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The 2015 NFL Draft is less than two months away. Already, the XN Sports NFL Mock Draft 1.0 has been released.
Over the next two weeks, we will be releasing the top five draft prospects at each position leading up to the second edition of the mock draft.
Numerous teams that couldn’t afford to retain their prized interior defensive linemen in free agency will be forced to re-stock at the position through the draft. And this year’s crop features a number of franchise tackles to consider with perhaps five falling in the first round.
Here are the top five defensive tackles in the 2015 draft:
1. Danny Shelton, Washington
The top-rated defensive tackle in this year’s draft class, Shelton could fall somewhere in the top 10 but is a surefire bet to come off the board at least within the first 17 picks, before the rush for defensive tackles begins.
A 340-pound body in the middle of the defensive line, Shelton led the nation in fumble recoveries (5) and recorded 16 tackles for loss last season. He’s a space-eater that commands a double team and can play all three downs. Shelton is also able to rush the passer from the middle.
One knock on Shelton is that he tends to give up on plays if and when he’s beat. Still, he’s an above-average defender against the run with the ability to get after the quarterback, as well as with stellar range and use of his hands.
2. Eddie Goldman, Florida State
The premier run-stuffer among the defensive tackles, Goldman is quick off the ball and uses his elite strength to push blockers back. He can shed linemen and is quick to find the ball. He has room to add even more strength.
Goldman is best suited as an interior presence in a 3-4 defense, as there are legitimate question marks about how he’ll fit in a 4-3. He can rush the passer — from the interior — but lacks the top-end speed to do so off the edge.
Goldman injured his ankle in the 2014 ACC Championship Game against Georgia Tech, which ended his season. He didn’t work out at the NFL combine, but his size and strength will definitely be enticing for teams.
3. Malcolm Brown, Texas
Brown is certainly a No. 2A along with Goldman as another one of the best run-stoppers in this year’s defensive tackle crop. At 320 pounds with excellent athleticism, Brown emerged as one of the best in the nation throughout the 2014 college football season at Texas.
Brown is a stout run defender who lets his strength and size dictate his play. He uses his hands well and has a relentless pursuit of the ball, which says a lot about his overall stamina. He’s an average pass-rusher from the tackle position.
In our first mock draft, we have Brown landing in Detroit as Ndamukong Suh’s replacement. He fits both the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, making him all the more attractive.
4. Carl Davis, Iowa
Another 320-pounder, Davis is one of the best nose tackle prospects available as both a strong run defender and a decent pass-rusher.
Davis can hold his ground but will be overpowered on double teams. He’ll need to improve his strength in order to get better at shedding blockers. In addition, Davis can provide the initial burst into the backfield as a pass-rusher, but has difficulty consistently finishing at the point of attack. He’s disruptive for sure, but his sack numbers aren’t going to jump off the page at you.
Davis is still raw, but has room to become a solid interior lineman. He has all the physical attributes — size, weight and length — but still a lot to prove on the football field.
5. Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma
The wide-bodied Phillips projects as as a high-potential prospect, but one that certainly needs to land in the right spot with the right coaches in order to succeed.
The 6-foot-5, 330-pound tackle out of Oklahoma is a powerful specimen, with immense upper-body strength and the ability to control blockers. He has violent hands and superb range, and frequently wins the battle in the trenches. Phillips is not a consistent pass-rusher, though, and doesn’t give 100 percent effort on every snap.
When watching him on tape, you will see two different players, so finding the right team is important. We have Phillips landing in Denver as a possible Terrance Knighton replacement where longtime NFL coach Wade Phillips may be able to get the most out of him.
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