Revisiting notes by ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates, originally posted in 2012, on how teams scout for players at each position, focusing on big-bodied defensive tackles:
DESIRED TRAITS: The process of evaluating a nose tackle begins with finding a player who has the size needed to anchor the middle of a line; 275-pound nose tackles are no longer fixtures in the NFL (and rarely have been) as it's all about 300-plus pounders.
Beyond size, a nose tackle needs to be tough-minded. He’ll spend much of his time on the field absorbing contact and eating up space in lieu of shooting gaps and racking up statistics. Finding a player who can endure throughout the course of a game is crucial, with one longtime NFL coach once comparing the role to being a fire hydrant at a dog convention.
At the point of attack, a nose tackle who can engage his blockers and lock his arms out to re-set the line of scrimmage and play ball from there is invaluable. A nose tackle doesn’t have to be an elite athlete, but one that can move down the line is a major plus.
From a pass-rushing standpoint, nose tackles most often rely on their explosive power to push the pocket and disrupt its form. They are often taken out in passing situations, mitigating the need for them to possess a diverse arsenal of pass rushing skills.
SPECIAL-TEAMS ANGLE: Nose tackles will be used on both field-goal protection and field-goal block teams.
PATRIOTS TAKE: The 2015 season marked a notable transition with first-round draft choice Malcom Brown emerging as a top option for the Patriots, who had Vince Wilfork filling the role from 2004-2014. Brown returns in 2016 and has already been touted by free-agent signing Terrance Knighton -- another big-bodied presence in the middle -- for his leadership. Alan Branch and 2016 third-round draft choice Vincent Valentine round out the top four players at defensive tackle, with Markus Kuhn, Joe Vellano, Anthony Johnson and Woodrow Hamilton filling things out. While any of those players could play the traditional nose tackle spot, they also have some versatility to play different techniques, which is important in the Patriots' multiple scheme.