2014 NFL Draft: Preseason Defensive Tackle Rankings

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2014 NFL Defensive Tackle Rankings

NFL Draft
Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 college football season is only a few weeks away, but the NFL draft season never ends. I have used the past few weeks to go back and study as much as I can on draft eligible prospects from 2012 and creating my initial positional rankings for each position. As the 2013 season progresses, these rankings will be updated and change because they are obviously fluid. As players show more or less about their games, they will move up and down. It’s important to keep in mind that simply because one player is ranked third and another eighth, the distance between those players might not be so great as the gap between the eighth and 10th-ranked player. Once the season begins to wind down, I will provide more in-depth looks at my player rankings.

Also, keep in mind that this list includes underclassmen, and those included are just based on my opinion on who is most likely to declare. Again, this will be fluid as juniors and redshirt sophomores make their intentions known. For now, I have included the top underclassmen at each position where I think they fall compared to the top seniors.

This time, we will take a look at some of the top defensive tackles for the upcoming 2014 NFL draft. Defensive tackles are challenging to rank because while skills and talent may be comparable, the roles of the defensive tackle in varying NFL schemes make the value of a particular player subjective to the system. Overall, this is a solid, but not inspired group. There are some nice talents and players who look like they will be able to start in the league, but compared to some of the other, higher profile positions in this draft, the talent isn't there. Among my top five, I can see them going in any particular combination based on that fact that all are very different in terms of their skill sets. Some more suited to a three-technique role in a 4-3, others a zero-technique nose tackle in a 3-4 and everything in between.

So, take a look at the rankings, and if your team is in the market for a defensive tackle, keep an eye on some of these prospects and see which ones fit your team the best.

Curt covers the NFL draft for Rant Sports. Connect with curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard or on Google+.

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Defensive Tackles 15-6

NFL Draft
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

6-Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

7-Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State

8-DeAndre Coleman, Cal

9-Dominique Easley, Florida

10-Danny Shelton, Washington

11-George Uko, USC

12-Ego Ferguson, LSU

13-Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina

14-Brandon Ivory, Alabama

15-DaQuan Jones, Penn State

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5-Anthony Johnson, LSU

NFL Draft
Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson looks to step into a full-time starting role this season and should be able to flash the power game he showed as a rotational player last year. Johnson looks like he could be a very good 4-3 defensive tackle, playing either the one-technique or three-technique so long as he's not asked to rush the passer.

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4-Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota

NFL Draft
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Hageman is the real wildcard of this class. If he can clean up his technique and show more consistency in his game, he has a chance to be a solid first-round pick. His size is ideal and he's shown a nice mix of run stopping and pass rushing.

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3-Daniel McCullers, Tennessee

NFL Draft
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

McCullers gets the nod at No. 3 for me because he's a massive physical specimen who is a huge challenge for any two linemen to block, much less one. As a run stuffer and all around physical presence, McCullers is unrivaled. But his lack of elite athleticism could push him down some in this draft as the league moves toward smaller, more athletic linemen.

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2-Will Sutton, Arizona State

NFL Draft
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Sutton is the type of player that some team is going to draft and then try and find a place to use his quickness and burst. His size is a concern, but his talent is really too good to pass up. You give Sutton a chance to work the gaps on the inside and he will showcase those pass-rush abilities.

Will Sutton scouting snapshot.

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1-Louis Nix III, Notre Dame

NFL Draft
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

If there is a do-it-all type of tackle in this draft, Nix might be it. He's much more than a top nose tackle prospect, he's a complete defensive tackle who can cause lots of problems for opposing offensive lines. I expect Nix to build on what was a great season in 2012 with an even better 2013.

Louis Nix III scouting snapshot.