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Defensive Tackle Gauntlet
Good morning ☀️
It's about time we turned our attention to the draft. With all the waiting around for Aaron Rodgers, we haven't spent as much time as I'd like looking at the prospects.
Today we are focusing on the defensive tackle position, and I'm going to hit on 13 different players and then outline one from each round who I believe are ideal fits for the Jets. There's even a handy image courtesy of my good buddy Andres, who you should all go and follow on Twitter.
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🐦⬛ According to NFL reporter Tiffany Blackmon, former Ravens defensive tackle Calais Campbell is set to visit the Jets this week, along with the Bills. Campbell has over 800 tackles to his name to go with 99 career sacks. He’s historically been one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in football and visited with the Atlanta Falcons last week. Campbell has inside/out versatility, which adds a lot to the defensive line.
🔴 Minnesota Center John Michael Schmitz is set to take an official visit with the Jets this week. He met with officials at the combine, has worked out for them privately and I'm told there has been a lot of contact between the two sides. The Jets need an answer at center and JMS is the best center in the draft. The unfortunate aspect is that the Jets pick at #13 is too rich and he's likely gone by their next pick of #42. So unless they move back in the first, or into the back end of the first by jumping up from the second round, they likely won't have a chance to draft him.
📢 Judy Battista caught up with Jets coach Robert Saleh to talk all things Aaron Rodgers and he had this to say: “Two years ago when we first got there, just thinking about where we were and how far we’ve come, to have a guy like him want to play for us is pretty cool and shows how far we’ve come."
I wanted to combine a couple of questions from last week's mailbag into one main article around defensive tackles, considering it’s still a huge need for the Jets.
“Could you see any chance that the Jets would draft Calijah Kancy in round one?” - Joseph Cohen
“Who are the defensive tackle candidates you like at pick 112 and 143” - Irish Jet
What I’m going to do is actually go round by round and highlight the defensive tackles who make sense for the Jets. So you won’t see players like Texas’s Keondre Coburn or Michigan’s Mazi Smith on this list, who are more suited to playing as a traditional nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. Although I know the Jets have met Mazi Smith so maybe I'm wrong on that one, but I'm sticking to it. I’ll try and cover as many as possible and if this is a useful exercise, I’ll work my way through other position groups.
To kick this thing off, here are my top targets for the Jets based on round, and while I'd love Jalen Carter to drop to us in the first, chances are slim, so I've gone with an alternative.
In total, I’ve highlighted 13 players below who would be options for the Jets. Obviously, I can’t include everyone otherwise we’d be here all day. So If I’ve missed one of your favorite prospects, drop them in the comments below.
Bryan Bresee (Clemson) - It’s hard not to root for Bresee and I’m going to be pulling for him wherever he lands. He’s quick, explosive, powerful, and plays with good leverage, which is why he’s a first-round prospect. The aspect of his game that’s keeping him from being a universal top-10 pick is his lack of a pass-rush plan, he has plenty of pop in the hands and he’s a coordinated striker, but he doesn’t have a backup plan if that doesn’t work.
Jalen Carter (Georgia) - I’ve added Carter in here but in reality this man is going to be gone by the time we pick at #13, at least he should be. If he isn’t then you need to run that card to the podium. He’s just a ridiculously explosive athlete with enough pop in his hands to rock a truck. The thought of Carter and Quinnen sharing snaps inside is the stuff of dreams, unfortunately, I think that’s the only way we’ll see it. 9 sacks in 3 seasons won’t jump off the page but watch even 20 minutes of a Georgia game and you’ll see just how good he is.
Calijah Kancy (Pittsburgh) - For me, Kancy is the most likely option for the Jets. He’s likely going to be there at #13 and some teams won’t like the size at 6’1 and 281 lbs. But Aaron Donald absolutely comes to mind when thinking of Kancy and it was Donald’s record that Kancy broke in the 40-yard dash. If you want your DTs to attack and get upfield quickly then Kancy is your man. He’s explosive, with fast hands and faster feet, with a variety of pass-rush moves and a non-stop motor. He’s had 17 sacks over the last two years and although he’s a better pass-rusher than a run-defender, he’s not lost against the run. I love Kancy as a prospect and would happily take him at #13.
Adetomiwa Adebawore (Northwestern) - Very few prospects helped their cause more at the combine than Adebawore, he put on an absolute show. The positive here is that the tape matches the athletic performance in shorts. A prototypical 3-tech in the NFL, Adetomiwa is a gap penetrator who can get upfield in a hurry, he also has a stout base and strong hands to take any guard on one-on-one. His sacks have improved from 2 in 2020, to 5 in 2021, to 6 in 2022, and I feel he’s only scratching the surface. His lazy hand usage and lack of counter moves are preventing him from jumping into the first-round conversation, which is a shame as athletically he’s there.
Keeanu Benton (Wisconsin) - My favorite prospect for the Jets in round two for the Jets, Benton is a 315lb beast with a change of direction ability a man 20 lbs lighter would be envious of. He has good violent hands which disengage blockers with ease and more get-up than you’d expect as well. His motor is constantly hot and he’s the kind of guy who you see chasing a QB down from the backside toward the sideline. He’s also versatile being able to play a 1-technique but at his best as a 3-technique on the outside shoulder of the guard. Playing with consistent technique is where Benton takes the next leap in his development.
Moro Ojomo (Texas) - Coburn may not fit the Jets, but his teammate at Texas certainly is. 26 pressures, 5 sacks, and 19 tackles that resulted in a defensive stop, a lot of them in the run game. Ojomo may creep into the second round as he has the versatility to play as a 3-4 defensive end, but I persist that his best bet is as a 3-technique in a 4-3. He’s only 281 lbs but he plays like a bigger man and he has explosion off the snap. He doesn’t have the pass-rush ceiling that some of the other guys on this list have, but he is one of the better run-defenders in the group and his effort will endear him to fans.
Jaquelin Roy (LSU) - Roy played a ton of nose tackle for the Tigers but that’s not where his future is at the NFL level. Roy is another guy I see making his bread and butter as a 3-technique. His 5 total sacks over the last three years are a result of his deployment and not his talent. He has the size and quickness that will pique the interest of defensive line coaches but he’s far too passive at the moment, and I think that may be due to his assignment at LSU. I’m struggling to place Roy as I think his physical skill set puts him in the 3rd, but his tape puts him later in the 4th.
Zacch Pickens (South Carolina) - I wanted to put Pickens a round higher than this but settled on the fourth based on some motor issues that cropped up in all 4 games that I watched. Pickens is a long and strong athlete who is built to play defensive line in the NFL but there is something missing from his game. In the run game, he often got caught out with his gap assignments and you don’t see any pass-rushing repertoire to speak of. He’s too big to get moved as easily as he does sometimes. When he gets a good rep, it’s really good, but they are few and far between. Right now I see him as a blank canvas that requires a lot of coaching to be effective, but if the light turns on…he could be special.
Kobie Turner (Wake Forrest) - Turner may be one of my favorite prospects on this list for two reasons. He’s the kind of player that you want to go to war with, as tough as they come and you can tell he just absolutely loves the game of football. The other reason is he’s extremely smart and switched on in terms of his assignments. He doesn’t play hero ball, he does his job and he does it well. Like most guys down the list, he doesn’t really have a repertoire of pass-rush moves and he can be a little predictable and one-dimensional. He had 34 pressures this year which includes 27 hurries, he gets interior penetration and I think he’s got a very high ceiling.
Gervon Dexter Sr. (Florida) - Dexter Sr has all the athleticism in the world but it doesn’t always translate to the field. His athletic makeup should have him in the 2nd round, but his production on the field puts him all the way down in the 5th for me. He doesn’t explode off the line but his size, weight, and speed once he gets going make him a really intriguing prospect for a team who can stash and coach him for a year or two. He had just 2 sacks this year, which is disappointing considering he started all 13 games for the Gators, he can be so much more. Bet on his skills and invest in his development and you may get the steal of the draft.
Jacob Slade (Michigan State) - This may be a touch rich for Slade considering he has just 4 sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss in nearly 40 games for Michigan State, but there is something about his game that I like. He doesn’t have the strength you like but he plays with a high IQ and is athletic enough to run down ball carriers. He has also shown the ability to get upfield quickly and create pressure. His effort and motor is among the elite in the class and you’ll never see Slade taking a play-off, in many ways he’s exactly the kind of player you expect to come out of Michigan State. He’s a player I’d like to see in 2-3 years, and would happily draft and stash him.
Jalen Redmond (Oklahoma) - Although he’s only just creeping up on 300 lbs Redmond is your late-round run-stuffing defensive tackle. He missed a year in 2020 by opting out due to Covid and that seems to have stunted his development a little bit. He has outstanding quickness off the snap but if he doesn’t win straight away he probably isn’t winning. You want to see a little more urgency out of him and he does has some pass-rushing wins on tape to make you believe he can become a complete 4-3 defensive tackle. I like him as a prospect for 2024-2025, I wouldn’t want him to see much of him in the rotation in 2023.
Nesta Jade Silvera (Arizona State) - I’ve seen Silvera anywhere from the 4th round to a UDFA candidate, and after debating the 6th round, I’ve placed him in the 7th due to a lack of length and a lack of production as a pass-rusher. It makes me nervous in terms of how well he translates to the next level. On the surface, he looks like a good run-stuffing defensive tackle who can play quickly on early downs, but his lack of length is a concern when he starts facing bigger, stronger, and longer offensive linemen.
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