily as college linemen did to his bull rush. Still, his exceptional stamina, manhandling of opponents using strong, quick hands that added to his length and closing speed make him a likely star in the NFL.

Suh said Oklahoma's scheme allowed McCoy to display his explosiveness more than Bo Pelini's scheme at Nebraska. The hesitation off the snap could very well be indicative of his need to handle multiple responsibilities in the Huskers defense.

"We played two different defenses, in my opinion. His defense was more or less, he had the freedom to penetrate," Suh said. "Me, I was more or less in the scheme of reading and playing through my man and then getting to the ball and disengaging. If I were to be in that same scheme as him or vice-versa, I think it would be total opposite as it is right now."

If teams agree, Suh should be the top-rated defensive tackle (and player) on their board.

As for the idea of taking a defensive tackle high in the draft, Rams general manager Billy Devaney said: "When you need players that you deem difference-makers I don't think it makes any difference what position they play. We may be wrong, but we think these two kids that we're talking about are difference-makers and they impact the game. So them being defensive tackles doesn't bother us at all."

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said he considered a franchise-type defensive tackle as "somebody that changes the game; somebody that changes schemes, changes how you would block it. He gives offensive coordinators in the run game or the pass game a little bit of a headache."

Quarterback is considered the most important position on the field, with good reason. It's tough to argue that a team should select a defensive tackle over quarterback if they are of equal value. But if the Rams are concerned about Bradford's injury or his ability to handle pressure without a pro-quality offensive line, as he did in 2008, then they may not grade him as highly as Suh or McCoy.

Do they then forget their board to take Bradford based on need and value of position? That is how mistakes are made in the draft.

The two players McCoy and Suh are compared to most often are five-time Pro Bowlers Kevin Williams (Minnesota) and Richard Seymour (Oakland). Vikings' opponents have to game-plan for Williams every week, and the Patriots found out how difficult it was to replace Seymour after they traded him to the Raiders. Oakland's designating of Seymour as an exclusive-rights franchise player this week shows they also know the value of a dominant defensive lineman.

Suh and McCoy will work out on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf in front of scouts Monday. Both are expected to perform very well, but any small discrepancy in athleticism could be the difference in joining the prestigious group of NFL No. 1 overall draft picks.