CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: Top 20 Defensive Tackles
Who are the best defensive tackles coming into the college football season? Here are the projected 20 top guys
Preview 2017: Top 20 Defensive Tackles
Who are the best defensive tackles coming into the 2017 college football season? This is a projection of the top COLLEGE players, and not necessarily the best pro prospects – although it happens to work out that way up top. Talent, of course, matters, but this is about looking ahead at who will be the top 20 this year.
20. Nathan Bazata, Sr. Iowa
While he’s not a massive space-eater, the 6-2, 287-pound veteran is a three-time academic all-star who holds his own on the interior. Don’t think of him as an anchor, but as a very active run stopper for another strong defense.
19. JoJo Wicker, Jr. Arizona State
Undersized at 6-3 and 263 pounds, he makes up for it with a high motor that never quits. A good interior pass rusher, he came up with 6.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss over the last two years with 60 tackles.
18. Benito Jones, Soph. Ole Miss
Built to be an anchor, the 6-2, 311-pounder has a great base and decent enough quickness to grow into a playmaker behind the line. He started right away as a freshman with 39 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. Now the D will start to build around him.
17. Poona Ford, Sr. Texas
Way undersized at 5-11 and 280 pounds, he’s been a durable leader who earned all-star honors in the classroom and on the field coming up with an active 54 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss. He’s a strong part of an improved puzzle.
16. Cortez Broughton, Jr. Cincinnati
Get ready for the Bearcat defense to become tougher and nastier under the new coaching staff, and it’ll start on the inside with the 6-2, 297-pound Broughton. Good against the run with 42 tackles last season, he’s about to be more of a pass rusher after cranking up 2.5 sacks.
15. David Moa, Jr. Boise State
The feisty 6-3, 262-pound nose tackle earned First Team All-Mountain West honors after making 30 tackles with 8.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Always moving and always active, he might not be a huge run stopper, but he makes up for it with big plays.
14. Deadrin Senat, Sr. USF
The steady 6-1, 305-pound main man for the Bull defensive front over the last few seasons, now he’ll be a star for Charlie Strong with 113 career tackles with 13 tackles for loss.
13. Steven Richardson, Sr. Minnesota
The underappreciated Minnesota defensive front starts with Richardson, a 6-0, 300-pound is an all-star in the classroom and on the field. He might be built to have the leverage to stop the run, but he’s an elite interior pass rusher with 31 tackles, seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
12. Da’Ron Payne, Jr. Alabama
While he’s not quite the typical freak-of-nature-sized human being Alabama is used to showcasing on the defensive interior, the 6-2, 319-pound part of the rotation will now play a bigger role after making 36 tackles with 1.5 sacks.
11. Conor Sheehy, Sr. Wisconsin
The Badger run defense will be among the best in the country again, and the 6-4, 290-pound Sheehy will be one of the main reasons. There’s absolutely nothing flashy about his game – with 58 tackles and seven tackles for loss in the last two years – but he’ll hold down the nose in the 3-4.
10. Jeffery Simmons, Soph. Miss State
Growing into his elite potential, at 6-4 and 310 pounds, he’s got NFL size and the next-level ability now coming off a 40-tackle, 3.5 tackle for loss first year. If he becomes more of a pass rusher, his stock will go through the roof.
9. Harrison Phillips, Sr. Stanford
About to blow up into more of a national star and a strong pro prospect, the 6-4, 285-pound veteran went from being a nice reserve to a star run stopper with 46 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. He’s always working.
8. Will Geary, Sr. Kansas State
While he missed time this spring ball, if he’s back and right, the former walk-on will be among the nation’s most productive interior presences. A squatty 6-0 and 298 pounds, he’s been a rock for the Wildcats with 120 career tackles with 6.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
7. Maurice Hurst, Sr. Michigan
No, the Michigan defense isn’t rebuilding as much as you might think. The 6-2, 281-pound Hurst is a powerful run stopper on the inside and dangerous pass rusher with 69 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks over the last two seasons.
6. Lowell Lotulelei, Sr. Utah
Ready to be a key part of someone’s NFL defensive line, he returned for one more season after three All-Pac-12 campaigns with 87 career tackles, eight sacks and 18 tackles for loss. The 6-2, 320-pounder is a dream of an anchor.
5. Vita Vea, Jr. Washington
In a year full of athletic, relatively smallish great defensive tackles, the 6-4, 346-pound Vea is the standout. A spot starter last season, it’s been his job to sit in the middle of the line and gum things up, making 39 tackles as the anchor of the great run D. He’s not just a stick in the mud, coming up with 6.5 tackles for loss.
4. Derrick Nnadi, Sr. Florida State
A powerful run stopper who earned All-ACC honors over the last few seasons as a block of granite on the nose, the 6-1, 312-pound future NFL starer was fifth on the team with 49 tackles. He can move, too, getting behind the line with six sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.
3. Dexter Lawrence, Soph. Clemson
There’s a chance this could be way, way, way too low, even as high up as he is on the list. The 6-5, 340-pounder is a sure-thing top five overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft with special skills and franchise-making ability. He stepped in and finished fourth on the team in tackles in his first year, coming up with 62 stops with 6.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss.
2. Christian Wilkins, Jr. Clemson
Okay, fine. So Lawrence is the better of the two superstar Tiger defensive tackles, but Wilkins is the veteran leader and presence up front with a slightly bigger body of work. The 6-4, 315-pounder followed up his breakthrough 33-tackle first season with 48 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Impossible to throw over, he also batted down a whopping ten passes.
1. Ed Oliver, Soph. Houston
That’s how you make a debut. One of the top recruits to ever come to Houston, the 6-2, 290-pounder showed off instant NFL skills and quickness in a special All-American season. Owning the backfield, all Oliver did was come up with 23 tackles for loss with five sacks while batting down nine passes.
Always active, he held up well against the run with 66 stops highlighted by the 23 he came up with in back-to-back games against Tulsa and SMU. Now the spotlight will be on to see what he can do over the next two seasons.