So my first post of Knowing Your Guards: A look at the 2012 Prospects went off fairly well. This installment will look at the draft prospects at the NT position. This is the 3-4 NT prospects not the 4-3 DT prospects. I will once again provide my break down of the prospect from film I have seen, provide a link and state the predicted round the prospect will be drafted in according top the "experts" (Unfortunately this list is incomplete due to lack of resources)
#1 Dontari Poe, DT Memphis-
Unfortunately I can't find any of Memphis' games online nor can I find a highlight film for Poe. He is easily the most interesting prospect at NT this year. At 6'5" 350lbs he taken the same mold as Pro Bowl 3-4 NT Haloti Ngata, and Kris Jenkins, as well as Paul Soliai. I have no desire to regurgitate an analysis of the prospect that is not mine. Since I have no film I have no analysis. He supposed to go any where from the late first to the mid second. Mel Kiper has the Steelers taking him in his first mock draft.
Here is a link to a piece talking about Poe's strength. http://youtu.be/CXMku4m3twI
Ta'amu is a 6'3" 337lbs defensive tackle. The fist thing I noticed when watching Ta'amu play is his initial burst off the line and his quickness. For a 337lbs man he has a very good ability for move. When Ta'amu stays low he has more than enough power to drive back the offensive linemen. Ta'amu has very good upper and lower body strength. He is best at anchoring the against the run and this is helped by he burst off the line. Ta'amu is only average in his hand fighting. He can struggle to fight his opponent off his chest and drive into his opponents chest plate. Ta'amu need to work on his conditioning. Ta'amu has decent vision but often shot the gap in Washington guessing wrong. When he gets tired he plays drastically tired. Against the double team he is hard to move. However Ta'amu can have trouble keeping a consistent wide base to maximize he anchoring ability. He has a good motor and work ethic. Nothing to be concerned about but nothing to flaunt over. With his short arms and inability to keep his pad level down for the entire game Ta'amu has dropped out of the first round. However he also dropped because of the increase talent from the junior class entering the draft. Ta'amu can be a starter in the NFL. He will need to be better at his "hand fighting" to compensate for short arms, play low but his elite burst will allow him to drive opponent back. Ta'amu is expect to go in the mid to late second.
Here is a link to Ta'amu playing he is #74 http://youtu.be/fDJOGZj7dEI.
#3 Josh Chapman, DT Alabama-
I can some this up very easily almost everything Ta'amu does bad Chapman does well. However everything Ta'amu does well Chapman come up short in. I will explain. Chapman is 6'1 310lbs. He does a very good job maintaining leverage help by his size. He does a very good job of using his hand and getting them into the opponent chest plate. If he misplaces his hand at the start he does a good job in his fighting to get them in the correct place. He does a nice job exteding his arms, reading the play and then reacting.He seems to recognize blocks well. Chapman is also a weight room phenom. Very strong in both upper and lower body. Why is Chapman so low then. He lacks any explosion. He is average off the line and does not have the pop to drive back his opponent. This is vital because usually in the trenches because there are two basic laws. The first is low man wins and the second is the first man wins, paraphrase of course. Chapman will need to put on another at least 15lbs to effectively play NT in the NFL. This could be problematic because he already lack explosion and lateral quickness. Chapman can be a two gap NT because of his awareness and technique but is will be a struggle because of his lack of pop off the line. Chapman is considered a third round pick.
Here is a link to Chapman playing. He is #99 for Alabama. http://youtu.be/kSOyeK9kXDk.
#4 Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, DT Baylor-
As you have probably noticed I have spent a lot of time watching Baylor players and that Alamo Bowl. I went back watched even more yesterday after I met Robert Griffin III in person at my work. (He is a very down to earth guy) Now back too the analysis. Jean-Baptiste is 6'2" 335lbs. That seems like he could be a dominate interior guy. That is wrong. The first things I noticed when watching Jean-Baptiste are his incredibly slow get off and his high playing style. Though he has good quickness he is usually the last off the line. He also is want is referred to as a "Pop Tart". Immediately he pops up out of his stance. He is raw with his hand placement and rarely gets them into the opponent chest plate. Jean-Baptiste also play with a narrow base and is easily moved laterally. He has questionalbe instincts and read ability often shedding block to the opposite side of the play. You will here Warran Sapp refer to this as being on skates. When he does however have it together and play low he can drive his opponent back. jean Baptiste is a raw prospect who will need teaching and improved strength to play at the NFL NT. I think he would be better off losing 10lbs and becoming a 4-3 one technique. He is considered a fifth round pick.
Here is a link to Jean-Baptiste playing. He is #90 the DT for Baylor( in Green) http://youtu.be/fDJOGZj7dEI
#5 Herbron Fangupo, DT Bringham Young University-
Herbron Fangupo is easily becoming one of my favorite prospects this year at NT. He is 6'1" 331lbs. He is a former USC player who transferred after his house was broken into.He did it out of concern for his wife. Fangupo played the five technique and rotated at NT for BYU and already asked to 2 gap. Fangupo has a good fire off the ball. He also plays with a very nice base. However Fangupo plays high nearly all the time. He has horrible concepts of his hand fighting and usually places his hand high and on the outside. Often his bouts with an opponent become shoving matches where his feet go dead. It may surprise you then that I have yet to seen Fangupo driven off the ball eve by a double team. I can't tell you how amazing that is that someone who has the worst technique of nearly every NT on this list won't be beat by a double team. He has an amazing lower body strength. His strength and conditioning coach said he was the strongest he had every coached. He has long enough arms and very good instincts. Fangupo is good at reading plays as they develop. He has a very good first step to drive his opponent off the ball. It is in my opinion that if he is taught to keep his pad level down, taught to drive his hand in the chest plate of his opponent, and keep his feet chopping he could be elite. He already plays with a wide base keeping his butt down and is nearly impossible to run on him. He has a good work ethic and instincts. If you have the right DL coach that can get after him in technique Fangupo could be a starter in two years or definitely a solid run stuffing back up. He is currently rated as a 6th to 7th round pick but will probably go in the fifth due to lack of NT talent.
Here is a link to Fangupo playing. He is #91. Watch and be impressed by the dominance yet utter lack of technique. http://youtu.be/D73ctp36oGg
So that is it. There are, in my opinion, the best five pure NT prospects. Other guys that could be moved to or play NT are;
-DaJohn Harris, DT University of Southern California-
He is 6'3" 308lbs has a rare burst but plays high projected in the third round.
-Ishmaa'li Kitchen, DT Kent State-
6'3" 334lbs. Plays high, doesn't have great balance during contact. However really overpowering. Will need a lot of work and I mean a lot. Could be a PS guy for two years and a back up NT for his career. He'd be a UDFA.