A – Top Tier
B – Starter
C – Backup
D – Practice Squad
Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Ndamukong Suh, A+
1. Da’Ron Payne – Typical of many Alabama prospects, Payne is a dominant and well coached prospect who should be a plug and play starter in the NFL. Primarily a run stopper, he is very good at following the ball while engaged in a block. As such, he is rarely fooled into leaving his gap, and is adept at reading the quarterback to deflect throws. He can excel in both a two gap or one gap system, as he can hold blockers or penetrate to the ball. He is generally double teamed in the run game, a testament to his ability to put pressure on the offense and impact the game. Similarly, he steps up in big situations and makes key plays to close games. He tends to play upright and pop up at the snap, giving him less power than he would have otherwise. Although he could have more lower body strength, Payne has underrated athleticism. As a pass rusher, he displays good quickness off the line and has a good array of pass rushing moves. However, he is abruptly stalled if the initial jam is better than his own. His use of hand fighting is limited besides the distinct moves. Payne is a well rounded prospect with minimal weaknesses and playmaking ability, an appealing talent set in the NFL.
2. Vita Vea – A behemoth on the line, Vea is one of the few pure nose tackles in the draft. He possesses immense size and strength, using his arms to push and his legs to drive oppenents backwards. As a nose tackle, he is a very good run stuffer who can easily hold the lineman and then shed them at the point of the attack, rather than penetrating the hole. He eats up blockers in the run game, effectively opening up holes for his teammates to make plays. Besides converting his strength to power, Vea has limited ability as a pass rusher, although he has incredible quickness to the ball for a player his size. Additionally, he is a good tackler, even leaving his feet at times to make fluid tackles. He lacks explosiveness, but that is a minor flaw for a nose tackle with such impeccable strength and quickness. However, Vea can disappear at times because of this, dampening his impact on a game. While this is sometimes solely a consequence of his job and position on a given play, other times this is because of his lack of big play ability. This is not a major concern, as Vea is still incredibly talented and clean as a prospect.
3. Taven Bryan – Bryan is one of the more athletic defensive linemen in the draft, with explosive playmaking ability from the interior line position. He possesses very good lower body explosiveness, allowing him to burst through gaps and disrupt plays. He also has exceptional burst off of the snap and very good chase down speed. As such, he can get immediate penetration up the middle to redirect run plays or pressure the quarterback. He utilizes his long arms very well, holding blockers at arms length and then shedding them effectively to make plays. Additionally, he is adept at leaving one arm free and using his strength to make the tackle. He has a good rip move when pass rushing, and he is good at turning his speed rush into a power rush. However, Bryan can get pushed around in the run game, regardless of his strength and explosivenss. There are also times when Bryan misses or can’t find the ball, affecting his ability to make plays. He is an athletic difference maker more than a hole plugger, although coaching could elevate that aspect of the game even more.
4. Derrick Nnadi – A smaller nose tackle type player, Nnadi has a safe floor as he rarely puts himself in bad positions on a given play. However, he has limited upside due to his size and lack of top tier athletic ability. He has an amazing anchor, and is rarely pushed backwards or out of his gap on run plays. He also has great power, contributing to his ability to drive defenders back when pass rushing. Although he lacks any consistent pass rushing techniques, he has strong arms that he uses to punch blockers and gain advantages.He is adept at reading the quarterback and putting his hands up to block passing lanes. Additionally, he shows a high effort level and willingness to compete for the ball until the whistle. Nnadi forces teams to double team him in both run and pass situations because of this, as he generally overpowers defenders even with his small stature. He has the ability to be a long time starter due to his consistency as a player, but he will not be able to elevate himself as one of the game’s best.
5. Maurice Hurst – A very good interior pass rusher, Hurst is lacking as a run defender, limiting his ability to be a full time starter. He is extremely explosive off the snap, rushing the passer with burst and low pad level. Additionally, he is outstanding at reading quarterbacks, consistently blocking their throwing lanes and generating sacks indirectly. He has very active hands and pass rushing moves, something that allows him to gain more consistent pressure if his motor were more consistent. Although one of the best interior pass rushers in the draft, he displays very little talent in defending the run. He is easily trapped in the run game, as blockers turn him sideways to set the hole with very little resistance. He also has suspect balance, and can get knocked over on run plays without much effort. He is too small to hold blockers, and is purely a one gap attacking player. While he is outstanding as a pass rusher, he is too much of a liability as a run stopper, significantly lowering his value for many teams.
6. Harrison Phillips – A big nose tackle, Phillips is a solid and trustworthy backup who is capable of starting a few games. He has very good hands and feet drive and position, helping him generate a solid power rush. In the run game, he has a solid anchor and doesn’t get driven back. However, he does not take up blockers like a player of his size should, and he doesn’t compensate with any above average athletic ability. For a big man, he also has a very good swim move. There are times when he can’t see around his blocker. Additionally, he lacks explosive attributes or good enough strength to make big plays more than once while. As such, he is generally forced to leave his feet in an attempt to bring down the ball carrier. He doesn’t usually keep an arm free to make a play. Although he can play without being a liability, he is a below average player regarding everything besides his size.