Unlike offensive tackle, the top of the defensive tackle position is pretty clear-cut. There is a consensus best player at the draft, and two more in the top tier of “first round” talents.
Below that there are several players who should be drafted on the second day of the draft who present intriguing upside. Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike is one of those players who has impressive athletic upside and who could be a contributor and a disruptive player in the right scheme.
The New York Giants are likely set on the interior of their defensive line, but it pays to be familiar with all the top prospects.
Prospect: Justin Madubuike (iDL, Texas A&M)
Games Watched: vs. Auburn (2018), vs. Arkansas (2019), vs. Mississippi State (2019)
Red Flags: none
Games Played (starts): 34
Tackles For a loss: 24.5
Forced Fumbles: 5
Games Played (starts): 12
Tackles For a loss: 11.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Best: Athleticism, first step, power, play-strength
Projection: A starting, or key rotational, defensive tackle in an aggressive 1-gap defense.
Justin Madubuike is a compact, explosive, and athletic defensive tackle prospect from Texas A&M. Madubuike is slightly undersized at 6-foot-2, 293 pounds, but he has good thickness in his upper and lower body as well as long arms. He played out of multiple alignments for his defense, lining up as a 3-technique, 5-technique, and even as a 0-technique nose tackle. Madubuike has a compact, coiled stance, which he explodes out of with a good get-off while keeping good pad level. He is capable of moving blockers into the backfield with his bull-rush, creating disruption in the backfield. Madubuike also has good lateral agility and was frequently used on stunts and twists to good effect. He is able to both occupy blockers as well as be the looper to create pressure.
Madubuike shows good play strength and effort as a run defender. He consistently tries to put his hips in his gap and is a difficult player to reach block. Madubuike is capable of pushing blockers one-on-one, as well standing up to double teams.
He shows a good closing burst as both a pass rusher and as a run defender and has a surprisingly large tackle range.
Madubuike needs to improve his technique, particularly with his hands. He has a hard punch and impressive grip strength, but he can find himself wrestling with blockers rather than shedding and making plays. He needs to do a better job of firing his punch sooner, and placing his hands on blockers chest plates to gain inside leverage. He would also do well to develop some speed counters to go with his explosive power as a pass rusher.
Overall Grade: 6.3 - Has the traits to become a starter early in his career, but should be an immediate contributor for any team that drafts him. An early Day 2 value. [Grading Scale]
Justin Madubuike projects best as an interior defensive lineman in an aggressive one-gap defense. His most natural fit is as a three-technique in a 4-3 Under defense, but he has the length to play as a five technique in a 3-4 front. Likewise, his explosive power could make for some interesting speed mismatches as a nose tackle.
Madubuike has the play strength to two-gap when necessary, but his first step is his greatest asset and he should be put in a position to use it as often as possible.
Teams might want to use him as a sub-package player early in his career, as his hands are a work in progress. However, his explosiveness and lateral agility could create interesting possibilities for a defensive coordinator who likes to call stunts, twists, and blitzes in obvious passing situations. He flashes as a run defender, but can get hung up on blockers if he doesn’t win early in the rep. Improving hand usage will likely help make him a more consistent run defender and get him on the field on a consistent basis.
Madubuike has intriguing tools and the potential to be a high ceiling, high floor player. Any team that runs a one-gap defense will likely see value in him early on the second day of the draft.