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2015 NFL Draft: Danny Shelton Fits The Texans Like A Glove

The NFL may be a passing league, but the teams who end up in the Super Bowl year after year always seem to be the ones that can run the football and play defense. With Danny Shelton on the board at 16th overall, Bill O'Brien should not hesitate to buy into that formula.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the middle of all the talk about wide receivers, running backs, and edge rushers for the Texans in the first round of next week’s 2015 NFL Draft, a rather under the radar need at the nose tackle position could find itself filled if the right talent falls far enough.

Despite the signing of Vince Wilfork in free agency and the acquisition of Louis Nix in last year’s draft, the long term plans for the middle of the Texans' defensive line are still a massive (ha, get it?) unknown. Wilfork is nearing the end of his football lifespan, and Nix’s career in Houston might be in jeopardy before it even starts. If a monstrous talent like, say, Danny Shelton fell to within range of the Texans in the middle of the first round, I would not put it past Bill O’Brien and Rick Smith to pull the trigger and add even more beef to the Bulls on Parade.  For reference, here are my raw, abbreviated notes on Shelton. He is currently ranked fifth overall on my (as of yet) unreleased big board.

Danny Shelton (DT--Washington)

Size/bulk ---------------------------------- 9 (Just under 6’2", but wide build at 340 pounds. He’s not tall, but he’s beyond the definitely of "bulky". In short, Shelton’s a human boulder)

Length ------------------------------------- 5 (Extremely short arms at just 32", but he’s got big 10 1/4" hands that he uses to toss people around once he does eventually get a good grip)

Agility/quickness/get off -------------- 7 (For his size, he’s very quick. No 340 pounder should be able to move like that. Good get-off, and he really can change direction very well for his bulk. Good speed to track down ball carriers over short areas)

Strength ----------------------------------- 10 (Incredibly strong. He straight up mauls people; regularly throws them wherever he wants to)

Hand usage ------------------------------- 8 (Gets around his length problems with a lot of one arm stacks, and he is so strong that he can shed people by throwing them with just that one arm. His punch is really violent. Very strong club swim as a pass rusher and shows a rip every now and then as well. For his specific role, I consider his hands very good)

Leverage/stack and shed -------------- 9 (Phenomenal stack and shed run defender. Never gets blown off the ball. Can disengage very easily and get in on tackles in both A gaps. Only knock on him is that his arm length occasionally leads to missed tackles after disengaging when he can’t quite reach far enough. When he gets under centers, they flat out can’t move him off the line no matter how hard they try. Takes on double teams with ease as well as disrupting the flow of angle blocks)

Versatility ---------------------------------- 6 (Mostly just a run stopper. He’ll push the pocket and maybe occasionally get some pressure on swim moves, but clogging run lanes are his main function. Not a penetrator, so he can’t play 3t, and not long enough to play 5t. He’s probably a 3-4 nose tackle over the center or 1-tech/2-tech defensive tackle in a 4-3 alignment)

Toughness/Motor ----------------------- 10 (Motor never stops running. He played a f*** ton of snaps and never quit. No matter what the score was, he put in full effort at all times)

Durability ---------------------------------- 9 (Never missed a game in four years and no major injuries to speak of, but that kind of weight does pose a bit of a problem long term, considering wear and tear on knees and stuff like that. Either way, he’s still remarkably healthy for someone with that kind of frame and weight)

Character/leadership ------------------- 10 (Senior. Served as captain for Washington’s bowl game. Academic All-American, terrific leader, and a high effort individual. Grew up in a household with an abusive father, which forced his mother and brothers to move around a bit during his youth to avoid him. Four years ago before he started his freshman year, he was involved in an altercation along with his brothers with a man who had previously gotten into a fight with his brother that same day. The man shot two of Danny’s three siblings, one in the head and one in the chest, resulting in the death of the brother who was shot in the head. Danny wrestled the gun away from the gunman and beat him in the face with it before being pepper sprayed by two other individuals at the scene. The man was never charged after it was ruled a shooting in self-defense. By all accounts, it seems like Shelton learned from that tragedy and used the experience to become the inspirational man that he is today. Any organization would be lucky to have him representing them)

OVERALL ----------------------------------- 83 (Fantastic nose tackle prospect. He has length issues, but his strength and leverage are always so great that it generally doesn’t matter much. Uses one arm principles to still stack despite having short arms, and he just tosses centers around like ragdolls anyway with his incredible strength. Anchors extremely well against the run and rarely gets outright blown off the line. Also possesses great short area quickness for his bulk, so he’s got some penetration ability to him with a really nifty club-swim move. However, his main function as a pass rusher is collapsing the pocket to prevent QBs from stepping up, so he will pair well with a good speed rusher coming off the edge that can clean everything up. Short arms can cause missed tackles at times when he’s diving for a ball carrier after shedding, but there’s not really anything you can do about that. As long as he’s got good linebackers behind him to take advantage of him being double teamed all the time it will be fine. Wonderful individual outlook on life despite a very tough upbringing and trauma after the shooting death of his brother. He’s a terrific leader, a terrific man, and a terrific representative of his Samoan culture. Both on the field and off of it, any team in need of a run stuffer would be lucky to have him)

Some may question Shelton’s immediate fit on the Texans' defense with two other nose tackles already on the roster, but there is more than one way to use multiple 340+ pound men on the line of scrimmage at the same time. For instance, considering that lighter, faster "nickel" packages are becoming the pseudo-base defense in the modern pass-happy NFL, being able to stop the run with just six or even five men in the box is damn near a necessity. With both Shelton and Vince Wilfork on the line at the 2-technique spots over each offensive guard (and this is semi-assuming that Louis Nix does not pan out after a disappointing rookie season), that would mean that Brian Cushing and Mike Mohamed have two men in front of them that absolutely require double teams if run plays have any hope of being successful. That’s four blockers for two players, not to mention J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney coming off the edges on each side.

With the entire front four being a threat to blow up a run play on any given down, Romeo Crennel would then be free to run nickel packages against teams that use three wide receiver sets most of the time (looking at you, New Orleans) without fear of his lighter second level defenders getting crushed by the ground game. If Nix ends up not working out, who cares? We’ve got Shelton. If Wilfork retires after 2015 and sails off into the sunset after winning another Super Bowl with Houston, who cares? We’ve got Shelton. Want to run a 3-4? Cool, we’ve got Shelton. Want to run a 4-3? That’s fine, too.  We’ve got Shelton.

You can dream of any front you want, and it can probably be built around Danny Shelton – he’s that good. The only question, of course, is if the huskiest Husky of them all will even still be there when the Texans are on the clock.