In the past 10 drafts, there have been only six pure 3-4 nose tackles selected in the first two rounds, including three first-rounders, but that total could be challenged in the first couple of rounds of this year's draft.
At the end of the '09 season, 13 franchises deployed the 3-4 front as their base defense. Two more teams, Buffalo and Washington, figure to join that group in 2010. Although only two of those 13 teams need new nose men for the upcoming season, the position, once relegated to "grunt" status, has taken on new importance around the league.
"It's on a lot of teams' wish lists now," said Kansas City coach Todd Haley at the scouting combine. "In the past, it used to be lucky to make the list."
Fortunately, the draft class of 2010 features unusual depth at the nose tackle spot. More college teams are using the 3-4, and thus fostering solid nose tackles, and the interior prospects are simply getting bigger. Candidates for the first two rounds in the '09 draft include Dan Williams (Tennessee), Terrence Cody (Alabama), Lamarr Houston (Texas) and Cam Thomas (North Carolina), among others. There are also prospects such as Charle Alexander (LSU) and Torrell Troup (Central Florida). And there are even a few "risers," such as the previously unsung Linval Joseph (East Carolina), who catapulted himself by at least a round or two last week with a strong combine performance.
"We're showing that big guys are players, too," Joseph said. "and that there are more players now with size."
Indeed, 11 of the 23 tackle prospects in Indianapolis weigh at least 310 pounds.