3 DT options for the Vikings in the 2016 NFL draft
Before Mike Zimmer took over as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, the team’s defense was an area of concern, having ranked No. 24 in PFF’s overall rankings in 2013. The defense has improved significantly since 2014, however, finishing eighth in consecutive years.
One of last year’s stars was defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who finished the season ranked third in PFF’s interior defender grades. However, DT is still a potential position of need in the upcoming 2016 draft for Minnesota. The Vikings’ other starter at the position, Sharrif Floyd, had a solid campaign in grading out as the No. 50 interior defender, but he will potentially reach free agency next offseason as the team needs to decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option. Other contributors include Tom Johnson, who is going to be 32 years old this season, and Shamar Stephen, who was injured for the entirety of the 2015 campaign.
Moreover, the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos showed the entire league that there’s no such thing as having too much defensive line talent, which makes drafting a defensive tackle a possibility with the Vikings’ No. 23 overall pick. Here are three prospects they could consider at that spot:
[Editor’s note: Looking for more on the NFL draft? Check out our 2016 NFL draft guide, loaded with scouting reports, signature stats and much more.]
1. Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
The No. 8 overall player on PFF’s latest draft board, Rankins should be off the board before Minnesota is on the clock. But if he were to slip (and not every evaluator has him as high as we do), Rankins would be an absolute steal. His grades slipped a little bit in 2015, but in 2014 he graded behind only Stanford’s Henry Anderson (who had a very productive rookie season for the Colts prior to suffering a season-ending injury) among interior defenders, excelling against the run but also producing 39 total quarterback pressures, including nine sacks (second-most at the position). He has displayed the versatility to play multiple positions along the defensive line and could be a Day 1 contributor as a rookie.
2. Jarran Reed, Alabama
The 6-2, 307-pound defensive lineman can play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, with the versatility to line up at nose tackle or 3-4 defensive end. Reed, the No. 20-ranked player on PFF’s most recent draft board, is an elite run defender, earning the second-highest grade in that area among interior defenders. He also had the nation’s top run-stop percentage. He does not excel as a pass-rusher, but he has the potential to be an immediate contributor to any team in a two-down run-stopper role.
3. Andrew Billings, Baylor
Billings ranks No. 22 on the PFF draft board, and might be the best nose tackle prospect in this year’s class. He is just 20 years old, but plays like a fully-grown man. He squatted 800 pounds in high school — yes, you read that correctly — and for a big man Billings can run, having posted a 4.96 40-yard dash time at his pro day. He’s a powerful player who consistently disrupts opposing offenses, ranking No. 10 in run-defense grade in 2015 and No. 8 in pass-rush grade in 2014.