NFL Draft – Defensive Tackle Rankings

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL draft a little less than a month away, I thought it was about time I posted my position rankings. The Bears have far fewer holes than they did at the beginning of the off-season, so it’s feasible that they could really draft any position. You can see what positions I think they will target in my latest mock draft, but Emery has been very unpredictable in his short time running the Bears so your guess is probably as good as mine. Throughout the next month I will list my rankings at each position with some analysis of the players and occasional commentary on whether they would be a good fit for the Bears. If you think my rankings are way off or if I forgot anybody, let me know about it in the comments.

Positions: QB | RB | WR | TE | T | G | C | DT | DE | ILB | OLB | CB | SS | FS

DT Rankings:

1.) Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh (6’1, 285): Donald might be one of the smallest starting DTs in the league, but could also be one of the best pass rushers. He was the most productive DT in CFB last year (28.5 TFLs, 11.5 sacks) and has the quickness, low center of gravity, and strong hand play to be a force inside. His 4.68 40-time at 285 pounds is one of the most impressive combine feats I have seen in a long time. If Donald is still available at 14, the Bears would be crazy to pass on him. Draft Projection: 1st round

2.) Timmy Jernigan, Florida St (6’2, 298): When motivated Jernigan was a beast inside for FSU. The problem was that he doesn’t seem motivated all that often. He has the tools to be an all-pro DT if he can maintain a consistent effort level. Draft Projection: 1st round

3.) Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota (6’6, 318): He wasn’t as productive as he should have been in college considering his elite strength and athleticism, but he is a converted TE and is still learning the nuances of the DT position. D-lineman with Hageman’s physical and athletic measurables don’t come around very often. Draft Projection: 1st round

4.) Louis Nix, Notre Dame (6’3, 340):  Has the physical attributes to be great, but didn’t always play up to his potential in college. Nix was a beast as a sophomore but his productivity decreased his junior year. There was less talent around Nix last year, so he may have been the focus of more double teams and game-planning, but a guy with his rare physical gifts should dominate the college level. Nix’s season was cut short by a knee injury that required surgery, so that may be a concern for some teams and impact his draft position. Other concerns are his ability to keep his weight around 330 and his conditioning. When I watched Nix he would dominate for 2-3 plays in a row and then disappear for long stretches. If healthy and motivated Nix has the tools to be a pro-bowl DT. His floor is a 2-down run-stuffing DT  but his ceiling is an elite run-stopper that can generate pressure on passing downs due to his unusual quickness. Draft Projection: 1st round

5.) Domanique Easley, Florida (6’2, 288):  A first round talent who will slip to the 2nd or 3rd based on concerns over two ACL injuries in college, the second coming late last year. Easley could be a steal if he recovers well. He has elite quickness and explosion off the ball. Easley is undersized but strong enough to shed blocks and hold up vs the run. His comment that he would rather watch cartoons than a football game might hurt his stock a little, but he is too talented to drop much farther than the 3rd round. Draft Projection: 2nd-3rd round

6.) Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina (6’4, 297): The more I watch tape on South Carolina, the more that Quarles stands out. Three months ago he was projected in the 4th round, but now I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves up as high as early in the 2nd. Quarles is a well-rounded prospect who holds the point well against the run and shows enough quickness to generate an interior pass rush (9.5 sacks last year). DTs that are good against the run and can get to the QB are rare and Quarles won’t go any later than the 3rd round. Draft Projection: 2nd-3rd round