The offseason is here, and that means #DraftSzn has officially arrived. I’ll be bringing you plenty of scouting reports between now and the draft on players that the Falcons may be interested in. First up is defensive tackle, and after tabulating your votes, my first report is on the imposing Vita Vea from Washington. Vea had another dominant season against the run in 2017 for the Huskies, but the big question is: what can he do on passing downs?
For this report, I watched Vea against Penn State (Fiesta Bowl), Stanford, and UCLA to see him against a variety of offenses. As the Combine (and Pro Days) have not yet occurred, there are no official athletic testing numbers for prospects yet. After the Combine concludes, I will come back and add their numbers to these reports. For now, we’re limited to what we see on tape.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Scouting Report: DT Vita Vea, Washington
Vea’s massive frame stands out immediately: at 6’4, 340, he’s an imposing force on the defensive line. What also stands out is his dominant strength at the point of attack—Vea is capable of taking on double (or even triple) teams and can blow past weaker offensive linemen. He’s difficult to move off the line of scrimmage and routinely ends up in the backfield. Vea has plus awareness and will attempt to clog up passing lanes and bat down passes with his hands. Washington used Vea as a chess piece all across the DL, and he took snaps at 1T, 3T, and SDE throughout his career.
With his versatility comes plenty of experience running more advanced concepts, like stunts and twists. Vea can go up against tackles, guards, and centers and can attack from anywhere—although his best fit at the NFL level is almost certainly the 1T. He also moves very well for his size, with some ability to run and chase and pretty impressive burst off the line. His athletic testing will be big for his overall draft stock. Vea played a ton of snaps for Washington and held up decently, but he’ll likely thrive in a more balanced rotation at the NFL level.
Despite his strength, size and athletic ability, Vea often seems lost as a pass rusher. If his bull rush fails, he doesn’t consistently employ any other pass rushing moves and gets caught up too easily. He has good instincts with his hands and tries to fight off opposing linemen, but that usage is very unrefined. He’ll need to clean it up at the next level to have success against more technically proficient guards and centers.
Vea can struggle to disengage from blockers at times, especially if they can get their hands on him early. He needs to develop some counter moves to avoid getting washed out of plays early, particularly in the passing game. Vea also tends to play too high—smaller offensive linemen can sometimes get underneath him and use their superior leverage to nullify his size advantage. Although he’s a physical tackler, Vea could stand to improve his technique—there were a few too many instances of RBs escaping his grasp in the backfield.
Vea is an immediate NFL starter at the 1T that should be a cornerstone against the run for his entire NFL career. His gigantic frame and dominance on the ground are impressive—but in a league that shifts more and more towards passing, Vea has to prove that he can contribute something as a pass rusher to justify an early draft selection. That area of his game is completely unrefined and it’s unlikely he’ll make a significant impact there in his rookie season, but the big question is: can Vea become at least a serviceable option on passing downs?
His athletic testing will play a substantial part in this—if Vea performs well (which I expect), then his potential as an interior pass rusher will be considerable. He’s also very familiar with executing stunts and twists—staples of Quinn’s defense that can be a bit tricky to master. A skilled defensive staff (like the Falcons have) will likely view Vea as an immediate contributor on base downs that they can mold over a season or two into a pass rushing threat. If he can develop some additional counter moves and refine his hand usage, his ceiling is high enough to justify a late-first draft pick.
If you want a Grady Jarrett-level interior pass rusher, Vea is unlikely to ever provide that. However, Vea is a giant brick wall in the interior of the defense—and can do that from day one. His presence there should help keep Atlanta’s smaller LB corps clean, and if teams are forced to double him that will open up opportunities for other defensive linemen. Until we get his official testing numbers, his grade is subject to change, but I’m going to go ahead and assume he tests well for his size.
Grade: 1.5 (late first, early second)
What are your thoughts on the Falcons’ selecting Vea? Do you view him as a first round value, or something else? Any prospects you’d rather see in Atlanta with that pick?