It’s the day! The 2018 NFL Draft is here! Of course, it is only the first round today, but it is still Draft Day! We are working our way through some of the top prospects that could be on the Miami Dolphins’ radar. We have already taken a look at linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Today, we add defensive tackle Vita Vea to the list.
Vea is not a sexy pick as most Dolphins fans see him. However, he has comparisons to Haltoi Ngata and Ndamukong Suh going for him. He could eventually fill the hole Suh left for the Dolphins, and he should at least challenge for a starting spot on the defensive line from day one.
Weight: 347 lbs.
40-yard dash: 5.10 sec.
Bench Press: 41 reps
37 games played
15.0 tackles for loss
5 passes defensed
2 forced fumbles
What are they saying?
UW Dawg Pound, SB Nation’s University of Washington team site, wrote of Vea:
At Washington, Vea excelled at one thing above all others: Virtually every play, he demanded a double- or triple-team from opposing offensive linemen, giving the Husky defense a frequent numerical advantage. Even so, Vea frequently found his way to the ball carrier, averaging nearly 3.4 tackles per game.
At 6’4” and 347 lbs., Vea has ideal measurements for a true zero-tech nose tackle prospect. What really separates him from his peers, however, is his speed and ability to move laterally. His 5.1-second result in the 40-yard dash at last month’s NFL combine speaks to that skill set, but take it from me: You don’t truly know happiness until you watch your team’s 347 lb. defensive tackle chase down a 180 lb. running back or wide receiver on a check-down or screen pass, make the tackle and force a punt on fourth down.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets defensive end turned SB Nation scout Stephen White wrote of Vea:
Mind you, before I watched his film the only thing I knew about Vea was a lot of mock drafts had him going high. I was so into the NFL again this season I just didn’t catch much college football, so for me he was just a name until a few days ago.
It didn’t take but a couple of plays into watching his tape for Vea to make one hell of an impression on me, however.
How do you not let out a loud ”What the fuck?!” when you see Vea push both guards and the center back into the quarterback’s lap on a passing play?
You and I are not the same if you can watch Vea almost single-handedly destroy a play by jacking up the left tackle and pushing him back into path of the pulling right guard and right tackle on a counter, forcing the running back to cut back right into his waiting arms without at least whispering “Hot damn!”
The only other guy I can recall tossing offensive lineman around the way Vea did in college in the last decade was Ndamukong Suh. As a matter of fact, Suh is exactly who Vea reminds me of on the field at times.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote of Vea:
Vea’s tape can frustrating because he flashes star potential one series and then looks average the next. With that said, he’s still very raw and should be judged by his ability rather than just his results as he should unlock his potential with more coaching. Vea has the size and power to play nose in an odd or even front and he could be targeted by 3-4 teams looking for dominant run defender on the end. He should work into a defensive line rotation immediately and has the ability to become a good NFL starter for years.
Sources tell us: “I’m still kind of bothered that he hasn’t corrected some of the same issues he had last year. I think he’s going to be a really good NFL player and his issues are all correctable - he just needs to do it.” -- NFC West Coast scout
Eric Edholm at Pro Football Weekly listed Vea as his 7th ranked prospect of the year, writing of him:
Like we said, Vea shouldn’t be considered a scheme-specific player. Every NFL system can find a role for a dancing-bear disruptor with Vea’s agility and upside. However, some schemes could peg him into a two-down role or one where he’s limited to playing over the center or shaded on the inside of the guard. Among the teams that figure to have strong interest in Vea include the Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Washington.
Player comp: It’s easy to fall into the Danny Shelton trap given that they share a school and similar hair. However, Vea is far more athletic and freaky than Shelton was entering the league. Not too many men have entered the NFL with Vea’s size and athleticism, and the only ones I could come up with — Haloti Ngata, Dontari Poe and B.J. Raji — are the best comps you’ll find from me.
Andy Staples from MMQB wrote of Vea:
Vea’s 2017 numbers were pedestrian (44 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks), but that didn’t stop Pac-12 head coaches from voting him the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Those coaches voted for Vea because he ate up two and sometimes three blockers at a time and allowed linebackers to roam unhindered for a defense that led the conference and finished tied for third in the nation in yards per play allowed (4.42). They also voted for him because they spent game weeks wondering if he’d toss their offensive linemen into a handoff or chase down their tailbacks from behind. “It gets kind weird when you look at that film and you see a 340-pounder running with a 200-pound linebacker and we get to the ball at the same time,” Washington linebacker Keishawn Bierria says. “Something’s wrong here.” That’s probably what UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen thought this past season when he squirted through the line of scrimmage expecting a much bigger gain only to have Vea trip him up from behind. Shortly after that, UCLA’s left guard tried to pass off a stunting Vea to the left tackle, and Vea blew through both blockers and buried Rosen for a sack.
Vea still can refine his game. When he does get free, he can get knocked off track by blockers with a head of steam. He doesn’t burst off the line of scrimmage like the best pass rushers do. It takes a beat for him to get engaged. But once his hands get into a blocker’s chest, Vea’s gap is secure. He also engages in the very good habit—unusual for someone so big—of running to the ball on every play. That teenage fullback who chased down the safety on the fumble return is still part of the man about to enter the NFL
SB Nation’s Oakland Raiders site, Silver and Black Pride, also weighed in on Vea:
From a physical standpoint, Vita Vea might be the most imposing player in the 2018 NFL Draft. I can’t remember the last time I watched a player of his stature move so well. He will be an asset in the NFL due to his ability to draw double and triple-teams freeing up his teammates. With a little more coaching on hand placement and leverage, Vea will become an even more refined pass rusher to combine with his already dominant run defense.
CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso wrote of Vea:
Vea is already ridiculously strong and polished using his hands ... imagine him after a year in an NFL strength and conditioning program. [Insert Ric Flair “Woooooooooo” here]
Over on SB Nation’s Washington Redskins site, Hogs Haven, a breakdown of Vea includes:
I view Vea as the best defensive player in the draft (#6 overall) because he a) has massive untapped potential and b) creates opportunities for many other players around him. His size and strength requires teams to devote resources to stopping him, which allows his linebackers and linemen to make more impact plays.
A Fox Sports breakdown of Vea reads:
Vita Vea is a space-eating nose tackle prospect who excels at stuffing the run. He’s a powerful and physical force who can occupy space. His size and strength combination makes it nearly impossible to move him off the line of scrimmage.
Vea uses his powerful upper body to deliver a jolt, press the blocker and quickly disengage. His use of inside hands allows him to create the space needed to pursue the football. He has enough quickness to work off those blocks and make plays away from his frame.
This is a tenacious defender who is always in pursuit of the football. Vea’s non-stop motor is just another thing that helps him succeed.