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Some Defensive Tackles Are Worthy Of No. 1 Pick

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  • Some Defensive Tackles Are Worthy Of No. 1 Pick

    Some defensive tackles are worthy of No. 1 pick


    After the Rams selected defensive end Chris Long No. 2 overall in the 2008 draft over defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, president of football operations Jay Zygmunt flatly stated that the organization didn't believe in spending big money on the defensive tackle position.

    Maybe the rest of the NFL feels the same way. Or maybe those truly special defensive tackles just haven't come around lately.

    Because not since Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson in 1994 has a defensive tackle gone No. 1 overall in the NFL draft.

    And not since Steve Emtman (No. 1) and Sean Gilbert (No. 3) in 1992 have a pair of defensive tackles gone in the top five of the draft.

    Will either scenario happen this year? With the Rams seemingly tilting more toward Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with each day, the QB option seems more likely. In what is increasingly a passing league, 14 of the past 27 drafts have begun with a quarterback being selected No. 1 overall.

    "I think you can justify any position — almost any position — if you feel like that person is going to be enough of an impact on your team in the first year," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I do think if the guy's that good, he can merit it."

    Maybe so, but history shows it's almost never a defensive tackle. Since the first NFL draft in 1936, only six DTs have been chosen No. 1 overall. And the first of those six, Buck Buchanan, came with an asterisk in 1963 because he was taken by Kansas City in the AFL draft. (From 1960-66, the competing NFL and AFL had separate drafts.)

    "I know a lot of stats are thrown out about drafting," Spagnuolo said. "I'm just of the mindset that every draft kind of stands on its own. We're talking about this year's draft, and there's some premier (DTs) that we're talking about."
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    So could this be a year where two defensive tackles are simply just THAT good in Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy?

    "Yeah, that could be," Spagnuolo said. "Again, you're talking about impact players. If you feel like the person at any position is an impact player ..."

    Then you've got to pull the trigger.

    Some excellent defensive tackles over the years have been taken in the top 10, headed by Buchanan, who's in the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

    — Dan Hampton, No. 4 overall by Chicago in 1979, also is in the Hall of Fame.

    — The late Jerome Brown, No. 9 overall by Philadelphia in 1987, might be in the Hall had his career not come to a premature end with a fatal car accident.

    — Cortez Kennedy, No. 3 overall by Seattle in 1990, was an eight-time Pro Bowler who has been on the fringe of the Hall of Fame.

    — Russell Maryland, No. 1 overall by Dallas in 1991, made a Pro Bowl and played for three Super Bowl championship teams.

    — Bryant Young, No. 7 overall by San Francisco in 1994, was a beast as an interior pass rusher for years.

    — More recently, Kevin Willams and Richard Seymour have had strong careers. (Although drafted as a tackle, Seymour has spent most of his career playing end in a 3-4 scheme.)

    "You get a great one, they change the way you have to coach offensively against a team," San Diego coach Norv Turner said. "The ones that are that elite, it's a handful to handle and prepare for them, game plan, all those things."

    For a while, the University of Miami was a defensive tackle factory, producing Brown, Kennedy, Maryland, and Warren Sapp from 1987 to 1995. (Sapp fell to 12th overall in '95 because of reports of alleged drug use.)

    For Turner's money, Brown may have been the best of them all.

    "It was really tough when he was playing at his best to handle him," Turner said. "And he was certainly a guy that you would take and say, 'Hey, we're going to build our defense around this guy.' "

    But for every Hampton, Brown, Buchanan, etc., there seems to be a Dewayne Robinson, Ryan Sims, Darrell Russell or Emtman — defensive tackles who never lived up to their draft status.

    And sometimes, even when a defensive tackle is playing well, it's hard for the average fan or media observer to take notice. Take Ryan Pickett, for example, a late first-round pick by the Rams in 2001. Pickett was a strong, active run defender for most of his time in St. Louis, and has continued to blossom after signing with Green Bay in 2006.

    But for years, Pickett was unfairly lumped in with Jimmy Kennedy, Damione Lewis — and more recently, some would say, Adam Carriker — as a first-round draft bust for St. Louis. The Packers thought enough of Pickett this offseason to name him their franchise player, and then signed him to a contract extension a couple of weeks later.

    Speaking to the value of the position, four of the six players given franchise tag designations this year were defensive tackles (or in Seymour's case, a 3-4 end). Another defensive tackle, Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton, was headed toward franchise player status until signing a three-year contract extension worth a reported $7 million a year.

    A year ago, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth became the answer to this playful question: How much is a Haynes-worth? $100 million.

    That's how much he signed for with Washington as an unrestricted free agent.

    "If it was (Haynesworth's) second or third year, you wouldn't mention him with the great defensive tackles," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "But after his fourth or fifth year, you did. You could say the same thing about quarterbacks. A lot of quarterbacks aren't successful right away. ... I think just players in general, people get too impatient.

    "When you draft somebody high, the expectations are that they are a finished product and they are ready to play right away, and that's not always the case. ... Generally when you pick at the top of the draft you don't have a very strong team and you're going to rely on those players right away, and it's easy to be disappointed with them."

    So how important is a good defensive tackle?

    "In certain schemes they're the engine that drives the car," said Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, whose Steelers play a 3-4.

    And as with many other positions, Schwartz says you just can't have enough of them.

    "It's a little bit like good running teams are always adding good running backs," Schwartz said. "Teams that want to play good defense need to keep on adding defensive linemen, and keep on rolling those guys through."

    Of course, that's easy for Schwartz to say. He has a quarterback. The Lions picked Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall last season.

    The Rams are looking.

Related Topics


  • Nick
    Clayton: Drafting Defensive Tackles Can Be Risky
    by Nick
    Drafting Defensive Tackles Can Be Risky
    By John Clayton

    For a three-year period, the hottest commodity in the NFL draft was defensive tackles. Big bodies who could play the "three technique" or the nose were hotter than quarterbacks.

    Who could forget 2002 when the Vikings, juggling trade options or the chance to draft defensive tackle Ryan Sims from North Carolina, let the 15-minute decision period pass and had the Chiefs run to the table to select Sims? Four defensive tackles went in the first 15 picks. In 2003, the Jets and Saints traded up in the first round to get Dewayne Robertson and Johnathan Sullivan respectively. Five defensive tackles were among the first 13 picks. Six defensive tackles went in the first round of the 2001 draft.

    But what happened to all of those defensive tackles?

    Some of the stories are bleak. The Vikings deactivated defensive tackle Chris Hovan, a first-round pick in the 2000 draft Sunday because seven linemen had jumped ahead of him on the depth chart. He's been replaced by unknown Spencer Johnson. Wendell Bryant, the 12th pick in 2002, has been inactive about half the season for the Cardinals and has just one tackle. In St. Louis, undrafted Brian Howard out of Idaho starts while Damione Lewis and Jimmy Kennedy -- each No. 12 overall picks (Lewis in 2001 and Kennedy in 2003) -- come off the bench.

    Perhaps the most embarrassing story involves Saints defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan. The Saints were so high on him they traded two first-round picks to move to the sixth spot in the 2003 draft to get him. Three weeks ago, they thought he was so worthless that they deactivated him. Considered too lazy and too out of shape, Sullivan responded to the deactivation while eating nachos in front of the Saints locker room in his street clothes. Last week, Sullivan went up to the Georgia Dome press box, stood in the media food line and grabbed two massive hamburgers.

    If that wasn't bad enough, he had undrafted, inactive defensive tackle Shaun Smith in line with him. Sullivan received $11.4 million in guarantees so he was untouchable. Jim Haslett will probably deactivate him again this week. Smith, meanwhile, was released, partially because of the Georgia Dome incident. Not only has Sullivan been disappointing his teammates, but he cost one his job.

    "Defensive tackles have been every bit as tricky to draft as quarterbacks in the first round for years," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "There are about as many failures taking a defensive tackle high as there are quarterbacks, and maybe more. What happens is teams go off workouts or go off flashes that they see instead of going for players at that position who play every play."

    No team has has done a better job building their defense in the last few years than the Ravens, and one of the...
    -12-04-2004, 05:44 PM
  • general counsel
    the impact of rookie defensive tackles
    by general counsel
    there is an excellent article on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) or rookie defensive tackles in the nfl on Its written by pat kirwan. Can one of our many tech savy rambros please post that article or a link to it, i am sure it would provoke some excellent discussion.

    I raise this in the context of people assuming that carriker is going to step in one day one and be effective to the point where kennedy for example is now completely useless, let alone the assumption by some on this board that clifton ryan will produce anything at all

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel
    -05-16-2007, 04:11 PM
  • RamWraith
    Massive men in the middle are missing
    by RamWraith
    NFL Expert Dennis Dillon
    Posted: May 29, 2007

    Talk about staying power. Cleveland's Ted Washington, who weighs 365 pounds and recently turned 39, is gearing up for his 17th season. Miami's Keith Traylor, who weighs 337 and will be 38 in September, has 15 seasons in the books. The Bengals recently cut Sam Adams, who is a very conservative 350 as he closes in on his 34th birthday. But don't be surprised if Adams pops up on another team's roster and plays a 14th season.

    You can call them dinosaurs -- but not because of their age. Each is a heavyweight defensive tackle who can anchor his ample girth on the line of scrimmage and disrupt an opponent's running game. And that type of cat is becoming an endangered species in the NFL.

    "It's just tough to find the big guys anymore," Eagles general manager Tom Heckert says.

    Teams looking for big men with big game in this year's draft class were disappointed. Of the 19 defensive tackles selected -- 20 if you count Adam Carriker, who played end at Nebraska -- two had listed weights above 320. Only two of the 10 drafted in the first three rounds weighed 310 or more.

    Colleges don't have much room in their football gardens anymore to cultivate dominant run-stopping tackles. More and more teams are looking for speed on defense to combat all the spread offenses. So players who are recruited as safeties end up as linebackers, players who come in as linebackers are moved to the front and asked to rush the passer, and defensive linemen, well, if they're not quick and agile, they'll likely end up on the offensive line.

    Also, some NFL coaches believe many defensive tackles coming into the league aren't sound in the fundamentals critical to playing the run: using their hands to get off blocks, staying square to the line of scrimmage and playing a two-gap technique. In college, they often are asked to line up in one gap, turn their hips and jet upfield.

    "That's all fine and dandy," Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan says, "but if that running back is running for 200 yards on you, you've probably got some problems."

    The NFL may have unwittingly contributed to its own problem. Because the cover 2 has become the defense du jour, many teams are willing to try to stop the run using lighter, undersized tackles. The Super Bowl champion Colts are an excellent example. They used Raheem Brock (274 pounds), Montae Reagor (285) and Anthony McFarland (300) as their primary tackles last season and were last in the league in run defense in the regular season -- a 375-yard gashing by Jacksonville in Week 14 skewed the numbers a bit -- before they righted themselves in the playoffs.

    Because the number of wide-bodied run stuffers coming out of colleges is so sparse, teams often reach for tackles in the draft. Or they persist like blindfolded children swinging at a pinata,...
    -05-29-2007, 01:09 PM
  • Nick
    Rams' Needs: Defensive Tackle
    by Nick
    Rams' Needs: Defensive Tackle
    Thursday, April 20, 2006
    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    In 2001, the Rams entered the NFL Draft with a desperate need for an influx of youth on the defensive line. An aging group was headed toward the end and, armed with three first-round picks; St. Louis made revamping the defensive tackle position one of its greatest needs.

    The Rams promptly selected Miami tackle Damione Lewis with the 12th pick and Ohio State tackle Ryan Pickett with the 29th selection. Fast forward to 2006 and the Rams find themselves in a similar, if not quite so dire, position.

    After a disappointing stay in St. Louis, Lewis and Pickett departed in free agency. Lewis, the more disappointing of the two, signed with Carolina, while Pickett (who had become a solid player) took Green Bay’s contract offer.

    Moving quickly to fill one of those holes, the Rams inked veteran Pro Bowler La’Roi Glover to a contract and quickly installed him as the starter at the three technique. Jimmy Kennedy, another former first-round pick, will move to the nose position after spending his time as a swing man last season.

    Still, for a defense that struggled mightily against the run last year, the Rams have a glaring need for some depth in the defensive tackle rotation. Veteran leader Tyoka Jackson isn’t likely to return after he spent years playing end and tackle.

    That leaves the Rams with youngsters Brian Howard and Jeremy Calahan behind Glover and Kennedy. While Howard has played some in his first two seasons, he has yet to show he can handle the chore of being in the tackle rotation. Calahan is one of the strongest players on the team, but is a bit raw. Chances are, only one of those two players will be make it through camp and land on the roster.

    With that in mind, the Rams have made adding another defensive tackle a priority, preferably one who can contribute right away and is strong against the run. The Rams have brought in a number of candidates on visits to Rams Park and could take a tackle as high as their first-round pick, No. 11 overall.

    Two tackles have separated themselves from the pack as potential high first rounders. Oregon’s Haloti Ngata and Florida State’s Brodrick Bunkley are the highest-ranked tackles in the draft.

    That duo is different in a few ways. Nagata is a pure run stuffer with massive size and strength while Bunkley is more of a three-down player capable of playing the run, but he also has the ability to get to the quarterback.

    For what the Rams need, the run stuffer might make more sense. Glover is a strong pass rusher and decent against the run. Kennedy has showed signs of being able to do both well, but has yet to put it all together. Bunkley is clearly a better athlete than Ngata, but for the purposes of the Rams, Ngata might make more sense, especially if they want to go...
    -04-21-2006, 10:22 PM
  • DieHardRamsFan1381
    why are Rams 1 round picks always a bust
    by DieHardRamsFan1381
    ive just been woundering why every play we draft usually turns into a big bust like Ryan Leaf. some examples

    2008- Chris Long- hasnt really bein as productive as i would like not putting up good numbers.
    2007- Adam Carriker-Just not a consitant player always gettin injuried
    2006- Tye Hill- Injury prone no longer with the team
    2005- Alex Barron- Not that great of a tackle
    2004- Steven Jackson (hes a beast not a bust)
    2003- Jimmy Kennedy- Just horrible not with the team anymore
    2002- Robert Thomas- Not with the team
    2001- A) Damione Lewis- Not with the team
    B) Adam Archuleta- Not with the team couldnt cover for **** should have been a linebacker
    C) Ryan Pickett- Not with the team
    2000- Trung Canidate-- Not with the team
    1999- Torry Holt (one of the best rams wide outs ever)

    let me know what you think cause it seems like we have no luck with drafting players in the first round.i mean in the past 11 years how many of them turned out to be somethin. only Torry Holt and Steven Jackson. its just bad when they spend the money on these guys and they just suck.i mean Chris Long isnt turning out to be the next Howie Long hell Leonard Little played better last season.:helmet:
    -02-20-2010, 12:15 AM