Defensive tackles are difficult to come by. Nose tackles in a 3-4 defensive system are even more scarce. It's largely why three other NFL clubs used the franchise tag on their prospective free agent run stuffers. The 2010 draft class however, offers a bounty of interior defenders the likes of which hasn't been seen in some time.
"I think it's a good class," said Bills Vice President of Scouting Tom Modrak. "There are a lot of good big people in it and that's what gets people's attention."
Two of the top overall prospects are widely considered to be the pair of defensive tackles from the Big 12 Conference in Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy. The two dynamic talents will leave it up to the NFL talent evaluators to decide which of them is tops.
"I think we're both great players," said Suh while at the NFL combine. "I think I'm a great player myself. I think we definitely have similarities but differences with each other. But that's not my decision to make. I think we're great players and definitely worthy of the positions that we're in."
But the defensive tackle class goes much deeper than the cream of the crop. As many as five defensive tackles could come off the board in round one with UCLA's Brian Price, Tennessee's Dan Williams and Penn State's Jared Odrick the likely names to be heard after McCoy and Suh.
"We start with a good number, but they'll come off fast," said Modrak. "Everybody goes for them first and that thins it out quick. That's kind of been the tradition in this league you get big peopleas soon as you can, but it is a good year for them."
Fortunately for teams that might have more pressing positional needs in round one, there will still be more quality defensive tackle prospects in rounds two, three and possibly four depending on when there is a second run on those players.
Prospects like Alabama's Terrence Cody, North Carolina's Cam Thomas, Cal's Tyson Alualu, Central Florida's Torell Troup and Georgia's Geno Atkins.
"Each guy has their own style," said Thomas, a nose tackle. "Cody is a big guy you can't move. Williams is quick. I'm big, quick. I can anchor that thing. Everybody has their own style. Everybody brings different things to the table."
"There are a lot of great guys in this draft," said Troup. "I got a chance to meet a lot of those guys. There's a lot of talent out there."
Cody, Thomas and Troup all project as nose tackles at the NFL level, while there are even more 4-3 defensive tackles through that project to the early middle rounds. All that competition is pushing these big men to find a way to stand out at the NFL combine.
"This year, there's a lot of good defensive tackles coming out," said Atkins. "You've got to try to distinguish yourself here."
With close to a dozen expected to go in the first three rounds and contribute as rookies, Modrak won't make any predictions now, but he doesn't rule out the chance that defensive tackles could define the 2010 draft class.
"That one still has to play out," he said. "But there's a high value on that position."