What’s the worth of a nose tackle in the NFL?
Whether they play a 3-man front, a 4-man front, a hybrid, or a multiple defense, every team needs a player who can line up over the center, defend the A-gaps, control blockers, and keep the linebackers clean. The problem is that the skill set to do those things at a high level isn’t a common one. Good nose tackles need exceptional strength, good quickness, and the ability to play with leverage and technique to maximize their power.
LSU’s Tyler Shelvin has all of those traits and looks to be the best nose tackle in this year’s draft. But just how much is that worth in the modern NFL? The good news for Shelvin is that this year’s draft is teeming with undersized interior linemen who project as one-gap penetrators at the 3 and 5-techniques, but it is decidedly light on heavyweights. The bad news is that the NFL is getting ever more pass-centric, and that is not his strength.
So what are we to make of Tyler Shelvin from his brief time on the field for LSU?
Prospect: Tyler Shelvin
Games Watched: vs. Alabama (2019), vs. Georgia (2019), vs. Oklahoma (2019)
Games Played: 17
Tackles For a loss: 4.5
Passes Defensed: 2
Games Played: 14
Tackles For a loss: 3.0
Passes Defensed: 2
Best: Size, frame, power, run defense, competitive toughness
Worst: Pass rush, balance
Projection: A starting nose tackle with scheme diversity.
LSU interior defensive lineman Tyler Shelvin has the size, frame, play strength, power, and competitive toughness to play the nose tackle position at the NFL level.
Shelvin’s frame manages to be both relatively compact at 6-foot-3 and massively powerful at 346 pounds (listed). He typically aligned as the nose tackle, playing at the 0 or 1-technique in LSU’s defense. Shelvin generally times the snap well and shows impressive explosiveness off the ball. He has the ability to explode into blockers at the point of attack while maintaining good hip and pad level to maximize his play strength.
He is routinely able to hold up double teams at the point of attack, as well as drive most linemen backward in one-on-one situations. Shelvin does a good job of commanding his gaps, as well as holding up double teams. He has heavy hands, routinely placing them well inside blockers’ framework. Shelvin has very good grip strength to control blockers, as well as to shed them to make a play on the ball carrier.
But as good a run defender as Shelvin is, he offers little in pass rush situations. He was frequently taken off the field on obvious passing downs, and has very little collegiate production in the passing game. Shelvin also has a slight issue with his base and balance. He has a tendency to let his base narrow when attempting to drive blockers back. When that happens, he can get over-extended and play out over his toes or play with less stability. Either situation opens him up to winding up on the ground, whether by falling forward if the resistance from the opposing blocker goes away or tumbling to the side if he is hit on his flank.
Overall Grade: 7.5 - This prospect has immediate starting upside for a variety of defenses, but lacks the versatility to be an every-down player.
Tyler Shelvin is an uncomplicated evaluation and projects as a starting nose tackle at the NFL level.
He has the ability to line up over the center or A-gap in just about any kind of front and be a rock in the middle of the defense. Shelvin is going to be a good run defender in the NFL, and make linebackers’ lives easier by keeping them clean and letting them flow to the ball. Just about every defensive front has a need for a player who can clog interior running lanes, command double teams, and occasionally push the pocket. Despite the fact that the NFL is a passing league, Shelvin’s value comes from the fact that finding true nose tackles isn’t easy. Not every big-bodied defensive tackle has the ability to play with the leverage and technique necessary to consistently hold up against double-teams or two-gap at the NFL level.
However, the fact that Shelvin hasn’t shown much as a pass rusher does put a cap on his value at the NFL level. Ultimately, effecting the opposing quarterback is the job of an NFL defense, and a player whose use is limited on the most important downs is a player whose value is limited.