NFL DRAFT 2010: DEFENSIVE TACKLES

In one of the best defensive line classes in recent NFL Draft memory, Nebraska DT-Ndamukong Suh - along with Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma - has made defensive tackle an elite position.

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Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska Likely to Be First Defensive Tackle Selected in 2010 NFL Draft

INDIANAPOLIS – The relationship, as Ndamukong Suh sees it, is a solid one.

Suh, one of two players generally considered to be the elite defensive tackles in the 2010 NFL Draft, said he and the other premier tackle – Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma University – have gotten to know one another. They speak cordially when they meet and there is respect.

Still, Suh – who played collegiately at Nebraska – said there's a limit to the good will.

So, while Suh said it would hardly be a tragedy should McCoy be the first player at the position selected in the April 22-24 NFL Draft – or even the first player selected overall – it's just as true it would bother him a bit, too.

And yes, being No. 1 is certainly a goal of Suh's, too.

"I'd definitely be happy for him," Suh said at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, which was held at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis in late February. "But I'd definitely be disappointed with myself not getting it. I'm a competitor. I want to be No. 1.

"So that's what I'm going to strive for."

With less than two weeks remaining before the draft, there's little consensus on exactly where Suh – who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a senior – will be selected.

But there is a consensus it will be pretty early.

That's true for both he and McCoy, with the two players at the top of what many consider the deepest defensive line class in recent memory and with each widely expected to be among the first five or six players selected.

Many mock drafts have the pair going No. 2 and 3 overall to Detroit and Tampa Bay, respectively.

"It would be an honor," McCoy said at the combine when asked about potentially being selected No. 1 overall. "It's not very imant to me, but it would be an honor. I just wanted to be drafted as high as I can."

Wherever Suh is drafted, he said the process of preparing for the NFL won't be over.

While he was a dominant player at Nebraska, particularly later in his career and particularly rushing the passer, Suh said there are analysts and personnel officials who believe he will have to adjust to professional defenses compared to how Nebraska used him.

He said if changes are necessary, he'll be able to make them.

"I think I would be able to adjust to anything," he said. "Obviously I think our scheme was a little bit different at Nebraska from what the NFL's asking me to do, but I think I'm a player that can adjust to things and definitely get used to playing and getting off the ball and more or less not reading and reacting as we were kind of taught down in our defense at Nebraska.

"I just want to play within my scheme. I obviously know when I can take my shots in getting after the quarterback, and I took my chances. I feel that for the most part, I could have done more, but you never know what could happen."

Suh said that was a difference between he and McCoy collegiately – that McCoy could rush the passer at will while he could do so a bit less – thus rendering the inevitable comparisons between the two relatively meaningless.

"His defense was more or less, he had the freedom to penetrate," he said. "Me, I was more or less in the scheme of reading and playing through my man and then getting to the ball and disengaging. If I were to be in that same scheme as him or vice versa, I think it would be total opposite as it is right now.

"I think we're both great players. I think I'm a great player myself. I think we definitely have similarities but differences in each other. I think we're two great players and definitely worthy of the positions that we're in."

Whatever the scheme, Suh performed within it at a big-time level.

Suh (6-feet-4, 307 pounds), who played relatively sparingly in his first two seasons, made 76 tackles, with 16 tackles for losses and 7.5 sacks as a junior. He made the All-Big 12 team as a junior, then had a dominant senior season with 85 tackles – 24 for losses – and 12 sacks. He won the Nagurski, Outland, Lombardi and Bednarik Awards, also being named the Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus All-American.

When Suh registered 4.5 sacks in a loss to Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game, he became a candidate for the Heisman.

"It wasn't a focus of mine," he said. "I really didn't think of it much. But when it came along, (I) embraced it and really just took joy to it. But it wasn't my main focus. My focus at Nebraska or this past season was to help my team win, and I think I helped them a fair amount, but not enough because we weren't 14-0.

"I think I laid a great foundation with the way I played and the way I helped Nebraska. I wasn't the only one, and I won't take full credit for helping Nebraska get back. But I will take some credit because I think I was a big piece of that and I definitely feel that I laid it all on the line and put everything out there, and that's what I plan to do.

"So if that's the type of guy that you want, then why not take me?

With or without a Big 12 or national title, Suh said life changed following his senior season.

"Obviously going home in Nebraska, it's a little more easier," Suh said. "But being down in McKinnie, Texas, 20 minutes outside of Dallas, people recognize you. That's kind of a little scary."

Which is, of course, little compared to the change in profile Suh is likely to experience in the coming weeks whether or nor he is selected No. 1. And he said while his profile and responsibility will certainly be high whatever his draft selection, he said that's an aspect of the NFL for which he feels prepared.

"I've felt I've kind of been the face of Nebraska these last two seasons, especially this last season," he said. "I understood that and embraced that. At that point in time, if I'm to be decided to be No. 1, I'd be happy.

"If I'm not, then get ready for that next team who wants me and make the most of it."

BREAKING DOWN THE 2010 NFL DRAFT'S TOP DEFENSIVE TACKLES
However you break down to the NFL Draft, there's little question the defensive line is a very, very deep position. There's little question that the talent is at an elite level, particularly at the top of the draft and particularly at defensive tackle, where Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma are generally considered Top 5 selections and possibly worthy of being selected No. 2 and 3 overall. Because it is a premium-value position, it's rare for there not to be four or five defensive tackles selected in the first round, and that's true this season, with Dan Williams of Tennessee also considered a first-round lock. Jared Odrick of Penn State and Brian Price of UCLA also could be selected in the first round, with 25-30 players at the position considered draft-worthy.

ON THE COLTS' ROSTER
Antonio Johnson, fourth season, Mississippi State; Daniel Muir, fourth season, Kent State; Eric Foster, third season, Rutgers; Fili Moala, second season, Southern California; Mitch King, first season, Iowa.

THE LAST FIVE

The last defensive tackles drafted by the Colts . . .

2009: Terrance Taylor, fourth round, Michigan.

2009: Fili Moala, second round, Southern Cal.

2007: Quinn Pitcock, third round, Ohio State.

2005: Vincent Burns, third round, Kentucky.

2002: David Pugh, sixth round, Virginia Tech.

2002: Larry Tripplett, second round, Washington.

THIS YEAR'S DRAFT
An alphabetical list of 20 defensive tackles expected to be selected in the 2010 NFL Draft . . .

Tyson Alualu, California, 6-3, 295

Geno Atkins, Georgia, 6-2, 293

Terrence Cody, Alabama, 6-4, 349

Nate Collins, Virginia, 6-2, 279

Lamarr Houston, Texas, 6-3, 305

Arthur Jones, Syracuse, 6-3, 301

Linval Joseph*, East Carolina, 6-5, 328

Earl Mitchell, Arizona, 6-2, 296

Gerald McCoy*, Oklahoma, 6-4, 295

Mike Neal, Purdue, 6-3, 294

Jared Odrick, Penn State, 6-5, 304

Jeff Owens, Georgia, 6-1, 304

Corey Peters, Kentucky, 6-3, 300

Brian Price*, UCLA, 6-1, 303

D'Anthony Smith, Louisiana Tech, 6-2, 304

Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, 6-4, 307

Cam Thomas, North Carolina, 6-4, 330

Torell Troup, Central Florida, 6-3, 314

Dan Williams, Tennessee, 6-2, 327

Al Woods, LSU, 6-4, 309

*Early-entry junior.

Note: The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on Colts.com in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.

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