I admit I did not know very much about the 3-4 defense until last season when the Chiefs began to make their transition. As Chiefs fans around the net began discussing the 3-4, the thing I heard over and over was that the key to running the 3-4 successfully was to have a dominant big man playing nose tackle.
We all know that Ron Edwards was plugged in to the position during the transition and while he played hard he was not the long-term solution. If the Chiefs want to play better defense they must get a natural nose tackle.
Is #5 to high to draft a nose tackle? Before we can determine that, we first need to understand what a nose tackle does and why the position is so important.
The nose tackle is often referred to as the most physically demanding position in football. He needs to control the “A Gaps” or the area between the center and the two guards. Thus he is responsible for taking on double and sometimes triple teams on a regular basis.
For instance, on a running play between the tackles, the nose tackle must read the play and decide which direction the runner is going before the runner hits either of the “A Gaps” the nose is responsible for clogging. The NT must then slide in to the gap as soon as possible while single handily trying to prevent the center and the guard from getting to the 2nd level to pick up the rushing linebackers.
This is part of the advantage of the 3-4 defense. The linebackers are already back in a set position, enabling them to read the play and then rush to fill the gaps. However, if the nose tackle fails and lets offensive lineman into the second level, they can pick up the linebackers before they can get to their gaps. If this happens, the runner will usually only need to fake out the safety to break off a huge run.
If you saw the Cleveland game last season then you saw his happen on more than one occasion. Jerome Harrison ran right behind either the left or right guard and consistently got in to the 2nd level where the Chiefs linebackers were getting blocked. Mike Brown came rushing up to help, often taking terrible angles and missed the tackle. Once that happened, there was no one between Harrison and the endzone.
And well, you saw the results.
It all starts up front. Failure up front can cause a chain reaction all the way through the rest of the defense.
Not many people would draft a defensive tackle in the top 5. The top 5 in the draft is usually reserved for impact players like QB’s. There is also a high premium on left tackles as they protect the QB’s blind side.
However, as we have illustrated, the nose tackle is the key to the entire 3-4 defense. We have seen just about every potential free agent nose tackle be resigned or franchised this offseason. Why?
Because these teams know how valuable their nose tackle is to their defensive success.
If the NT is so valuable then why isn’t it acceptable to take one in the top 5 of the draft?
I am asking this because right now, DT Dan Williams out of Tennessee is shooting up draft boards.
From Daniel Jeremiah of Move the Sticks via Twitter:
"I have been a big Dan Williams supporter and every team I talk to has him very high on their board. He’s going to go high."
Williams is ranked #17 on Mel Kiper’s latest Big Board and Mcshay’s latest mock draft has him going 18th to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If Scott Pioli showed us anything in last years draft it is that he is not afraid to reach for a player he feels can help the team. The question is, how high is Williams going to climb between now and April 22nd?
There are a number of teams that could be in the market for a nose tackle including the Steelers, Dolphins, Cardinals, Seahwaks, Bills and Chargers.
If the Chiefs really want Williams they could always try to trade back to avoid reaching for him. It would be a gamble though, as there would be no guarantee that he would still be on the board when the Chiefs chose.
What do you think, Addicts? Is #5 to high to take a nose tackle? Should the Chiefs try to acquire Dan Williams sometime in the first round or should they take their chances on a different defensive tackle sometime in the 2nd or 3rd rounds?