2018 Rookie to Own: Defensive Tackle Edition

    Over the course of the next few weeks I will be writing a column on who you should seek to obtain for your fantasy team(s). These columns will be for dynasty leagues. While a player may not come in and make an immediate impact in year one, they project to make a bigger impact over the course of a few years. I will cover all the defensive positions including DT, DE, LB, CB, & S. The first position of interest is along the defensive line: more specifically, defensive tackle.

Taven Bryan, DT, University of Florida

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    My rookie defensive tackle to own in this year’s draft is Taven Bryan. I realize that most people will probably pick up Maurice Hurst or Vita Vea, but Vea does not offer the pass rushing ability that Bryan does, and Hurst’s medical situation makes him a risky pick. I’m not saying that these other two DTs won’t be beneficial to own, I’m merely saying that I think Bryan is the better of the three to have on your team. If you’re adding Taven Bryan to your team you’re doing so with the future in mind. His rookie season will probably not be as good as some other DTs from this draft, but for dynasty leagues Bryan is the guy you want on your team. He will come in day one with the expectation of at the minimum being a rotational back up, someone that sees the field on maybe 35% (give or take) of a team’s defensive snaps.

    He will bring some value his rookie season but will need some seasoning and coaching before he plays up to his full potential. Bryan has outstanding athleticism for a defensive tackle. @MathBomb posted his RAS (Relative Athletic Score) card, which measures a player’s athletic ability on a scale of 0-10 based on a number of different athletic tests (such as the 40-yard dash and the broad jump), and Bryan posted a score of 9.88 which was high enough for the 12th highest RAS for any defensive tackle of all time. Bryan excelled in drills such as the broad jump and vertical jump, which helps show how explosive a player may be, by posting scores of 9.88 (broad) and 9.79 (vertical). These numbers are backed up by his tape which shows an explosive player with a quick first step and a disruptive presence along the middle of the defensive line. Bryan was in the backfield more plays than not when he was on the field. He offers an imposing force in both the run and pass game, as he can disrupt running lanes and put constant pressure on the quarterback. Bryan also hustles down the field and can make tackles farther down the field than a defensive tackle normally would, which will appeal to teams that look for defensive lineman who don’t consider themselves out of the play once the ball is more than 10 yards down the field. However, having said all of this, Bryan has a couple of problems that I believe will prevent him from having the impact others might have in year one.

    One problem Bryan has is that, while a disruptive force, he tends to get too far upfield on many plays, thus washing himself out of the play. Another problem that might hold up his production is he often cannot disengage when an offensive lineman gets his hands set inside of Bryan and grabs control of him. When this happens, Bryan fails to disengage from the offensive lineman and gets washed out of the play, and sometimes end up on the ground. Bryan will also need to develop his pass rushing moves more, but he will most likely improve upon those quickly once training camp and practices begin.

    The first problem can be solved by getting game experience and NFL coaching, as over time he will learn to control his excellent burst better and will allow him to better make impact plays in the backfield. The latter can be solved by him putting on a few more pounds, making it harder to gain control of him, and extending his arms more on impact so that offensive lineman cannot get close enough to gain leverage on him.

    I expect Bryan to have a solid rookie year, but once he has learned to better control his burst off the ball and translate it into more sack and TFLs Bryan will be able to anchor the lineups of fantasy players. Bryan’s floor to me is as a low end DT2 or high end DT3 but he has the potential to be a high end DT1 once he better learns to turn his burst off the line and disruption in the backfield into stats such as sacks and TFLs. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein compared him to Cam Jordan of the New Orleans Saints and others have even compared him to JJ Watt. I’m not telling you that I expect him to put up JJ Watt or Cam Jordan type numbers any time soon, I’m simply showing you what others think of Bryan’s abilities and potential upside in the NFL. Bryan’s athletic ability and insane explosion is what gives him such a high ceiling and I believe that Bryan will be the defensive tackle to own in dynasty IDP formats from this year’s draft.

Brenden Armour - @b_armour70