Projecting Anthony Zettel’s NFL Fit
We’re taking an in-depth look at each draft-eligible Nittany Lion as we approach the 2016 NFL Draft. So far we’ve studied Christian Hackenberg and Carl Nassib, which brings us to our next prospect: Defensive tackle Anthony Zettel.
DT/DE Anthony Zettel — Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Rams
After making the switch from defensive end to defensive tackle in 2014, Zettel burst onto the national scene with 42 tackles, 17 TFL, eight sacks, three interceptions, five pass deflections, one touchdown, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He backed that up with a stellar senior year in which he took somewhat of a backseat given Nassib’s otherworldly season. Though he dominated the interior during his college career, Zettel will likely be forced to bump back to end given his smaller frame compared to the average NFL defensive tackle. It’s important to note that Zettel is in no way small, but the success he saw against college offensive tackles as an interior lineman would be difficult to replicate consistently at the next level. His unique combination of size (6-4, 284 pounds) and speed make him a valuable asset to a team looking to bolster its defensive line.
We begin with the Atlanta Falcons, a team operating out of defensive coordinator Richard Smith’s 3-4 system. The Falcons are in desperate need of some pass rushing help. The team selected Clemson star Vic Beasley with the No. 8 overall pick last year, but he’s only a piece to the puzzle. Its defensive end rotation rarely made an impact while Kroy Biermann, one of its more consistent contributors, won’t be returning. That’s where Zettel comes in.
The gritty tackle possesses enough strength to hold his own against the run as a 3-4 defensive end, but has the quickness to make his impact felt as a pass rusher. He showed it with 20 career sacks in college — the majority of which came from the interior — and would continue to get stronger in a rigorous NFL strength and conditioning program. Zettel also poses a dangerous threat as a pass defender from the three-technique spot. With a sizable wingspan and leaping prowess, Zettel can knock down the ball in any given situation, and with the strength to provide a fierce bull rush, the Falcons could wind up with a steal.
The notion of Los Angeles as Zettel’s next best fit is a bit of a juxtaposition considering the Rams operate out of a completely different defensive system than the Falcons do. But where Atlanta might utilize him for an immediate impact, Los Angeles provides Zettel a place to grow. With a stacked line consisting of Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald, and William Hayes with Quinton Coples rotating in as a situational rusher, the Rams would likely relegate Zettel to spot duty and special teams. As a 4-3 end, Zettel could learn the nuances of the position behind one of the best lines in the NFL with the ability to come in and produce when his number is called. His most probable draft spot would be somewhere between rounds four and six, so Los Angeles would be satisfying a want rather than a need. It’d be a perfect situation for a rookie to walk into, and could be where Zettel makes his mark in the NFL.
Say what you want about how his “questionable” size makes him something of a ‘tweener, you won’t find a player with a higher motor in this draft. Stay tuned as we take a look at Austin Johnson’s pro prospects in our next installation of the series.