Just call him Mt. McCullers.
Former Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, listed at 6-foot-7 and a shade under 350 pounds, turned a few heads during last week's Senior Bowl festivities. And one of the teams interested, according to Chase Goodbread (who spoke with McCullers while in Mobile), was your Atlanta Falcons.
If the interest is legitimate and not simply an in-passing inquiry, this becomes an intriguing bit of information. McCullers is no 4-3 defensive tackle, nor is he a hybrid guy. He's a mammoth 3-4 nose guard that will eat up double teams and clog the gap along the way. Having listened to Thomas Dimitroff answer a few questions during his #AskTD Google Hangout session, I distinctly remember the Falcons GM expressing his desire for a (and I'm paraphrasing a tad) 330 to 350-pound, rugged lineman that can sit down anchor the defensive line.
When you look at Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters (both of whom are around the 300-pound mark), that's something the Falcons haven't had in a good while. And if there's anything McCullers has going for him, it would be size and raw strength. He's the type of lineman that makes running between the tackles much more difficult for opposing teams, and his stamina (which reportedly impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl) would give the impression that he has the potential to be more than a two-down lineman in the NFL. He didn't exactly stand out at Tennessee, but much of that had to do with the talent around him and the load he had to shoulder on the interior.
The only real concerns with McCullers are his ability to penetrate as a pass-rusher (Peters' and Babineaux's strong suits) and his technique. At times, he'll play with too high of a pad level, allowing some of the smaller, more technical linemen to out-leverage him. His footwork could use a bit of work, as well. As it stands, most sites are projecting him as a 3rd-4th rounder.
The natural question raised by all this: if they're looking at nose tackles, does this imply that the Falcons defense could wind up more on the 3-4 end of the spectrum when everything is said and done?
It's possible. I'd expect the team to stay multiple, because Smitty likes that and it's sort of "in vogue." But the timing could also work in the Falcons' favor to switch things up among the front seven, with Osi Umenyiora (1 year left on his deal) potentially on his way out and Peters, Babineaux and Peria Jerry all impending free agents.
Either way, it sounds like the Falcons want to add some girth on the line, and that doesn't sound all bad.