The top defenses in football traditionally feature standouts at the defensive tackle spot. Coaches search for big-bodied studs with strength, power and quickness to occupy the spot opposite the center/offensive guard to create havoc in one- or two-gap schemes.
Louis Nix is an old school two-gap nose tackle with the strength to own the point of attack. Timmy Jernigan is the penetrating three-technique that 4-3 proponents covet in the middle. Ra'Shede Hageman could be the most talented of the bunch, but his production fails to match his talent and potential at this point.
1. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Athletic defensive tackle with a relentless motor. Ideally suited to play the three-technique in an aggressive 4-3.
2. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Donald has been the star of the postseason draft process. He thoroughly dominated the competition at the Senior Bowl, and followed it up with a spectacular performance at the combine. With a career resume full of disruptive plays, Donald is surging up draft boards around the league.
3. Louis Nix, Notre Dame
Two-gap player adept at clogging holes in the middle. Flashes better-than-anticipated athleticism for a big man, but he will make his mark in the NFL as a dominant run stuffer.
4. Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Intriguing prospect with the physical tools to be a disruptive force as a pro. Hageman's combination of size, strength and athleticism is a rare find, but his inconsistent motor is a major concern. If the right coach can tap into his psyche, Hageman could blossom into a J.J. Watt-like defender at the next level.
5. Will Sutton, Arizona State
The scouting community remains divided on Sutton's prospects after a disappointing senior campaign. He didn't change that perception with a so-so performance at the Senior Bowl that exposed his declining first-step quickness and burst following a significant weight gain.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.