2014 NFL Draft Class of Defensive Tackles Could Be Best In A Long Time

By Rick Stavig
NFL Draft
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, the 2013 NFL Draft produced an impressive class of defensive tackles; certainly at least compared to 2012. It’s the kind of class that could be clogging running lanes and dancing over quarterbacks for years to come.  Sheldon Richardson (NY Jets), Star Lotulelei (Carolina Panthers), Sharrif Floyd (Minnesota Vikings), and Sylvester Williams (Denver Broncos) all have the potential to be stars.  But could the 2014 class be even better?

Obviously, since the 2013 rookie class hasn’t even played an NFL down, and the 2014 class hasn’t even played a game in their final college seasons yet, it’s tough to say.  A hundred things could change between now and April, both with the NFL teams and the college prospects.  But the way this group of defensive tackles is shaping up in the 2014 class, it’s hard not to get excited.

What makes this class so unique is not only how deep it is but how intriguing the prospects are.  There’s no Ndamukong Suh-like prospects in this class, but there’s still high-end talent and a lot of it.

Louis Nix III (Notre Dame), Anthony Johnson (LSU), Daniel McCullers (Tennessee), Timmy Jernigan (FSU), Ra’Shede Hageman (Minnesota), Will Sutton (ASU) and Deandre Coleman (Cal) all will likely be first round picks.  Travis Raciti (San Jose State), Calvin Barnett (Oklahoma St.), Kelcy Quarles (South Carolina) and Donte Rumph (Kentucky) all will be pushing to enter into the discussion of high round picks.

Nix is the best 3-4 nose prospect to come along since Vince Wilfork.  Hageman is 6-foot 6, 315 pounds and can do a 360-degree dunk (and has a 36-inch vert, benches 465-pounds and is expected to run a 4.65 40-yard dash).  McCullers is 6-foot 8, 350-pounds, and is showing glimpses of a more athletic Ted Washington.  Johnsons nickname at LSU has been The Freak, and that was while playing next to fellow athletic marvel Barkevious Mingo (6th pick overall last year).  I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.

Now, it’s highly unlikely that all eleven of those guys will go in the top two rounds, but all of them will be gone by round three (top ten tackles of 2013 went before 4th round).

That’s a lot of defensive linemen right there that are highly thought of.  And that’s not even counting the ridiculous defensive end class that should be entering the 2014 Draft (Jadeveon Clowney, anyone?).

The ever-growing value of defensive linemen is reaching a fevered pitch in today’s NFL.  With an increased focus on passing offensively, applying pressure up front is arguably the top priority of the defense today.  Every year it seems, the number of elite defensive linemen continues to grow.  Who knows, maybe the 2015 class of defensive tackles could be even better than 2014 and 2015.

Rick Stavig is an NFL Draft Columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @rickstavig or add him to your network on google.

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