How do you fix the NFL's worst run defense? The Cleveland Browns are hoping the answer comes from adding 339 pounds of beef in Washington DT Danny Shelton. Shy of Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota inexplicably falling into their laps, the Browns could not have asked more of the Round 1 board than to leave them a choice between Shelton and WR DeVante Parker, who would have filled another need.
However, the porous run defense had to drive coach Mike Pettine nuts last season, so the top priority became shoring up his team's front. Shelton is absolutely massive. He can hold up against multiple blockers, yet probably does his best work lined up directly over center. Shelton's combine 40 time (5.64 seconds) was atrocious, but he's not chasing anyone down long distance anyway. In a tight window along the line, he moves with surprising ease for his size. The Browns' defense just got tougher.
Strengths: Shelton's a big man who's very hard to move when he's on point with his leverage. He plays two-gap nose tackle and one-tech shade primarily, but he could be used effectively all the way out to the end position, depending on scheme. Shelton's most startling attribute is his speed and agility in short spaces—he'll break off blocks at the line and tear after a running back or screen pass receiver and meet him at the sideline. He has gap-shooting capabilities, especially when he times holes in slide protection. He's a true three-down tackle—versatile and effective enough to avoid being rotated out—and his combination of power and athleticism makes him an asset in just about any scheme.
Weaknesses: Blockers who engage Shelton can do so because he fails to consistently use rip and swim moves to get free. He tends to wrestle and dance too much as opposed to using his hands to push through a block. Six of his nine sacks last season came against sub-par competition—Hawaii and Eastern Washington—and he probably won't put up those kinds of numbers in the NFL. As his snap counts increase, he will play higher off the ball and start to lose leverage. Weight has been an issue at times, and he ran a 5.64 40-yard dash with a 1.9 10-yard split at the scouting combine (slowest 10-yard split of any defensive lineman), though he plays faster than that. Gets so involved in pursuit at times that he'll blow assignments up the middle.
Player comparison: Vince Wilfork
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