It’s long been preached that the 3-technique defensive tackle is important for Bears head coach Matt Eberflus.
The system has roots to the likes of Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli, for all of which having a dominant defensive tackle lining up over an offensive guard’s outside shoulder is important. The likes of Warren Sapp, DeForest Buckner, Tommie Harris, Henry Melton and Jason Hatcher have all made Pro Bowls as 3-techs in the system and played big roles in the defense’s success.
There’s just one problem: the Bears don’t have a star 3-tech right now.
The top defensive tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft is Georgia’s Jalen Carter. He projects incredibly well in this kind of role and has the tools needed to be a potential superstar at the NFL level. Even with off-the-field concerns, though, he might not be available when Chicago is on the clock with the No. 9 pick. Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey is an athletic specimen who overcomes a small frame with a well-rounded skill set, but he might be more of a trade-back option.
There’s also the possible transition of Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore inside to 3-tech, and one could debate whether Bryan Bresee of Clemson fits better as a 3-tech or a 1-tech. Both players also project best as fringe Round 1 candidates, placing them in that Nos. 20-39 range Chicago doesn’t have any picks in currently.
So what if the Bears don’t get Carter in Round 1, and what if the likes of Kancey, Adebawore and Bresee all go in that “no man’s land” range?
There’s a lack of 3-technique value on Day 2, as practically all of the defensive tackles likely to go in Rounds 2 and 3 project best as 1-techniques or true 0-tech nose tackles. There’s no reason to reach for need, so Chicago’s best option from a value perspective might be to wait until Day 3 to take a 3-tech.
Granted, the expectations fall drastically the later you pick a player. After all, the players you find there aren’t Round 1 picks for a reason. That doesn’t mean you can’t find an eventually starter there, though, and the thought of using a mid-to-late-round pick on a defensive tackle could serve as depth at the worst, or a developmental pick who can be your 3-tech of the future at the best.
I’m going to take a look at 7 potential 3-techs the Bears could consider on Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft. All of these players have nice first-step quickness, so to avoid repeating myself, just assume this is the case for everyone I list. Let’s look at those defensive tackle prospects and what specific traits makes each of them worth considering.
Karl Brooks, Bowling Green
Brooks has long been since a favorite of mine with his slippery pass-rushing style and inside-outside versatility at 300 pounds. With 17.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for a loss in his last two seasons, he’s a very good pass rusher with nice moves like a long-arm stab, swims, shucks and swipes. He’s a Round 4 talent for me, and if he strengthens his anchor and pad level against the run, he could be a valuable asset on passing downs in the NFL.
Moro Ojomo, Texas
A long-armed hybrid defender, Ojomo is a versatile lineman who can align as far deep as a 1-technique and as far out as an edge rusher. He maximizes his quickness with a high motor, as he showcases good hand activity and churning legs at the point of attack. He’s a more stout defender who keeps his weight underneath him well, and although he’s too much of a tweener to go early, he’s a well-rounded player who can play all over a defensive line.
Kobie Turner, Wake Forest
Turner had a strong 2022 season for Wake Forest after previously being a three-time All-CAA selection for Richmond. He was one of the most efficient interior defensive linemen in the FBS, placing 4th among defensive tackles in his total PFF grade. He stacks and sheds blocks well against the run, and the diversity of moves he displays with his hands makes him a true three-down threat. He won’t wow you from a size or raw play strength perspective, but he’s quick off the ball and knows how to craft together a plan to get into the backfield.
Zacch Pickens, South Carolina
Though he might arguably be the most raw of this bunch, Pickens might just have the highest ceiling. An occasional short-yardage running back in high school, he has an intriguing blend of speed and power and jumped out of Lucas Oil Stadium at the Combine. He’s a waist-bender who’s stiff in the lower body and doesn’t always have a plan, but the raw tools he possesses make him a sturdy developmental target in Rounds 4 or 5.
Jaquelin Roy, LSU
Roy didn’t have the 2022 season many had hoped from him, tallying just 0.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss. However, his 50 pressures from 2020 to 2021 were the most among all SEC defensive tackles in that time frame. He uses his hands and gap awareness well to penetrate backfields and free himself up against the run. His flashes of pad level are encouraging, and while his tape didn’t look as good this past year, his previous film looked the part of a potential NFL starter.
Dante Stills, West Virginia
It feels like Stills has been around college football for so long that he’s been forgotten about to an extent, which is a shame. He’s a legit penetrator at 3-tech, utilizing rip moves well to bend and squeeze his way up the B gap; his flexibility is no joke. He’s a bit light in the pants but works off of blocks well and keeps his weight underneath him. I’d like to see him convert speed to power better as a pass rusher, but he’s an intriguing prospect to consider starting in Round 6.
Taron Vincent, Ohio State
It’s not enviable to be an Ohio State defensive tackle when the rest of your team is surrounded by potential first-rounders year after year. Though not as flashy as some of the guys he’s played with, Vincent is a quick defender who packs a nice punch at the point of attack and has the grip strength needed to hold his own in the trenches. He’s shorter and lets blockers into his frame too easy, which knocks him upright at the point of attack. He’ll be more of a Round 7 or PFA target, but he could end up serving as decent depth for a team.
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