As we saw from taking a look at their depth chart, the Minnesota Vikings have some questions that they need to answer at the defensive tackle position. Is there an answer to be found in the 2017 NFL Draft? There just might be.
With the Vikings not selecting until #48 overall, the only interior defensive guys we can definitively saw will be off the board by then are Jonathan Allen of Alabama and Solomon Thomas of Stanford (if you consider the latter to be an interior guy), both of whom could wind up in the Top 5 overall selections. Other than that, the opinions seem to vary wildly on the talent level in this class. But, let’s take a look at who could potentially be out there, shall we?
Malik McDowell, Michigan State - If this was based on physical talent alone, McDowell would be a no-brainer first round selection, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him go there. However, scouts that have watched him on film have noted his tendency to sort of “shut it down” last season while Sparty was struggling. He’s definitely got all of the tools to be a force in the National Football League, however, and that’s why I’m not sure if I buy the speculation that he’s going to fall to Round 2. But, we’ll put him here for now anyway.
Elijah Qualls, Washington - Qualls is a compact package at the defensive tackle spot, and at this point appears to be more of a run-stuffer. He does have very good initial quickness, but his shorter height (6’1”) and build is going to limit him as a pass rusher. If he sheds a few pounds he could be a very good all-around tackle, but for now, as I said earlier, he appears to be more of a run-stuffing sort of player.
Carlos Watkins, Clemson - Watkins had a breakout season for the national champions in 2016, and he’s got the build and quickness to be a dominant player on the inside. He tends to play too high, and is going to need some pretty significant technical refinement, but I think a coach like Andre Patterson getting his hands on him would do wonders for a player like Watkins.
Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama - Tomlinson, who played end in the Crimson Tide’s 3-4 base look, certainly appears to be better suited to move inside to a 3-technique spot in the NFL. He has power to spare, and could be an immediate force as a run defender, though his pass rush skills will need some work if he’s going to be anything beyond that.
Jarron Jones, Notre Dame - Jones is a converted basketball player, and that shows in his athleticism. He played all over the defensive front with the Fighting Irish, but appears to be a defensive tackle at the next level. Jones’ biggest issue might be his durability. . .he had a Lisfranc fracture in 2014 and an MCL issue in 2015, and his “motor” appears to have suffered as a result.
Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State - While a lot of the players we’ve looked at so far appear to be better suited to run defense, Taylor’s role early on might actually be as a pass-rush specialist. He’s got a lot of upper body strength to push people around and collapse the pocket, but is going to need to gain lower body strength in order to be anything more than a pass-rush specialist.
Montravius Adams, Auburn - Adams was named the Tigers’ team MVP for the 2016 season, completing a nice bounceback year after a disappointing 2015. He has a very explosive first step, but seems to have issues if he doesn’t beat blockers with it immediately. Seems to be another player that could benefit in a big way from Andre Patterson’s tutelage.
Jaleel Johnson, Iowa - Another player who is more of a penetrator than a run-stuffer, Johnson was a big-time force for the Hawkeyes this past season. He has almost constant energy, but allows himself to get taken out of plays too often and gets a little out of control.
Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte - A small-school prospect, Ogunjobi might need some time to get adjusted to the NFL level, but has all the physical traits to be an outstanding defender. He does have the dreaded Sharrif Floyd issue (i.e. “short arms”), but that hasn’t stopped him from wreaking havoc as a pass rusher at Charlotte.
Later Rounds (Rounds 5-7)
Caleb Brantley, Florida - Brantley would likely be much higher on this list, but it came out just a few hours ago that he’s had charges filed against him for punching a woman in the face. Timing being what it is, he’s likely going to fall. . .a lot. On talent alone, he should be much higher than this, though. Nobody knows exactly how this is going to shake out for him, though.
Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA - A five-star recruit for the Bruins, Vanderdoes has struggled with injuries and conditioning. . .I’m guessing the two are connected. . .throughout his college career. Still, if teams are convinced that he’s healthy, he could be a big-time run-stopping force at the next level.
Davon Godchaux, LSU - I probably have Godchaux too low on this list, as he’s a very polished pass rusher with good agility and quickness on the inside. He may not have a true position at the next level, though, as he’s not explosive enough to shift outside and not enough of a run-stopper to be a regular inside.
Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, Southern Cal - You want a space eater? At 6’1” and 350 pounds, Tu’ikolovatu could probably eat time and space. As you’d probably expect, he’s not going to offer a whole lot in the way of a pass rush, but if you want a guy that’s going to thump on running backs, then this might be your guy.
That’s a look at. . .and I emphasize this again. . .some of the defensive tackles that the Minnesota Vikings could find themselves targeting in this week’s NFL Draft. I’m sure I probably left off a couple of favorites, and if you’d like to discuss them or any of the other defensive tackles available, the comments section is all yours.