Why 3-4 Nose Tackle is the Second Most Important Position in the NFL

At this morning's initial press conference at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, the subject largely turned to a topic that's central to the needs of the Kansas City Chiefs: acquiring and keeping a good-to-great 3-4 nose tackle. San Francisco 49ers GM Scot McCloughan took the podium just a few minutes ago for questions regarding the Niners' draft plans, roster changes, quarterback situation and much more. But one thing that kept coming back around were the decisions regarding NT Aubrayo Franklin.

The buzz surrounding Franklin -- who we've discussed from time to time on AP -- concentrated on what is perhaps the second most important position in the NFL today. Right after the quarterback position, it seems the 3-4 NT is the prime position to secure in one way or another. And even if you have depth at the position, you don't make a move that would negate your ability to properly man the position with quality players.

In today's NFL, the left tackle position is often noted as the second-most important (i.e. the theories espoused in The Blind Side by Michael Lewis), however the Saints just won the Super Bowl with their back-up left tackle. The Steelers won the Super Bowl with Max Starks, who was often taken to task for being sub par and football writers like Peter King wrote that the o-line would prohibit the Steelers in the end. The Indianapolis Colts traded up to draft Tony Ugoh to be the future left tackle a couple years ago, only to turn to reserve OT Charlie Johnson who was a sixth round choice four seasons ago. In other words, it's really not the rarity its made out to be.

More after the jump:

Instead, McCloughan took several moments to state just how valuable Franklin is and, even without a cap, the Niners were happy to pay the franchise price to at least secure one more year of Franklin's services and the hopes of working out a long-term deal. Unless you're in the Peppersphere when it comes to salary, it seems teams are willing to pony up to keep the nose tackle properly manned.

For the Chiefs, this becomes a real position of importance. The acquisition of highly talented linebackers will surely help some things, but those guys are only released if the defensive line adequately handles the interior offensive line and frees up those athletic ability and pass rushing abilities that you drafted the LB for in the first place. And even though the Chiefs have drafted defensive linemen early the last two seasons, it stands to reason that perhaps this year deserves one more -- a significant body in the middle to team with the guys you already have.

If the Chiefs go elsewhere with their first round pick, don't be surprised to see them grab a nose tackle with their next couple picks, and also expect to see the Chiefs tied to any significant additions at the position. It's the rarity that everyone's already buzzing about here at the combine as names like Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy figure to make life easier for some lucky franchises.
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