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Geno Atkins tops ATL's defensive tackle rankings

Every Thursday, Chris Wesseling rolls out the power rankings for one specific NFL position.

So far, we have ranked the top running backs, inside linebackers, outside linebackers and tight ends in the league. This week, we turn our attention to the NFL's best defensive tackles.


Thousands shared stories telling us why they love football in a contest to win a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII. We chose 10 finalists. Now you choose the winners.

Instead of straight rankings, this format will feature tiers so as not to be as arbitrary.

This is not a fantasy football cheat sheet, nor is it an attempt to predict which players will finish with the best statistics this season. The premise is which defensive tackle I would want for the 2013 season. Although statistics, scouting reports and other factors such as durability were considered, the criterion is based primarily on game film from the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

Top shelf: Geno Atkins, Ndamukong Suh, Haloti Ngata, Gerald McCoy, Jason Hatcher

Suh has made a bigger impact through the first month, but Atkins deserves the top spot after competing with J.J. Watt and Von Miller for Defensive Player of the Year honors in a dominant 2012 season. Atkins' unique combination of leverage, strength and quickness allows him to dominate centers and guards as both an interior pass rusher and a top-notch run defender.

Injuries have affected Ngata's consistency, but he's as unstoppable as any defensive tackle in the league when he's at peak strength -- as evidenced by his playoff run last season. McCoy is a prototypical three-technique tackle, keying the Buccaneers' improved defense. Standing out in Monte Kiffin's new defense, Hatcher has been one of the top handful of defensive players this season.

Pro Bowl potential: Jurrell Casey, Damon Harrison, Nick Fairley, Star Lotulelei, Dontari Poe, Brandon Mebane, Michael Brockers

Casey has been a mainstay on our weekly "Making the Leap" series since turning in a dominant preseason. He's played like Atkins Lite in the season's first month. Coming out of nowhere, "Big Snacks" Harrison has been the NFL's premier run-stopper while teaming with rookie Sheldon Richardson on a ferocious Jets front seven.

Fairley just needs to stay healthy and cut down on his penalties to join Suh in the upper echelon. Lotulelei and Poe have been two of the most disruptive young interior defenders this season. Mebane is one of the most underrated players in the league. He worked over Texans center Chris Myers -- one of the NFL's best -- last week.

Next level: Kyle Williams, Paul Soliai, Jonathan Babineaux, Kevin Williams, Randy Starks, Jared Odrick, Cullen Jenkins, Barry Cofield, Phil Taylor

Williams has been playing a lot of end in Mike Pettine's multiple scheme, but he's been a premier tackle for years. Soliai essentially shut down the Saints' ground attack -- with one good arm -- in Week 4. Babineaux made TheMMQB.com's quarter-season All-Pro team as the best player on a Falcons defense that has been riddled with injuries. Williams is on the back-nine of a career that has seen him selected for six Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams.

Starks and Odrick are one of the most effective interior tag-teams in the league. Jenkins has been among the most effective interior pass rushers for the past decade. Cofield is one of the few assets on a pathetic Redskins defense. Taylor has the potential to become an upper-tier run stuffer.

Solid starters: Marcell Dareus, Linval Joseph, Corey Peters, Steve McLendon, Tommy Kelly, Glenn Dorsey, Akeem Spence

Dareus finally bounced back from a disappointing August with a dominant performance against the Ravens in Week 4. McLendon has held his own as Casey Hampton's successor at nose tackle in Pittsburgh. Kelly has made up for Vince Wilfork's slow start. Dorsey is playing better for the 49ers than he ever did in Kansas City.

Upstarts: Sharrif Floyd, Kawann Short, Stephen Paea, Malik Jackson

Floyd is the heir apparent to Kevin Williams as the Vikings' three-technique. He was rated as a top-five talent by NFL Media's Mike Mayock and NFL Films' Greg Cosell leading up to the draft. Short is the pass-rushing complement to Lotulelei in Charlotte, N.C. Jackson has impressed the Broncos as a situational pass rusher.

Run pluggers: Terrance Knighton, John Jenkins, Josh Chapman, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Mosley, Kevin Vickerson, Pat Sims

Best of the rest: Sen'Derrick Marks, Earl Mitchell, Cam Thomas, Peria Jerry, Isaac Sopoaga, Kendall Langford, Shaun Rogers

Trainer's room: Vince Wilfork, Henry Melton

The "Around The League Podcast" reviewed every Week 4 game. Click here to listen and subscribe.

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