We kick off the 4-3 defensive tackle scouting reports with Johnathan Hankins. Hankins is a massive defensive tackle that has the size and talent to grow into a very dominating player on the defensive line. It's very early in the draft process, so it's extremely difficult to get a feel for where the defensive tackle from Ohio State will be drafted.
There is a chance Hankins may fall to the Dallas Cowboys at 18. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at what type of player Hankins is.
Bio: Hankins decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2013 NFL Draft. While he has an interesting combination of size and athleticism, Hankins was listed as a three-star recruit coming out of Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Instead of enrolling at Michigan, he went south and committed to the enemy. At Ohio State, Hankins started two seasons.
In 2011, he registered 67 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. That performance was his best statistical season and it earned him a All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. In 2012, Hankins registered 55 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 1 sack.
Positives: Ohio State lists Hankins at 6-3 and 322 pounds, but he could be even heavier. Hankins possesses massive size for a defensive tackle and he can take up a lot of space and occupy multiple blockers. With elite strength, he is a force to be reckoned with in run defense. He is able to overpower offensive lineman and drive them backwards.
His hands are extremely strong and he is just beginning to learn how to use them to his advantage. When watching Hankins, it's hard not to come away impressed with his footwork. He is able to maintain his balance and move quickly along the defensive line.
While Hankins is physically intimidating, he's a smart football player who seems to understand what the offense is trying to do. There are a lot of great athletic specimens out there, but they just don't possess football awareness and intelligence. Hankins will never have a problem with that and he will be able to read and diagnose offensive plays. Because he has a good understanding of the game, Hankins will use his eyes and move to where the football is going.
You will never confuse him for a pass rusher, but Hankins is a very good athlete for his size. He isn't overly fast, but he is quick. When it comes to a signature pass rushing move, Hankins' bull rush is his bread and butter. I don't expect him to record a lot of sacks on the next level, but he can become a disruptive force who requires extra attention no matter the situation.
As far as versatility is concerned, Hankins can play anywhere on the defensive line. He's played every position along the Ohio State line and he basically excelled at every technique. Even though he battled a knee injury that required a knee brace, Hankins started every game for Ohio State the past two seasons. At this point in his career, durability isn't a concern.
Negatives: After reviewing Hankins, I can only find a few flaws. For starters, there are times where he does look fatigued and wore down. That could be attributed to the fact that Ohio State hated to take their best defensive player off the field. There are some out there who question his motor and hunger, but I believe that larger players often lose their energy quicker than smaller players. Regardless of my opinion, there are some plays later in games where it looked like Hankins took some plays off.
Make no mistake about it, conditioning is going to be a major concern for Hankins in the NFL. Scouts will be paying close attention to his workout at the combine to see if he can maintain his weight. I am willing to give "Big Hank" some credit because he has fought to lose weight every season he came back to the Ohio State football program.
Pad level is also something that Hankins must work on. When he doesn't get low and acquire good leverage, offensive lineman can just stand him up and keep him out of the play. It's something he has to work on, but good coaching should teach him better technique.
His pass rushing moves need work. Hankins is a dominant run defender, but he isn't going to fill up the stat sheet. Hankins must continue to work on honing his craft as a pass rusher. If he does improve in that area, then he will become a complete player who can stay in the game on every down.
Conclusion: Hankins should be one of the first defensive tackles drafted next April. There are far too many positives to his game than there are question marks. He needs to maintain his weight and become a better pass rusher, but his combination of size, speed and strength are too rare for a defensive tackle his size.
The Cowboys should be interested in the enormous defensive tackle because he could come in and anchor their defensive line. I believe that Hankins will continue to grow into a more complete player, but at worst, he would be a rotational player who uses his size to become a run-stuffing force on the interior. That may not be ideal for a first round pick, but Hankins has the type of talent you take a gamble on.
Johnathan Hankins vs. Nebraska (2012) (via Mario Clavel)