Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft, held April 25-27, won’t be any different. The nose tackle position is a rare commodity that is highly coveted by every NFL franchise. And the 2013 class features a deep collection of elite prospects at the top of the rankings. However, after the top ten names are called, there could be a severe drop off in talent. Look for teams to go early on defensive tackles.
1. Star Lotulelei, Utah (6-2, 311)
The big fella from Utah was voted as the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12 by his peers last season. If the offensive linemen who try to block him each Saturday say he is the best in the league, scouts tend to believe them. He is a three-down tackle who can be used against the pass and run equally. He has great size, was extremely productive in college and is stout at the point of attack. There are questions swirling around a potential heart condition that may or may not influence his draft stock. Many scouts are in wait-and-see mode with this Star, but if deemed healthy, he is downright unblockable.
2. Sharrif Floyd, Florida (6-3, 297)
The Gators' active lineman is lighter than his elite-level counterparts and is generously listed at 6-foot-3. But he is extremely active, disruptive and will make plenty of plays on the next level. This nose tackle was an elite recruit back in 2010 and made an immediate impact as a freshman in Gainesville. As his career went on, he continued to show marked improvement in both production and technique. He has excellent upside and should be compared favorably to Warren Sapp.
3. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (6-2, 294)
Despite his wordy taunts, Richardson is one of the most talented tackles in the nation. Every SEC coach to have scouted the Tigers pointed to the defensive line as the area to focus on, and most of that was due to the play of this big guy. He has had some injury issues in the past (shoulder), but the upside is obvious for the one of the highest-rated recruits to ever sign with Mizzou. He is an incredible overall athlete.
4. Jonathan Hankins, Ohio State (6-3, 320)
The big Buckeye lineman has just a touch less upside than Lotulelei, but Hankins possesses a similar skill set. He has a massive frame that is excellent at clogging space in order to stop the run. If he can prove he is a three-down tackle who can get penetration and disrupt the passer from the interior he will be a franchise player for years to come. In what should be a very deep and talented defensive tackle class, Hankins could be one of the best.
5. Kawann Short, Purdue (6-3, 299, Sr.)
Purdue's heart and soul on defense has tons of ability. He is roughly the same size as Floyd but is slightly less explosive. He has demonstrated his ability to play in opposing backfields with four years of consistent play in the middle of a defense that rarely gave him the help he deserved. He is a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year-type athlete who was a two-time team captain.
6. Jesse Williams, Alabama (6-3, 323)
There isn't anything flashy or freakish about this young Australian, but he absolutely gets the job done with tremendous strength and technique. He has been coached by the best, been extremely productive against the best and should be viewed as one of the best. He doesn't wow scouts with any one talent, but should be a major contributor on the next level for years to come.
7. John Jenkins, Georgia (6-4, 346)
Few players in this class are bigger than Jenkins. While he will need to prove his stamina, flexibility and commitment to physical conditioning, he doesn't have to prove much in the form of on-field production. He has experience in a pro-style 3-4 defense that was one of the best in the vaunted SEC. He has the skills and size to develop into one of the better players at his position in this class, but needs to refine his fitness, size and consistency.
8. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina (6-3, 313)
The big Tar Heel has been a fast riser throughout the draft process. He has the needed size and power to play at the next level but needed to prove himself after quitting the game following high school. He was surrounded by elite talent and was a junior college transfer, yet has continued to improve and held his own without names like Coples, Quinn or Powell there to support him this past fall. He has upside but may not be athletic or explosive enough to warrant a first-round pick.
9. Bennie Logan, LSU (6-2, 309)
Only one player on the Tigers' roster gets to wear No. 18 each season as the unquestioned leader of the program and Logan got that distinguished honor in 2012. He is as tough a leader as there is at the position, but doesn't have one talent that makes him a sure-fire early draft pick. He is a dependable performer that will give scouts exactly what they expect. Logan has limited upside but extremely low downside.
10. Josh Boyd, Mississippi State (6-3, 310)
The motor and effort are what makes Boyd an intriguing prospect. He works hard to track down tacklers and never takes a play off. The question is whether or not he has enough raw natural physical talents to start in the NFL?
Other names to watch:
11. Everett Dawkins, Florida State (6-2, 292)
12. Akeem Spence, Illinois (6-1, 307)
13. Jordan Hill, Penn State (6-1, 303)
14. Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State (6-1, 335)
15. Cory Grissom, USF (6-1, 306)
16. Montori Hughes, Tennessee-Martin (6-4, 329)
17. Kwame Geathers, Georgia (6-5, 342)
18. Stacy McGee, Oklahoma (6-3, 308)
19. Chris Jones, Bowling Green (6-2, 302)
20. T.J. Barnes, Georgia Tech (6-6, 369)
2013 NFL Draft Positional Rankings:
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Tight Ends
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Offensive Tackles
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Guards and Centers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Defensive Ends