The Minnesota Vikings have two of the better starting defensive tackle duos in the conference. Linval Joseph could be considered the team’s MVP on defense and Sharrif Floyd, when healthy, can also control the line of scrimmage.
The Vikings are going to be looking to replace either of them in the upcoming draft, but adding depth at the position will be strongly considered. Right now the only reserve defensive tackle that made an impact last season is Tom Johnson. He is 31 years old and not getting any younger.
Shamar Stephen was expected to be a contributor last season, but spent most of it on injured reserve with a toe issue. Kenrick Ellis was signed late in the season and did alright, but nothing special enough to say he should be on the team next season. Both players haven’t done enough to definitely say the Vikings have enough depth at the position.
The other two players trying to get onto the roster, Isame Faciane and Toby Johnson, have spent all their time in the NFL on practice squads. Faciane even transitioned to guard a year ago, but is still listed as a defensive tackle on the team’s website roster.
Adding a player from a very deep draft prospect pool will help Mike Zimmer’s defensive tackle rotation. It will also help to have more depth should Floyd or Joseph get hurt again, which happened to both last season. Luckily both injuries did not overlap and they had at least one of them in the starting lineup for every game.
Need level: Medium
Here are the top five defensive tackles as well as an underrated, overrated and sleeper prospect. (Positions based on NFL.com’s list)
No. 1 – Sheldon Rankins, Louisville. He is a strong, well-built, one-gap nose tackle that can control the line of scrimmage. He does not have ideal size for most NFL teams, but will be a dominant run stopper as a situational defender.
No. 2 – Chris Jones, Mississippi State. He has the size, quickness off the snap and strength to be the most dominant defensive lineman in the draft. He is a late bloomer that is climbing charts later in the process. He has the versatility to play either tackle spot in a 4-3 system or the end in a 3-4 style.
No. 3 – Jarran Reed, Alabama. He is strong, run-stopping nose tackle. He is going to be an early down tackle that dominates against the run. He is not going to help whichever team drafts him as a pass rusher, but he will be a big part of any defense getting the opponent into third-and-long situations.
No. 4 – Andrew Billings, Baylor. He is a strong nose tackle with closing speed to make plays in the backfield. Very few nose tackles have the ability to make plays in the backfield like he can.
No. 5 – Robert Nkemdiche, Mississippi. He is a highly-talented player that has off-field issues that will hurt his draft stock. Along with character issues, he wasn’t an overly productive player in the SEC. His talent level will get him drafted early and will make him a starter.
Overrated – A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama. He has very good size and projectable skills. However, he plays with a high-pad level and does not move well laterally. He has the upside, but there is too much work that needs to be done to reach his ceiling.
Underrated – Austin Johnson, Penn State. He is a strong nose tackle that takes up blockers. He is not a flashy player, but does the work necessary for his teammates to make plays. He is what NFL teams look for in a nose tackle.
Sleeper – Kayembe Matungulu, Western Carolina. He has the tools NFL teams like; length, strength and athleticism. He is a project that needs technique work and may need to spend time on the practice squad. But, if he can put everything together, he could be a very good starter.