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Like The Tower of Lebanon, Pointing Towards Demascus

Hm? What’s that, an obscure Biblical reference as a post title? That can only mean one thing:

Time to break down an entire position in this year’s upcoming Draft! Where we take nearly all of the available talent at a given position and break them down for you, in order to arm you with as much knowledge as possible when Draft Day rolls around. This is why you read AA (among other reasons).

Positions we’ve exhaustively analyzed so far on AA:

  • Safety (21 players).
  • And that’s all so far. It’s a new series, peeps.

Those of you who know your Good Book have been able to deduce from today’s title that we’re breaking down the nose tackle position,* as important a position as there is in a 3-4 defense. Do yourself a favor and bookmark every post in this series to make sure you know what’s going down with each and every pick on Draft Day.

Is there a future franchise NT in this Draft, and when would the Chiefs be looking to get him?

Educate yourself, after the jump.There are a couple guys in this Draft that stand heads and shoulders and stomachs above the others. We analyze them and go from there.

Sorry in advance for the lack of quality YouTubes. Turns out the position doesn’t lend itself very well to flashy highlight reels. I know, it surprises me too.

THE FIRST TIER

Terrance Cody, Alabama
What he is: Unfairly maligned. Cody has been worked over as one of the most over-criticized players in the Draft this year, just this side of Tebow, to be honest. But the criticisms we hear of Cody are lazy, in my opinion. You can’t criticize him for weight issues – Dan Williams weighed in at 360 at Tennessee before working himself down to under 330. You can’t accuse him of having motivation issues — that applies to every NT in the league except for the elites. Criticizing a nose tackle for weight problems and motivation is like criticizing a tree for being too slow — it’s the nature of the thing. Listen, this guy was chaos against some of the best offensive lines in the SEC. The Florida offensive line, led by surefire early-rounder Maurice Pouncey, was manhandled by Cody. He will be off-and-on. He’ll only be in a few plays at a time. But he’s the closest thing to a game-changer this Draft has at NT, and he’s been unfairly maligned.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: It’s really vexing. He comes from Saban’s program so there is a connection with Pioli. However, claiming to want to lose weight after tipping the scales at the Combine no doubt turns Haley off. The question is, where does defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel come in? In my opinion, Crennel loves a massive beast in the middle of the line. I bet that he is the Chiefs’ “2a” pick if he falls that far — which, if teams don’t fall for this Cody witchhunt, he won’t be. Trading up into the bottom of the first to get him would be unlikely for Pioli, who wants more picks, not fewer.

Dan Williams, Tennessee
What he is: A hot commodity. And a reach waiting to happen. As should be common knowledge, nose tackle is a very difficult position to fill in the NFL, and college DTs face a success rate similar to that of sea turtles when it comes to adapting to playing against the league’s bigger, badder offensive lines. I say this because Dan Williams has always looked really good. I think he’s a good starter in the NFL. But he’s mortal — he’s not the game-changer people bill him as. He is powerful as all hell, especially in his base. But his push in the passing game is nonexistant, he’s a two-down player, and when he’s gassed, he’s worthless. His strengths will do him well, but he’s no future Pro Bowler. But because NTs are always overvalued, he will be talked up and reached for, which we’re clearly seeing now. He’s a natural second-rounder who’s been elevated to the first-round because of a dearth of competition. But he’s a great athlete by NT standards.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: I doubt they do, to be honest. He’s nowhere near deserving of the #5 overall, and there are too many teams hungry for NT in the first round to let him fall to the second. That said, if he falls to the second, do I pull the trigger? Eh… it’s not as much of an automatic “yes” for me as it is for some people. Show me who else is on the board.

THE SECOND TIER

Cam Thomas, North Carolina
What he is: A pleasant surprise as a prototypical nose tackle. He didn’t really end up on my radar until towards the end of the year, so I don’t know him as well as I’ve known many of the other folks on this list. The good news is he has really good potential to be a solid starter in the NFL. If he takes care of himself, he’s not only a starter on Day One in Kansas City, but he can man that position down for ten years. He is very disruptive and gets great push up the middle, although he doesn’t have the great arm length of Dan Williams. This kid is not only a load, he plays with a ferocity on the field that reminds me at times of John Henderson (only not as demented). I looooooove that from a nose tackle. Thomas has a lot of technical issues he’ll have to iron out, but after watching him tear #&@$ up at the Senior Bowl, it’s exciting to consider the potential here.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: My rule for NTs these days, with so many teams needing them, is two steps: (1.) what round do you think he’s worth, and (2.) prepare to reach nearly an entire round ahead of that. I think a technically unsound but totally promising prospect like Thomas is around a high-3rd, and in an ideal world the Chiefs could get him there. But to get to Thomas the Chiefs would have to go with the “2b” pick. I know Pioli prefers bigger programs than the lesser sized one at North Carolina, but you know he and Haley love this kid’s anger issues.

Torrell Troup, Central Florida
What he is: A future Chief. Seriously. There are way too many indications that this is a guy that Pioli, Haley, and Crennel all love.  He earned a name-drop over the East-West Shrine game, where he finally got to match up against other premier college players and, as you can tell from the YouTube, looked downright scary at times. Troup is one of those rare NTs who won’t be failing in the NFL due to lack of passion.  He is simply a beastly space-eater who lives to play football. Seriously. His play on the field is intended, according to him, to help inspire his parents to stay together. When his parents got back together after years of separation, he literally changed his last name to “Troup.” Seriously. You can bet Crennel wants this guy, especially having observed him up close at East-West.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Ladies and gentlemen, here is your Kansas City Chiefs’ third round pick. Assuming the Chiefs don’t land Cody or Thomas with an earlier pick, I would be downright surprised if they weren’t eyeing Troup with their third. Seriously.

Boo Robinson, Wake Forest
What he is: Not a true nose tackle. Matter of fact I don’t think he’ll man the nose tackle position if a 3-4 team drafts him but only on occasion. However Robinson is a true penetrator up the gut of your defense, and the more I’ve watched him over the past year, the more he reminds me of Darnell Dockett of the Cardinals, who technically plays defensive end for their 3-4 defense but often times is lined up in the middle. Robinson doesn’t play with Dockett’s fire (who does, really?), but he does play like a pure disrupter up the middle. But he doesn’t have the size to be a pure nose.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: My guess is that the Chiefs would love somebody who they can line up a lot like Dockett, but I think their odds of picking Robinson up as that kind of player disappeared when Pendergast left. That said, he’d be an interesting fourth round pick nonetheless if he was still around.

THE THIRD TIER

Linval Joseph, East Carolina
What he is: A big fish in a little pond. Imagine, why don’t you: what would happen if you took one of the talented midround NT prospects from the bigger schools here, and put them up against the level of competition that East Carolina had to face (click here to see it)? Would you imagine him absolutely destroying things? Racking up, what, 60 tackles? A handful of sacks? That’s pretty much exactly what Joseph has been doing since he grew into his full 320+ lb frame. He has had a great season that suggests pretty good things at the next level, but he’s going to be an attention-magnet at the Combine to see how he stacks up. Now, I have my doubts about smaller-program players converting to a 3-4 NT position in the NFL. I think it’s too radical of a shark tank for them, so Joseph might be more attractive to me as a good 4-3 prospect.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: It’s clear Pioli shares my hestitations about small school players any higher than the low rounds, but Joseph still looks very tempting to me. I bet a team jumps on him in the midrounds, but I doubt that team will be the Chiefs unless his measurables are off the charts.

Kade Weston, Georgia
What he is: Geno Atkins’ best friend. Atkins has had a great year for the Bulldogs and is likely to go much higher than the 325 lb. Weston will due to active, penetrating DTs being more valued across the NFL than the Weston-like run-cloggers. But a lot of what Atkins did at Georgia he owes to playing alongside Weston, a double-team magnet if there ever was one. (Of course, it probably goes both ways, with Weston owing some of his success to Atkins.) The best thing about Weston is that he is seasoned against top shelf competition, and he could conceivably start at the nose on Day One. The great thing about Weston is that he’s a nose tackle that actually does get into the backfield better than virtually every nose tackle in this Draft. Only Cam Thomas really seems to be a better passrusher. But unlike Thomas, Weston is a known quantity that will probably never “boom,” but I doubt he’d “bust” — at the very worst he’s a reliable backup.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: I actually think Weston could be a great grab with any of the Chiefs’ 5th round picks. Matter of fact, I’ve selected him there in one of my Chiefs mocks. I’m sure he’s on Pioli’s radar. If you go with a boom-or-bust NT like Thomas or Troup earlier in the Draft, a more conservative backup plan like Weston in the 5th might be a good bargain.

Ekom Udofia, Stanford
What he is: A steal waiting to happen. Udofia is one of the very few NTs who might actually fall farther than he should because he had an ankle injury nagging him for much of his time at Stanford. Playing through it, as he sometimes did, he was just a guy. But when healthy, Udofia had the look of an elite prospect at times. He’s not a huge penetrator but he had shown a knack for the treasured tackle-for-loss. The injury history actually isn’t that bad compared to some of the others that are way down on this list (just wait until we get to Granger), so taking a shot on Udofia is just a regular-sized risk, rather than the massive one that hypochondriac draftniks project him as having.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Everybody thinks this kid can be a solid reserve, and I agree. I actually think he can fill in at starter in a pinch if he had to, so long as he stays healthy. I’d take a shot with him with the Chiefs’ “5b” or “5c” pick, especially since Haley’s workout program has been pretty successful here. But I only see the Chiefs going here if they haven’t drafted NT with any of the prior picks.

Jay Ross, East Carolina
What he is: The biggest unknown in this entire field. It’s not really certain how Ross will look put up against like-sized players at the Combine. I’ve seen him play a little bit and he looks fast, strong, and a strong base – but compared to lesser competition. Ross may not even project to nose tackle — he is a tad undersized, but he’s an athletic penetrator who may work out best as a 3-4 DE rather than a nose, so Ross’ biggest plus is that he does offer some versatility. That said, East Carolina has featured a beastly defensive line for a while now and from the limited tape I’ve seen, it’s unclear if Ross is the reason for that or if he’s feeding off his teammates, mostly Linval Joseph.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: My personal belief is that he looks more like a 3-4 DE at the next level than a nose. I don’t think the Chiefs will be shopping for him with bigger-school types on the menu. But Pioli does like measurables when it comes to late round picks, so if he performs well at the Combine, your guess is as good as mine.

Al Woods, LSU
What he is: A tic-tac-toe gimmick. That’s about it. I’d normally take this opportunity to say that I believe Al Woods is overrated, but there’s really no buzz around him at all. I just don’t think he’s worth the effort. His recent injury, which is no fault of his, raises the kind of red flag that you look past only if you think there’s some serious potential there (like Udofia, for instance). Thing is, if you nurse Woods back to health I’m not really sure what you’re getting that a 3-4 team can use. He’s a tad undersized for NT, and he’s not enough of an athlete or a penetrator to pull off DE. Instead I think Woods is purely a run-stuffer candidate for a 4-3 defense, and even then I wonder.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Hey, he plays for LSU. And hey, he can try to play nose. I’m sure if Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson had any say he’d be a Chief, and we’d have an LSU tic-tac-toe on our DL. But I don’t think Woods’ measurables really interest Pioli, and he just doesn’t seem like a Crennel type of guy.

LATE ROUND INTERESTS

Travis Ivey, Maryland
What he is: Size. He’s had a decent-to-good career at Maryland, but he’s no head turner. He has the look of a UDFA if this were any other position, but seeing how teams always need help at NT, someone will take a gamble on him with a 6th or 7th. And honestly, they probably should. He gets around alright for a 330-pounder, and he’s put up good tackles numbers and behind-LOS numbers for a couple years now. He’s got backup potential, even situational potential. But he is about as one-dimensional as it gets.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: This seems to be a classic Pioli grab in the 7th or even the 6th, simply because of the size. But only if the Chiefs acquire additional picks by trading down; Ivey doesn’t inspire you to trade next year’s late-rounders for a shot at him.

Trey Bryant, Baylor
What he is: An underwhelming candidate with an unlikely chance of getting much of a shot in the NFL. His size, though he seems a tad small for the position, is really the only thing he has going for him. It’s a seller’s market when it comes to nose tackles. I haven’t seen anything from Bryan that suggests he’s anything other than a perfectly decent college football player with average skills that will bust in the NFL. There’s no particular element of his game that is outstanding enough to transfer to the league’s vicious trenches.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: I don’t expect them to. Maybe if he’s hanging around in UDFA.

DeMarcus Granger, Oklahoma
What he is: Russian roullette with a bullet in every chamber. Draftniks are hypochondriacs by nature, but this isn’t an instance where an injury history is scaring everyone away from a player. This is an instance where an injury history is really all there is about this player. God bless him, but he’s fought more injuries than offensive lines in his time as a Sooner. Besides, I’m not convinced that he’s that valuable a commodity without the injuries — he played next to Gerald McCoy, a Top 3 prospect! So like all the players on this list, I wish Granger nothing but the best, but I don’t think that’s going to be the NFL for him.
Where the Chiefs might look for him: Some team out there will be crazy enough to take this gamble. But it won’t be the Chiefs.

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* Song of Solomon 7:4: “Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon, pointing towards Demascus.” Yes it’s part of a love poem, but we want a tower of a nose tackle, don’t we? Though I’m pretty sure my fiance would pre-divorce me if I tried comparing her nose to a large archetectural structure.

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