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2014 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Tackles
By Matt Horkman

1. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Perhaps nobody took advantage of the pre-draft process more than Donald did. Despite producing at a high level in 2013 with 59 tackles (28.5 for loss) and 11 sacks, Donald faced scrutiny because of his size. At 6-foot-1 and 285 pounds, he lacks the length NFL scouts prefer in defensive lineman. He silenced critics by thriving at the Senior Bowl, where he battled with Notre Dame offensive tackle (and likely first-round pick) Zack Martin. He followed up a strong Senior Bowl with an impressive combine workout, where his 10-yard split clocked in at 1.59. Overall, Donald displays the necessary tools to play the three-technique, which is a defensive tackle that lines up over the guard’s outside shoulder. His first step is quicker than any other defensive tackle in this class and he exhibits the tenacity to dominate at the next level.

2. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Jernigan played well against Auburn in the BCS title game. He gets off the ball well, doing a good job of anticipating the snap count. He fights off blockers, using his hands to disengage from them. He does need to work on his conditioning, as Florida State often pulled their best players because of large leads. In addition, his short arms (32 inches) could hurt his draft stock ala Sharrif Floyd in 2013. At this point in his career, Jernigan is a scheme-versatile player, who defends the run better than the pass.

3. Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
Using his quickness, Quarles does a nice job of collapsing the pocket. He moves well for a 290-plus pound man. He was very productive at South Carolina. His 9.5 sacks in 2013 trailed only Donald among defensive tackles. However, because of Jadeveon Clowney’s presence, Quarles wasn’t the focus of opposing offenses. Still, he’s a pass-rushing interior defensive lineman that produced against high-level SEC competition. He’ll hear his name called late day one or early day two. Louis Nix III

4. Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 330-plus pounds, Nix has the prototype size of a 3-4 nose guard. He displays excellent movement skills and can dominate throughout certain spurts. Opposing defenders knock him around too much, and he’s too often on the ground for a player of his size. He also turns into a ghost through long spurts. His 2012 tape is very good, while his 2013 tape disappointed. In conclusion, Nix is a two-down run stopper with rare measurables. Because of his size and upside, he is likely to hear his name called on the first day of the draft.

5. Ego Ferguson, LSU
A raw but talented big man, Ferguson is a high-effort player with upside. For his size (6-foot-3, 315 pounds), he displays good movement skills. He gets penetration in the running game and has a pass rush to him. It’s unlikely he’ll take to the pro game early in his career, as his skills are still developing, but his long-term outlook is considerably bright.

6. Daquan Jones, Penn State
Scheme versatile, Jones can play in a 34 or 43 front. He was first-team All-Big Ten in 2013, consistently wreaking havoc in the backfield. He explodes off the snap and uses his hands well to disengage from blockers. While Jones will receive interest from 3-4 teams as a potential five-technique defensive end, his best position is a three-technique defensive tackle in a four-man front.

7. Anthony Johnson, LSU
Johnson is a big, explosive interior lineman who does a good job of getting penetration against the run. He is inconsistent, however, and Ferguson often outperformed him. He also struggles with double teams. Despite any misgivings, Johnson is talented and can contribute as a two-down run stopper.

8. Will Sutton, Arizona State
A strong 2012 season had many projecting Sutton as a first-round pick. His explosiveness is what made him so special in 2012, but it substantially regressed in 2013 after he gained weight. He disappears throughout spurts, but displays an excellent swim move. Sutton was a first-team All-American in 2013, but his recognition had more to do with his reputation than his production on the field. If he ever gets his explosiveness back, he could develop into a disruptive pass rusher.

9. Daniel McCullers, Tennessee
Standing 6-foot-7 and weighing 353 pounds, McCullers' massive size makes him an intriguing prospect. His size limits his athleticism, making his pass rush non-existent. In addition, his height prevents him from playing with leverage. Still, McCullers is a mountain of a man who stands as a brick wall against the run. He’s a two-down player.

10. Beau Allen, Wisconsin
Allen is a two-down developmental nose tackle who’ll appeal to 3-4 teams. He’s intelligent, earning Big Ten All-Academic honors. He’s tough and incredibly powerful. He uses his size (6-foot-2, 332 pounds) to engulf running backs. He doesn’t make any eye-opening plays, but he’s an underappreciated player that competes.

Best of the Rest
Jason Bromley, Syracuse
Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech
Bruce Gaston, Purdue
Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech
Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss

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