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A look at the top-ranked defensive tackles in Rivals.com history

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

The off-season is a time for reflection and at Rivals.com we thought it would be interesting to take a look at our highest ranked players in history by position. Today we look at the defensive tackles led by the top-ranked prospect in the 2016 class.


Rashan Gary - No. 1, 2016

Rashan Gary
AP Images

Recruiting: On National Signing Day, Gary picked Michigan over Clemson. The Wolverines were considered the front-runner for some time. Alabama and Auburn were also in the running late in the recruiting cycle.

Overview: In his sophomore season with the Wolverines, Gary finished with 62 tackles (11 for loss) along with five sacks. He should be one of the top players in college football this season and has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

Farrell’s take: Gary was special as he could have played end or tackle in high school and at the next level with ease. At the Under Armour Game, he dominated everyone at defensive end and he had one of the best motors I’ve ever seen on a prospect. It’s amazing that he’s the only defensive tackle to ever finish No. 1 but that’s how special he was. He should be a top five NFL Draft pick and could be No. 1 overall.

Haloti Ngata - No. 2, 2002

Haloti Ngata
AP Images

Recruiting: Ngata, also a star rugby player in high school, picked Oregon over BYU and many others in the inaugural Rivals.com recruiting class. He finished second in the rankings in 2002 behind only Texas signee Vince Young.

Overview: Ngata was a star for the Ducks and was the No. 12 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Through an NFL career that has lasted more than a decade, Ngata has registered 29.5 sacks. In March he signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Farrell’s take: This was a very tough call between Ngata and Dexter Lawrence as both were so elite, but Ngata was such a powerful freak back in the day I went with him. His power, aggression and motor were off the charts and it’s easy to see why he had a great college career, was a first-rounder in the NFL and has had such a long NFL career. If it weren’t for Vince Young, he would have been our No. 1.

Dexter Lawrence - No. 2, 2016

Recruiting: In December of his senior season, Lawrence committed to Clemson over Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, NC State, North Carolina and others. The Gators were considered his favorite team growing up but the Tigers landed his commitment.

Overview: Lawrence finished with 39 tackles and 2.5 sacks this past season. He had five sacks in 2016, a freshman record at the school. If Lawrence comes out early after this season, he could be in contention to be picked No. 1 overall.

Farrell’s take: Lawrence was a rarity, a tall defensive tackle who could play low and had the pass rushing moves of a defensive end. He was so good off of contact that it was impossible to double team him and especially solo block him. The battle between Lawrence and Gary for No. 1 was epic and it was clear in 2016 we would have a defensive tackle at the top.

Marvin Wilson - No. 2, 2017

Marvin Wilson
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Recruiting: On National Signing Day, then-Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher landed Wilson as the five-star picked the Seminoles over LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and South Florida.

Overview: Defensive tackle should be a strength of Florida State’s defense and Wilson could have a breakout season after finishing with seven tackles in 12 games as a freshman.

Farrell’s take: Wilson’s motor stood out for sure as he rarely took a play off and at camps and events he took rep after rep. His work ethic was awesome and his skill set was rare as he had light feet and great athleticism. He was our No. 1 at one point, he was that special. I expect his career at FSU to take off this year.

Mario Edwards - No. 3, 2012

Mario Edwards
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Recruiting: Edwards committed to Florida State over Texas and others after a visit to Tallahassee. The Seminoles were considered a frontrunner especially since his father, Mario Sr., played at FSU as well. Oklahoma and LSU were also involved.

Overview: Edwards finished with 95 tackles and eight sacks in three seasons at Florida State and then he was a second-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, where he still plays.

Farrell’s take: Edwards fancied himself as an end but we saw him as a tackle but he could play both. He was more of an end in college and proved that he could play the position despite being such a big kid. He had the athleticism and pass rushing moves to be special and some in the industry had him No. 1 overall.

Gerald McCoy - No. 4, 2006

AP Images
AP Images

Recruiting: McCoy picked Oklahoma over USC and LSU was also involved late in his recruitment. Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Miami were others in the mix.

Overview: After finishing with 83 tackles and 14.5 sacks in three seasons with the Sooners, McCoy was the third overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s entering his ninth season with the Bucs.

Farrell’s take: I liked McCoy a ton out of high school because he could not only push the pocket but he could chase the passer as well. Putting him ahead of Sheldon Richardson was a tough call because he wasn’t as athletic but he was better in the trenches. His career at Oklahoma was a great one and he’s been excellent in the NFL so he’s lived up to his billing.

Sheldon Richardson - No. 4, 2009

Sheldon Richardson
AP Images

Recruiting: Richardson’s recruitment was a roller coaster ride. After going to junior college in California, Richardson had pledged to Missouri but backed off that commitment and picked USC. But he decided to sign with the Tigers and return to his home state for two seasons.

Overview: In two seasons at Missouri, Richardson had 112 tackles and six sacks. He was then a first-round selection of the New York Jets where he played for a few years before playing last season in Seattle. Richardson signed a one-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings in March.

Farrell’s take: Richardson was athletic enough to be a defensive end even at his size and was one of the best pure athletes I’ve seen at the position. It took him awhile to get to college but when he got there he flashed signs of that ability and became a first-rounder. His academic and off field issues have slowed him down a bit but he’s still one of the most talented players you’ll ever see.

Sharrif Floyd - No. 4, 2010

Sharrif Floyd
AP Images

Recruiting: In a battle between Florida and Ohio State where a lot of people thought the Buckeyes would be tough to beat, the Gators won out at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. North Carolina and South Carolina were two others considered.

Overview: Floyd finished with 115 tackles and 9.5 sacks in three seasons for the Gators and then he was a late first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He played there for three seasons and then in 2016 Floyd was inactive after one game with a knee injury. There continued to be issues with his knee in 2017 and he’s now a free agent.

Farrell’s take: Floyd was a monster we discovered at the US Army Combine when he only had a couple of offers. After being named a five-star a few months later, his recruitment blew up and he became one of the most heavily recruited players on this list. He was built like a brick and played with such power that he held the line of scrimmage with ease. He also played both ways and was an effective offensive lineman as well. A solid career at Florida and a first-round grade in the NFL was not unexpected and it’s a shame about his injuries.

Kenny Bigelow - No. 6, 2013

Kenny Bigelow
AP Images

Recruiting: Bigelow committed early to USC and then later in his recruitment said if he didn’t make a pledge that Auburn, Alabama, USC, Oregon and Ohio State in that order would be his top five. He decided to stick with the Trojans.

Overview: Bigelow had an underwhelming career at USC mainly because he suffered numerous knee injuries. After five years with the Trojans, Bigelow considered retirement from football before transferring to West Virginia for this season.

Farrell’s take: This one is a tough one to figure as Bigelow had so much talent and was a huge prodigy from a young age. The injuries have really hurt him and there’s no reason to think he’ll be able to turn it around in his last chance at West Virginia. I would have loved to see what he could do if healthy.

Kahlil McKenzie - No. 6, 2015

Kahlil McKenzie
AP Images

Recruiting: McKenzie committed to Tennessee over Arizona in the summer before his senior season. The Volunteers were considered his long-time favorite. Playing in Wisconsin for his first two years of high school, McKenzie finished in Northern California when his father accepted the general manager job with the Oakland Raiders.

Overview: McKenzie played three seasons at Tennessee before surprisingly leaving Knoxville early for a shot in the NFL. He dealt with injuries while with the Volunteers and he was a sixth-round selection of the Kansas City Chiefs in April.

Farrell’s take: The biggest of the defensive tackles on this list, I was enamored with how well McKenzie moved at 360 pounds or so. I figured when he got to college he would get down to 330 and dominate even more. Injuries hurt his development but it wasn’t just that. I’m not sure if it was a lack of coaching, the scheme or something else but I’m surprised he never showed more of his potential.