There is always the discussion of filling a need or taking the best player available when it comes to the NFL draft. Then, there is the debate of positional value. Would you take a quarterback graded 78 over a right guard graded 85? More than likely. Absolutely if you need a quarterback. This draft class is not as top heavy as years past, and this debate is going to seize the early first round. Quarterbacks will go sky high no matter the grade. Is Quenton Nelson, an elite guard prospect worth a top ten pick? Inside linebackers, Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds only bring so much value, and of course the debate of how high is too high for Saquon Barkley? That question is going to come with Vita Vea as well. Vea is a nose tackle. That is a position that hardly sees notoriety and hardly sees first-round value outside of the names like Dontari Poe and Danny Shelton, a former Washington Huskies nose tackle.
The question surrounding Vea as he heads into draft season will be how valuable are his strengths to modern day football? Does Vita Vea bring enough to put himself next to the names of Poe and Shelton, and exceed the type of value those two brought?
Pure Nose Tackle
At the very least, you are getting a floor with Vita Vea. There are real questions as to whether or not Shelton or Poe were worth their exceedingly high draft price. Still, both are bringing productive careers, and while other teams struck out hard swinging for the fences on other high picks, Vea can be that safe, consistent NFL starter, even if the enormous ceiling does not pay off.
The fact of the matter is that Vea brings everything you want a nose tackle to bring. He is heavy, he has a low base and he can take on double teams. Vita Vea clogs up running lanes and stops plays before they even start.
Trailing late into the fourth quarter, Vita Vea is going to an initial push and find himself making a tackle for a three-yard lose setting up second and long. He has clearly won the battle of endurance in this matchup.
Vea is also ridiculously strong. Vita Vea also has the purge strength to hold up in any situation. One arm is able to finish the Stanford left guard.
And in the battle of leverage power, push and burst, Vita Vea beat UCLA and their offensive line with ease.
And, as every nose tackle worthy of a first round pick has to do, he can take on multiple blocks. Yea holds his base to the initial double team and continues his movement towards the running back while being blocked to make the stop for a small gain. There is no doubt about, he can play NFL nose tackle.
More than a nose tackle
However, to be a first rounder, you have to be more than just a strong nose tackle. The league is consistently moving to a pass-happy nature. The Philadelphia Eagles kept the trend moving and we all know the ripple effects of the copycat league. To stop the run is nice. To find value is to play all three downs and that includes multiple pass rushes. This is where the positional value comes in for Vea.
Still, Vea posses some of the better pass rushing traits that will be found out of a nose tackle. In the play below, Vea shows a quick side step as he able to get past the center with a full head of steam. From there, he is driving the running back into the quarterbacks throwing lane. Vea can provide the disruption that most of the plodding nose tackles cannot.
Below Vea is winning with power, he makes a hard push to the left side and is able to get positioning to the right. Vea is able to quickly get upfield and push the quarterback out of the pocket. This helps keep him on the field longer than the traditional nose tackle.
Vea is able to get penetration into the backfield with the ability to stand his defender up and toss him to the side.
He is also capable of just bullying his opponent over to provide the ability to disrupt the passer.
In the NFL, Vita Vea does not exclusively have to be limited to nose tackle. He can provide enough of a pass rush to go with elite strength and run-stuffing abilities to warrant the cost of a high draft pick. Scheme fit and team need will likely push him down further than an elite prospect at a premium position. Still, when being linked with the names of Poe and Shelton, there has to be something special to their game, and that is shown on tape with Vita Vea.