2018 Draft Positional Reviews: Defensive Tackles

This a deeply talented defensive tackle draft class. There may have been other classes in years past that had better top end talent, but I can’t remember the last one that had talent this deep. The DT position is one that has a big premium placed on it by NFL teams, and if you play in IDP leagues that require you to start a DT(s), then you understand how hard it is to find consistent quality at this position. Now let’s look at this year’s class and see who landed where and what that means. #IDPNation #IDPisKing

1st Round 12th Overall

Vita Vea, (Washington) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mount Vea was the first defensive tackle off the board in this years draft and #1 DT on most draft boards. I had him ranked as #3 in my positional rankings, and you can click here to read my rookie profile article on him. He landed in a terrific spot and with a team that needed the position. The Bucs have been looking for someone to plug in next to Gerald McCoy and learn from the veteran mentor. They already upgraded the DE position by trading for JPP, so getting a young stud at DT was huge. Vea will immediately step in and be a huge run stopper (PFF College’s No. 2-graded run-defending interior defensive lineman). He moves extremely well for a man his size but lacks high-end explosion. Freakishly strong and overpowering prospect, who can also provide a pass rush from the interior. He is a monster (6’4”/347 lbs) d-lineman, who will be hard to move out of running lanes.

Fantasy Potential DT1, DE3, DL4

1st Round 13th Overall

Da’Ron Payne, (Alabama) Washington Redskins: The Payne Train comes off the board with the very next pick. Back to back teams taking DTs shows the premium at this position. I had Payne ranked as my #2 DT in my positional rankings, and you can click here to read my rookie profile article on him. The Redskins were horrible against the run a year ago and that had to be fixed. They drafted Jonathan Allen (Payne’s teammate at Alabama) last year, but he missed most of the season with an injury. Getting him back and healthy to pair with Payne should instantly improve the run defense for the Skins. Payne’s stock skyrocketed after he put on an absolute show in the college football playoffs, versus Clemson and a dominating performance versus Georgia in Championship game. Was mostly asked to eat up blocks at Alabama, to open lanes for the LB’s, but his game is much more than that. When allowed to play his game, he is a disruptive force. Payne has very good size (6’3”/311 lbs) and speed (4.90).

Fantasy Potential DT1, DE2, DL3

1st Round 29th Overall

Taven Bryan, (Florida) Jacksonville Jaguars: This pick tells me a couple of things. First, it says the Jags felt there was more value here going defense than offense. They didn’t want to reach. Second, it says this was a great opportunity for them to plan for any possible free agent issues on the horizon. Taven Bryan began moving up draft boards and most had him ranked as a top 5 DT in this draft. I, had him rated as such at #5, in positional rankings. He has very good measurables (6”5”/291 lbs) and speed (4.98) The Jags are already loaded along the d-line, but Bryan upgrades the depth immensely. He can also give them some flexibility, as he can play both DT and kick out to DE if needed. I see him playing in heavy rotation, as Jacksonville wants to keep healthy fresh talent on the field, every play possible. Has above average quickness and burst, but needs to develop a better pass rush. He could be a starter in couple seasons.

Fantasy Potential DT2, DE3, DL4

2nd Round 59th Overall

P.J. Hall, (Sam Houston St.) Oakland Raiders: For me this pick was way too early, especially considering the talent still available at the position. The pick itself isn’t bad and fills a need for the Raiders. Hall dominated the D-1AA level setting records at that level, in tackles for a loss (86½) and blocked kicks (14). He also would add an impressive (42) sacks to his resume. I question if Hall can have the same success or come close to that, with a big step up in competition? He has good size (6’1”/308 lbs) and above average speed (4.73). As a combine snub, he will have a chip on his shoulder to prove the doubters wrong. Will need a couple of years to transition and learn pro game, in my opinion, but has some good long-term value.

Fantasy Potential DT3, DL5

3rd Round 69th Overall

B.J. Hill (N.C. State) New York Giants: This a good pick and about where I thought he go in the draft. I had him ranked as my 13th best DT prospect, before the draft. In college, he played the nose tackle position on a talented Wolfpack d-line. His numbers aren’t going to wow you, as he mainly a space filling, block-eating player. He measured (6’3”/311 lbs) and timed (4.99) impressively at the combine. When watching his tape, he grades out as a two-down run stopper, who doesn’t provide a lot of pass rushing ability.

Fantasy Potential DT3

3rd Round 72nd Overall

Nathan Shepard (Fort Hays St.) New York Jets: One of the most intriguing Defensive Tackle prospects in the draft. I had him ranked as my 7th best DT in positional rankings. After the Jets lost Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson in back to back seasons, a strength became a weakness for them. This selection of Shepard fills that need considerably. He will pair up with Leonard Williams to get this d-line back on track as one of the league’s best. The big man (6’4”/315 lbs) was the 2017 MIAA Defensive Player of the Year and dominated the D-1AA level. Can he do that against the NFL elite, will be a much-asked question? He took a big step answering those at the Senior Bowl, where he performed very well against some of the best Division-1 O-lineman. Still somewhat raw, but has a high ceiling.

Fantasy Potential DT2, DE3, DL4

3rd Round 75th Overall

Derrick Nnadi (Florida St.) Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs have made it clear in this draft that upgrading the d-line, is a priority and have addressed it as such. They recently lost Bennie Logan to free agency, so they have to fill that opening. I wrote an article on Nnadi last season just before the 2017 college season began. While he improved in a lot of areas, he still has to work on his consistency and shedding off blocks. At (6’1”/317 lbs) he is going to be a space eating run stopper and offers little as a pass rusher. At times he shows flashes of more, but not consistently enough to stay on the field, on passing downs.

Fantasy Potential DT3

3rd Round 84th Overall

Justin Jones (N.C. State) Los Angeles Chargers: Not the pick I would have made here, as there were some better prospects at the position still on the board. Jones was the second Wolfpack DT to get drafted, in the last fifteen picks. He played the three-technique at NC State and showed potential as a five-technique end at the Senior Bowl. I think he’ll be best suited as a rotational player, with the versatility to play all along the d-line.

Fantasy Potential None

3rd Round 90th Overall

Deadrin Senat (USF) Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons lost Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn, so d-line became a priority. HC Dan Quinn is a former d-line coach, so it made perfect sense that he would draft a DT at some point. Even though he didn’t test well, when you watch his tape, you can see he’s a persistent disruptor. His measurables (6’0/314 lbs) are on par with other prospects, in this draft. He has a decent chance to start as there isn’t much depth to beat out. He mainly is a two-down run stopper, with a little pass rush pop. Like I said the opportunity is there for the taking.

Fantasy Potential DT3, DE5

3rd Round 96th Overall

Harrison Phillips (Stanford) Buffalo Bills: One of my favorite players in the draft and one of my biggest steals too. He measured (6’3/307 lbs) and posted an impressive 42 reps on the 225 bench press at the combine. But if you want to see the game production, then how about a team-leading (103) tackles last season at Stanford. That’s an insane number for a defensive tackle. I had Phillips rated as my #4 DT, in my positional rankings. Buffalo shipped out Marcel Dareus, leaving them with an aging veteran Kyle Williams and newly acquired Star Lotululei. Phillips should have no problem wrestling away one of these starting spots. At the very least, he should be starting in two years. A great IDP draft pick or taxi squad player.

Fantasy Potential DT1, DE3, DL4

4th Round 114th Overall

Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama) Detroit Lions: New HC Matt Patricia, following in the footsteps of his former boss Bill Bellichek and drafting from the always talented Alabama. Detroit already has a lot of depth along the line, but they have been beaten and banged up over the last couple years. Hand only had one year as a starter, but that can be the norm when playing on such a talented team that is always reloading. He has the versatility to play both inside at DT or kick out and play DE if needed. I see him being in a heavy rotation all along the line, with the potential to be a starter.

Fantasy Potential DT3, DE4, DL6

5th Round 139th Overall

R.J. McIntosh (Miami) New York Giants: The Giants have always stockpiled d-lineman and continue to do so. They drafted B.J. Hill earlier and now take McIntosh. He’s a big tall interior guy who due to size (6’5”/286 lbs) is better suited as a DE, but he doesn’t have the skillset to play that position. At least not yet anyway. He’s a bit of a project player who will get coached up and given the time to learn. He’ll mostly be a backup and possibly work himself into some consistent rotational snaps.

Fantasy Potential None

5th Round 140th Overall

Maurice Hurst (Michigan) Oakland Raiders: This quite possibly could be one of the biggest steals of the entire draft. I had a 1st round grade and ranked as my #1 DT in positional ranks, and you can click here to read my rookie profile article on him. He failed medical testing at the combine, for a heart issue. He has since been cleared by medical personnel at Michigan, but a lot of teams were scared off by this and his stock plummeted. So if you believe he’s okay and checks out healthy, then you’re getting the top rated defensive tackles in the draft. On the field, he is a fierce hitter and an absolute game changer. When you watch his game film, you’ll see his incredible burst off the snap and quickness jump out at you. I have watched nearly every single DT’s tape in this draft, and none of them comes close. At (6’1”/ 292 lbs) is just a consistently disruptive force, who was credited with a nation-leading (49) QB pressures last season, by PFF. It all comes down to health with him. The Raiders believe he’s good to go and may have just hit the jackpot.

Fantasy Potential DT1, DE2, DL3

5th Round 145th Overall

Bilal Nichols (Delaware) Chicago Bears: One of the few defensive tackles, that I haven’t watched film on, but from what I have seen and can read into, he’s a fairly solid DT option. He was named a first-team FCS All-American in 2017 and in his twenty-one starts on the Blue Hens’ defensive line, he recorded 16.5 career tackles for loss with 10.5 sacks and ten pass breakups. I did get to see him some at the combine, where he measured (6’4”/306 lbs) and tested well, running a sub-five-second forty (4.95), pumping 29 reps on the bench. Most likely a long-term project, that has some decent upside.

Fantasy Potential None

5th Round 158th Overall

Andrew Brown (Virginia) Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals have been searching for a premium interior d-lineman for the last few years. Brown plays with an extremely high motor and is very strong. However, he does lack explosiveness. He played a lot at both DT & DE at Virginia and showed well at the Senior Bowl, but will kick to the inside in Cincinnati. He is going to have to improve his pass rushing skills if he wants to stay on the field. Making a full-time transition to the interior will take some time, so he may be a couple of years away from making an impact consistently. He’ll likely start out behind Andrew Billings on the depth chart.

Fantasy Potential DT2/3

5th Round 163rd Overall

Tim Settle (Virginia Tech) Washington Redskins: As I stated earlier, the Redskins run defense was horrible, and they are attacking that weakness, like an all-out blitz. They drafted Da’Ron Payne in the 1st round and get last year’s 1st round pick, Jonathan Allen, back healthy. Now they add another d-lineman that has starting type abilities and improves their depth. I had Settle ranked as my 8th best DT in my positional ranks. The thing with Settle is he’s still only 20 years old. Plenty of time for him to develop his game and become a very good player for a long time. He played NT for the Hokies and at (6’3”/329 lbs) he was a load to stop in the middle. Not only did he shut down the run, but he also showed an impressive ability to rush the passer from the interior. PFF credited the redshirt Sophomore with 46 QB pressures in his two-year career. The Redskins have drafted two high-quality players that will start a lot of games.

Fantasy Potential DT2, DL4

6th Round 180th Overall

Foley Fatukasi (Connecticut) New York Jets: A big (6’4”/318 lbs) and strong, three-year starter in college. He uses his long arms and strength to overpower opponents. A really good run stopper but lacks as a pass rusher. He’ll provide some nice depth and be a good rotational piece for the Jets.

Fantasy Potential None

6th Round 195th Overall

Sebastian Joseph (Rutgers) Los Angeles Rams: There isn’t a lot to get excited about here with Joseph and not a need for the Rams. This was likely just a late-round flyer that will have a hard time seeing the field. They may see some potential in him and stash him on the practice squad as an extra body, but even that’s a reach I think. He does have some good size (6’4”/305 lbs) and decent speed (4.97). At best he could a depth piece as a run stopper.

Fantasy Potential None

7th Round 223rd Overall

Julian Taylor (Temple) San Francisco 49ers: This is another flyer pick late in the draft. Taylor had one good year of production, and that was his Senior season, where he recorded 40 tackles and 10 for a loss. The rest of his college career was trashed due to injuries. Nothing special but caught the eyes of scouts with his pro day showing, where he tested as the No. 2 SPARQ athlete in this year’s defensive line class behind only Florida’s Taven Bryan. Even still he will be buried on the depth chart and a long shot to make an impact.

Fantasy Potential None

7th Round 232nd Overall

James Looney (California) Green Bay Packers: Looney had his moments, flashing as a disrupter and had an uncanny knack for jumping the snap and not being offsides. That type of play will be exploited at the next level. He was good enough to be invited to Shrine Game and tested well at the combine.

Fantasy Potential None

7th Round 242nd Overall

Kendrick Norton (Miami) Carolina Panthers: Norton would have benefitted by staying school and getting better at his game. He will be a depth run stopper at best and offers little to no pass rush. Not a lot of desire for these types of guys. Has some plus size (6’4”/314 lbs), which helps as a space eater.

Fantasy Potential None

7th Round 246th Overall

Joshua Frazier (Alabama) Pittsburgh Steelers: Frazier played as a rotational nose tackle at Alabama and won’t be much more than an early-down run stopper in Pittsburgh. He is a massive body (6’3”/321 lbs) and will eat up blocks. If that’s what they expect from him, then this is a good pick. To expect anything more is absurd.

Fantasy Potential None

Undrafted Free Agent

Poona Ford (Texas) Seattle Seahawks: I am amazed how such talented players get left undrafted and those that have no chance of making a roster or even getting playing time do. Poona Ford is a tremendous player and is better than at least half of those that were drafted. Anyway, the Seahawks should be ecstatic to get a player like Ford after the draft. Not only is he a talented player, but he also fills a significant need for them. He has a short, stocky type frame (6’0”/ 306 lbs) and plays with a very low center, winning the leverage game more often than not. He made 30 starts on the Longhorns’ defensive line, earning 2017 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year, and had one heck of a showing at the Senior Bowl, but yet was snubbed by the Combine. I mean how does that happen? Back on track here, the Seahawks lost Sheldon Richardson, and outside of Jarran Reed they have no real threat at the interior. Ford has a great opportunity to take advantage and win a starting job.

Fantasy Potential DT2/3

Also be too sure to check out our 2018 IDP Rookie Roundup special. Some of these players are broken down more specifically, and it’s FREE. Get your copy here.



Vol Nation & Titanup! Consumed with all things football! An avid fantasy football enthusiast and have over 15+ years experience in all formats. You can follow me at @DFF_DWIN.

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