Losing both your starting NT as well as his backup (Isaac Sopoaga, Ricky Jean-Francois) can cause many people to start projecting defensive linemen to your team when they do mock drafts. Having an aging stud like Justin Smith, who arguably makes the entire defense "go", also doesn't hurt the perception that the 49ers may need some help along the D-line.
One name that doesn't come up as often as it probably should is that of former Ohio State defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins. The reason I say it should come up more often is simple: versatility. Hankins looks strong at the point but also shows some pass-rush upside, meaning he could potentially play multiple positions on the line.
Height: 6' 2 7/8"
Vertical Jump: 26"
Broad Jump: 8'8"
2011: Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. 68 tackles, 11 TFL, 3 sacks.
2012 (Junior): 1st Team All-Big Ten. 55 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack.
- Excellent size to play inside or out in a 3-4 defense.
- Has rare agility for a man his size. Has played outside of the OT, even.
- Plays with great power, either driving man back or commanding double-team.
- Good motor, hustling down-field and playing all 3 downs.
- Relies on strength/upper-body too often. Must learn to play w/more leverage.
- Pad level gets high at times.
- Weight has been a concern at times.
Doing your homework:
DraftBreakdown.com has a TON of videos on Hankins, so check them all out. Below is a game vs. Nebraska where Hankins caused the Husker offense all kinds of problems.
Why he fits the 49ers:
Hankins can come in and compete for the starting nose tackle job immediately (and probably win it) as well as serve roles rushing the passer on 3rd down, giving Ray McDonald and Justin Smith a break. He has the quickness to shift outside to defensive end in base defense and penetrate the backfield, as well. This is good insurance in case Justin is injured as well as long-term as the elder Smith ages.
Why he might not fit the 49ers:
Despite losing both NTs on the depth-chart, the 49ers currently have three players who can compete for the position. True NT would seem to be a luxury pick for a first-round selection, especially with the 49ers never really showing a big comittment to the position, often letting the starter (and backup this off-season) walk in free agency.
Hankins weight and occasionally stamina have also caused concerns, though he was on the field far more than fellow DT prospects like Jesse Williams and John Jenkins. He would have to buy-in to the NFL training regimen in order to be most effective.
What they're saying:
- NFL.com has this to say about Hankins:
Extends to shrug off blocks and uses his hands to bully blockers, controlling the POA and setting the edge when playing outside. Has extremely strong hands to secure tackles and finish plays once he gets his hands on the ballcarrier. Comes off the ball hard and quick for his size, will win a gap and blow up plays in the backfield if linemen don't get to the reach-block. Drives back NFL-caliber guards into the backfield and holds up doubles, does not give ground even against better players. Works down the line to get to ballcarriers while engaged, and hustles downfield and to the sideline if needed. Three-down player, on the field for a lot of snaps considering his bulk.
- Dane Brugler of CBS Sports has these tidbits on Big John:
Hankins has a wide frame with the natural size to carry a lot of weight. He has excellent feet for the position with very good first step quickness and get-off burst to knife through the line of scrimmage and make plays in the backfield.
He has versatility to play inside or outside, seeing a lot of time at both DE and DT in college, also playing on some special teams, blocking a field goal in 2012 (vs. Purdue). Hankins eats up multiple blocks and frequently attracts double-teams.
Hankins has a rare combination of size, strength, quickness and agility. He has played all over a defensive line on all three downs and even some special teams. He looks absolutely dominant against 1-on-1 blocking and holds double teams well, which he often commands. He's capable of pushing his man into the pocket or slipping around him to get to the QB. The 49ers strong locker room culture should be all that's needed to keep his weight and overall fitness in check, which hasn't been a major concern, but has been noted.
For a guy who could potentially do what RJF did (play all over the DL) but with a ton more talent to begin-with, Hankins seems like a great target with the 34th pick (or some form of trade down), but I wouldn't be totally shocked if he's taken with the 31st pick, especially if Datone Jones is off the board (I expect he will be).