Defensive Tackles tend to be the forgotten members of the defensive line. While Defensive Ends lap up the plaudits in a world of spin moves, collapsed pockets and Madden front covers, Tackles languish in relative obscurity. Please welcome 5 individuals hoping to change that; the 2020 rookie DT draft class.
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, so the proverb goes. The San Francisco front office opted for the latter when trading away DeForest Buckner and his 62 combined tackles, 7.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 9 fumble recoveries and a touchdown.
A key part of the defence that came within fingertip distance of a Super Bowl, how do you fill the void left by the Second-Team All-Pro?
South Carolina’s star defensive tackle instantly calmed nerves in the Bay Area and silenced critics who slammed a hierarchy who opted for a 1st round pick overpaying the productive Buckner. Whether genius planning or pure accident, San Francisco grabbed Kinlaw with the 14th overall pick of the 2020 draft.
After mauling SEC opposition with 35 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2 passes defended, Kinlaw wowed NFL media’s Bucky Brooks during the Senior Bowl practices. Describing him as a “one-man wrecking crew” who “pummeled blockers”, the former Gamecock watched his draft stock take off. The rest is history.
Mixing a scary frame and violent strength with finesse and evasiveness, Kinlaw brushes off linemen to drive into the unfortunate ball carrier locked in his sights. NFC West skill players will be praying that their offensive line spends the off-season in the weight room.
At 6’5″ and 315lbs, the imposing rookie stands tall and wide over opposing offences. Witnessing Kinlaw deploying his huge 10 1/2″ hands and brute strength to cut into enemy lines and assault rivals is a sight to behold. There is a new wild-man wearing red and gold.
The San Francisco defense was an important cog in the 2019 silver medal side, boasting a commanding defensive line. Any worry of a downgrade in the unit can be put to bed simply by viewing Kinlaw’s college tape. Make him part of your IDP line ASAP.
As previously mentioned in our Safety edition of the rookie IDP rundown, Carolina ushered in the age of Matt Rhule by solely selecting defensive players with every pick of the 2020 draft. Although Jeremy Chinn figures to be the new head of the Carolina secondary, Auburn’s Derrick Brown may be the most important pick of all.
Where most potential draftees rely on productive numbers throughout a long college season, Brown displayed a handy knack for wowing scouts on the biggest stage. 55 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 passes blocked and 2 forced fumbles are impressive enough, but add in the highlight reel and Panthers fans have a rookie to get excited about.
Pass-rushing Texas A&M into the ground, carrying the Tigers to a huge win against Alabama, treating the elite Georgia offensive line like the debating team or playing out of his skin to drive Auburn to within 3 points of the all-conquering LSU; Brown ran through every challenge his senior year presented.
Even 2 vs 1 Wasnt Fair
Regularly double-teamed during his college career, the Panthers rookie reached into a deep skill-set and employed every inch of his 6’4″, 326lb frame to humiliate opposing linemen.
The 4 passes blocked and 2 forced fumbles demonstrate the sky-high ceiling Brown brings to the Carolina defensive line. Combine scouts were wowed by the 5.16 speed exhibited by the Auburn product. Brown bursts off the line, shakes off his blocker(s), and quickly makes a play on the ball. Brian Burns will be aching to work with his new teammate.
Carolina struggled against the run last year and spending all of their draft capital on the defence makes sense. In a notoriously free-scoring NFC South, the Panthers look to have the weakest offense of the lot. The defence could find themselves with a lot of playing time should the team need to play catch up.
Draft Brown, sit back, crack open a cold one and enjoy your new rookie taking down future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Drew Brees. The points are going to stack up.
Not content with drafting 2 talented rookie linebackers, trading for former ‘Sacksonville’ mayor Calais Campbell and picking up Denver’s experienced Derek Wolfe, Baltimore continued an overhaul of the defence unit with Texas graduate Justin Madubuike.
After losing solid, no-nonsense nose tackle Michael Pierce to free agency, the Ravens defensive line was crying out for some fresh blood. Becoming the latest player to skip his senior season to declare a year earlier, Baltimore natives will be thanking their lucky stars they bagged Madubuike in 2020. Another impressive year at the college level would have ascended the A&M product into 1st round contention.
The college stat sheet screams 3rd round steal. 45 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and a jaw-dropping 11.5 tackles for loss will serve as a warning to AFC North linemen. Madubuike makes up for a slightly undersized frame with a 4.83 speed unheard of from defensive tackles.
He Has Vision For Days
Infamous for bursting off the line, darting through linemen and pressuring the opposition; the rookie makes every second count for the unfortunate offence in front of him. The 11.5 tackles for loss indicate exceptional vision and timing, dragging opponents back into their half.
When a team trades up for a draftee it usually bodes well for their NFL prospects. Madubuike will fill the void left by Pierce while being able to learn from model professionals Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe.
The Ravens conditioning team will be aching to get to work with the Texas graduate. Adding both weight and strength to the speed and tackling ability already locked in. With an uncertain off-season still to come it may take a year for the rookie to breakout. When it all comes together, we may have the next great DT on our hands.
One for patient owners only. It may take time but Madubuike will eventually become a linchpin of your IDP roster.
Yet another team with a departed defensive lineman to replace, Houston has a bigger hole to fill. Key Defensive Tackle DJ Reader complimented Mr Houston, J.J. Watt, perfectly and was an important part of the defence.
Unfortunately, Reader opted for a mega $53 million contract in Cincinnati. Departing the AFC South to become the highest-paid Defensive Tackle in the league.
The 2020 off-season became a nightmare for Texan fans. After witnessing the loss of Reader, superstar Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins left for Arizona in a truly terrible trade. Whisper it quietly but Reader may become the tougher player to replace.
A specialist at applying Quarterback pressure, Reader was a brick wall that complimented Watt perfectly. Reader’s disruption of offensive lines allowed the pass-rush specialist Watt to wreak havoc behind the line of scrimmage. You don’t replace that role overnight.
A Combine Star
In Blacklock, Houston drafted a tackle with modest college production. The TCU graduate tallied 40 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2019. However, he flew up draft boards after a stellar combine performance.
A sub 4.9 so yard dash while standing at 6’4″ and 290lbs make him one of the speediest Defensive Tackles in this draft class. Interestingly, the physical attributes also display a mark difference from the departed Reader. The 2nd round pick looks to be a much more athletic, pass-rushing prospect looking to form a tandem with Watt on the Houston front-line.
Welcomed into a similar situation as aforementioned rookie Madubuike, do not expect day 1 IDP returns from Blacklock. Though he may have enormous athletic upside and be filling a huge Houston defensive hole immediately, there are far too many questions about his role and ability to transfer his skill-set to the NFL. At least in the short term anyway.
The former Horned Frog is a risk but has sky-high potential and there is no question that Houston will do everything in their power to help their 2nd round pick succeed. Plus the added benefit of learning from pass-rush legend J.J. One for the taxi squad.
Although Dallas strengthened their Defensive Line during the free agency period, the average age of the franchise skyrocketed. Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Antwaun Woods are season veterans that will improve a poor 2019 Cowboy defence. Though all 3 additions bring priceless years of experience and professionalism to the roster, the Dallas defence was crying out for a youthful injection.
Jerry Jones and co. were roundly applauded for an impressive draft haul. CeeDee Lamb was a slam dunk and Damon Arnette could have gone in the 1st round. Round 3 brought yet another 1st round talent in Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore.
After a dominant 2018 with 50 tackles, 3 sacks and 5 tackles for loss. Gallimore shed the weight for his final college season. Whilst the fitness regime may have caused a downturn on the stat sheet, a new speed element was introduced into Gallimore’s game.
He Ran What?
300-pound defensive linemen don’t run a sub 4.8 at the combine and the Dallas front office will be delighted to have added a true speedster on the 2nd day of the draft. Gallimore excels when the pocket collapses and the defensive plan breaks down.
Quick enough to disrupt the offensive line and possessing the pace to close down escaping Quarterbacks; the former Sooner is the perfect complement to the older defensive additions.
Offensive planning just became a whole lot trickier for the NFC East. Offensive lines will be forced to plan for the Cowboys new trump card. Gallimore will begin his Dallas career in a rotational role, bringing much-needed juice on 3rd downs when his older colleagues need a breather.
Avoiding the pressure of being a 1st round pick, enjoying a rotational role, and benefiting from learning under some true sack icons, the rookie could realise his immense potential.
Gallimore is still acclimatizing to a slender frame and speed game, even flashing spin moves during his senior year. The insane acceleration guarantees sacks even in the worst defense. Should defensive coordinator Mike Nolan get the best out of the Oklahoma graduate. Gallimore could genuinely be the best DT of the class.
So there is the interior of the D-Line, up next and last is the Edge Rushers.