This is the first in a series of position-by-position stories on the NFL Draft by newyorkjets.com.
The last time a defensive tackle was selected No. 1 overall was 1994, when Ohio State’s Dan Wilkinson was the choice of the Cincinnati Bengals. But “Big Daddy” didn’t start a trend. While most pundits believe a quarterback will get the top nod in April from the St. Louis Rams, a pair of DTs will follow not too far behind Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.
There is great debate about who is the better pro prospect when you hear Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy mentioned in the same sentence.
You might have seen or at least heard of Suh’s Big 12 Championship Game performance when he racked up a career-high 4.5 sacks against Texas. Despite Nebraska falling to the Longhorns on a last-second field goal, Suh led the hungry ‘Huskers to a nine-sack, 15-tackles-for-loss performance as they made mincemeat of the Texas O-line.
A Heisman Trophy finalist and the first defensive player to grab Associated Press player of the year honors since 1998, the stout Suh (whose first name is pronounced "en-DOM-ah-ken" and whose last name is "soo") was terrific against the run and he also had a career-high 12 sacks in 2009. The Lions own the No. 2 pick and they might find it hard to pass on the 6’4”, 307-pounder who finished second all-time at Nebraska in sacks (34) and tackles behind the line (56).
The second Sooner to hear his name called the evening of April 22 will be McCoy. Also a major disruptor, the 6’4”, 295-pound McCoy registered 31 tackles (14.5 behind the line), racked up five sacks and added 10 QB hurries. Some draftniks view the athletic McCoy, who probably fits best on the interior of a 4-3 scheme or on the outside in a 3-4 front, as a better pass rusher than Suh. After redshirting in 2006, McCoy was the Big 12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year in ’07 and then he followed up with 6.5 sacks and 30 tackles in ’08.
NFL Will Flip over Pierre-Paul
Despite playing just one season of major college football, South Florida DE Jason Pierre-Paul appears poised to cash in on a large signing bonus. Pierre-Paul is an interesting story — he played high school basketball and then football at a couple of junior colleges before breaking through with the Bulls. Possessing an explosive first step, the 6’5”, 270-pound Pierre-Paul totaled 6.5 sacks, 45 tackles and 16.5 stops behind the line for USF. That came after he dominated lower-level competition with 14 sacks at the College of the Canyons in California and 10.5 at Fort Scott CC in Kansas.
Pierre-Paul’s made a lot of fans on YouTube for his backflip demonstration at a South Florida practice before last season’s Independence Bowl.
"I can do 23 if I have to,'' Pierre-Paul was quoted as saying in the Tampa Tribune. "I only did 14 that day because that's all I needed to do to beat [challenger and teammate] Kion Wilson. If Kion had somehow done 15, I would have done 23. I can do 23 no matter what — without stopping.''
Not too many offensive tackles had success stopping Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan last season. His 12.5 sacks and 55 tackles (18.5 behind the line) helped get him ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors. The Buffalo Bills are a team with many needs, but perhaps Morgan might be attractive to them at No. 9 when you consider head coach Chan Gailey brought him to G-Tech.
“I think the tape of my performance during the season speaks for itself,” Morgan said in a draft diary published on sportingnews.com. “As far as everything else, I think I've done a good job of promoting myself as a player teams would want to have. … I'm not going to predict where I'll be picked. I just feel like I'm the most complete DE overall in the draft.”
Cody: 'Bama's Big Man
An interesting scenario would develop if Alabama’s Terrence Cody is on the board late in the first round when the Jets are scheduled to pick at No. 29. The 6’4” Cody is as big as a small Jersey city and he’s got his weight down to around 350 after showing up at the Senior Bowl at 370.
Cody’s a dominating inside presence who has the ability to be an excellent nose in the 3-4. The Jets have a fine one already in Kris Jenkins, but an addition like Cody could allow Jenks to wreak some havoc on the outside at the “tackle” spot across from Pro Bowler Shaun Ellis. (When head coach Rex Ryan was in Baltimore, unheralded Kelly Gregg was at nose and Haloti Ngata was outside).
“I feel like I’m that perfect 3-4 player,” Cody said in a recent article published on nationalfootballpost.com. “I took up those blocks for ['Bama ILB Rolando] McClain and we both did really well this season. He was running free and getting involved. After the first play of the game, I knew if they were going to run away from me.”
After turning in a good senior season at Tennessee, DT Dan Williams will most likely be a first-round selection. Williams (6’2”, 327) collected 61 tackles for former Vols defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and that number led all SEC linemen. Williams is a strong presence and he’d be an attractive option for a club with a 3-4 alignment.
This Price Could Be Right
Some folks on the East Coast may not realize just how good a player UCLA DT Brian Price is. Price made himself at home in opponents’ backfields in ’09, racking up seven sacks and adding 23.5 stops behind the line. That earned him Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors after he registered four sacks and 35 tackles (14 behind the line) as a sophomore.
DE Carlos Dunlap (6'6", 277) had nine sacks for Florida last season and went out in style with two against Cincinnati in the Gators’ Sugar Bowl romp. He did miss the SEC Championship, though, after being arrested and charged with a DUI only four days before UF’s 32-13 loss to Alabama. Dunlap, who should be able to play end in either the 4-3 or 3-4, was solid against the run at UF and also had 9.5 sacks as a sophomore.
Michigan struggled to a 5-7 mark, but the Maize & Blue had a stud D-end in 6’1”, 268-pound Brandon Graham, who had more stops behind the line (26) than anyone else nationally and also amassed 10.5 sacks. Some scouts might be concerned about Graham’s height, but he just got it done in college and has the potential to be an excellent OLB in the NFL.
Only Penn State DT Jared Odrick kept Graham from Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Odrick was outstanding as a senior, picking up eight sacks despite double-team attention and finishing fifth on PSU with 41 tackles (10 behind the line). He’ll stay on the inside in a 4-3 or move to end in a 3-4.
Everson Griffen, DE, Southern Cal; Tyson Alualu, DT, California; Corey Wootton, DE, Northwestern; Cam Thomas, DT, North Carolina; Alex Carrington, DE, Arkansas State.