2014 NFL Draft Position Preview: A look at the defensive tackles

Aaron Donald - Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Let's look at some of the options in the 2014 NFL Draft class at defensive tackle.

The New York Giants lost talented defensive tackle Linval Joseph in free agency. They planned for that eventuality by drafting Johnathan Hankins in the second round a year ago. Even with Hankins seemingly ready for a larger role the Giants' depth at the position is questionable with only Hankins, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and still unproven Markus Kuhn at the position.

Could the Giants supplement the defensive tackle rotation in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft? Let's take a look at some of the players they will be choosing from should they want to do that.

Round 1 Conundrum

Does Aaron Donald fit with the Giants or not? That is really the question, and even this close to the draft I don't believe we have the answer.

Donald is universally considered the best defensive tackle in the draft, hailed for his quickness and ability to rush the passer from the inside and considered a potential top 10 pick. The fact that he is only 6-foot-1, 285 pounds -- under-sized for a defensive tackle and smaller than the mountainous players the Giants have collected at the position the past couple of years -- has to give you pause when thinking of Donald as the Giants' pick at No. 12.

Veteran NFL scout Greg Gabriel, now a writer for National Football Post and Bleacher Report, described the dilemma, saying "I think Aaron Donald is a fit, but I'm gonna just have a little pause on that."

"You've gotta draft according to fit. You've still got to have players that fit the profile that you've got written out for each position," Gabriel said. "He could be a possibility there, but you look at him and he's not 6-1, so does he fit your profile?"

'Invictus' is a Donald fan. Here is part of what he wrote in a prospect profile shortly after Donald's dominant Senior Bowl performance:

"I'm always enamored with 3 techniques, and Donald is the best one in this class. I watched him more because of the hype of Senior Bowl week and fell more and more in love with what I saw. He slots in perfectly next to a prototype 1 technique like Johnathan Hankins."

Does Donald fit the Giants' profile? Are they as enamored with him as 'Invictus,' and many, many others who analyze draft prospects? Honestly, we just don't know. We may never know.

Day 2 Possibilities

It is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty which defensive tackles other than Donald will be selected before the Giants pick at No. 43 in Round 2.

Timmy Jernigan of Florida State [Prospect Profile], Louis Nix III of Notre Dame [Prospect Profile], Ra'Shede Hageman of Minnesota [Prospect Profile] and Stephen Tuitt of Notre Dame [Prospect Profile] are among players who might be possibilities for the Giants in the second round -- if they are still on the board.

Hageman, in fact, is considered by Big Blue View's Jesse Bartolis to be a dark horse candidate for the Giants with the 12th overall selection. Jesse writes:

He's a player that is extremely gifted, he's a player that has the potential to be a guy who dominates vs. the run AND the pass, he's a player who could become the defensive tackle the Giants have been looking for, and he's a player I think despite the low publicity is in play at 12 (he is also 20th on the BBV Big Board) and a player that if selected at 12th overall shouldn't be considered a reach. He's a player I think on the Giants big board will be higher than Aaron Donald.

Dominique Easley of Florida [Prospect Profile], DaQuan Jones of Penn State [Prospect Profile], Kelcy Quarles of South Carolina [Prospect Profile] and Will Sutton of Arizona State [Prospect Profile] also seem like Day 2 possibilities.

Easley might be a bit of a projection because of a torn ACL suffered during the 2013 season, but 'Invictus' wwrites that Easley "was one of the most dominant players in college football before tearing said ACL" and the the "reward will be potentially great" for the team that selects him.

Day 3 Possibilities

CBS Sports gives 27 defensive tackles draft-worthy grades, so if the Giants don't add one in the first two days of the draft there should still be some intriguing players available to them on the final day of the draft.

Among those players are Caraum Reid of Princeton, Justin Ellis of Louisiana Tech, Daniel McCullers (6-7, 352 pounds) of Tennessee [Prospect Profile] and Anthony Johnson of LSU [Prospect Profile]. The Giants have also reportedly mets with defensive tackles Jay Bromley of Syracuse and Levi Brown of Temple, both considered late-round or undrafted free agent possibilities.

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