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It’s a good year for teams in need of help at the defensive tackle position, as there is a surplus of talented prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft class, and most of which are juniors forgoing their senior seasons.
The list begins with Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan who was a force to be reckoned with after being named a first-time starter in Tallahassee this season. Jernigan finished the year with 63 tackles, 11 for loss, and 4.5 sacks. The 6-foot-2, 296-pounder is the quintessential fit as a 3-4 nose tackle, as he commands a double team on most plays. He showed an uncanny ability to shed blockers and, for his size, had quick closing speed when swallowing running backs or pursuing opposing quarterbacks.
Coming in at No. 2 is Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III. Playing besides fellow projected first-round pick Stephon Tuitt, Nix enjoyed a breakout season in 2012. The tackle shed some weight and got into shape, and a result he recorded a team-high 50 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, and a pair of sacks en route to earning All-American honors. Last season, injuries derailed his production, though he’s still believed to second-best tackle prospect in the class according to most scouts and has drawn comparisons to the New England Patriots’ Vince Wolfork.
Rounding out the top five in the XN Sports rankings are Ra’Shede Hageman, Aaron Donald and Dominique Easley. Hageman, an All-Big Ten selection, recorded 13 tackles for loss in 2013 and has been labeled with a “boom-or-bust” label. Coming off his senior season, Donald proved to be one of the best pass-rushers from the 3-techniques in the nation. Though he isn’t the biggest for the position, he’s being touted for his high motor and strong hands. Like Nix, Easley is overcoming an injury that cost him his 2013 season. Easley led Florida with four sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in 2012, and because he missed his senior season scouts believe he has a lot to prove in the NFL. Among those concerns are whether he can play four downs and which position he is best equipped for.
XN Sports DT Rankings:
1. Timmy Jernigan
2. Louis Nix III
3. Ra’Shede Hageman
4. Aaron Donald
5. Dominique Easley
6. Will Sutton
7. Kelcy Quarles
8. Ego Ferguson
9. DaQuan Jones
10. Anthony Jones
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