I've been running through some mock drafts lately, and noticing the ineptitude of some experts, as well as the lack of deep football knowledge by readers/commenters on the DT position. While I do not discount the need for another defensive tackle, people are mocking the wrong types to us. Common suggestions being Corey Liuget, Stephen Paea, Drake Nevis, and Marvin Austin to us in the first or second round. However, it's clear they don't understand that you can't just get a defensive tackle with a high rating by scouts and say "Tada! Problem solved!" because the truth is that none of those guys would help our run defense.
Those guys are all 3-technique defensive tackles. They line up on the "B gap" which is between the guard and tackle. Their duty is to engage on a guard and rush the passer. Your often want this position to be a very squat player with good pad level who can get under and drive up into the guard's chest with a mean bull rush or spin move. They're the kind of players that usually go one on one and try to collapse the pocket from the middle. Sure, it's good to have a 3-tech that is also good in breaking through double teams as well as pursuing a runner, but that's not something two 3-techs can do unless they're freakishly good like Ndamukong Suh, but even he didn't do it all by himself. He couldn't have done it without great technique by his DT counterpart Corey Williams. Here's where the Saints should address their problem.
Corey Williams plays the role of nose tackle, nose guard, or one-technique, whichever you prefer. The nose tackle plays on the A gap, right on top of the center, usually on his right shoulder. The NTs job is extremely important as usually having a good one results in good run defense. For example, the Steelers, Ravens, and Packers all have exception run defense, they also have excellent NTs, they play 3-4 defenses, different from the Saints 4-3, but the NTs job is still the same in both instances. This player has several duties, he engages the center as well as the guard, occupying two offensive linemen. He then anchors down (holds his position), sustaining these blockers, allowing the 3-technique to go one-on-one against his guard assignment, hopefully winning, and getting to the QB or RB in the backfield. So really, 3-techs reap the benefits given to them by good nose tackle play.
This job is exceedingly difficult. For starters, you want a giant man to play in this spot, someone usually upwards of 320 pounds with long arms and a powerful body, not just any fatty. As offensive linemen get taller, defensive linemen get shorter. Gaining leverage is extremely important on the line in the NFL, that's where games are really won and lost. , Vince Wilfork for example is a wide-bodied NT at about 6' to 6'3", 330 lbs; the ideal body type for this kind of player. Other positions usually can take smaller players, but not here. If you're too light, then odds are that you're going to get punished by offensive lines in this league. Not to mention, centers and guards are probably the meanest players in the game.
Remi Ayodele is our NT, and that is awful news. Remi isn't necessarily bad, but he's not very good either. He's basically a warm body to put there. He's the only guy on the roster with the night body, but he's simply not a talented player. Sedrick Ellis is an exceptional talent, often making the best of his opportunities, and easily one of the most underrated 3-techs in the game, but he can't reach his potential without an adequate NT next to him, occupying blockers. That's plain and simple. If we could just get a guy that can occupy some blockers consistently, then we would have a much better run defense, of course we need better linebacking to improve it, but I'll save that for another post.
So, prospects like those that I listed, would not help us much. I wouldn't be opposed to taking a 3-tech with a third rounder, but there's no need to get one in the real early rounds. Tampa Bay drafted two of the best 3-techs last year in Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, but neither had a big year. That's because they don't have another DT that can play the one-technique position. They're very good players, but they don't have the complementary pieces to help them, and they certainly can't play at the same time on running downs, they'll get beaten far too often.
The Saints are probably looking at other types of DTs, ones like Phil Taylor of Baylor, who is a first round prospect, or Kenrick Ellis (Hampton), Ian Williams (Notre Dame), and Jerrell Powe (Ole Miss), who are 3rd round prospects. These guys are nose tackles, they're perfect type players for the spot.
I hope you all enjoyed this lesson. Until next time, let us pray that CBA talks progress. Amen