There aren’t many defensive tackles who have made a name for themselves in the 2018 NFL Draft class, but more will emerge. As of now, these are the top defensive tackles in the 2018 NFL Draft class:
Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
Payne is the only returning starter from Alabama’s defensive line and now will have to step up for all of the talent they lost in the 2017 NFL Draft. He is 6’2″ and 319 pounds and fits in nicely at nose tackle for the Crimson Tide, but can probably play as a 4-3 defensive tackle in the pros.
While Payne doesn’t have a lot of stats, just four tackles for loss and two sacks in two years, he does a great job of taking on multiple blockers and shutting down running lanes. If he can continue to do that, he won’t need too many stats to be selected highly in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The junior will have multiple chances to go up against elite competition. The Crimson Tide play Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. Both Florida State and LSU will feature some interesting duels between Payne and their interior offensive linemen.
Vita Vea, Washington
He only started five games, but Vea had a huge impact for the Huskies that would’ve gotten him drafted pretty early in the 2017 NFL Draft. He decided to come back to school for his redshirt junior season. At 6’5″ and 335 pounds, he has elite size for the position.
Vea demonstrated the ability to rush the passer in his limited action last season with five sacks. He needs to progress at stopping the run, but for only a few starts he is well on his way to improving in the 2017 season. A 3-4 nose tackle is likely his best fit at the NFL level.
The Huskies have key games against Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, Utah and Washington State. If Vea can increase his production with increased playing time, he will be one of the first interior defensive linemen drafted.
Christian Wilkins, Clemson
Wilkins has good size at 6’4″ and 310 pounds and is coming off of an impressive season that ended with a National Championship. With the exodus of talent from Clemson’s team, it will be Wilkins time to lead the team.
One of the best assets that Wilkins has is his ability to stop the run. He finished last season with 13 tackles for loss. He is a decent pass rusher, but could improve this season to make himself a more complete prospect. His best fit is as a 4-3 defensive tackle and isn’t really fit to play in a 3-4 scheme.
The Tigers will play Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, NC State and Florida State. The Florida State game always features a lot of NFL Draft prospects and will likely be Wilkins biggest test.
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