Vita Vea*, DT, Washington
Height: 6-5. Weight: 332. Projected 40 Time: 5.20. Projected Round (2018): 1-2. 1/13/18: Some sources have compared Vea to Haloti Ngata in terms of ability to play defensive end or nose tackle. They feel that Vea is a special nose tackle prospect who offers more than Danny Shelton did coming out of Washington. Vea will be downgraded in the 2018 NFL Draft because of being a nose tackle, but he still is a special and rare player.
Vea has a serious combination of size, length, strength, and quickness at the point of attack. He is a heavy nose tackle who is a rock against the run and can occasionally collapse the pocket in the pass rush. Vea totaled 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks and four passes batted in 2017. He has shown the ability to contribute somewhat in the pass rush while being big, strong, and having a burst at the point of attack.
9/1/17: Vea was a load at the point of attack for Washington in 2016. On the year, he totaled 39 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, one force fumble and two passes batted. Vea has a serious combination of size, length, strength, and quickness at the point of attack.
For the NFL, Vea projects as a heavy nose tackle who can be tough at the point of attack. He is a big, thick and strong. Vea can use his size and strength eat up blockers and generally holds gap integrity. He has a quick burst off the snap, and there are times where his size, power, and quickness overwhelm smaller interior linemen. Vea is at his best when he tries to bull his way into the backfield to cause disruption. With his upper body strength and the power in his base, Vea can push off or through blocks. He has a good motor and gives a second effort, too.
Vea needs to show improvement in the pass rush during 2017. The junior needs to develop some pass-rushing moves to go with his bull rush. He has to become more consistent in creating pressure and laying hits on the quarterback in order to be a highly in-demand draft prospect. Otherwise, he could be viewed as just a nose tackle.
Christian Wilkins*, DT, Clemson
Height: 6-4. Weight: 310. Projected 40 Time: 5.00. Projected Round (2018): 1-2. 1/13/18: Wilkins totaled 60 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks in 2017. He played well all year, using his speed and athleticism to cause disruption at the point of attack. In speaking with sources at multiple teams, they see Wilkins as a future first-rounder. He is a fast interior pass-rusher who can collapse the pocket and provide an inside pass rush. Wilkins dominated Miami in the ACC Championship.
9/1/17: Wilkins played well for Clemson in 2016 as part of a tough defensive line that controlled the point of attack. The sophomore recorded 48 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and 10 passes batted. Wilkins made 33 tackles and two sacks as a freshman in 2015. He has a nice skill set with upside.
Wilkins had to play a lot of defensive end last year because of injury. He displayed a nice ability to play there, but his NFL home is on the inside. As a pass-rusher, Wilkins was able to get after the quarterback with pressure coming around the corner. He looked the most dangerous when lining up over guards and firing past them to cause disruption in the backfield. While he played a lot of end, at his weight, Wilkins really doesn't have edge rusher speed for the NFL. He will have to rush from the inside as a pro, but that is his natural position anyway. Wilkins was a solid run defender, too. He has a strong, thick lower body to hold his ground at the point of attack.
Da'Ron Payne*, DT, Alabama
Height: 6-2. Weight: 319. Projected 40 Time: 5.10. Projected Round (2018): 1-2. 1/13/18: Payne had 47 tackles, two sacks and a pass batted in 2017. He was superb, showcasing his freakish speed and athleticism. Payne was a tremendous run defender all year, shutting down his gap and keeping teams from running the ball on Alabama. When the Crimson Tide let him rush the passer, Payne demonstrated the ability to collapse the pocket and pressure the quarterback as well. He was superb in the playoff games against Clemson and Georgia.
Payne gets rave reviews all over the scouting community. In speaking with some general managers who have scouted Alabama, they think Payne and Minkah Fitzpatrick are legit studs for the NFL. Payne looks like the rare nose tackle who has top-25 potential.
9/1/17: Scouts who have looked ahead to the 2018 class have raved about Payne's potential. Coming from Alabama, it isn't a stretch that Payne could take on the lead role for the Crimson Tide with Jonathan Allen moving on to the NFL. Payne is a run plugger with a lot of potential to grow. In 2016, Payne recorded 36 tackles with 3.5 for a loss, 1.5 sacks and one pass broken up.
What the stats don't illustrate is that Payne can be physically dominant. He dominated his one-on-ones last year when he was lining up over guards. Payne causes disruption and makes his teammates better. Payne's contributions helped the sacks totals of Allen, Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson. Payne could be poised for a big junior year.
Taven Bryan*, DT, Florida
Height: 6-4. Weight: 295. Projected 40 Time: 4.99. Projected Round (2018): 1-2. 1/13/18: Bryan broke out in 2017 with 40 tackles with six tackles for a loss and four sacks. He had a dominant game against Texas A&M. In speaking with some scouting sources, Bryan has drawn comparisons to Denver Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe. Some announcers have compared the 6-foot-4, 295-pounder Bryan to J.J. Watt, and in terms of style of play Bryan is reminiscent of Watt when playing well, but Bryan is not consistently dominant to deserve a comparison to Watt.
Bryan has a tremendous get-off with serious explosion off the snap. He also has developed strength with active hands to shed blocks. With his length, Bryan can play end or tackle, and he would be a perfect fit as a five-technique. He had a late start in football, however, from growing up Wyoming, and that shows up in him not demonstrating good instincts. Bryan is inconsistent while lacking feel and pass-rushing moves. Thus even though he is a first-round athlete, he still needs development as a player.
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Height: 6-2. Weight: 282. Projected 40 Time: 4.95. Projected Round (2018): 1-3. 12/16/17: In 2017, Hurst totaled 56 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, one pass broken up and five sacks. He has superb first-step quickness as he can constantly fire his gap and get into the backfield. Hurst is so fast off the snap that he often breaks into the backfield while offensive linemen are still getting out of their stances. If Hurst were bigger, he would be a sure-fire first-rounder. Hurst still might be a Thursday night pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but a lack of weight and length could cause him to go lower.
9/1/17: Hurst has developed into a tough defender at the point of attack for Michigan. As a sophomore, he had 35 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Hurst improved as a junior with 34 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 11.5 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble. The senior would be rated higher if he weren't undersized for defensive tackle in the NFL.
Tim Settle*, DT, Virginia Tech
Height: 6-3. Weight: 335. Projected 40 Time: 5.30. Projected Round (2018): 1-3. 1/13/18: Settle put together a strong 2017 season and was one of the better defenders on a tough Virginia Tech defense. The big nose tackle totaled 36 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, and one pass batted for the year. That was a big improvement over his 2016 season when he had 17 tackles and no sacks. The physical defender is probably more likely to be a second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft given how nose tackles are downgraded.
R.J. McIntosh*, DT, Miami
Height: 6-4. Weight: 293. Projected 40 Time: 5.20. Projected Round (2018): 1-3. 1/13/18: McIntosh had an impressive 2017 season and caused disruption for Miami at the point of attack. He totaled 52 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, seven passes broken up, and one forced fumble on the year. McIntosh also played well as a sophomore with 47 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 9.5 tackles for a loss. McIntosh has scheme flexibility with the ability to play tackle in a 4-3 and serve as an end in a 3-4.
Rasheem Green*, DT/DE, USC
Height: 6-4. Weight: 275. Projected 40 Time: 4.99. Projected Round (2018): 2-3. 1/13/18: Green played well for the Trojans in 2017. The junior recorded 43 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, one forced fumble and four passes broken up on the year. As a sophomore, he totaled 55 tackles, 6.5 sacks, four passes batted and two forced fumbles.
Green has good instincts and play recognition. He uses those skills to bat a lot of passes to prevent completions downfield. Green plays defensive tackle for USC, but in the NFL, he will have to move to defensive end unless he is able to gain some weight.
Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State
Height: 6-2. Weight: 304. Projected 40 Time: 5.30. Projected Round (2018): 2-3. 1/13/18: In 2017, Nnadi notched 53 tackles with 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, 10 tackles for a loss and a pass batted. He played well, causing disruption at the point of attack. Nnadi has good strength and quickness, but also faces some size limitations. He would fit well on the inside of a 4-3 defense as a nose tackle.
9/1/17: Nnadi was expected to have a breakout 2016 season, but he wasn't making much of an impact prior to a huge game against Miami to help lead the Seminoles to a victory. After that, Nnadi was a productive defender for the Seminoles. He totaled 44 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks on the year. Nnadi was a solid nose tackle for the Seminoles in 2015, totaling 45 tackles with two for a loss and two sacks. The senior has the upside to develop during 2017.
Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
Height: 6-4. Weight: 295. Projected 40 Time: 5.24. Projected Round (2018): 2-4. 1/13/18: Phillips turned himself into a NFL prospect with a tremendous senior season. He had 103 tackles with 17 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the year. In speaking with a director of college scouting who was scouting at Stanford, they felt that Phillips is a mid-rounder. They said that Phillips struggles with double teams and has limitations as a pass-rusher for the NFL that push him down, but they think Phillips is a good run stuffer for the next level. They said his game is similar to former Stanford nose tackle David Parry. Others will probably grade Phillips higher.
As a junior, Phillips had 46 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks. He missed his sophomore season with an injury after backing up as a freshman.
Andrew Brown, DT, Virginia
Height: 6-4. Weight: 285. Projected 40 Time: 4.72. Projected Round (2018): 3-4. 1/13/18: In 2017, Brown notched 46 tackles with 10.5 for a loss, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He possesses a lot of talent, but doesn't play up to his skill set consistently. He accepted an invitation to play at the Senior Bowl and could use a big week there.
9/1/17: Brown is a sturdy defender at the point of attack and impressed last year. Scouting sources say that Brown has a first-round skill set entering the 2017 season. In 2016, he totaled six sacks, 13 tackles for a loss and 38 tackles. Brown has good size to be a base end with quickness and athleticism to get after the quarterback.
Justin Jones, DT, N.C. State
Height: 6-2. Weight: 315. Projected 40 Time: 5.24. Projected Round (2018): 3-5. 1/13/18: Jones played well in 2017 for N.C. State, showing some quickness at the point of attack to fire into the backfield and cause disruption. He also rushed the passer pretty well for an interior lineman. He had 2.5 sacks, 34 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss on the year. Jones missed the season opener.
B.J. Hill, DT, N.C. State
Height: 6-4. Weight: 315. Projected 40 Time: 5.17. Projected Round (2018): 3-5. 1/13/18: Hill was part of a talented defensive line for the Wolfpack, and all four of their 2017 starters are future NFL contributors. Hill is a tough run defender at the point of attack who is tough to move and reliable to fill his gap. The senior recorded 57 tackles with 5.5 for a loss, three sacks and three passes batted in 2017. As a junior, he totaled 39 tackles with 2.5 for a loss, one sack, one forced fumble and three passes batted. Hill contributed 50 tackles as a sophomore with 3.5 sacks and 40 tackles as a freshman with 1.5 sacks.
Jerry Tillery*, DT, Notre Dame
Height: 6-6. Weight: 310. Projected 40 Time: 5.20. Projected Round (2018): 3-5. 1/13/18: Tillery played well for Notre Dame and was active at the point of attack. For 2017, he had 47 tackles with nine for a loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
9/1/17: Tillery had 37 tackles with three tackles for a loss in 2016. The sophomore played better than the numbers illustrate and caused some havoc at the point of attack. Tillery has the skill set to develop into more production in 2017 and maybe 2018.
Kendrick Norton*, DT, Miami
Height: 6-3. Weight: 318. Projected 40 Time: 5.23. Projected Round (2018): 3-5 1/13/18: Norton collected 26 tackles with 6.5 for a loss, two sacks and one passes batted in 2017. He is a run-stuffing nose tackle prospect for the NFL.
9/1/17: Norton had a solid 2016 as a first-year starter for the Hurricanes. The sophomore totaled 39 tackles with 10 for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble on the season. Norton could be better as a junior and senior with development.
Nathan Shepherd*, DT, Fort Hays State
Height: 6-5. Weight: 300. Projected 40 Time: 5.25. Projected Round (2018): 4-6. 1/13/18: Shepherd is one of the Division II products who did well enough to earn a Senior Bowl invitation. In 2017, he totaled 38 tackles with 12.5 for a loss and four sacks. Shepherd had 61 tackles with three sacks in 2016 and 69 tackles with three sacks in 2015. The long and heavy Shepherd has versatile size for the NFL with the ability to play tackle in a 4-3 and the length to play end in a 3-4 defense. Shepherd has a great opportunity to rise with an impressive performance in Mobile.
Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Height: 6-2. Weight: 310. Projected 40 Time: 5.40. Projected Round (2018): 5-7. 1/13/18: In 2017, Lotulelei had 16 tackles with a pass batted and 1.5 sacks. He is a plugger nose tackle, but he doesn't make stops in the ground game and lacks an ability to contribute in the pass rush.
9/1/17: Lotulelei notched 28 tackles with 8.5 for a loss and 3.5 sacks in 2016. He is run-stuffing nose tackle for the NFL, but doesn't offer a lot of pass-rush contributions. The younger brother of Star Lotulelei, Lowell Lotulelei had 33 tackles with four sacks and a forced fumble in 2014 as a freshman. He is a strong nose tackle at the point of attack. In 2015, Lotulelei had 26 tackles with five for a loss and one sack. He could be limited as a nose tackle who comes off the field in passing situations.
Folorunso Fatukasi, DT, Connecticut
Height: 6-4. Weight: 303. Projected 40 Time: 5.15. Projected Round (2018): 5-7 1/13/18: Fatukasi notched 45 tackles, 7.5 for a loss and four sacks in 2017.
9/1/17: Fatukasi had a quality junior year for the Huskies as he notched 43 tackles with 2.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks and a blocked kick. If Fatukasi can improve his pass rush as a senior, he could rise.
Kahlil McKenzie Jr.*, DT, Tennessee
Height: 6-3. Weight: 325. Projected 40 Time: 5.17. Projected Round (2018): 5-7. 1/13/18: McKenzie finished 2017 with a total of 35 tackles, 3.5 for a loss and two sacks. He entered the 2018 NFL Draft.
9/1/17: A pectoral injury limited McKenzie to only half the season in 2016. As a freshman in 2015, McKenzie flashed with 24 tackles and a sack. He has to stay healthy and produce as a junior.
Du'Vonta Lampkin*, DT, Oklahoma
Height: 6-4. Weight: 335. Projected 40 Time: 5.40. Projected Round (2018): 5-7. 1/13/18: Lampkin is a heavy nose tackle who should have returned to school for 2018. He had 23 tackles with five tackles for a loss and one sack in 2017. Lampkin is extremely powerful, but doesn't play consistently. He also faced academic problems that caused him to be suspended two games in 2017. Related academic issues caused him to flip from Texas to Oklahoma. Lampkin has had maturity issues off the field as well.
Bruce Hector, DT, South Florida
Height: 6-2. Weight: 295. Projected 40 Time: 4.95. Projected Round (2018): 6-FA. 1/13/18: Some team sources have graded Hector as an undrafted free agent. Other sources think of Hector as a sleeper pick who could be a good value. They think for the NFL, Hector could translate as a quick, penetrating three-technique who will contribute in the pass rush. In 2017, Hector totaled 38 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, one pass batted and one forced fumble. Hector showed his pass-rushing skills with six sacks as a junior and five as a sophomore. Interior pass-rushers are tough to find, so Hector could become a hot prospect in the months to come.
Poona Ford, DT, Texas
Height: 6-0. Weight: 305. Projected 40 Time: 5.25. Projected Round (2018): 6-FA. 1/13/18: Ford collected 34 tackles with eight for a loss, 1.5 sacks, one pass batted and one forced fumble in 2017. As a junior, he had 54 tackles with zero sacks. Ford notched 2.5 sacks in his sophomore season. While he has some quickness at the point of attack, Ford lacks height and length for the NFL, giving him scheme limitations for the pro game.
9/1/17: Bailey was a quality run stuffer for Louisville in 2016. He totaled 58 tackles with nine tackles for a loss and two sacks on the year. Getting after the quarterback is critical to helping Bailey's draft stock.
Matt Elam, DT, Kentucky
Height: 6-7. Weight: 360. Projected 40 Time: 5.54. Projected Round (2018): FA 1/13/18: Elam had eight tackles with a pass batted in 2017.
9/1/17: Elam is a massive nose tackle candidate for the NFL. He will need to lose weight and get in better condition, but he is a massive lineman who could be a two-gap or zero-technique in the NFL. Elam had 10 tackles as a freshman, 23 tackles as a sophomore and nine as a junior.