Summary: The NFL always has a demand for big, heavy defenders at the point of attack. Nose tackles who can two-gap effectively are assets in run defense and help to free up other defenders to make tackles. Even though the pro game is driven by passing, 4-3 or 3-4 defenses need nose tackles to be tough at the point of attack and cause disruption in the middle of the offensive line. Vea should be able to fill that void, because he was a dominant force for Washington in 2017 while making a big impact in previous seasons.
As a freshman in 2015, Vea had 17 tackles with a sack. He made a huge jump in play as a sophomore with 39 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, one forced fumble and two passes batted. As a junior, Vea totaled 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks and four passes batted. The high-motor defender Vea was a relentless force for the Huskies in 2017.
For the NFL, Vea projects as a heavy nose tackle who can be a disruptive force at the point of attack. He is a big, thick, strong nose tackle with enough length and surprising athleticism to play 3-4 end.
In the ground game, Vea is a stout defender at the point of attack. He is difficult to move and eats up blockers. Vea can use his size and strength to eat up blockers while maintaining his gap integrity. As a run defender, Vea doesn't just eat up blocks, he will use his strength to shed blocks and speed to chase down ball-carriers.
In the pass rush, Vea has a quick burst off the snap, and there were times when his size, power and quickness would overwhelm blockers. Regularly, he would bull rush through guards or centers with his shocking explosion and strength. Vea can use his speed to fire off the ball and then use his power to gain leverage and bull his way into the pocket. Many nose tackles are unable to put pressure on the quarterback like Vea does. In the NFL, Vea won't be a big-time sack producer. But he should contribute to his team's rush by collapsing the pocket and flushing quarterbacks off their landmarks. He often took away the ability to step up in the pocket with the push that he generated.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, some team sources see Vea as an elite prospect and worthy of being a high first-rounder. Other teams aren't as high on him, but he stands a good chance of being a top-25 pick.
Player Comparison: Haloti Ngata. There have been a lot of comparisons between Vea with Haloti Ngata, which makes sense. Both are surprisingly athletic for big-bodied nose tackles and have the flexibility to kick outside because of their respective, but smilar lengths. Ngata was a top-16 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, and Vea should go in the same region this year.
NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Oakland, Washington, Arizona, Oakland, Los Angeles Chargers, Detroit, Buffalo, Atlanta, New Orleans and New England
There are a lot of teams that could target Vea in the 2018 NFL Draft. With his ability to fit any scheme and be a disruptive force, he will be in high demand.
In the top 10, Vea has a few options. Tampa Bay needs to improve its line play on both sides of the ball. Vea could form a tough tandem with Gerald McCoy. San Francisco could consider Vea as an upgrade over Earl Mitchell. Oakland needs a lot of help in its front seven, and Vea could be an instant upgrade to the Raiders' run defense while helping to collapse the pocket for Khalil Mack. Vea makes a lot of sense for Oakland.
The Redskins could use more defensive line talent next to Jonathan Allen. Vea would give them an impact-creating nose tackle who also could play five-technique defensive end. Arizona, meanwhile, missed Calais Campbell in 2017, so Vea could be in play for the Cardinals.
The Lions need an interior disruptor to go with A'Shawn Robinson, and Vea would be a nice fit in Detroit. Buffalo could use an interior defender to replace Marcel Dareus, and Vea would fit the Bills' defensive scheme well.
Atlanta also could use more interior defensive line talent, and Vea would be a fit as a replacement for Dontari Poe. Staying in the NFC South, Vea could give the Saints a replacement for Nick Fairley and a tackle to team up with Sheldon Rankins.
At the end of the first round, Vea could be a fit for New England as the Patriots could use more interior defensive line talent. Vea and Danny Shelton could give New England two heavyweights at the point of attack.