The draft is a little over a month away (37 days 4hours, and 9 seconds according to ESPN as I start) and I thought it would be cool to start highlighting certain positions the Vikings could be going after in the draft and what possibilities could be had for them at any point during it. However, I think its important to understand where the Vikings stand currently at that position and what the missing need is that would be filled through the draft. Corner back will be debated till one is signed in FA/drafted, so I thought we could start with one of the other talent deep positions this year: Defensive Tackle.First lets take a look at what responsibilities are asked of the two defensive tackles in the 4-3 scheme the Vikings run. The two positions have different roles that play in tandem to disrupt centers and guards to allow DE's one on one battles and keep bodies off of linebackers.
The first is the Nose Tackle (NT) or nose guard, and even sometimes just defensive tackle. The primary job of the NT is to play the one technique (lines up on the weak side shoulder of the center) which requires they play the run and take on double teams. Playing the run doesn't mean they become rocks on the inside of the line though. NT's still need pursuit skills to track plays down the line to prevent cut backs and screens.The Vikings currently have two NT's on the roster in Pat Williams and recently re-signed Jimmy Kennedy. Their weights are listed at 317 and 320 respectively, but both are known to play heavier, which works into their role in taking on double teams in the run game. Another physical feature that both players share is their wide frames. Employing their wide frames, if a OL tries taking them on one on one, they have the size to overcome smaller blockers and force double teams their direction. Pat Williams is a Pro Bowler and Kennedy is a former first round pick who has played well rotating in through out last season, even starting when Pat was hurt. The biggest issue at this position is that both players are going to be over 30 once the season gets going (Pat is currently 37 and Jimmy is 30) and youth at the position while these guys can still play should be important.
The second defensive tackle is known as the under tackle (UT) or 3 technique (outside shoulder of strong side guard). The UT is generally the faster of the two DTs and while he is still responsibe for the run, on pass plays he has to be a factor because he plays on the blindside of the QB and his pass rushing presence helps free up the LDE which is generally the pass rushing specialist of the defensive ends. Former Vikings draft snafu Kevin Williams (I laugh ever time a talking head makes fun of how this went down. Sure the Vikings got jobbed trying to make a last second trade and teams jumped on guys they liked, but the Vikings ended up with KW who is arguably one of the best DTs in the game), Fred Evans, and Letroy Guion. KW doesn't come out of the game often. He generally plays all 3 downs because he can rush the passer and he has the endurance and exuberance, much like Jared Allen, to be competitive through a game. Evans came to the Vikings in 2007 when the Dolphins kicked him off the team for partying like he was McKinney (I kid, but he was arrested for a physical altercation on South Beach. Just like Mt. K) Regardless of how he got to Minnesota, he hasn't been in any kind of trouble since coming here and has been a decent back-up with a lot of faith from the team as he was tendered for a 2nd round pick this off-season. Guion was a 5th round pick out of Florida State in 2008. He left school a year early and most pundits thought he should have stayed in school another year. Letroy hasn't played much during the regular season, having accrued all of 1 career tackles. However, he is still only 22 and plays behind one of the best tackles in the game. Not going to get a lot of chances to prove yourself. This is a position the Vikings are pretty stacked at. All three of these guys are under 30 (KW 29, FE 26, LG 22) KW is again, one of the best and he has youthful depth behind him.
So now that we have gone over all of that, its a little easier to see where the Vikings need help at this position. While UT is stacked with talent, depth, and youth; the NT has talent, depth, but no youth and the best player at the position has openly said he will only play for another year or two. While Kennedy has played well since joining the team last year, I wouldn't count on him for more than a few years after P. Williams retirement. Bringing in some youth to develop under this talent will be looked at at some point during this years draft.
Here is a list of defensive tackles that are considered players who could play the NT position in a 4-3 defense:
Name College Projected Round Drafted
Dan Williams Tennessee 1st
Cam Thomas North Carolina 2nd
Torrell Troup Central Florida 3rd
Linval Joseph East Carolina 4th
Aleric Mullins North Carolina 6th - 7th
Kade Weston Georgia 7th - FA
Jay Ross East Carolina 7th - FA
Travis Ivey Maryland 7th - FA
Trey Bryant Baylor 7th - FA
There are way more UT's available in this draft (like McCoy, Odrick, Price), but NT will be a precious commodity this year with many 3-4 defensive teams looking for help at the position and a NT is more valuable to a 3-4 team as it is tough to find players who can play the position for 3 downs in that scheme. Some times teams that run the 3-4 draft guys that are more hybrid type tackles that can play DE and rotate at NT in that scheme. For example, in 2008, the Steelers took Ziggy Hood at the end of the 1st round. Hood was a penetrating UT in college and currently the Steelers use him at DE and move him inside on passing downs. The Chiefs did that same thing with Glen Doresy that same year and last year the Pack took B.J. Raji and use him in the same role. Most 3-4 teams do this because of how hard it is to find guys that play just the NT and play it for 3 downs.
I think at this point all information about the defensive tackle position for the Vikings has been mentioned. Now's the time to get the discussion going. Thoughts on how the Vikings need to handle the position going forward? Where they should begin looking in the draft? Draftable guys we are over looking? This page lists some 200 draft eligible defensive tackles this year, so there has to be a gem in there somewhere right?