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March 01, 2017

NFL Combine preview: Defensive tackle prospects who could interest the Eagles

Eagles NFL

The NFL Combine kicks off in Indianapolis today, and we've already begun taking a look at some participants at each positional group every day. In case you missed our previous positional previews:

Quarterbacks | Running backs | Wide receivers | Tight ends
Offensive tackles | Guards | Centers | Defensive ends

Today, we'll look at defensive tackles.

Is defensive tackle a need?

If the Eagles are able to re-sign soon-to-be free agent Bennie Logan to a long-term deal, then they will be set for foreseeable future at defensive tackle. If not, then yes, defensive tackle will become a rather significant need the second Logan inks with another team.

My read is that Logan is going to hit free agency, and there will be some team out there that pays him more than the Eagles can afford. We'll see within the next two weeks.

Here are five defensive tackles that we think make sense for the Eagles:

Malik McDowell, Michigan State (6'6, 276)

Because of his blend of size and athleticism, McDowell was previously thought to be a likely top five pick in 2017 before the 2016 season began. However, after nine games this past season, McDowell had just 1.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss, with no forced fumbles. Then he injured his ankle, and his season was over.

Still, McDowell is height-weight-speed specimen that NFL scouts will salivate over, but if you draft him in the first round, you're doing so purely on potential as opposed to actual production. The Eagles could view McDowell as a defensive end.

Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama (6'3, 312)

Tomlinson reminds me a little of Logan, in that Tomlinson is a lesser known player who does a lot of the dirty work along the Crimson Tide's defensive line, but doesn't put up big glamour stats like many of his teammates. Logan played a similar role coming out of college at LSU.

In 2015, Tomlinson was stuck behind A'Shawn Robinson (drafted 46th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft) and Jarran Reed (49th overall). However, in limited opportunities, he made a lot of tackles and got his hands on a lot of passes. He had 34 tackles and six (!) batted passes.

In 2016, Tomlinson became a starter, posting 62 tackles, three sacks, four batted passes, and a forced fumble.

In high school, Tomlinson was the Georgia state wrestling champion three times, pinning some poor bastard in nine seconds in the finals his senior year.

He anchors very well against the run, as you might expect from his wrestling background. He also does a good job of pushing the pocket, although he doesn't have much in the way of a pass rush arsenal. You'll also see his motor when you watch him, as he chases plays downfield from his defensive line spot.

Tomlinson was offered a scholarship to Harvard for his academics, and to Alabama for his athleticism. How many people can say that? Ironically, the former may actually hurt Tomlinson's draft stock, as teams may worry that he's "too smart." Also of concern will be that Tomlinson has torn an ACL in both knees, although it's been a while since his latest tear, which was in 2013.

Carlos Watkins, Clemson (6'4, 312)

Watkins is sort of the opposite of Tomlinson above. While I don't love his motor and he's nowhere near as good against the run, Watkins did put up glamour stats in 2016, when he collected 10.5 sacks, best in the nation among defensive tackles. The majority of those sacks came from Watkins simply pushing the pocket and engulfing the quarterback.

Last season, Brandon Graham was fifth in the NFL in hurries, but he only had 5.5 sacks. Adding a player like Watkins to the middle of the defense who can split double teams and push the pocket would help make everyone else along the defensive line better.

Montravius Adams, Auburn (6'3, 308)

In watching a lot of SEC offensive linemen and running backs over the last three years during our "Grocery Shopping" series, one player who always seemed to flash on the other side of the ball was Adams.

The reason he is so noticeable when you're not necessarily watching him is because his get-off at the snap is extremely impressive. His explosive first step allows him to penetrate through gaps and force double teams. However, he ends up on the ground far, faaaaaar too often.

In Jim Schwartz's attack-style scheme, that quick first step is a major asset. While Adams has a ways to go in becoming a more polished player, Adams' impressive agility for such a big man is a good start, and he has a high ceiling.

Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan (6'3, 299)

Glasgow isn't flashy, but he was a solid run defender on a Michigan defense that allowed just 3.1 yards per carry in 2016. On the season, Glasgow had 43 tackles, 4 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.

Glasgow is probably a guy that'll come off the field on obvious pass rush situations, which is fine for the Eagles' needs.

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