2010 NFL Draft: The 3-4 Defense Impact

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2010 NFL Draft: The 3-4 Defense Impact

The 3-4 defensive scheme has been sweeping through the NFL with as many as 15 teams adopting this formation.  Like any new trend the 3-4 transition has had a major trickledown effect on team’s draft strategy.  Below we are going to talk about the prototype for each position and some players in this year’s draft that fits this scheme.

Defensive End

In order to fulfill the requirements of a 3-4 defensive end you must have certain physical attributes.  Defensive ends in the 3-4 defense are usually larger compared to the 4-3 defensive end.  Most have played defensive tackle in college due to the lack of 3-4 schemes in the college game.  The defensive end is often asked to line up in the 3 technique (off of the guard) and is expected to tie up offensive linemen and keep them off of the linebackers.  This position is unique because while the players are typically larger they are also expected to be able to generate a pass rush.  Sack totals for these ends are typically lower than that of the 4-3 ends and this is due to the added responsibilities in defending the run.  The top 3-4 defensive ends in the 2010 NFL Draft are Jared Odrick, Everson Griffen, Tyson Alualu, and Corey Wooten.  Teams such as the New York Jets, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Denver Broncos will be looking to fill the defensive end position.

The main affect this has on the draft is that players are drafted out of position and projected to fit the 3-4 end position.  Also there are a lot of scouts that look at prospects and feel they have potential to gain weight and get stronger in order to better fit the scheme.  To me there is more room for draft mistakes when you’re trying to have players switch positions.  Overall though these players are drafted later in the draft where there is less of a spotlight.  One example against this is last season when the Chiefs drafted Tyson Jackson #3 overall.

Nose Tackle

The nose tackle position has become the left tackle of the defense.  Meaning that a defense cannot be great unless it has a dominating nose tackle.  This position is widely considered the most physically demanding of all positions in the NFL.  The nose tackle plays the 0 technique (lines up across from the center) and is responsible for controlling both A gaps (gaps between the guards and centers).  Nose tackles are often double teamed and asked to occupy as many offensive linemen as possible.  They must do everything they can to keep the offensive linemen off of the linebackers, so they can freely flow to the ball carrier.  Nose tackles are not expected to generate a major pass rush but some are able to collapse the pocket.  The nose tackle’s success is not noticeable in the stat sheets but their affects are invaluable to the 3-4 defense.  The top nose tackles in this year’s draft are Dan Williams, Terrence Cody, and Cam Thomas.  The San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and Buffalo Bills could all be looking to fill their nose tackle voids. 

The impact this position has on the draft is that players are often drafted higher than usual because 3-4 teams need to fill that nose tackle position.  The best example out of this group has to be Dan Williams who is being considered as high as #9 overall to the Buffalo Bills.  Without the need for nose tackles Williams would be looking at being pick in the late 1st round or early 2nd.


The linebacker position has two different categories with outside and inside linebackers.  Each position has different ideal fits but both require a lot of speed. 

The inside linebackers need to be quick but also stronger than the typical linebacker.  These linebackers are often hounded by offensive linemen because there are fewer defensive linemen to protect them.  They need to be able meet the offensive linemen at the point of attack and shed the blocks to make the tackle.  They also need to be fast enough to drop into coverage and provide pressure in different blitz packages.

The outside linebackers are often asked to rush the passer and create havoc in the offensive backfield.  These players are often smaller and faster college defensive ends that are too small to play the position in the NFL.  This switch requires a transition period while these players learn how to drop back into coverage.  Rushing the passer is one of the more important tasks of this position because 3-4 defenses require pressure from the linebackers and safeties because they only have 3 down linemen that are not normally the best pass rushers.

Some of the 3-4 linebackers in this year’s draft include Rolando McClain, Sean Weatherspoon, and Donald Butler on the inside and Brandon Graham, Sergio Kindle, Jerry Hughes, and Ricky Sapp on the outside.

General Managers and franchise decision makers are spending countless hours searching for the next great pass rushing outside linebacker.  I feel there is a lot of pressure to find this player which leads to teams reaching on players that don’t pan out.  A recent example is Vernon Gholston of the Jets who hasn’t been able to make the adjustment.

I think there are going to be some speed bumps as teams and talent evaluators try and find the formulas to find the perfect 3-4 players.  This transition period will be full of busts, steals, and lost general manager jobs.  However, this is a topic that will continue to be discussed for years to come.

Tags: 2010 NFL Draft 3 Technique 3-4 Defense Baltimore Ravens Blitz Brandon Graham Buffalo Bills Cam Thomas Chiefs Cleveland Browns Denver Broncos Corey Wooten Dan Williams Defensive End Donald Butler Everson Griffen General Managers Jared Odrick Jerry Hughes Jets Kansas City Chiefs Linebackers Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Nose Tackle Offensive Linemen Ricky Sapp Rolando McClain Sack San Diego Chargers Scheme Sean Weatherspoon Sergio Kindle Terrence Cody Tyson Alualu Tyson Jackson Vernon Gholston

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