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NFL Draft Positional Rankings: Nose Tackles/Defensive Ends

Moving onto defense in the positional rankings, below is a list of interior defensive lineman who I think could play nose tackle or defensive end in the Packers 3-4 scheme. The Packers find themselves very thin up front in both quality starters and depth. It would behoove the Packers to address this position relatively early in the draft and at least one more time in the mid to late rounds. I’ve only ranked players I feel comfortable enough to form a solid opinion/analysis on. It would be disingenuous to rank players I don’t have a strong opinion on.

Previous positional rankings:

http://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/nfl-draft-positional-rankings-quarterbacks

http://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/nfl-draft-positional-rankings-running-backs

http://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/nfl-draft-positional-rankings-wide-receivers

http://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/nfl-draft-positional-rankings-tight-ends

http://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/nfl-draft-positional-rankings-offensive-tackles

http://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/nfl-draft-positional-rankings-interior-offensive-lineman

3-4 Nose Tackles/Defensive Ends

  1. DeForest Buckner, DT, Oregon- Buckner is an incredibly long 5 technique at 6’7” 290lbs. He plays to his strengths using his length to keep himself clean and understands his gap responsibility. He can hold the point of attack as well as provide pressure to make plays in the backfield. He can improve his pass rushing skills but he is already an elite defender and has experience as a 3-4 defensive end in Oregon’s scheme. Buckner should be a top 10 pick.
  2. Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor- At 6’1” 311lbs Billings is built rather squatty but is incredibly strong.  Billings is a tireless worker, a menace disrupting plays on the inside and chasing ball carriers on the outside with surprising quickness. He will need to learn to use his hands better, particularly in the pass game but he can still be effective rushing the quarterback.  While he doesn’t give up ground vs double teams he can get in trouble losing his gap responsibilities when he tries to make a play in the backfield. The sky is the limit for Billings as he seems to be just scratching the surface of his potential.
  3. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville- Rankins is one of the more explosive interior defensive lineman in the draft. At 6’1” 299lbs Rankins uses his quickness to penetrate up the field and disrupt plays in the backfield. He uses his hands really well and has a good repertoire of pass rush moves already at this stage of his career. Rankins is also very solid vs the run but may struggle some vs bigger offensive lineman in the NFL.
  4. Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama-Jarran Reed is primarily a two down run stuffer at this point of his development. Reed, who stands 6’3” 307lbs, has very good lower body strength and can hold his ground vs double teams. He does a nice job making plays off his frame and will chase ball carriers but doesn’t get consistent penetration. Reed has a long ways to go to be a pass rush threat but his ability to play the run, and eat up blockers to allow the linebackers to make the play is top notch.
  5. Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi St. - Standing 6’6” and 310lbs Jones has an ideal frame for a 3-4 defensive end. He has a great first step often surprising offensive lineman with his quickness. He has strong powerful hands and can make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Jones does have a tendency to play too high at times, and his motor is definitely a question mark. If Jones’s plays motivated and/or works on his conditioning he could develop into a really good defensive lineman.
  6. A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama- Robinson is another prospect who is built incredibly well for the 5 tech in a 3-4 defense. At 6’4 307lbs Robinson plays with brute strength displaying a powerful bull rush and strong hands. He needs to work on disengaging from blockers better and pass rush moves to compliment his bull rush.
  7. Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech- Butler is a very quick footed 6’4” 323lb defensive tackle who does a lot of things really well. Butler can push the pocket when pass rushing but is assignment sound when filling in his run gaps. He wasn’t overly productive in college but the potential is there for Butler to become a solid starter.
  8. Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA- Clark Is an immovable tree stump in the middle of the defense. At 6’3” 314lbs Clarks has a strong lower body and understands leverage incredibly well. He does have an effective bull rush as a pass rusher but is more of a run stuffer at this point.
  9. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss- Nkemdiche flashes dynamic ability to penetrate into the backfield to make plays. He is an extraordinary athlete. However, the 6’3” 294lb prospect can too easily be blown off the line vs double teams and has consistency issues.
  10. Jonathan Bullard, DT, Florida- Bullard is a fascinating player to watch. He’s 6’3” 285lbs and played both defensive end and defensive tackle for the Gators 4-3 defense. He is extremely quick off the snap and really disrupts plays before they even begin. However he doesn’t have a true fit in a 3-4 defense, but he’s a good football player who rarely misses tackles.
  11. Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina St. - The 6’1” 309lb Hargrave is an absolute wrecking ball on the interior. He destroyed the smaller school competition, beating offensive lineman with power and quickness. He’s got a bubble butt but doesn’t have a great anchor to play nose tackle.
  12. Bronson Kaufusi, DE, BYU- Kaufusi has great length at 6’6” 285lbs and has experience playing up and down the line for BYU’s 3-4 defense. Kaufusi can provide a pass rush and is also very stout vs the run. He’d be a solid day two selection but teams are going to be hesitant to draft him too high because he’ll be 25 years old before the season starts.
  13. Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio St. - Washington is a bit of an enigma. At 6’3” 301lbs he should be able to beat defenders with power and two gap effectively. However, he plays more like a finesse defensive end often times losing his balance. He could come in and help in a rotation right away but not sure he’ll develop into a full time starter.
  14. Austin Johnson, DT, Penn St.- At 6’4” 314lbs Johnson is a well-proportioned nose tackle who has the ability to play some defensive end in a 3-4 defense. He doesn’t have great arm length or great hand usage which hinders his ability to disengage consistently. He’s good at occupying blockers but doesn’t make a lot of plays.
  15. Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame- Day is a violent player who surprises offensive lineman with his quickness and hands. He can provide a pass rush and makes plays in the run game. At 6’1” 293lbs Day doesn’t have a true position in a 3-4 defense but he is definitely a playmaker.
  16. Hassan Ridgeway, DT, Texas- At 6’3” 303lbs Ridgeway is a strong player who holds is ground vs double teams and can also defeat blockers in one on one situations. Despite being a talented player his production has never matched his talent.
  17. Jihad Ward, DT, Illinois- Ward has prototypical size for 5 technique in a 3-4 defense at 6’5” 297lbs. Ward works hard and has flashed some ability to rush the passer but he doesn’t hold up well vs double teams and can get stuck on blocks too long. Ward has a lot of tools that can be coached up and he could turn into a very good pro.
  18. Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska-Collins is an explosive player who has a great first step. Collins has good hands and consistently disrupts plays in the backfield. He’s 6’2” 311lbs but needs to improve vs the run as he too often takes himself out of position and doesn’t anchor well.
  19. Matt Ioannidis, DT, Temple- At 6’3” 299lbs Ioannidis is an extremely strong player who uses his power to his advantage. He has good play recognition and can bully his way off of blocks to make stops in the run game. Ioannidis doesn’t offer much in the way of pass rush but he has the look of a potential starter as a 3-4 defensive end.
  20. DJ Reader, DT, Clemson- Reader is one of the more natural nose tackles in the draft. He’s 6’3” 327lbs and moves incredibly well for someone his size. He has lateral quickness and plays with good leverage. He isn’t a great pass rusher at this point but he can keep blockers busy up front.
  21. Carl Nassib, DT, Penn St. - Nassib is a very good athlete and very hard worker. At 6’7 277lbs he may be better suited for a 4-3 defensive end but he can hold the point of attack vs the run and shows some very good pass rush technique. He’d have to add a few pounds of muscle to withstand battling on the interior as a 3-4 defensive end.
  22. Dean Lowry, DT, Northwestern- at 6’6” 296lbs Lowry has a good body type to play end, and is the type of blue collar high effort player teams love to have. He does a nice job pursuing ball carriers down the line of scrimmage and holds up well to double teams. Lowry isn’t a forceful pass rusher but is said to have a great work ethic.

 

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Comments (32)

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Icebowler's picture

April 12, 2016 at 04:30 pm

It looks like a lot of teams are going to be able to significantly upgrade their d-lines this year. I hope the Packers are one of them.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 12, 2016 at 05:43 pm

I can't wait to look up some of these other guys.

I've already fallen in love with Billings' tape. Rankins' tape wasn't so great to me. Strong against the run though. The 2 guys from Alabama were impressive, although I've only seen 2 games.

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Bearmeat's picture

April 12, 2016 at 06:04 pm

With how good this DL class is, I'd be very happy having 2 of the day 1/2 picks be DL. One NT (Billings!!) and one 5 Tech. (Jones??) :)

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 12, 2016 at 06:11 pm

Where do you think these players will land in the draft?

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 12, 2016 at 06:44 pm

Buckner's tape is good -- if it's vs a weaker opponent. His size can not be overlooked. If he's coachable -- watch out. Where in the hell does Oregon find these kids?!

Also, where are you getting these summaries of players? Some of them aren't matching. I don't think Buckner uses his hands enough.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 12, 2016 at 06:58 pm

Chris Jones' summary is accurate. Strong against the, but won't offer much in the pass defense due to his motor. He'll almost shut it down the second he feels a play is behind him or if the play is running in the opposite direction of where he's going. He does use his hands very well. Such a powerful kid.

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Nick Perry's picture

April 13, 2016 at 05:56 am

That's exactly what scares me about Jones. He was also projected as a 3rd rounder before the combine and the Pre Draft stuff began, at least on several of the Draft Sites I look at. Guys that move up (Thornton, Bradford) position rankings scare the hell out of me.

I like the kid out of BYU even though he's 25. His Dad coached him at BYU on the D-Line. I also like Johnson out of Penn St. or Lowrey out of Northwestern. Give me high energy guys that never give up on plays every time.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 17, 2016 at 08:36 pm

He dominated damn near the entire game, but plays like this show up too often.

Great first step! And then....

https://youtu.be/vguCmKduWrY?t=5m40s

The size and talent is very tempting, but motor and taking plays off is a red flag. Definitely something you can't fix overnight. Do we even have the coach(es) to fix that? I don't know if he could make it to the 4th, but I'd take a gamble with him with one of those 3 4th round picks.

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Evan's picture

April 12, 2016 at 07:55 pm

Shawn Oakman?

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EdsLaces's picture

April 12, 2016 at 09:32 pm

He's only on the most ripped player rankings.

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RCPackerFan's picture

April 13, 2016 at 06:26 am

very intriguing player!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 14, 2016 at 03:39 am

Shawn Oakman is "undraftable" per ESPN after arrest on serious sexual assault charges due to an incident on April 3, 2016.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000652696/article/baylors-shawn-oak...

http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/15198366/shawn-oakman-for...

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RCPackerFan's picture

April 14, 2016 at 07:03 am

Yeah, that definitely changed things for him.

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holmesmd's picture

April 14, 2016 at 07:34 am

He didn't do anything special at Baylor anyway. The guy's production was close to zilch! If football were bodybuilding, this would be our guy. Throw in rape allegations that at the very least shows immaturity and lack of judgement and you have a guy that no one is likely to consider. Guy has all the tools but no work ethic on the field and questionable character. No thanks!

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 12, 2016 at 09:57 pm

I just thought of this (and this is why it's hard for me to say where a player should be drafted):

If there was an All-Pro team made up of ONLY 1st rounders vs a team made up of ONLY 3rd and 4th rounders -- which team would be better?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 14, 2016 at 07:28 am

They would both be excellent, but the first-rounders would be better. The 3rd/4th Rd team would have issues at QB ( Wilson, I suppose) and LT, maybe OLB, some at WR and maybe CB, but there might be an edge there too.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 12, 2016 at 11:36 pm

Bronson Kaufusi

Funny, I started off watching his game against Utah and his team got their asses handed to them. But around the 3-minute mark he really began to stand out. For someone 6 foot 6 and 260 he's really fluid and agile. He uses his hands very well and I haven't seen him forfeit on a play in any of the games I've watched of him. He even looks good when standing up and rushing or dropping into a zone.

Motor. Motor. Motor.

Let JP put him under his wing for a season.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 12, 2016 at 11:58 pm

Agree with the Adolphus Washington summary. I think he'll be better rushing the passer than stopping the run. Quick first step and good play recognition. His motor though, ugh. Remember that guy from Minnesota a few drafts back (can't think of his name) that went to the Falcons? A lot of potential as a pass rusher, but was lazy. That's what I think of Adolphus Washington.

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Nick Perry's picture

April 13, 2016 at 05:59 am

Ra'Shede Hageman, and I agree.

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holmesmd's picture

April 13, 2016 at 05:29 am

DJ Reader if Billings gone at NT!

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 13, 2016 at 09:22 am

I'm interested in seeing more on Austin Johnson. The only game I could find was against Ohio State in which he was double teamed a ton. His highlights are available, but I dont like to go off of highlights.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 14, 2016 at 02:06 am

Same here, though draft breakdown has film of 4 or 5 minutes only for 2 games in 2014. I don't like looking at old tape since we hope the prospect improved each year. In the Ohio State game, Johnson looks pretty good, nice COD, some lateral movement, but only makes a few plays, and actually seems to have trouble disengaging to make the tackle in his gap. I did not see a 1st round talent, or even high 2nd, but that is where most sites have him rated: 30s or low 40s. I'd love to watch more 2015 film because the guy is a real possibility to GB but could not find it. Here is a link for the 2014 games, but I am sure you know the site.

http://draftbreakdown.com/players/austin-johnson/

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 13, 2016 at 09:49 am

Sheldon Day is impressive. This guy is damn near 300 pounds, plays all across the D-Line, and can rush the edge standing up. I've also seen him drop into coverage from the DT position (looked natural). He's a better pass rusher than run stopper. Not a high motor guy, but it's decent. I really like his versatility.

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BradHTX's picture

April 13, 2016 at 09:57 am

"17. Jihad Ward"?

Wow. While I want a player with a killer attitude, I think this kid needs a lesson in PR.

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Handsback's picture

April 13, 2016 at 11:10 am

Question about Green Bay's defense...if they play nickle 50-60% of the time, that means more then half the game ypu are using 2-down linemen, 3-4 LBs, and 5 DBs. Thinking about that 50-60% of the time, what is important? Run stopping D-line guy w/o any pass rush? A pure nose tackle w/ limited pass rush ability? A DE who will play in the base and provide some pass rush? A run thumper ILB or pass rusher from the outside? How about a a hit and chase ILB vs a run stopper OLB? I think the DBs won't be an option in the first two rounds.
So following the trail of bread crumbs, I've come to the conclusion that players like Rankin/Billings/Reed aren't as important to the Packers as much as Butler/Jones/Robinson/Johnson who can play DE/DT in the base and DE in the nickle.
Also see another ILB that will be more hit and chase vs. a true thumper.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 13, 2016 at 12:09 pm

I've seen every one of our D-Linemen get rotated into our Nickel packages, so I don't think any DL prospect would be more important than any of the others. It's all about skill sets. Give me a DL that can do a bit of everything vs a DL that specializes in Run or Pass. That's why Mike Daniels is so valuable. I believe Billings would be phenomenal paired with Mike Daniels.

I'd also like to see more 3-3-5 to help relieve some pressure on the DLs. Double team blocks would be harder to execute and it provides another big body to help with pressure.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 14, 2016 at 02:24 am

Raji and Guion usually only get 400 to 500 snaps per year. I wish Pennel had shown a little more last year, but I saw some improvement but not a leap. Your point Handsback is one of the reasons that everything else being equal, I'd prefer to draft a DE or an OLB.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 14, 2016 at 02:40 am

I agree.

I think our DE's (Not including Daniels) are much weaker than our OLB's (Not including Matthews).

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holmesmd's picture

April 13, 2016 at 04:43 pm

Great points! I would add that every historic 3-4 defense had a monster NT. The Ravens & Steelers come to mind. I think Pennel & Guion can play that role effectively but put NT's are rare and considered the most demanding position on DL. Despite his injuries and retirement for the moment, I think Raji was a pretty damn good NT when he was healthy and allowed to play there. Ngata & to a lesser degree Porkchop Wilfork are modern prototypes IMO. You won't find many young men in their 20's that are nearly their size and strength. It's a very important concept in a 3-4 that can play the run in base or anything else.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 17, 2016 at 12:13 am

Trade back into the 2nd:

Targets:

Andrew Billings
Vernon Butler
Kevin Dodd
Noah Spence
Shaq Lawson
Leonard Floyd

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 18, 2016 at 01:07 am

Drealyn, I went back and watched all of Billings' tape again. I do like him; he is in the backfield a lot. I'd be perfectly comfortable taking him at #27. He seems to have no responsibilities and is free to bull rush like crazy without having to concern himself with gap responsibilities. A lot of running plays go exactly where Billings lined up.

If we traded back to #33, for example, of your listed players, I'd go Lawson, Dodd, Billings, Butler. Spence scares me a little but also intrigues me - not sure how he would do in the NFL. Not a fan of Floyd: I'd find someone else to draft.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 18, 2016 at 11:26 am

I think I would be cool with Billings at #27 on Day 1too. But depending on who we put together with Billings (either the 2nd round or 3rd round) my feelings might change.

Since we're missing out on Ragland (in that scenario) we have to get a damn good pass rusher. Either OLB or DE.

Also, what do you think about Deion Jones. I think he makes a much better Dime LB than.....*sigh* Joe Thomas. He's fast, aggressive (can take on blocks) and very instinctive. Do you think he makes it to the 4th?

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