August 22, 2012

Best Defensive Tackles in the NFL Entering 2012: The Top 15

#92 Haloti Ngata, DT, Ravens


The 2012 Preseason is on going, meaning the regular season is fast approaching. I've decided to rank the top 15 defensive tackles entering the 2012 NFL based on a combination of factors such as production, talent, and overall skill set. Several second and third year players are already establishing themselves as top defensive tackles, while plenty of veterans are still proving to be some of the best in the game.

Top 15 Entering the 2012 Season: Quarterbacks / Running Backs / Wide Receivers / Tight Ends / Defensive Ends / Defensive Tackles / Outside Linebackers



1. Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 340 lbs.
Age: 28 | Experience: 7 Years


2011 Season Stats:
36 Tackles, 3 STF, 5.0 Sacks, 5 PBU, 2 Fumbles Forced, 3 Fumbles Recovered

Career Stats:
311 Tackles, 22 STF, 17.0 Sacks, 3 INT, 19 PBU, 4 Fumbles Forced, 5 Fumbles Recovered

Playoff Stats:
17 Tackles, 2 STF, 1.5 Sacks, 2 PBU, Fumble Forced

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
3-Time Pro Bowl Selection
4-Time All-Pro Selection













Analysis: Haloti Ngata is the premier defensive tackle in the NFL. Even though it may not always be reflected on the stat sheets, he dominates the games in various ways.

The 340 pound Ngata is surprisingly quick and agile for a player of his size. He is the complete package, as he is a great run stuffer, plays the gaps effectively, and is a pass rushing threat.

His versatility is what makes him so special. Whether he lines up at nose tackle, the three technique, or the five technique, Ngata makes his presence known. He is the ideal defensive lineman for any scheme.

As I mentioned above, his impact isn't always made on the stat sheets, yet, he is still very productive, and has recorded 10.5 sacks the past two seasons. There are several words to describe Haloti Ngata as a football player, but dominant is the first that comes to my mind.





2. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 300 lbs.
Age: 24 | Experience: 3 Years


2011 Season Stats:
47 Tackles, 5 STF, 7.5 Sacks, 2 PBU, 2 Fumbles Forced, 2 Fumbles Recovered

Career Stats:
63 Tackles, 6 STF, 10.5 Sacks, 3 PBU, 2 Fumbles Forced, 2 Fumbles Recovered

Playoff Stats:
4 Tackles, 1 STF, 1.0 Sacks

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
1-Time Pro Bowl Selection
1-Time All-Pro Selection













Analysis: Entering just his third NFL season, Geno Atkins has established himself as one of the top defensive tackles in the league.

The 2010 fourth round pick from Georgia was very impressive as a rookie, and had 3.0 sacks. In 2011, Atkins proved that he is an all-around defensive tackle. His nice combination of quickness and strength catches opposing guards off guard.

He can still improve a little bit against the run, but he is already very solid in this area. Atkins is starting to establish himself as the best pass rushing defensive tackle in the league. His 7.5 Sacks last season, and has 10.5 in his first two seasons back that up.

Geno Atkins has been one of the most impactful young defensive linemen the past two seasons, and can only get better one would assume. He looks like a future All-Pro player, and checks in at #2 on this list.





3. Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 307 lbs.
Age: 25 | Experience: 3 Years


2011 Season Stats:
36 Tackles, 3 STF, 4.0 Sacks, 1 PBU

Career Stats:
102 Tackles, 9 STF, 14.0 Sacks, INT, 4 PBU, Fumble Forced, Fumble Recovered

Playoff Stats:
3 Tackles, 0.5 Sacks

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
NFL Rookie of the Year
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2010)
1-Time Pro Bowl Selection
1-Time First Team All-Pro Selection











Analysis: Ndamukong Suh has some maturing to do. I'm not talking about physically, because he is a full grown man, but mentally, where he makes numerous mistakes that cost his team.

After a Pro Bowl rookie season in which he recorded 10.0 sacks, Suh took a step back, and he didn't match his 2010 production. He wasn't as dominant, and he got exposed a lot in the run game.

As a pass rusher, Suh has no noticeable weaknesses. His elite athleticism, combined with his power and speed make him a dangerous pass rusher.

Ultimately, Suh should be near the top of this list. He has to regain his focus this season, because he can be so dominant when he wants do be.





4. Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 325 lbs.
Age: 30 | Experience: 9 Years


2011 Season Stats:
52 Tackles, 5 STF, 3.5 Sacks, 2 INT, 5 PBU, Fumble Forced, 2 Fumbles Recovered

Career Stats:
412 Tackles, 20 STF, 13.0 Sacks, 2 INT, 17 PBU, 2 Fumbles Forced, 8 Fumbles Recovered

Playoff Stats:
30 Tackles, 4 STF, 2.5 Sacks

Super Bowl Stats:
3 Tackles

Career Accomplishments:
4-Time Pro Bowl Selection
4-Time Second Team All-Pro Selection
3-Time AFC Champion
1-Time Super Bowl Champion
Patriots All-Decade Team (2000s)
Patriots 50th Anniversary Team









Analysis: New England transitioned to a 4-3 defense last season, and Wilfork was able to adjust. He still remains one of the top interior defensive linemen in football regardless of the scheme he is in.

What surprises you about Wilfork is that he is a 330 pounds man who moves very well laterally. He even added 2 interceptions last season to his resume, which shows that he is more athletic than you would think.

Wilfork is a powerful man, using his lower body strength and his good hand usage to push the pocket and can be a legit pass rushing threat.

What he does best though, is eat up space (which is very effective when he plays nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme) but he can still be disruptive enough to make plays in the backfield.





5. Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 331 lbs.
Age: 22 | Experience: 2 Years


2011 Season Stats:
43 Tackles, 4 STF, 5.5 Sacks, 2 PBU, Fumble Recovered

Career Stats:
43 Tackles, 4 STF, 5.5 Sacks, 2 PBU, Fumble Recovered

Playoff Stats:
N/A

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
1-Time NFL Rookie of the Week
NFL All-Rookie Team (2011)













Analysis: This year, Marcell Dareus moves to his more natural 4-3 defensive tackle position. He had a great impact as a rookie, and I cannot wait to see how he plays with Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.

For a 330 pound man, Dareus moves very well laterally. He is an excellent pass rusher, and had 5.5 sacks in his rookie season. He is also very strong against the run.

His versatility, skill set, and first year production already make Dareus one of the best in the league. He should have an even better 2012 season, especially playing along side some other great pass rushers.





6. Jay Ratliff, Dallas Cowboys
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 303 lbs.
Age: 30 | Experience: 8 Years


2011 Season Stats:
38 Tackles, 6 STF, 2.0 Sacks, 3 PBU, Fumble Recovered

Career Stats:
212 Tackles, 22 STF, 27.0 Sacks, 15 PBU, 4 Fumbles Forced, 12 Fumbles Recovered

Playoff Stats:
8 Tackles, 1.0 Sacks

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
4-Time Pro Bowl Selection
1-Time All-Pro Selection













Analysis: Jay Ratliff is one of the top nose tackles in the league. He got up to about 300 lbs. this off-season, so hopefully he doesn't lose any athleticism with his bulk.

The former seventh round pick can be a problem for big interior linemen. Playing at about 287 last season, what he lacked in size he made up for with his athleticism and gap discipline.

He is a very important piece to the Cowboys' defense, and he could impact the stat sheets even more this season.





7. Kevin Williams, Minnesota Vikings
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 311 lbs.
Age: 32 | Experience: 10 Years


2011 Season Stats:
38 Tackles, 5 STF, 5.0 Sacks, 2 PBU, Fumble Forced

Career Stats:
404 Tackles, 44 STF, 54.5 Sacks, 4 INT, 54 PBU, 7 Fumbles Forced, 10 Fumbles Recovered

Playoff Stats:
14 Tackles, 1 PBU

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
6-Time Pro Bowl Selection
5-Time All-Pro Selection
NFL All-Decade Team (2000s)












Analysis: One half of the Williams wall is still standing, and hasn't shown any signs of breaking down. Kevin Williams is entering his 10th season, and looks like he has a lot of football left in him.

His sack numbers are down from where they were early in his career, but Kevin Williams is still a solid pass rusher. He can impact the game without getting to the quarterback all the time.

For example, he draws more double teams, fills gaps, and can still defend the run very well. He isn't a six time Pro Bowler for nothing, and he has at least three more good years left in him.





8. Sione Pouha, New York Jets
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 325 lbs.
Age: 33 | Experience: 8 Years


2011 Season Stats:
58 Tackles, 4 STF, 1.0 Sack, 3 PBU, Fumble Forced, 2 Fumbles Recovered

Career Stats:
234 Tackles, 9 STF, 3.5 Sacks, 9 PBU, Fumble Forced, 5 Fumbles Recovered

Playoff Stats:
22 Tackles, 1.0 Sack

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
N/A














Analysis: Jets nose tackle Sione Pouha graded out as the best defensive tackle in the league last year.

Like the prototypical nose tackle, Pouha does an excellent job filling the gaps allowing for the linebackers to make plays. He is an excellent defensive anchor who is capable of putting pressure on the quarterback.

Pouha is arguably the best nose tackle in the NFL. If he were a little more versatile, he would be higher than this, but I would take him easily if I needed someone to anchor my 3-4 defense.





9. Richard Seymour, Oakland Raiders
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 317 lbs.
Age: 32 | Experience: 12 Years


2011 Season Stats:
29 Tackles, 0 STF, 6.0 Sacks, 3 PBU

Career Stats:
481 Tackles, 39 STF, 54.5 Sacks, 2 INT, 34 PBU, 4 Fumbles Forced, 7 Fumbles Recovered

Playoff Stats:
42 Tackles, 3 STF, 3.5 Sacks, 4 PBU

Super Bowl Stats:
18 Tackles, 2 STF, 1.0 Sack, 3 PBU

Career Accomplishments:
7-Time Pro Bowl Selection
3-Time First Team All-Pro Selection
2-Time Second Team All-Pro Selection
3-Time Super Bowl Champion
4-Time AFC Champion
Patriots All-Decade Team (2000s)
Patriots 50th Anniversary Team
NFL All-Decade Team (2000s)







Analysis: In the back end of his career, Richard Seymour still continues to play at a reasonably high level.

Since joining the Raiders in 2009, Seymour picked up right where he left off in New England. Whether it's rushing the passer or defending the run, he is still one of the best in the league.





10. Darnell Dockett, Arizona Cardinals
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 290 lbs.
Age: 31 | Experience: 9 Years


2011 Season Stats:
35 Tackles, 7 STF, 3.5 Sacks, 1 PBU, 2 Fumbles Recovered

Career Stats:
379 Tackles, 44 STF, 34.5 Sacks, 4 INT, 14 PBU, 7 Fumbles Forced, 12 Fumbles Recovered

Playoff Stats:
13 Tackles, 2 STF, 4.0 Sacks

Super Bowl Stats:
6 Tackles, 1 STF, 3.0 Sacks

Career Accomplishments:
3-Time Pro Bowl Selection
1-Time All-Pro Selection













Analysis: Darnell Dockett is one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the league. At the five technique, he lines up inside and outside of the tackle, and can be listed as either a tackle or an end.

Dockett is quick athlete who can rush the passer using his quickness or just pure strength. He isn't necessarily a great run defender, but is still above average.

Whether you list him as a defensive tackle or defensive end, Darnell Dockett should be near the top five on either list. He is a good overall player with very good production.





11. Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta Falcons
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 300 lbs.
Age: 30 | Experience: 8 Years


2011 Season Stats:
21 Tackles, 2 STF, 1.0 Sack, 2 PBU

Career Stats:
238 Tackles, 42 STF, 19.0 Sacks, 2 INT, 15 PBU, 7 Fumbles Forced, 7 Fumbles Recovered

Playoff Stats:
7 Tackles, 0.5 Sack

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
N/A














Analysis: Babineaux missed three games last season, but still played well in 2011. This season, expect him to bounce back and maybe jump into the top 10 of my list next season.

Jonathan Babineaux is a very consistent player who can get in the backfield and disrupt plays. He has very good fundamentals, and is the ideal 4-3 defensive tackle.

He isn't flashy or overly powerful, but Babineaux is a good all-around player who knows how to make his presence felt.





12. Henry Melton, Chicago Bears
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 295 lbs.
Age: 25 | Experience: 4 Years


2011 Season Stats:
24 Tackles, 4 STF, 7.0 Sacks

Career Stats:
40 Tackles, 4 STF, 9.5 Sacks, 1 PBU, Fumble Forced, Fumble Recovered

Playoff Stats:
2 Tackles

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
2012 All-Joe Team














Analysis: Henry Melton is quietly and quickly becoming one of the better 4-3 defensive tackles in the NFL.

His elite athleticism gives him the advantage over the less athletic guards he faces, but he is also strong enough to get into the backfield with his strength alone.

He has the potential become an elite pass rusher from the interior of the defensive line, if he isn't already. Once he improves vs. the run, he could move into the top 5.





13. Tommy Kelly, Oakland Raiders
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 325 lbs.
Age: 31 | Experience: 9 Years


2011 Season Stats:
41 Tackles, 1 STF, 7.5 Sacks, INT, 5 PBU, 2 Fumbles Forced, Fumble Recovered

Career Stats:
374 Tackles, 22 STF, 33.0 Sacks, INT, 14 PBU, 9 Fumbles Forced, 2 Fumbles Recovered

Playoff Stats:
N/A

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
1-Time Pro Bowl Alternate














Analysis: Tommy Kelly has been awesome the last two seasons playing next to Richard Seymour. 7.0 and 7.5 sacks respectively over the last two years, Kelly is a legit pass rushing threat.

He isn't an elite athlete, nor is he overly powerful, but he finds a way to get into the opposing backfield and make an impact. He could still stand to work on his game, but he is a solid interior d-lineman.





14. B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 337 lbs.
Age: 26 | Experience: 4 Years


2011 Season Stats:
22 Tackles, 0 STF, 3.0 Sacks, 2 PBU, Fumble Recovered

Career Stats:
86 Tackles, 7 STF, 10.5 Sacks, 6 PBU, Fumble Recovered

Playoff Stats:
8 Tackles, 1.0 Sack, INT, 2 PBU

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
1-Time Pro Bowl Selection
1-Time Super Bowl Champion
1-Time NFC Champion












Analysis: B.J. Raji has to pick up his level of play this season. The former Pro Bowl nose tackle struggled last season, so a big bounce back is necessary.

Raji is a surprisingly good athlete who can use it to his advantage. He has very good strength as well, and is capable of going for 5-6 sacks per year.

Not only does he need to get back to his 2010 form, he needs to improve as a run defender. I didn't notice him have a major impact against the run last season, maybe because he got taken out of a lot of plays.





15. Karl Klug, Tennessee Titans
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 275 lbs.
Age: 24 | Experience: 2 Years


2011 Season Stats:
20 Tackles, 2 STF, 7.0 Sacks, 4 PBU, 2 Fumbles Forced

Career Stats:
20 Tackles, 2 STF, 7.0 Sacks, 4 PBU, 2 Fumbles Forced

Playoff Stats:
N/A

Super Bowl Stats:
N/A

Career Accomplishments:
N/A














Analysis: Karl Klug is already a top 15 defensive tackle? But he was a rotational guy last year, how is that possible?

If you asked yourself these questions, you did so for good reason. His role will be greatly increased after his rookie campaign in 2011. His 7 sacks led the Titans.

Even with Kam Wimbley on the roster, Klug still looks like the best pass rusher they have. He also proved to be able to make plays against the run as well.

It may be a little early for me to have him as one of the 15 best defensive tackles in the league, but Karl Klug showed a lot in 2011, and it only makes you believe he can do it again in 2012.