Johnathan Hankins of Ohio State, a monster of a defensive linemen with all the tools to be an elite NFL nose tackle, has declared for the draft (per an Ohio State press release) and, like Sheldon Richardson before him, adds to a fantastic defensive tackle class.
The 6'3, 320 pound Hankins has set the tone for the middle of the Ohio State defense the past two seasons after entering the school as a 350+ pound defensive line prospect. Hankins's declaring shouldn't come as a major surprise, as he's been high atop many boards that include juniors across the country, and has certainly deserved it. Despite saying that he loved Ohio State and reports were he was leaning towards staying, Hankins has the upside to be a Top 10 pick, and that likely was too good to pass up.
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Hankins isn't a devasting inside rusher, but that isn't necessarily a detterant for his NFL future. Hankins possesses very strong hands, the ability to extend and drive on one-versus-one blocks, and holds his ground/collapses inside versus double teams as well as any defensive tackle in the country. As do most talented defensive linemen in college, Hankins was utilized across the defensive line at Ohio State, including the 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 technique at times. While his future is likely as a nose tackle, potentially a nose/5-technique in a 3-4 as well, his versatility and short area athleticism is what likely will have NFL team's excited.
Maybe more unique about the news of Hankins declaring is just how NFL teams will value this defensive tackle class. With Star Lotulelei and Sheldon Richardson already atop the class and the likes of seniors John Jenkins, Jesse Williams, and Kawann Short, this defensive tackle class could have 6 first round picks, with more potential declarees on the way.
However, this seems like the right move for Hankins, as maximizing your draft stock, which is in the Top 20 at least for right now, is always a wise move, regardless of position. While it's not definite yet where Hankins will lie on our defensive tackle rankings, it's clear that, at least for now, he'll be in the Top 3 defensive tackles and likely in our Top 10 prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft.