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With defensive tackles' value rising, 2010 draft to feature bumper crop

Dave Weaver / Associated Press
Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh doesn't only stuff the run and rush the passer, he can also intercept passes.


Top college senior rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | G/C | OT | DE | DT | MLB | OLB | S | CB


Editor's note: This is part of a weekly series detailing the top senior prospects, by position, for the 2010 NFL Draft.

To win games, teams must be able to stop the run and pressure the passer, which helps defensive backs play well.

To be a good defensive tackle, you need great quickness, (Tommie Harris of the Bears), functional football strength (Haloti Ngata of the Ravens, who had 37 bench presses at the 2006 combine), instincts (Vince Wilfork of the Patriots), the use of hands to shed blockers, and the athletic ability to be able to drop into coverage on zone blitzes.

Albert Haynesworth has everything you need to play the position. At Tennessee's Pro Day in 2002, when he was just 20, Haynesworth measured at 6-foot-6, 317 pounds, ran a 4.82 40-yard dash, had a 39-inch vertical jump and an 8-foot, 7-inch broad jump. Haynesworth recently became one of the highest-paid NFL players of all-time when he signed a $100 million deal with the Redskins.

To be effective, the defensive tackle needs to have great stamina and be able to rush the passer late in the game, especially in the warm weather early in the season. Many teams rotate their tackles to try to keep them as fresh as possible. At one time, defensive tackles were among the lowest paid players -- that has changed and they are now among the highest paid. When Houston took Amobi Okoye in 2007, he was the youngest player ever drafted (19-years-old) and another defensive tackle, Merlin Olsen of the Rams, is tied with Bruce Matthews for the most Pro Bowl selections (14).

TOP SENIOR DEFENSIVE TACKLES
 
1. Ndamukong Suh

College: Nebraska
Height/Weight: 6-4, 295

Suh is a four-year player and three-year starter. He was one of the top high school players in 2005 and ended up going to Nebraska from Oregon because he had family in the state. Suh was Nebraska's leading tackler in 2008 -- the first defensive lineman to lead the team in tackles in 35 years. He also holds the record for interceptions and interceptions returned for touchdowns by a defensive tackle. Suh has outstanding quickness and strength for the position, is a very good athlete and will be a top 10 pick.
 
2. Arthur Jones

College: Syracuse
Height/Weight: 6-3, 300

Jones is a fifth-year player, who will be a three-year starter. He made first-team All-Big East in 2007 and 2008. He had 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks in an upset win at Notre Dame last season. Jones is a very productive player on a poor team. He has the quickness needed for the position. His stock is also helped by the fact that he's strong, goes all out and makes plays in big games.

3. Terrence Cody

College: Alabama
Height/Weight: 6-3 5/8, 370

Cody is in his second year at Alabama after playing junior college football in Mississippi. Coach Nick Saban made Cody lose 50 pounds before he would allow him to play last fall. He was named first-team All-SEC in 2008. He has good quickness for the position and will play the run well, but is not a pass rusher, which makes him a two-down player. This is a massive man. He is a mid-to-low first-round pick.
4. D'Anthony Smith

College: Louisiana Tech
Height/Weight: 6-2¼, 307

Smith will be a four-year starter (32 starts in his first three years). He was first-team All-WAC in 2008 when he had five sacks. This is a very good player and a fine person. Smith is strong, has quickness and is a very good athlete. He is a possible low first-round pick and should be a good pro.

 
5. Jared Odrick

College: Penn State
Height/Weight: 6-4, 302

Odrick played as a true freshman at Penn State and followed that by starting seven games in 2007 before suffering season-ending injuries. He was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2008 and had 4.5 sacks. He has great physical attributes such as his strength, quickness, toughness and athleticism. He is a first-round pick, likely at the bottom half of the round and will play well for a long time.
6. Jeff Owens

College: Georgia
Height/Weight: 6-1¼, 301

Owens is a fifth-year player, who appeared in just one game in 2008 due to a knee injury. He will be a three-year starter and contributed as a true freshman. Owens is strong, with very good quickness. While he lacks height, he plays hard every down.

7. Tyson Alualu

College: California
Height/Weight: 6-2¼, 295

Alualu played as a true freshman in 2006 and has started every game over the past two years at defensive end, coming away with 8.5 sacks and a second-team All-Pac Ten nod in 2008. He is married and has a son. Alualu is strong, but still has the quickness needed to rush the passer. He should be a solid player at the next level.
8. Jeffrey Fitzgerald

College: Kansas State
Height/Weight: 6-4, 275

Fitzgerald enters his fifth year, but will only play three seasons of college football. He redshirted in 2005 and lost 2008 because of transferring from Virginia. Fitzgerald started 25 games and had 13 sacks in two years at Virginia. He is very strong, with above average athletic ability. He ran a 4.9 40-yard dash at the Wildcats' Pro Day. The question remains, though, as to what kind of impact he will make next season after not playing in 2008.

 
9. Vince Oghobaase

College: Duke
Height/Weight: 6-5½, 300

Oghobaase is a fifth-year player and a three-year starter. He had six sacks in 2008 and is one of the best defensive linemen in the ACC. Oghobaase has strength, quickness and agility. He is a little like current Giants DE Chris Canty, who came out of Virginia a few years ago.
10. Gino Atkins

College: Georgia
Height/Weight: 6-1 1/8, 282

Atkins is a four-year player who has started 20 games for the Bulldogs. He played better in 2007 -- most likely because Jeff Owens was on the field and took double-team pressure off of him. Atkins is a very smart player, moves well (he was a high school linebacker) and should be a good NFL tackle. He has some pass rush ability.

 
11. Brandon Deaderick

College: Alabama
Height/Weight: 6-4, 296

Deaderick is a fifth-year player who has spent time at defensive end for Alabama. His best NFL position is at tackle. He is strong and tough, but lacks the speed necessary to play end at the pro level. Deaderick is an OK athlete, but should be a good inside player.
 
12. Boo Robinson

College: Wake Forest
Height/Weight: 6-1, 292

Robinson is a fifth-year player, who has started 26 games going into the 2009 season. He has 11.5 sacks over the past two years. Robinson is strong, competitive and has good speed, which helps his pass rush along with great quickness for the position.

 
13. DeMarcus Granger

College: Oklahoma
Height/Weight: 6-2, 300

Granger is a fifth-year player, who had back surgery last December. Oklahoma rotated five tackles in 2008, but he was named second-team All-Big 12 in 2007 when he had more reps. He has good strength and athletic ability for the position. His cousin, Danny Granger, plays with the NBA's Indiana Pacers.
14. Earl Mitchell

College: Arizona
Height/Weight: 6-1½, 295

Mitchell came to Arizona as a tight end and H-Back, but moved to defensive tackle in 2008 and was named Honorable Mention All-Pac 10 in his first year at the position. He is a very athletic player, who moves well. Mitchell looks to have the quickness and strength needed to play the position.

15. Mike Neal

College: Purdue
Height/Weight: 6-3, 300

Neal is a fifth-year player, who was co-captain in 2007. He had 5.5 sacks in 11 starts last year. He has good strength, is a good athlete and will compete at a high level. His father played at Weber State (Big Sky Conference).
 
16. Aleric Mullins

College: North Carolina
Height/Weight: 6-2½, 305

Mullins has played just two years (Prop 48), but can earn back a year with good a academic performance. While he has not played a lot of football, Mullins has good strength to take on blockers. He is better vs. the run than rushing the passer.

17. Cam Thomas

College: North Carolina
Height/Weight: 6-2½, 320

Thomas played as a true freshman in 2006, but missed most of 2007 with an ankle injury. The high school fullback is a load against the run. Thomas moves well in short areas, but there's doubt whether he can play all three downs in the NFL.
 
18. Lamarr Houston

College: Texas
Height/Weight: 6-1, 280

Houston played as a true freshman and started 11 games at defensive end in 2007. He moved to defensive tackle in 2008 and played with a bad foot. Houston has good athletic ability to go with quickness. While he lacks height, he gives maximum effort and played injured last year.

19. Randy Earl

College: Minnesota State University-Mankato
Height/Weight: 6-3, 285

Earl is a fifth-year player and four-year starter for his Division II school. He is a good looking athlete, who plays hard, shows good strength and is a smart player.


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