Originally written on Rams Herd  |  Last updated 4/20/12

As we sit less than one week out from the start of the first round, we will spend the rest of the time remaining looking at the different positions the Rams may address in the 2012 draft.  Today, we will look at the defensive tackle position.

Why Is It A Need:

The drop off of play at the defensive tackle position was quiet noticeable.  It seemed as if in a matter just one offseason Fred Robbins had greatly aged.  The signing of Justin Bannan last off-season did very little to make up for decline of Robbins.  The Rams finished 31st in rushing yards allowed, 27th in rushing touchdowns, and 28th in yards per attempt.  Yeah that’s right, a bottom five finish in three major rushing categories.  The season before the defense finished 17th, 4th, and 22th respectively in those categories.

This isn’t what is the most devastated part about the Rams poor run defense.  It’s surrendering franchise single-game rushing records against the Cardinals and the Cowboys. (Note: the only two franchises Emmitt Smith played for). It’s allowing a player they see twice a year, Beanie Wells, to go for 228 yards at the Edward Jones Dome when he had just three 100-yard in the previous 36 games.  It’s getting torched by Ryan Torain for 135 yards on 19 carries at home in a winnable game against the Redskins. Apart from the game against the Rams, Torain rushed for 65 yards on 40 carries and was released by the Redskins before the end of the year.

Of course, the defensive tackle position wasn’t the only reason for the Rams’ inability to stop the run in 2011 (as we’ll discuss later in the week), but it sure was a bigfactor.  This was certainly evidenced by the quick releasing of both Robbins and Bannan  in March.  They have added two free agents to theposition.  First, Kendall Langford.  Langford is coming over from Miami where he played defensive end (5 techinque) in a 3-4 defense.  Judging from the money and length of the contract Langford signed, Fisher and Snead have high hopes that Langford will be able to make a smooth transition to a 3 tech in their 4-3 defense.  They also recently signed Trevor Laws.  Laws was a highly-touted nose tackle coming out of Notre Dame.  The former second rounder has yet to live up to his draft status at the next level, making only two starts in four seasons.  Between the undetermined role Laws is intended to play and the uncertainty that Langford will be able to make the transition, I’d expect the Rams to take a defensive tackle somewhere early in the draft.

Who To Watch For:

Michael Brockers – LSUImmediately after declaring for the draft, Brockers shot up to a top 10 pick.  He quickly became anointed as everyone’s choice as the top defensive tackle in the class. Teams are infatuated with his physical potential. Particularly appealing is his length.  At 6’6 and change, his height is a rarity at the position.  Brockers still has a little work to be done on his ability to rush the passer.   On occasions he shows flashes to get upfield and close the pocket.  However, he has yet to display that fast twitch necessary with his hips to turn the corner and close on the quarterback.

Impression:  Early on he’ll be an upgrade at the position for the Rams but to take his game to the next level he has to develop into a three-down type.

Donateri Poe – Memphis
Poe garnered a lot of attention after a very impressive combine.  Poe’s 4.98 40-yard dash would beimpressive for most defensive tackles.  But when you consider he ran this at 6’4 and 346 lbs, it’s freakish.  Poe also displayed fantastic strength by benching more reps at 225 than other defensive tackle invited to the combine.  His 44 reps were 8 more than the closest competitive.  Poe has tremendous upside.  However, the problem with Poe is that he failed to dominate lower-level competition.

Impression: Poe flashes here and there and has a great motor.  These are two reasons people like MikeMayockand Mel Kiper think he’ll develop into a good pro.  Thequestion thus becomes how long will it take for him to produce at ahigh level.

Fletcher Cox – Mississippi State
Cox is arguably the most polished of the entire class.  Mike Mayock has Cox slotted in in the #1 spot of thedefensive tackle class.  In college, Cox played both the three and the five technique.  He was the fastest defensive tackle at combine.  Cox uses his quickness to threaten gaps and get up field.

Impression:  If fellow Ramsherd’s contributor Brennan had his choice, Fletcher Cox would be the pick for the Rams with the 6th overall pick.  I think he’ll be able to push the pocket and should be stout against the run.  He reminds me of a more limited version of Gerald McCoy.  I’m not sure between him and Langford who would play the 1 technique.


Jerrell Worthy – Michigan State
Jerrell or Brandon Thompson out of Clemson have been my choice since last fall.    Worthy currently sits as Mike Mayock’s number two overall defensive tackles.  He is a very stout run defender, penetrates and runs  the line well.  He has shown on occasions he has the ability to take over a game.

Impression:  With his size and skillset, Worthy could step in and play the 1 technique on day 1.  Butthe6th pick is too early for him and there’s a good chance the 33rdpick is too late.

Alameda Ta’’amu – Washington
Just this week on a radio show with RobRang, the Washington nose tackle claimed that he thought the Ramswould take him with one of their two 2nd round picks. Ta’’amuuses his big, massive, imposing 348 lbs body to eat updouble teams atthe 1 technique.  He sometimes compared to fellow Samoan, Haloti Ngata.

Impression:  I’m not sure how muchstock we can put into Ta’’amu’s claim that the Rams would takehim in the 2nd round.  He will most likely not be a factor in thepassing game.  However, he could be one of the best run defenders inthis defensive class.


Don’t Forget About:


Brandon Thompson – ClemsonI like Thompson a lot.  He’s well coached and a good football player.

Devon Still – PSU
Mel Kiper’s number 1 rated defensive tackle.  He will most likely be gone before the Rams pick at 33.

Kendall Reyes – UConn
Talented, versatile player who served as team captain.

Sleeper:

Mike Martin – MichiganVery similar profile as newly added Trevor Laws.  Shorter, stocky build, who uses wrestling background and quickness to defend the run.



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