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2011 NFL Draft: Top Five Defensive Tackles

A run right up the middle is the most basic play in football. If a team can’t defend that, they need better defensive tackles.

When you close your eyes and imagine a football player, what do you see? Do you see a 5’11″ athletic man? Or do you see a hulking, 6’5″, 300-pound agent of death? Personally, I see the latter. In my mind’s eye, a football player looks like a defensive tackle: Big, strong and physically-imposing.

Defensive tackles don’t receive much hype. The last famous one was probably Warren Sapp, who has long since retired from the league. Last season’s defensive rookie of the year was the Detroit Lions’ Ndamukong Suh. He was the first defensive tackle to win the award since 1994.

When considering the team needs of the first 10 teams picking in this draft, almost all of them need a defensive tackle or nose tackle.

1. Marcell Dareus, Alabama (6’3″, 319)

Marcell Dareus has got a great game for a tackle. He’s great against the run and disruptive as a pass-rusher. He’s a very active player who plays tough. The only flaw is that he needs to get quicker off the line, but that’s something that can be focused on by coaching staffs. He’s a very thick player, but carries the weight well and possesses good speed. He has a nice spin move, can change directions well and uses his hands violently to disengage blockers. Dareus will need to work on his conditioning as he isn’t a three-down, all-season guy but he is a game-changer on defense who will be drafted at the top of the 2011 NFL Draft.

2. Nick Fairley, Auburn – (6’3″, 291)

Easily the best pass-rusher in this class at DT. Nick Fairley has an elite first-step to go along with a skill set that can beat blockers with quickness or strength. He’s got great counter moves and does a great job mixing up his attack to keep blockers off-balance. What teams will really like is that he’s always looking to win the hand battle by knocking down a blocker’s arm and trying to his hands on him. Fairley plays with great emotion, it’s what makes him have such a special motor and mean streak. But he was flagged often for personal fouls. He will remind people of Albert Haynesworth who specialized as a pass-rusher.

3. Corey Liuget, Illinois – (6’2″, 298)

Liuget has come almost out of nowhere to top 15 consideration in the 2011 NFL Draft. He’s quick, strong and tough. Although he is not elite at any particular facet of the game, he’s always in position, always making the right play and correct read. He uses his hands very well to get off blocks and wrap-up tackles. He seems to understand the game naturally with great awareness and fundamentals. If it weren’t for Von Miller getting all the attention, Liuget would be noticed for having done so much to improve his draft stock in the last few months.

4. Stephen Paea – (6’1″, 303)

Paea is probably the toughest guy in this draft. He is absolutely relentless on every snap. He’s very powerful and is always looking for contact. By using a violent punch, he almost stuns offensive linemen briefly. The big concern is whether how well he will recover from a torn lateral meniscus in his knee. Most draft experts place him in the second round because of this but he should certainly go earlier than that given his position’s draft value.

5. Jurrell Casey, USC – (6’1″, 300)

Casey is a bit of a project. But he is great against the run, using great leverage to maintain position. What really shows is that, every down he’s giving it max effort. Defensive tackles are known take plays off, it’s the nature of the position or it can seem that way. Casey does well to rarely do this as he is always fighting, even against double teams. He will need to be coached up on how to effectively pass-rush. His quick feet mask a lot of other small issues, but Casey is player who has a good ceiling once he learns how to use his hands more effectively.

Next Five…

6. Phil Taylor, Baylor
7. Christian Ballard, Iowa
8. Marvin Austin, North Carolina
9. Terrell McClain, South Florida
10. Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson

More 2011 NFL Draft Coverage

Bowl Game React | Mock Drafts | NFL Combine | By Position Rankings | Prospects In-Depth

About The Author

Matt De Lima is the guy behind the guy behind the guy. Born and raised near Los Angeles, CA during simpler times where the Rams and Raiders both played there. Back when Eddie Murphy was funny and people still listened to Whitney Houston's music. A graduate of Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!), he's played fantasy sports for the last 10 years and began writing down his opinions in 2010. You remember that fantasy football league you were in last season, there was that one team that somehow had Aaron Rodgers, Chris Johnson, and Andre Johnson? Matt was that guy. You should listen to him. Follow his exclusive content @ OpenSports.com

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