Name: Derrick Nnadi
Position: Defensive Tackle
School: Florida State
It is tough to call Nnadi undersized, as he is listed anywhere from 300 to 310 pounds and he is thick through his trunk. But given that his play style is more reminiscent of an NFL nose than a 3-technique, his size leaves a little to be desired. His length is not great either, at just 6-foot-1. Nnadi is primarily a two-gap player who thrives on power, so his durability could be a concern. As a result, Nnadi does not not project to be an every down player, at least not at first.
From drive to drive, Nnadi can look like completely different types of athlete. On some, he shows a quick burst off the line and explodes through the gap. Other times, he is a step slow and prefers to drop his anchor and drive. This could be more of a matter of slow reads than slow body, but it is notable, given his size could potentially bump him out to 3-technique at the next level. Plus, his combine numbers in this area were not particularly good. He was the only defensive lineman with a 20-yard shuttle over five seconds and a three-cone over eight. Plus, his 10-yard split in the 40 was over 1.86, which while not awful, is not ideal for a 300-pound tackle.
That being said, Nnadi’s play speed is higher than those numbers suggest. The issue is that it comes and goes.
Whether his get off is fast or slow, Nnadi controls the line with a strong base and active legs. His length is not exceptional, but he is still able to maintain separation and can discard to find the ball carrier. Simply put, Nnadi is near impossible to budge. His read-and-react time is not elite, but effective enough to make a lot of plays in the backfield. When shooting the gap, Nnadi shows off that game speed that clocks cannot measure. He stays low to the ground, keeps his arms active and attacks either gap. Double teams have a little more success against him, obviously. But even then, he can get skinny and split or maintain his motor and not lose ground. It is all drive and power with Nnadi at the point of attack.
Nnadi shows off his game quickness most often when rushing the passer. Despite playing primarily nose, he put up some solid sack numbers at Florida State. He did it primarily by shooting the gap low and hard, utilizing solid swim and rip moves to discard. Nnadi also hand fights very well, despite relatively short arms. When he gets held up in one gap, he can counter quickly to the other to make something out of nothing. His twists and stunts are a little slower than ideal, but still effective. The greatest sticking point with Nnadi’s speed rushes is that a strong guard with a quick, hard punch can disrupt his path. If he is punched further outside than he likes, Nnadi is essentially neutralized right off the bat.
Nnadi’s bull rush uses the same principles as his run defense, a lot of leg power and drive. His low pad level makes it tough for opponents to get leverage and he uses his stout base to penetrate.
Nnadi’s NFL projections are tough. On the one hand, his tape shows a disruptive force who makes a lot of plays. But he does not possess any elite physical traits and he had perhaps the worst combine of any defensive tackle. The general consensus on Nnadi’s stock is early to mid third round. That means the Vikings would likely have to use their second round pick to get him.
Nnadi’s fit with the Vikings is clear: He would slot in as the rotational defensive tackle to spell Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson on early run downs. Nnadi has some pass rush potential, but not enough to ever specialize in that area. Whether the Vikings would use a second-rounder on him is largely dependent on the results of the draft. Today’s NFL teams are starting to see the value of building around dominant defensive tackles. If the top guys in this year’s draft class all go first round, the demand for Nnadi will increase. With the Vikings thin at defensive tackle, they may have no choice but to go to that well by round two. Nnadi’s ceiling is not that high, but his floor is a productive, powerful, point-of-attack tackle. The real test for him will be whether he can translate to a 3-technique.
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