The two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year during his last two seasons with the Arizona State Sun Devils, defensive tackle Will Sutton has been called the most dominant defensive lineman on the South roster at the Senior Bowl by some, and a lethargic underperformer that has bad weight by others. The latter might be falling into some lazy traps, though.
Where Will Sutton Wins
Sutton broke on to the national scene during his junior season, as he racked up 23.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks after a mostly quiet year as a sophomore. Listed at 6'1, 265 pounds for that season (which has since been widely acknowledged as far lighter than his actual playing weight), it was assumed that Sutton tallied his gawdy numbers with quickness and burst into the backfield.
While he isn't slow off the line per se, that isn't where he wins. Sutton etched his dominance in college football through a strong sense of leverage and excellent use of hands.
Sutton has a large base and uses it well to anchor himself. At 6'1, he will be shorter than most NFL defensive tackles and was shorter than most in college football as well, but he used the smaller stature to his advantage in anchoring himself with leverage. He also does a great job of throwing off blockers and disengaging with tremendous use of hands.
His numbers dropped off significantly as a senior and many attributed this to "bad weight" that was likely associated most with the fact that his listed weight went up 40 pounds to 305. However, his weight gain in reality was minimal and his drop in production had much more to do with offensive coordinators in the Pac-12 ensuring that he was double teamed and accounted for at all times.
Where Will Sutton Needs To Improve
Sutton does not have ideal size for an NFL defensive tackle and will likely be asked to play at 295-305 pounds (he weighed in at the Senior Bowl at 315 pounds). Couple that with the shortest arms of the defensive tackles in the Senior Bowl and no one should be surprised to see the two-time All-American slide in the draft.
Undersized defensive tackles have found success in the NFL in the past a la Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals, but they've primarily done so with explosive burst off the line of scrimmage. A lighter version of Sutton playing sub-300 pounds might be able to win with that, but the concern will be whether or not he is able to use his hand fighting against NFL offensive lineman with long arms who are able to keep him at bay.
Two of the worst games of his senior season came against the large and powerful offensive line of the Stanford Cardinal. He was enveloped at times and struggled to keep his balance against the cut-blocking line. He will need to be able to handle that type of size and power in the NFL.
On a final note, Sutton never suffered a significant injury that cost him extended time; however, he was dinged often and seemed to perennially be helped off the field for knee and ankle injuries. While he didn't suffer any significant injuries, his ability to stay healthy might be worth questioning.
Sutton is my favorite of ASU's NFL Draft prospects, although many would point to outside linebacker Carl Bradford. While there are questions about the translation of his game, the best case scenario is that a team selecting Sutton could be on the receiving end of a penetrating three-technique tackle similar to Atkins. Players that can anchor in the middle as well as get into the backfield are as valuable as any on a defense.
While I grade Sutton as an early day two pick, it wouldn't be shocking if his less-than-ideal size and short arms end up costing him a couple more rounds.
Grade: 6.25- 2nd day pick with ability to play rotationally early