Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 Draft: Ranking the NT Class

One of the first moves Howie Roseman made this offseason was signing former 49ers NT Isaac Sopoaga. This wiped out a major need for the new 3-4 defense. However, Sopoaga will be 32 years old once the regular season starts, so he's not the long-term solution there.

Most nose tackles are only two-down run-stuffers who occupy blockers. This, and the fact that Sopoaga will likely man the middle for the next two years, makes me think the Eagles will look more towards a mid-late round project rather than spending a high pick on one.

Let's take a look at the top 5 NTs in the 2013 Draft:

Hankins is an athletic big man who
did a bit of everything at OSU.
1. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State (6'3" 320 lbs): "Big John", as known by his team, is a mammoth in the middle. He's stout vs. the run due to his thick body. Hankins is a versatile player due to his rare agility and good explosion off the line. He controls blockers and holds double-teams well, disrupting the offense in the backfield. Big John does need to play with better leverage though. His motor can go cold at times when tired and weight control has been a problem in the past. Hankins is stout enough to hold down the nose, but his versatility is what makes him stand out of the class.

2. Jesse Williams, Alabama (6'4" 323 lbs): His wide frame and low center of gravity help him gain leverage, plus his unbelievable strength helps (the man can bench 600 lbs). Williams' hands are active and heavy. Despite his size, the big fella has some legitimate versatility and a good motor. His work ethic is never in question, but he's just not a great athlete. He doesn't offer much in the pass-rush, which hurts his versatility factor, and his body is dis-proportioned. Williams projects as a very good nose tackle, but more of a run-stopping force rather than a play-maker.

3. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina (6'3" 313 lbs): Sylvester pairs his thick, strong body with a very strong swim move. He has a versatile background at UNC, and anchors well despite his quick, light feet. His get-off and tackling are plus, and his effort is consistent when he's fresh. Williams relied on out-quicking guards at school, which doesn't project well to the NFL as a nose. He is 24 years old, and has consistency questions, he disappears for stretches at a time. He'll have to clear up work ethic concerns with NFL teams, but his upside is pretty big.

Jenkins with a big play vs. Alabama.
4. John Jenkins, Georgia (6'4" 346 lbs): Probably the most well-known NT prospect in the draft, Jenkins has an enormous size. Despite his size and strength, Jenkins has a dancer's feet. His hands are active and he has agility in small spaces. His bull rush is effective and he actually played a versatile role at UGA. His long arms and active hands make him a hassle to deal with. His lower body is pretty thin though which causes issues when faced with a double-team. His get-off needs quite a bit of work and his stamina isn't where it needs to be. Jenkins projects as a very good two-down player, but is a two-down player worth a second-round draft pick? I don't think so.

5. Montori Hughes, Tennessee-Martin (6'4" 329 lbs): Hughes is a very interesting case. He was a highly acclaimed high school prospect, choosing to play at the University of Tennessee. However, academic and off-the-field issues resulted in a transfer to Tennessee-Martin. He has good bulk and a quick first step. He's a feisty competitor who isn't afraid of a little trash talk. He fires through the gaps and uses his powerful hands effectively. The character concerns are a big issue, along with work ethic. He played inconsistently and against lower competition. He has big upside, but there's a chance he'll produce nothing at the next level.

Here's a couple Day Three prospects who are intriguing:

TJ Barnes is a project with potential.
- Kwame Geathers, Georgia (6'5" 342 lbs): He provides a monstrous frame and carries his weight very well. His long arms and active hands produce a powerful punch. He's light on his feet and has a good burst off the snap. Geathers struggles with leverage, as many people of his size do. He doesn't use his length to its full potential by obstructing passing lanes. His pass-rush is very raw at this point, however the upside is tremendous.

- TJ Barnes, Georgia Tech (6'6" 369 lbs): Barnes is kind of a mystery man. He performed pretty well at his pro-day and opened scout's eyes. He was fairly productive as a rotational player and provides massive size in the middle. He has good feet but struggles to keep his weight down. Athleticism is something that isn't a strength, but Barnes earned an Honorable Mention for the All-ACC team. He's an inexperienced prospect who's worth a gamble in the 6th round or later.

* Follow me on Twitter @Matt_Chastain25 and @OfficialEagles_, I'll get ya back!

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