clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Buccaneers pick Vita Vea is the NFL Draft’s most dominant interior defensive lineman, period.

New, comments

The sky is the limit for the Washington defensive tackle. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White was blown away by Vea’s film.

Washington v Oregon Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Vita Vea had me cussing up a storm.

If you’ve been reading my breakdowns for awhile you know that it takes a lot to make me cuss when I’m watching a prospect’s tape. It takes more than just getting a sack or making a tackle. It has to be something physically impressive that most players at their position can’t do.

It’s a high bar, but I never have to wonder if I have seen what it takes to achieve it. My mouth has a mind of its own, so when a draft prospect makes a play that is deserving, the cuss words just come tumbling right on out.

Vea’s tape meant a steady stream of expletives.

This kid is special. And now he’ll have the chance to prove it in Tampa. The Buccaneers selected him with the No. 12 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

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!”

And these kind of plays happened in all four games I watched.

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.

Here’s the really crazy part, though.

Even though Vea is (listed at) 6’5 and 344(!) pounds, he is also pretty damn quick and athletic.

Hell, I would have never guessed he was listed at 344 pounds from watching his tape. The way he carries that weight and how he moves around on the field suggested to me he was a much lighter dude. Keep in mind that Suh weighed closer to 300 pounds when he was coming out at close to the same listed height. Vea damn sure looks pretty fast on film at that weight, so I didn’t care very much what his 40-yard dash time was. But he ran a 4.98 at the combine.

While much of his success in the games I watched was largely due to brute strength, Vea also showed he could win with finesse too.

Imagine trying to pass block against a guy who had previously used a hump move to knock you on your ass, then ran over you and your home boy with a bull rush, only to see him hit you with a quick arm over when you finally set for power.

Let’s just say it could get ugly.

If anything it’s his athleticism, more so than just his freakish strength, that makes me believe Vea is worthy of a high first-round pick. If he was just a big lug who could only play nose tackle and had to come out on third-and-long, as I’ve said before, I don’t think any nose tackle like that is worthy of a first-round pick. I don’t care how strong they are, if you can only play two downs, then I just don’t see you as valuable as a guy who can play on all three. After all there is a reason people call third down the “money” down.

Even though Vea lined up primarily as a nose tackle, he also played some three-technique, 4i and even five-technique in the four games I watched. He showed himself to be very capable at getting pressure from all of those spots.

Any team that drafts him and doesn’t use him as a pass rusher would be some damn fools because if he can’t do anything else, one thing I’d bet my last on is that Vea will be able push the pocket back into the quarterback’s lap consistently in the NFL just like he did in college.

As the Eagles showed in the Super Bowl, that can make a huge difference for any defense.

Vea “only” had two sacks in the four games that I watched, but he actually put himself in position to sack the quarterback on at least five other occasions in those games.

He had several plays where he would whup an offensive lineman or two, and then barely miss taking the quarterback down.

Even on most of those plays Vea still left a path of destruction and chaos in his wake that made it easy for one of his teammates to clean up the mess and get the sack after he missed.

On top of that Vea had six other pressures where he forced the opposing quarterback into an incompletion because he was bearing down on them with bad intentions.

Make no mistake about it, Vea is a legit pass rusher on the next level no matter whether he lines up as a zero nose or even as a five technique.

Having said all that, Vea’s potential as a big time run defender can not be overstated.

If he gets in a system where teams can’t double team him a lot, he is going to spend a lot of time in opposing backfields.

But even if he does have to take on double teams on early downs, Vea is going to be hell to block regardless.

I also want to make sure I shout out Vea’s effort which was outstanding. To see a guy his size hauling ass 20 yards down the field to make a tackle did my heart some good.

A lot of guys Vea’s size shut it down when the play isn’t in their immediate and try to save themselves for the next play. Vea’s motor, however, runs hot, regardless.

Vea won’t just be a good player for the team that drafts him, he is going to be a tone setter.

I see Vea getting even better in the NFL if he gets paired with a defensive line coach who teaches him how to play with just a little more finesse than he did in college. I get why Vea leaned so heavily on his power, but sometimes you can make the same play without putting that kind of stress on your body.

Besides that, the more Vea switches between power and finesse as a pass rusher, the more he will keep opposing offensive linemen honest. On the next level he is going to face more blockers who can actually withstand his power. And when he does, being able to switch to more finesse moves will keep those blockers from just bracing for his power rushes on ever play.

I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

I will say that I do have some concerns about injury risk with Vea because of how he plays right now, hip tossing 300-plus-pound men is bound to take a toll on you at some point. How will it affect Vea’s play if he can’t rely on his power to be successful?

The honest answer is nobody knows.

What I do know is right now, today, Vea looks like a damn monster on tape manhandling dudes who don’t appear to be used to getting manhandled. Unless something showed up in his medical evaluations, I’m pretty sure I would take a chance on his body holding up. Suh still hasn’t broken down and he still plays just as violently as ever, after all.

Vita Vea may have only been a name to me a few days ago, but now, after watching his film, I have to say he is the second-most physically dominant interior defensive lineman I have ever broken down, behind Aaron Donald. I watched four games of Vea kicking ass and taking names and I didn’t need to see another down to make that assessment. If a team needs an interior defensive lineman this year I don’t think they could do better than Vea and I haven’t even watched any other interior defensive linemen yet.

I just can’t imagine seeing anybody better this draft season.


Since I don’t have access to all-22 for college football games, I use the next best thing for my draft profiles and go to Draft Breakdown where they post the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects’ games already cut up and ready to go. For the purposes of this breakdown I watched Vita Vea play against UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, and Washington State Those represented the eighth, ninth, 10th, and 12th games on Washington’s schedule last season, respectively.