Ahhhhhh, the final bit of research. And for some of you, the final piece you have to listen to me blab on before I actually tell you my decision. Ready? Good, because I am too. A solid nose tackle is an important part of a 3-4 defense. They are usually responsible for an extra guy on the offensive line, and a great nose tackle can cause distraction and mismatch problems for even a veteran guard or center. The best of nose guards have two things in common, they are big (simple physics) and they have a lot of upper body strength. Unfortunately, a great nose tackles these things to not make. Otherwise there would be a significant sumo wrestler influx into the NFL, and that would be that.
The prototypical guy to think about when envisioning the position is Vince Wilfork. Also, Aubrayo Franklin and Paul Soliai work. Chiefs use a 0-technique, or 0-gap, system for the nose tackle. This basically means that on most plays, his job is to line up directly across from the center and after the snap, go straight and grab whichever guard is closest to him along for the ride. At a minimum, the nose tackle has to be able to stand his ground and not move. This will force one of the guards to come to him, letting the linebackers know which direction, especially on run plays, the play is headed (beware the counter). A top of the line tackle with push into the backfield, forcing the fullback (on a running play) or the extra blocker (on a pass play) to come out and help the center, which opens up even more lanes for the linebackers to come through. The greatest of the greats somehow extend their fingers enough to grab the jersey of the runner going by, even while completely engaged.
What happens when your nose tackle isn’t very good? Disaster is a mild way to put it. On pass plays that extra blocker is now able to grab the blitzer, creating a perfect pocket for the QB to have a cocktail or two in. On running plays, the extra offensive lineman moves forward to grab the TJ (can I trademark that yet?), the Mike has to deal with the fullback now, and the RB doesn’t even have to change direction on his way to the end zone, allowing him to outrace even the fleetest of feet. As you can see, having at least an above average tackle is vital.
Evaluating the draft prospects is the toughest part out of all of this. Although in the NFL you wouldn’t expect the nose tackle to have many stats, at the college level, an NFL-ready NT will be absolutely dominant against sub-par talent, and have the statistics to back it up. The greatest trouble is that many college programs do not utilize nose tackles as much, and so the draft stock of true nose tackles is overvalued greatly. Although not all of them are true NT prospects in this draft evaluation I looked at Cox, Worthy, Brockers, and Poe.
Fletcher Cox is looked at a natural beast, with a lot of untrained talent and an immense upside. As always, talent doesn’t always match ceiling, and if he isn’t able to grow up quickly he will struggle. His downfall, however, is that he is officially listed under 300 lbs. As an athlete that relies on athleticism, bulking up is going to slow his progress to a point where the only thing left to do is call "Next". Jerel Worthy looks to be promising. He has the size and maybe the talent, but he is primarily a 4-3 guy and effort questions thrown in for good (or would that be bad?) measure.
And now to the final (and seemingly favored on this site) two. Drafting Michael Brockers would raise the number of LSU drafted in the first round by the Chiefs to 4 in the past 6 years. As someone who is pleased with the production of the other three guys, this would not bother me at all. He is big and he is strong, and doesn’t really try to rush the passer much. However he still has a lot to learn, and he is more experienced with the 4-3. Dontari Poe wasn’t really noticed until the combine, and many people fault him for this. He is your prototypical big, strong man, and he is a true nose guy, which is a big support for his case here. His big fault is that he did almost nothing in college, statistically, which shows as either incompetence or lack of focus. Owing to Mr. Pioli’s supposed love of game tape, I have to choose Michael Brockers as the NT selection. I do understand that character concerns are not a complete killer for Pioli, as shown with last year’s pick, but Baldwin did have a crappy QB and he still produced. This lack of production is what will doom Poe, and perhaps cause many GMs to step back for a round or so.
Look for my order of 5 sometime Wednesday night or Thursday before the draft!