The New Orleans Saints pursued two high profile names at defensive tackle in free agency prior to the draft. They failed to land either Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the Los Angeles Rams, or Sheldon Richardson, who landed with the Minnesota Vikings. The Saints defensive tackle rotation primarily consists of Sheldon Rankins, the team's 12th overall selection in 2016, David Onyemata, a 4th round choice that same year, and Tyeler Davison, a 2015 5th round pick. All three have had some nice moments in their brief careers. Rankins has flashed the 1st round potential of a disruptive presence, and even played defensive end in some alignments down the stretch of last season. Onyemata has progressed rapidly from a raw project into a solid NFL lineman, while Davison is a solid run stopper. Still, the Saints clearly missed the pass rushing threat and overall abilities of Nick Fairley, whose 2017 season (and possibly career) was ended when diagnosed with a heart condition. The New Orleans defensive interior produced just 4 of the team's 42 sacks last year (two each from Rankins and Onyemata), and the Saints surrendered a handful of long runs over the course of the season. New Orleans did not add a defensive tackle in last month's draft, but the subject of today's undrafted rookie profile could add some pressure to the Saints defensive middle.
Taylor Stallworth, DT (South Carolina)
Stallworth graduated from Murphy High School in Mobile, Alabama as one of the top players in the state and one of the top defensive line recruits in the country. He worked his way into the defensive line rotation by the end of his freshman year at South Carolina, was a part-time starter by the beginning of his sophomore year, and started all 26 games his final two seasons. He evolved into a disruptive force along the Gamecocks defensive line over his those two seasons and a team leader as well, winning the most respected teammates award for two consecutive years.
Stallworth has very good initial explosion for a man his size (6'2, 312-lbs.). He plays with low leverage, getting a good push at the snap while maintaining a low center of gravity and keeping good balance. Stallworth delivers a powerful punch to opposing linemen, and has excellent upper body movement. His quickness is difficult for interior linemen to handle one on one, and he has the agility to slice between double teams. Stallworth has a deadly spin move that gets him into the opposition's backfield quickly as a pass rusher, and his hand movement makes him difficult to contain. His straight line quickness allowed him to move to end in some situations with the Gamecocks, but likely will need to win a job inside at the pro level. He does struggle against the run, sometimes coming off the field in early downs at South Carolina. Bigger blockers can overwhelm him if he doesn't beat them with early movement, and he has tight lower body movement that limits lateral range.
The Saints defense was vastly improved in 2017, but struggled at times to provide a disruption from the middle. Both Rankins and Onyemata have shown the potential to provide just that, but not yet the consistency. Davison is a valuable run defender, but provides little as a pass rusher and could be a free agent at season's end. Taylor Stallworth has the natural pass rushing skills to potentially step into an effective rotational role. He only had one career sack in college, but applied consistent pressure, including 10 quarterback hurries as a senior. His size and strength give him the potential for improved run defense with good coaching.