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2020 NFL Draft: Searching for 1-tech defensive tackle prospects

The 2021 draft isn’t a strong one for tackles

Back in 2018, the Buffalo Bills signed former Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei to a five-year, $50 million contract in the hopes that he would provide a boost to Buffalo’s run defense. While the defensive tackle hasn’t always lived up to that contract, he nonetheless provided the team stability in 2019. However, after opting out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 situation, the team was forced to use a combination of Vernon Butler, Justin Zimmer and Harrison Philips at the position and none of those players seemed capable of repairing the team’s poor run defense.

Although Star’s contract makes him virtually uncuttable, Bills’ brass might want to inject some youth at the position, in the hopes that the younger player could eventually replace Lotulelei’s snaps in the coming years. Here are some of the prospects who would make sense for that kind of role.

Tier I

Daviyon Nixon (Iowa)

Although he’s not exactly the biggest tackle and could also be used in more of a one-gap role, Nixon could easily put on more weight and still be effective thanks to being perhaps the most athletic defensive lineman in the class. Nixon already moves extremely well for his size and excels at creating havoc and winning early on in the down.

Tier II

Jay Tufele (USC)
Tyler Shelvin (LSU)
Marlon Tuipulotu (USC)

Of the two USC defensive tackles, it’s Tufele who projects as the better run-stopper and gap defender. The junior played all along the line for the Trojans, is explosive at 315 lbs and has the strength and agility to hold up against double teams. Sure, at 6’3” and 340 lbs, Shelvin has the massive size to warrant consideration at nose tackle. But more than size and strength, he was well-coached at LSU and knows how to get low and use his hands—just don’t expect him to rush the passer. Tuipulotu is exceptional against the run not because of his size but because of his technique, motor and movement skills. He’s uses his hands extremely well and stood out as one of the better tackles at the Senior Bowl.

Tier III

Marvin Wilson (Florida State)
Tedarrell Slaton (Florida)

Although he had first-round hype going into the season, Wilson proved to be less athletic than analysts thought and struggled with injuries and poor play against better teams. He still showed he can be excellent against the run however, which should be enough to get him drafted early during the third day. Similar to Shelvin, Slaton is another massive run-defending nose tackle and two-down player. However, he wasn’t dominant in that role in college and really struggles with balance issues.

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