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2018 NFL Draft: Two is Company and Three’s a Crowd; Why drafting DT Vita Vea wouldn’t make sense

Sequoia Sims
Apr 5, 2018 at 2:01 PM


As the NFL Draft steady approaches and mock drafts continue to surface, one player that won't be in my mock draft (coming soon to a platform near you) with the ninth overall pick (assuming of course that the 49ers stay at nine) is defensive tackle Vita Vea. Why is that? Because as they say: two is company and three's a crowd.


While Vea is a great prospect, he doesn't fit. Sorry, don't shoot the messenger.

Allow me to explain my blasphemous statement. The 49ers currently have six interior defensive linemen under contract for 2018; Arik Armstead, Sheldon Day, DeForest Buckner, Earl Mitchell, Solomon Thomas and D.J. Jones. Outside of Armstead, the rest of the defensive tackle/interior line group is under contract through at least 2019. Hold that thought.

Who is defensive tackle Vita Vea?

He's a big, nimble (former high school running back) and very powerful (41 reps on the bench at the NFL combine) young man standing at 6-foot-4 and 347 pounds out of Washington. In three years, he has accounted for 99 tackles, 15 for losses, five passes defended, two forced fumbles and nine and a half sacks, in his collegiate career.

Vita is a two-gap defender that's an ideal fit for a 3-4 team looking to clog up or occupy blockers, while being disruptive in his attempt at stopping the run. However, the key things that stand out to me and on tape (see draft profile via NFL.com) are:

  • He doesn't have flexibility or foot quickness to win around the edge as a pass rusher
  • Teams may view him as a run-down player only

The NFL is a fast-paced/up-tempo, passing league.

Over the last few years, defensive coordinators have deployed nickel defenses about 60 to 70 percent of the time, trying to stop high-octane offenses that like to score points quickly.

When was the last time a defensive tackle over 330 lbs played all three downs? Take your time I'll wait…

The Los Angeles Rams led the highest scoring (29.9 ppg) offense and made defenses look silly with their plethora of weapons (enter wide receiver, Brandin Cooks).

The Seattle Seahawks have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback named Russell Wilson, who led the league in touchdown passes with 34. The Philadelphia Eagles (reigning Super Bowl champs) have a young franchise quarterback named Carson Wentz, who came in second with 33 passing touchdowns.

Important to note: Six of the top 10 passing touchdown leaders in 2017 are all playing in the NFC conference. Anyone planning on stopping them? No pass-rusher, "no rings." Although Vea may be a talented prospect, it doesn't make sense to draft a player that in essence is only playing two downs and will be off the field most, if not all, of the fourth quarter.

With a full 16-game schedule and playoffs to go along with a fast-paced offense, high-flying league, 350 pounds will tire out faster than you can blink an eye. Sorry, no run-stuffers needed for this assignment or tall task. No pass-rusher, "no rings."

Two is Company and Three's a Crowd; Why drafting DT Vita Vea wouldn't make sense


The projected starting defensive tackles are Thomas and Buckner. Thomas has been playing out of position since being drafted. He began the season playing left defensive end on base downs in place of injured and former 49er Tank Carradine.

Before his knee injury, Thomas had switched to the other side, (Leo/outside DE pass rusher). Thomas should be playing more inside as a 3-technique, which lines up shaded to the guard's outside shoulder, ready to shoot the B-gap on his side of the formation.

Things you should know: 49ers' General Manager John Lynch has his former classmate's back to the fullest, and because he has the support of the man running the show, Thomas will get every opportunity to be successful. The 49ers invested the third-overall pick in last year's draft on Thomas, which makes him and Lynch joined at the hip.

And that means playing on the interior line, which 49ers' defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believes is his best-suited position starting right next to Buckner.

Thomas' role would be to penetrate the line of scrimmage in 2018 through his B-gap, and disrupt plays in the backfield, whether pass or run. His skill set and the talent level he possesses is more tailor-made for playing inside, which relies far more on speed and agility than brute strength. And to his credit, he has a combination of both (see Los Angeles Rams' defensive tackle Aaron Donald).

Recent Niners Live article alerts: How Adrian Colbert will Punish WR Brandin Cooks with Extreme Violence.

Thomas needs a full offseason to refine his technique, get stronger, work on his film study and make adjustments on how his opponents played him in 2017. Expect Thomas to take a big step (he's among Pro Football Focus' top ten bounce back players in 2018) once he moves inside next to Buckner. As always, to be continued...

Sequoia Sims: Founder of Niners Live, Content Creator, player breakdown specialist, and Senior Author. The home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, and different perspective, of course.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


1 Comment

  • Big D
    I understand but yet again what if Armstead/Buckner or Thomas get's injured??
    Apr 7, 2018 at 11:24 AM
    0

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