In smaller dynasty leagues the defensive tackle position may not even be relevant. Many leagues have a DL (defensive lineman) designation, which means you can either start a defensive end or defensive tackle. Most defensive lineman don’t get a lot of tackles, so it’s sacks that you are looking for. There is a small top tier of defensive tackles that can get you good sack numbers, but it’s a big drop off after those few elite players.
This read is more for dynasty team owners that are in larger and deeper leagues, especially ones where you actually must start defensive tackles. Because the position is so physical and technical it takes a while for young players to physically and mentally grow to learn how to compete in the trenches against the best players in the world. The 2019 draft was deep and talented in many positions, and defensive tackle was one of them. In fact, it was the deepest I can remember.
THE BLUE CHIPPERS
There were six defensive tackles taken in the first round, and most of them didn’t disappoint. None of the top tackles taken last year came out as a dominating force to start the season, but a lot of them finished strong. This is usually the case for interior lineman. The full season numbers of these blue chippers may not have been enough to crack the top fifteen at the position, but believe me, these guys were worthy of being selected in the first round and they are surefire studs.
Ed Oliver (1.09 BUF)
Of all the talented rookie defensive tackles that came out last year, I believe that Ed Oliver is going to have the best career. He is listed at 6’2, 287 pounds, which is a little undersized for an interior lineman, but for the Bills 4-3 scheme, he is a good fit. Early on in the season he lost playing time to Jordan Phillips, who had a career year, but he came on real strong in the second half of the season. Overall, Oliver finished with 43 tackles, 5 sacks, 8 quarterback hits, 2 passes defensed, and a forced fumble. Phillips and defensive end Shaq Lawson have left in free agency. It’s Oliver’s time now and I think it will be for a long time. If you’re looking to get a young defensive tackle in a deep league, this is the player to get.
Christian Wilkins (1.13 MIA)
Wilkins was the second defensive lineman taken out of Clemson behind defensive end Clelin Ferrell (1.04 LVR). Wilkins was seen as a high character guy with natural leadership skills and that is exactly what he brought to the Dolphins locker room. Flores moved him around on the line, playing him on the end a lot with Davon Godchaux at the nose in the 3-4. He was a sure tackler producing 55 tackles, which led all rookie defensive lineman. Like Oliver, Wilkins started off slow and finished strong. He ended up with 2 sacks, 30 pressures, 3 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Wilkins proved to be durable and a solid interior lineman for the Fins. The numbers will reflect his top end talent in the years to come.
Dexter Lawrence (1.17 NYG)
The Giants surprised a lot of people when they went with quarterback Daniel Jones at 1.06. Many thought they would address their need at defensive line and take defensive end Josh Allen (1.07 JAC) when he was surprisingly available there, and then address quarterback with their other first round pick at 1.17. Instead, it was Jones at 1.06 and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence at 1.17. That decision seemed to work out well for the Giants. Both Jones and Lawrence look legit at their respective positions. Lawrence was seen as a run stuffer coming out of college and proved to be that plus at the next level. The 6’4, 342-pound beast finished the season with 38 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. His 76.3 run defense grade was tops among rookie defensive tackles, but he also had 30 quarterback pressures, which was tied for first among rookie interior lineman with his college teammate Christian Wilkins. Lawrence was a great pick and he should anchor the New York Giants line for many years to come.
This group of players somewhat disappointed in their rookie season. Most of it was due to injury, less than stellar performance, and/or lack of playing time. These three players are all primed for an uptick in production in 2020 and beyond.
Jeffery Simmons (1.19 TEN)
Jeffery Simmons out of Mississippi State was one of the most polarizing prospects in the 2019 draft. A top ten talent, Simmons not only had a torn ACL and was expected to red shirt his rookie year, he also was not invited to the combine after a video surfaced of him hitting a woman multiple times while she was on the ground. The Titans did their due diligence in the scouting process and decided that his off-the-field incident was a very big mistake, but not the true depiction of his character. Simmons was not red shirted. He came back from injury in week 7 and recorded 4 tackles and 1 sack in his first game. In only nine games played, just months removed from a serious injury, Simmons recorded 32 tackles and 2 sacks for the season, showing why many experts thought he could have been a top five talent.
Quinnen Williams (1.03 NYJ)
Williams by many was considered to be the best defensive player in the 2019 draft. The Alabama standout was the first defensive tackle selected and the third player taken overall by the New York Jets. There were high expectations for Quinnen, but by his own admission, it was a disappointing rookie season for the blue chipper. It wasn’t a total bust by any means. Impressive plays were made throughout the year, but there just wasn’t the consistency you’d like to see in a top five pick. Williams missed three games with ankle and neck injuries and played 46% of the Jet’s defensive snaps. He finished the season much stronger and more consistently than he started and produced 28 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 6 quarterback hits, and a fumble recovery. Look for Williams to breakout in 2020.
Dre’Mont Jones (3.07 DEN)
The Broncos selected 6’3, 295 pound, Dre’Mont Jones early in the third round as an undersized pass rushing interior lineman. Jones had 43 total tackles and 8.5 sacks his senior season at Ohio State against top division I competition. He looked good in the preseason, but didn’t get a lot of playing time to start the year. As the season progressed, he received more reps, but didn’t look comfortable right away. Jones ended his first season with 14 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 6 quarterback hits, and garnered AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors week 16. Pass rushing specialists, especially from the interior of the defensive line usually take a while to develop. Jones didn’t produce huge numbers his rookie season, but he was only on the field for 27% of the defensive snaps. I would expect a steady increase for Dre’Mont in the next few years, and for him to eventually be a household name at least as far as dynasty IDP team owners go.
PROS OR CONS
This section of listed defensive tackles are the players that I believe whose careers could go either way. Will they be pros or are they cons? I’ll give you my feelings about them and you can decide whether you feel like they are worth a spot on your roster.
Jerry Tillery (1.28 LAC)
When the Chargers drafted Tillery out of Notre Dame, it was deemed a great value pick so late in the first round with the twenty-eighth pick. He was considered a steal that would solidify their defensive line as a run stuffer, that could also get to the quarterback. Tillery ended up playing 36% of the defensive snaps, recording 17 tackles and 2 sacks. He was a healthy scratch in week 14, which was especially concerning being so late in the season. Tillery certainly was the biggest disappointment of all the defensive tackles taken in the first round. Still, he had first round talent coming out of college. Maybe he needed a year to adjust to the physicality in the NFL.
Shy Tuttle (undrafted NOS)
New Orleans signed 6’3, 300 pound defensive tackle Shy Tuttle undrafted out of Tennessee. He was one of the most pleasant surprises for the Saints playing in all sixteen games and recording 18 total tackles, 2 sacks, 6 pressures, and an interception. This all while being on the field for only 32% of the defensive snaps. After re-signing starting nose tackle David Onyemata, New Orleans is very deep on the defensive line with Sheldon Rankins and Malcom Brown also ahead of Tuttle on the depth chart. He did seem to surpass Taylor Stallworth though. Tuttle is young and proved himself to be a good player. He may not have the easier path of players selected in the draft, but he’s already shown last season that he will be ready to go when his number is called.
UNDER THE RADAR
Defensive tackles are already an almost irrelevant position in IDP leagues unless the leagues are very deep. So, when discussing under the radar/deep stash interior lineman, the focus is solely on the deepest of leagues. 32 team, NFL style leagues are my favorite. If you have a team in this type of league then these players might be worth looking into.
Armon Watts (6.17 MIN)
After only one year as a starter on the defensive line at Arkansas, the Vikings drafted Armon Watts with the 190th overall pick. The 6’4, 300 pound developmental project was not a lock to make the roster, but showed enough in the offseason to make the cut. Watts didn’t get on the field until week 10 and averaged about a dozen snaps per game after that. In week 17, he saw extended time and it looked like the team’s patience was paying off. He finished the season with 13 combined tackles and 1.5 sacks. Watts has a chance to surpass both Jaleel Johnson and Jalyn Holmes on the depth chart and get more playing time in 2020. One quick little nugget; the Vikes hired coach Imarjaye Albury as an assistant defensive line coach, who was a defensive graduate assistant at the University of Arkansas who coached and helped develop Watts prior to the 2019 season.
Renell Wren (4.23 CIN)
Drafted out of Arizona State in the fourth round, 6’5, 318 pound, Rennel Wren has the physical tools and explosiveness to make it in the NFL. Wren didn’t get a lot of time on the field last year, playing in eleven games, making two starts. He had just 8 total tackles and no sacks, and was placed on injured reserve after week 14 with a hip injury. The Bengals lost defensive tackle Andrew Billings in free agency, but replaced him with former Texan D.J. Reader. The coaching staff made it clear that they are serious about reducing pro bowler Geno Atkin’s playing time so that he can be more efficient, but even with that said, Wren is still pretty deep in the pecking order. As a fourth round pick with his measurables, there should be the opportunity for him to make a push in 2020 for more snaps.
Dontavius Russell (7.21 JAC)
The Jaguars look as if they are re-tooling, since teams don’t like to use the word rebuilding anymore. At 6’2, 323 pounds, Russell was a space-eater for the Auburn Tigers, not a pass rusher. He’s a long shot to be relevant in dynasty leagues, but has a chance to develop into a run stuffing nose tackle for a Jacksonville defense that is weak up the middle.
Kevin Givens (undrafted SFO)
Givens, out of Penn State was undrafted and is undersized at 6’1 and 285 pounds. He projects as an interior lineman with potential that may take a couple years to develop. He has good leverage technique and quick hands. He was on the 49ers practice squad last season and made a brief appearance after injuries to the defense piled up. With the personnel losses of pro bowler DeForest Buckner and Sheldon Day, Givens may be able move up the roster a little earlier than planned.
Bryan Mone (undrafted SEA)
Mone was a four-star prospect coming out of high school before choosing to become a Michigan Wolverine. He was considered to be one of the best defensive players on the team, before he broke his femur in fall camp and missed an entire season. Two years later of solid play as run-stopper, Mone did not hear his name called in the 2019 draft. He signed with the Seahawks and was under their tutelage last season. He is another long shot, but someone to keep an eye on.
IDP Scouting Report:
Part 3: Second Year Defensive Tackles