By Chris Terlop
In the 3-4 defense, the defensive tackle may be the most important position. He must control two gaps and cannot allow himself to be pushed into the linebackers or the whole play is blown up. Right now the Packers have a very good one in BJ Raji, who has two years left on his contract. However, the last year of the two is voidable. He is said to be the third in line for an extension this off-season behind Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews. I believe they will get a deal done, one cannot find a defensive tackle as talented and consistent as Raji for a comparable price.
Behind Raji aren’t names that strike fear into anyone’s hearts. Raji played the highest percentage of snaps (59%) on the defensive line, Ryan Pickett was a close second with 52%, but after that there is a huge drop-off. We talked yesterday about how much Dom Capers enjoys subbing guys in and out on that defensive line, and unless you like your combination at defensive tackle to include Jordan Miller and Johnny Jolly, the Pack need another defensive tackle.
DT Shariff Floyd, Florida
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 297 lbs 40: 4.87 Bench: N/A
Notes: Floyd has been battling Offensive Tackle Luke Joekel at the top of most draft boards and isn’t expected to make it past the third pick overall. During his time at Florida he not only played every position on the defensive line, but excelled at each spot, showing off his versatility. Defensive tackles rarely rack up big sack numbers, but Floyd had 6.5 sacks last season that led to a first team All-SEC selection; he wrapped up the year by running down Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for two sacks, not an easy feat. He could work in the 3-4 as an end or as a tackle in the 4-3, his versatility and potential are practically limitless.
Projection: Top 5 Overall
DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 323 lbs 40: 4.94 Bench: 30 reps
Notes: Williams is another late bloomer, as he took up the game at 15 years old after a history with rugby. He, like Floyd, has played end and nose tackle in college and would fit nicely in the Packers scheme. His versatility would give Capers another toy to move across the line for different substitution packages. Williams possesses unbelievable strength, being able to bench press over 600 pounds, but he doesn’t have the agility to get after the QB. He is going to plug whatever gaps he is assigned to, and will be effective in the run game, but pressuring the quarterback is something you will have to find somewhere else on the defense. In saying that, getting a guy who can control two gaps consistently is a rare commodity.
Projection: Late First to Second Round
DT Jonathan Hankins, Ohio State
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 320 lbs 40: 5.28 Bench: 30 reps
Notes: Hankins had a somewhat disappointing season this past year after a sophomore year that opened everyone’s eyes to what he is truly capable of. He was slowed by a sprained knee and was on the field for almost every defensive snap. Compare that to the Packers style, where he will be asked to play half the snaps at most, and he has a chance to rest and have a much bigger impact and not worry about getting worn down. Hankins moved up and down the line during his career at Ohio State and could play DE or DT in the 3-4, just the kind of player Ted Thompson looks for. He has the quickness to collapse the pocket and get in a quarterbacks face right off the snap, a useful tool for any defense. His biggest knock was his inconsistency, which I think can be attributed to being on the field for so many snaps. I think he would be a great fir if they Pack can get him in the second round.
Projection: Late First to Second Round
DT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 335 lbs 40: 5.32 Bench: 38 reps
Notes: Williams intrigues me, a Division II three-time All-American, and then he played well in the Senior Bowl. When I was looking at his numbers before the senior bowl my reaction was, “This is a kid who is physically better than 90% of the guys he goes against, he can’t do that at the next level.” Then I saw him play in the Senior Bowl, against future NFL prospects and he did more than hold his own. 38 reps in the bench press speak for themselves, he is a powerful player, can move up and down the line, and possesses a short burst. His speed won’t translate at the next level, but his strength of the ball could, and if the Packers have put of defensive tackle to day three and he is there, he would be a good fit.
Projection: 3rd to 4th Round
Others to look for: DT Jonathan Jenkins, Georgia; Montori Hughes, Tennessee-Martin
You can hear Chris Monday-Friday on Sportsline and Saturdays at 8 am. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisTerloo