1- Kheeston Randall, DT, Texas
Analysis: Randall is a huge guy at 6’5″, 295 pounds and I think he will be very disruptive during his senior year at Texas. Texas has been churning out some quality defensive line prospects in recent years, and I don’t think Randall will be an exception to that. Last year as a junior he produced 33 tackles (22 solo), 10.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 pass deflections and he blocked two kicks/punts. I am excited to watch him play this year and I think he has a lot of NFL potential.
2- Tydreke Powell, DT, North Carolina
Analysis: Powell is another talented North Carolina defensive lineman that has the potential to help make North Carolina’s defense very dangerous if they can avoid the problems that last year’s talented defenders ran into. Powell is a very large man at 6’3″, 310 pounds and should be a very effective nose tackle for the Tar Heels this season. Last year as a junior he managed 47 total tackles (25 solo), 3.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF and 1 pass deflection. He may not rack up a lot of stats this year, but his impact will be felt if North Carolina can stuff the run, especially up the middle. I look forward to seeing if he can stuff the run but also collapse the pocket as a pass rusher this season.
3- Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska
Analysis: Crick is a very tall guy at 6’6″, 285 pounds and may be an ideal 3-4 DE candidate in the NFL. However, for now I have him ranked as a DT until I can further evaluate his potential as a 3-4 DE, but I thought I’d make sure everyone knew that the potential was there. Last year he had a very good season even without Ndamukong Suh when he amassed 70 total tackles (36 solo), 14.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks, 1 FF and 1 pass deflection. He is the man on the Nebraska defensive line now and he will have a talented player next to him much like Suh did as a senior as Baker Steinkuhler looks to emerge as a junior. It will be interesting to see how this tandem fairs in the Big-10 and if they can disrupt offenses anywhere nearly as effectively as Suh and Crick did two years ago.
4- Alameda Ta’amu, DT, Washington
Analysis: Ta’amu is a huge man weighing in at 6’3″, 330 pounds. He is an ideal nose tackle and I think he will get a lot of interest from 3-4 teams for that reason. I haven’t seen him play much so I don’t know his tendencies yet, but I know he has the ability and potential to completely plug up the interior of the field thanks to his sheer size. Last year as a junior he produced 39 tackles (21 solo), 5.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks and one pass break-up. Like Powell, Ta’amu’s true impact won’t be measured on the stat sheet but on the outcome of the game. If he plays effectively the opposing team’s running game should be significantly hindered, especially up the middle. I am excited to see if he lives up to the billing that I am giving him in my pre-season rankings this year.
5- Marcus Forston, DT, Miami
Analysis: Forston is another player that I outlined as a potential break-out star in my break-out post from a few weeks ago. He has a lot of potential and will be playing on an incredibly talented Miami defense as a whole, but the defensive line is going to be the strength of their team. Adewale Ojomo, Olivier Vernon and Forston should form a very dominant starting line-up, plus they have a lot of depth to keep the pressure on opposing offenses. Forston should have a lot of success this season, but last season he still managed 37 total tackles (16 solo), 12.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks and one interception. I expect him to improve on all of those statistics this season, as I expect that he could very well get 50+ tackles, 12+ TFL’s and 6+ sacks as a junior. He has a ton of ability and on that talented defensive front he should have every opportunity to show it.
6- Billy Winn, DT, Boise State
Analysis: Winn is a guy that I think could have either been a break-out player or a sleeper but I didn’t know how well known he was. He has great size at 6’4″, 288 pounds which might also make him a candidate for the 3-4 DE position down the road. He was quite disruptive as a junior even though I believe he was in a rotation at the time. He produced 29 total tackles (12 solo), 10.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 FF’s and 1 pass deflection. I expect him to improve on all of these totals as a senior and I think he could surprise a lot of people. He definitely stuck out when I watched Boise State last year, and I have had my eye on him ever since. I expect him to really emerge this year.
7- Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut
Analysis: Reyes had something of a coming out party last year as a junior. He has impressive size at 6’4″, 298 pounds and was quite productive last season. He managed 39 total tackles (26 solo), 10.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 INT’s, 1 FF and 4 pass deflections. I was particularly surprised that he had not only made one interception last year, he had made two and had a combined total of 81 return yards from both of them. That demonstrates some level of athleticism, and while I haven’t specifically watched him I have to say I am intrigued and interested in watching him this year.
8- Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Analysis: Worthy has impressive size and while he is only a junior he was still productive as a sophomore. He produced 40 total tackles (14 solo), 8.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks and 3 pass break-ups. He also has pretty impressive size at 6’3″, 305 pounds. I haven’t seen him play much yet, but I will definitely be watching a lot of Michigan State this year to evaluate Kirk Cousins among others. Worthy will definitely be one of the players I take a look at.
9- Josh Chapman, DT, Alabama
Analysis: Chapman is a stocky nose tackle for Alabama and while I haven’t seen him play much yet I am anxious to see how he holds up if he is indeed their 3-4 NT. He is 6’1″ but still weighs 310 pounds, making him a sound fit at the position if he is strong enough to stand up to double teams. Last year as a junior he managed 31 total tackles (18 solo), 3.5 TFL, 1.0 sack and 2 pass break-ups. It will be interesting to see how he does without some of the talent that Alabama lost to the draft, especially Marcell Dareus.
10- Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
Analysis: Howard may not be that well known, but I am pretty high on him. He was very disruptive last year for Florida, and he has pretty good size for the DT position. He is 6’3″, 302 pounds, and as a junior he produced 28 total tackles (19 solo), 10.0 TFL and 2.5 sacks. He is very active in the backfield against the run, but I haven’t seen him enough to evaluate just how dominant he is against the run and I haven’t evaluated him much against the pass yet either. I had to put him in my top ten though because I really think he has that kind of ability.
Hopefully you enjoyed my early defensive tackle rankings! I really think this defensive line class has the potential to rival that of this past year’s class, as highly touted as that was. Thanks for reading!