An bumper crop of defensive ends has garnered most of the attention in the 2011 draft class, but a handful of defensive tackles are also creeping into the conversation for early round picks now too. According to Rob Rang at CBS, three defensive tackle prospects are easy first-round considerations beyond the two marquee DTs, Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley.
One of the players Rang mentions should be readily familiar to fans of the St. Louis Rams. Illinois DT Corey Liuget's name has popped up in relation to the Rams plenty on the internets lately. Mel Kiper gave the Rams Liuget in his last mock draft. Rang reiterates the idea of Liuget as Billy Devaney's first round pick.
Liuget meets a big need for the Rams' defensive line, a penetrating three-technique tackle. If the Rams were to draft him, the Illini product would start opening week, provided the season actually opens, playing next to Fred Robbins. Two defensive tackles that can punish opposing quarterbacks, paired with a couple of defensive ends who combined for almost 20 sacks last year...sounds like a pretty good front four to me.
Another DT to keep an eye on this spring: Oregon State's Stephen Paea. He had minor knee surgery following the Senior Bowl, and will workout for teams on March 31. Paea is a strong (49 reps on the bench press) and wide player who fits best as a one-technique. If Paea has a strong workout and proves he's healthy, his name could also be among the defensive tackles good enough to be drafted in the first round.