Auburn's Nick Fairley and Alabama's Marcell Dareus will fight out out to be drafted 1st, Fairley had by far the more productive year, last year Fairley ranked #3 in the NCAA with 24 tackles for loss (TFL) and 13 sacks, while Dareus recorded only 11 TFLs and 5 sacks, but Fairley was just a one year wonder and Darius has much better measurables. Fairly measured smaller than listed, at the NFL Scouting Combine he measured only 6' 4" 291 pounds and Dareus measured in at 6' 3" 319 pounds. Fairley ran his 40-yard dash in 4.87 seconds and Dareus ran his in 4.92 seconds, but looking at their 10 yard split time, Dareus was more explosive with a time of only 1.69 compared to Fairley's 1.76 seconds. At 319 pounds, Dareus could even play nose tackle. But hey, we're splitting hairs here, both players should be NFL Stars.
All the top defensive tackles could play a number of positions along the defensive lines except Hampton's Kenrick Ellis (6' 5" 340 lbs) and Baylor's Phil Taylor (6' 3" 355 lbs). Because of their massive size, those two prospects are pretty much limited to nose tackle.
The other defensive tackle that should be a first round draft pick is Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson (JR). If he would have waited until the 2012 NFL Draft, he could have been a top ten selection. At 6' 4" 315 pounds he has the size and power to play any position on the defensive line. Wilkerson ran his 40-yard dash in 4.99 seconds and recorded 13 tackles for loss (TFLs) last year.
North Carolina's Marvin Austin, Illinois Corey Liuget, California's Cameron Jordan, Iowa's Christian Ballard, Oregon State's Stephen Paea and last but not least, Wisconsin's JJ Watt should also be first round draft picks. Watt is very strong, fast and extremely productive. Watt at 6' 5" 290 pounds ran an amazing 40-yard dash time of 4.84 seconds, he had a 37" vertical jump, a 10' broad jump, ran a 6.88 second 3-cone, 4.21 seconds in the 20 yard shuttle and completed 34 reps in the bench press. Did I also mention that last year Watt ranked 7th in the nation with 21 TFLs and 7 sacks. I could see Watt going as early as 9th to the Dallas Cowboys.
North Carolina's Marvin Austin is another player that's moving up the draft board, he was suspended for the entire 2010 season, but at the NFL Scouting Combine he put on quite a show. Weighing in at 6' 3" 305 pounds, he ran his 40-yard dash in 4.90 seconds with a very explosive 1.63 second 10 yard split. Austin also completed an impressive 38 reps in the bench.
California's Cameron Jordan can't be overlooked here, another extremely productive player on the field. He recorded 12.5 TFLs, 6 sacks and routinely gets penetration in the backfield. Jordan at 6' 4" 281 pounds ran his 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, has 35" arms and completed 25 reps in the bench. Jordan is ideally suited to play End in a 3-4 defense.
DT Stephen Paea set a Combine record by completing 225 pounds 49 times. Paea at 6' 1" 311 pounds is an immovable object on the inside and is also athletic enough to play end in a 3-4 defense.
Of all the defensive tackles mentioned in this article, all but Kendrick Ellis carries a first round grade and Ellis could go in the 3rd or 4th round. Talent and versatility is evident in this years class of defensive linemen and if your favorite NFL team needs defensive line help you are in luck.