- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc., in conjunction with ESPN.com's Matt Williamson, has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2012 season. Here's how the top defensive tackles stacked up.
Note: No rookies were included in this exercise. Age refers to player's age at start of the 2012-13 season on Sept. 5.
Like every defensive position now-a-days, defensive tackles come in all shapes and sizes, and their schematic responsibilities can differ as a result. There are fireplug-type nose tackles who do little in the passing game but can dominate the middle of the line of scrimmage.
And there can be the other extreme of defensive tackle who is asked to explode off the ball, beat slower offensive linemen with athletic ability and quickness and get into the backfield to disrupt the run and pass. But overall, to me, this is the most impressive position group from an athletic standpoint, as there are just not many people on the planet who possess the required size to play defensive tackle in the NFL with such amazing movement skills.
The best example of such a specimen is our top-rated tackle, Haloti Ngata, who is the definition of a rare and amazing athlete.
Ndamukong Suh needs to show more consistency and play with better discipline, but he could become every bit the player Ngata is, while some stalwarts at this position, such as Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork, continue to play extremely well. One defensive tackle to really keep an eye on to potentially challenge for the top spot before long is Marcell Dareus, who is in the ideal situation to flourish in Buffalo's 4-3 scheme.
Ngata continued to be a stabilizing force on the interior of the Ravens' defensive line last season. He is a powerfully built defensive tackle with decent range outside the tackle box but is most effective at the point of attack.
He can push the pocket with deceptive countermoves rushing the passer. He is an instinctive player who reacts quickly as blocking schemes unfold. Ngata has been one of the most durable, consistent defensive linemen in the league since 2006.
Suh is a gifted interior defender for whom offensive coordinators have to account. He has excellent power to push the pocket in the passing game and hold the point as a run defender.
He has great initial quickness, with agility and balance to penetrate gaps. He is an instinctive player who feels pad pressure well. Suh brings a physical presence to a Lions' defense that can intimidate opponents, but he can also cost his team with unnecessary penalties.
Wilfork is one of the more consistent interior defenders in the NFL. He was banged up much of the 2011 season, missing significant playing time for the first time in his career.
He is an excellent athlete for the position and flashes quickness to penetrate gaps. He uses active hands, a powerful punch, instincts and toughness to anchor the middle of the defense.
5dEric D. Williams
5dMel Kiper Jr.