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Cramming For the Draft: Defensive Tackles

If you're like me, then you'll usually wait until the last minute to study for a big test. Some call it procrastinating, but I prefer to call it cramming. With the NFL draft only two days away, it's time cram some potential Arizona Cardinal draft picks before then. First up will be defensive tackles. With the likes of Suh, McCoy, and Williams gone before the Cardinals pick at #26, and Terrence Cody and Jared Odrick being possibilities in the first round, let's take a look at some later round defensive tackles. I didn't look at any defensive tackles that were projected past the fifth round because the Cardinals don't have a fifth round pick and they need to draft a tackle sooner.

Brian Price | UCLA | 6'1, 303 lbs

Projected Round: 1st - 2nd

After surprising some and leaving UCLA his junior year, Price will enter the draft as a potential top five defensive tackle. He has tremendous upside and his raw ability to could be turned into pure NFL talent. He's fast and beats lineman to the punch off of the snap. He has great hand and footwork andhelps his teammates play better around him. At 6'2 300 pounds, Price may be better suited for the 4-3 defense. He'll stand upright too often and is stiff in the hips. He can be prone to double teams and doesn't have the bull-rushing power to drive offensive lineman backwards. Overall it's hard to pass up the pure skill that Price possesses. He's NFL-ready andhis strength is ridiculous. A good defensive line coach could mold Price into a pro bowl caliber defensive tackle.

Lamarr Houston | Texas | 6'3, 305 lbs

Projected Round: 2nd

Houston spent the first two seasons of college playing at defensive end before switching to nose tackle. Due to his days at end, Houston possesses a non-stop motor when pass-rushing. He'll show a quick burst when attacking lineman and is relentless until the whistle blows. He's a solid run stuffer and has been adding weight to his frame the last two seasons to ease critics. Regardless, he still doesn't command the amount of double teams that a nose tackle should, and he can become engulfed against bigger lineman. His arms are also short and he may use too much energy when pass rushing because of this. Houston has the potential to be a scary pass rusher, but needs to work on the intangibles to get him there.

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Linval Joseph | East Carolina | 6'5, 328 lbs

Projected Round: 2nd

After having a very productive junior year, Joseph declared for the draft in hopes to landing on a team with defensive tackle needs. Joseph has rare skill and massive size(6'5) that show that he does have potential upside in the NFL. He has the mass to command double teams and the strength to create a pile andstop the run. With his frame, Joseph certainly has the room at add more bulk in order to fit into a 3-4 defense. He can be elusive for his size and will slip into the backfield to sack less-mobile quarterbacks. He can get too upright in his stance sometimes and will let smaller lineman over-power him. He doesn't have great lateral quickness and his conditioning is a concern.

Torrell Troup | UCF | 6'3, 314 lbs

Projected Round: 2nd - 3rd

After appearing in three games as a freshman, Troup became a full time starter his sophomore year and was a dominant force for UFC for the last three years. He was a powerful run-stuffer in college and allowed two very good defensive ends to tee off on opposing quarterbacks by drawing more attention from the offensive line. Troup has great natural strength and a quick initial burst off the line of scrimmage. At 314 pounds, he could stand to add some bulk to his frame for the NFL, although most believe he's already a natural nose tackle. He has a strong work ethic and will fit into a leadership role. He needs to improve on tackling in open space as quicker ball carriers can have their way with him.

Cam Thomas | North Carolina | 6'4, 330 lbs

Projected Round: 2nd - 3rd

He was used primarily as a run defender in North Carolina's laid back defense, where he served as an anchor along the defensive line. His lower body is massive and shows a great low center of gravity. He'll become a stalwart on the defensive line and since he shows great balance, most offensive lines will struggle moving him out of the way. At this point Thomas is too one dimensional and needs to add pass-rushing to his repertoire. He needs work on shedding bigger blockers and must improve his hand and footwork. He's not the quickest defensive tackle.

Al Woods | LSU | 6'4, 309 lbs

Projected Round: 3rd

Simply put - Woods is best at stopping the run. He dropped some weight his senior year and the difference translated onto the field. He was quicker getting to the ball carrier and was able to shed one on one blocks more efficiently. He'll let running backs know who he is by hitting them with all 325 pounds of him. He shows good recovery speed and has the lateral quickness to intercept ball carriers passing by. Woods needs to prove he can rush the passer in the NFL if he wants a team to take a chance on him. He can get lost in the mix and will sometimes play too low to the ground and get pushed backwards. Some believe his senior year was a fluke and that he's nothing more then a workout warrior.

Geno Atkins | Georgia | 6'2, 293 lbs

Projected Round: 3rd - 4th

Atkins seems the least likely to land on a 3-4 defense, but given his speed at the combine(4.75), he's an intriguing prospect. He has a very fast initial burst off of the line and uses a bull rush to often disrupt the back field. He has good balance and stays low to the ground to anchor the defense. He uses his burst to help against the run and has the speed to meet running backs on the outside. Although he can reach the backfield, he'll often get lost lost once there. He's small for a tackle(293) and too short to add anymore mass. In short, Atkins is a project player that isn't ready to play to his potential. He'll need a good coach to push him.

D'Anthony Smith | Louisiana Tech | 6'2, 304 lbs

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Projected Round: 4th

Although he nears the end of this list, don't let it fool you - Smith could end up being a steal in the 4th round. He's a very strong and athletic defensive tackle that started showing new pass-rush techniques last season. He uses his hands violently to disengage from blockers and uses his pure strength to push the pile backwards. He plays with a nasty streak will attack the ball carrier quickly. Smith keeps his center of gravity low and has the leg strength to maintain his position on the defensive line. He played in the 3-4 at times at Louisiana Tech and was very durable(started 44 straight games). He's a work in progress right now and seems to rely solely on his skill rather then technique and practice. If he can add more mass, Smith could be a future star at defensive tackle.

Arthur Jones | Syracuse | 6'2, 301 lbs

Projected Round: 4th - 5th

Although Jones is only 301 pounds, some believe he is one of the only pure nose tackles coming out of the draft. He's a very good pass rusher and will make life hell on offensive lineman and quarterbacks. He shows a relentless attack and will rip away blocks at ease. He didn't generate many sacks in college but that's widely due to the constant double teams he faced. Jones will not let go once he latches onto a ball carrier and he's a solid run stuffer. He's a natural leader and a former high school state wrestling champ, making him very difficult to move around. He's not the quickest off of the snap and he needs to gain some weight to be an ideal nose tackle. His work ethic and positive attitude are a plus.

That's it for nose tackles. If the Cardinals decide to pass on Cody, I'm sure one of these guys will land on the roster on day two. Tomorrow we'll discuss the inside linebackers. What are your thoughts on defensive tackle and are any of these prospects intriguing to you?