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NFL Draft prospect to know: Vita Vea, DT, Washington Huskies

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Do the Cowboys go defensive line in round one?

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Penn State vs Washington Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Blogging The Boys will begin taking a look at some of the NFL Draft prospects that will be in the 2018 NFL Draft class. Some weeks, we will look at potential targets that will be within the Cowboys’ expected draft range. Others, we will highlight some of the elite members of the class.

Another week, another draft prospect to familiarize yourself with here at BTB!

In recent weeks, we have looked at weapons to add to Dak Prescott’s arsenal, most recently USC wide receiver Deontay Burnett and Memphis wideout Anthony Miller. The passing game needs a boost, so it wouldn’t be a shock if the Cowboys opt to give Dak another target in the first round or so.

On the other hand, the Cowboys want to continue to build its defense. Rookies Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie appear to be legitimate building blocks on the defensive side of the ball, Xavier Woods showed flashes of his talent, and even Taco Charlton improved as the season progressed. However, the Cowboys do not want to do with Dak what they did Romo: waste his talent due to a defense that can’t stop a nosebleed. In fact, Stephen Jones recently noted that the team may look at defensive line the most.

The team just spent a premium pick on Taco last draft, but adding depth in the trenches never hurts. Demarcus Lawrence had an All-Pro caliber season, but who knows what the Cowboys plan to do long-term with the 2014 second-round selection. While the skill players often receive the most hype, playoff contenders usually live and die by how talented (and/or deep) they are in the trenches.

We have already looked at the following on the defensive line (either EDGE rushers or interior linemen): Austin Bryant (Clemson Tigers, EDGE), Dre’Mont Jones (Ohio State Buckeyes, DT), Bradley Chubb (N.C. State Wolfpack, EDGE), Maurice Hurst (Michigan Wolverines, DT), Daron Payne (Alabama Crimson Tide, DT), and Harold Landry (Boston College Eagles, EDGE). You can read those profiles at the bottom of this piece.

If the Cowboys opt to go with defensive line in the first-round, here’s one prospect that could be an intriguing choice for Dallas.

Vita Vea — defensive tackle, Washington Huskies

6-foot-5
340
RS Junior

NCAA Football: Utah at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Vita Vea arrived to Washington’s campus as an overlooked defensive lineman from California in the class of 2013. The monstrous nose tackle was ranked as the 40th best player nationally at his position and the 65th best overall player in the state of California. He joined the Huskies after delaying his enrollment until 2014, and he redshirted his initial season on campus; so he was out of football for two seasons.

However, the big defensive lineman hit the weight room, got in shape, learned the playbook and scheme, and slowly developed into a key player for one of the elite defenses in college football. Vea played in every game during his redshirt-freshman season for the Huskies, 17 tackles (13 solo), wrapping up three tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and even getting to the quarterback once. He even forced a fumble in Washignton’s rivalry game against the Washington State Cougars. It was a solid first season for the big man in Seattle.

In 2016, Vea’s role slowly but surely grew under coach Chris Peterson and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski’s 3-4 defense. Vea played in all 14 games for the Huskies, starting five of them as the Huskies won the Pac-12 and appeared in the College Football Playoffs in the 2016-17 season. Vea’s numbers jumped across the board statistically — 39 total tackles, 6.5 TFLs, and he got to the quarterback four more times than he did in 2015. Oh, and he forced another fumble and even defended a pass from the defensive tackle position. Not too shabby.

Vea has now fully blossomed into a bonafide first-round draft prospect. Vea again put up big numbers from his nose tackle position in Washington’s 3-4 scheme: 43 total tackles, career-high 30 solo tackles, 5.5 TFLs, four passes defended, and 3.5 sacks in 12 games for the Huskies. He was named first team all-conference and was tabbed as an All-American by USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and SB Nation.

Vea appears to be a solid prospect for the Cowboys, but what is his draft value? Here are a few excerpts from different mock drafts.

SB Nation’s Dan Kadar has Vea going to a division rival with the 13th selection:

13. Washington: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

If Washington continues to run primarily a 3-4 defense — which is no certainty if changes are made on the coaching staff — getting a true nose tackle is a must. Vea is a powerful run stuffer, similar in many ways to former Huskies teammate Danny Shelton.

USA Today’s Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz still has Vea on the board when Dallas is on the clock:

24. Bills (from Chiefs) — Vita Vea, DT, Washington: Defensive-minded coach Sean McDermott has to be stewing over his run defense, which gave up an NFL-high 22 touchdowns this season. The 6-5, 340-pound Vea not only commands double teams but also delivers a serious push up front.

Rob Rang has Vea going to one of the youngest and most talented defenses in the league late in the first-round:

27. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Vita Vea, DT, Washington*: The Saints already boast a young and talented defensive line but at this point in the draft, Vea may simply be too gifted to pass up. Vea possesses a combination of size (6-4, 344), strength and athleticism that could earn top 10 consideration, but he remains technically raw with snap-to-snap consistency also an issue that could drop him a bit on draft day.

Vita Vea appears to be a solid interior defensive line prospect that has the ability to clog up the middle, as well as get to the quarterback. He is a big-bodied force that would help the likes of Demarcus Lawrence, Taco Charlton, David Irving, Tyrone Crawford, and company get into the backfield.





What do we think, BTB?

*Gifs courtesy of Harris Highlights; stats gathered from sports-reference.com

Catch up with our previous installments below!

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Austin Bryant, DE Clemson

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Tarvarus McFadden, CB Florida State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Martinas Rankin, OL Mississippi State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Daron Payne, DT, Alabama

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Derwin James, Safety, Florida State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Ronnie Harrison, Safety, Alabama

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Deontay Burnett, WR, USC

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis