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Vita Vea is the best defensive player in the 2018 draft

The mammoth d-lineman from Washington has immense potential

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Washington State at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Vita Vea, DT
School: Washington | Conference: Pac-12
College Experience: Redshirt Junior | Age: 23
Height / Weight: 6-5 / 340lbs
Projected Draft Status: 1st round
NFL Comparison: Haloti Ngata

College Statistics

Player Summary

A 340-pound plus human being should not be able to move as fast or as agile as Vita Vea does. The 2017 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year received a 2nd-round grade last year from the draft advisory board but decided to stay in school an additional year to boost his draft stock even further — which he did. While Vea doesn’t have eye-popping sack or tackle numbers, his impact can really only be measured by watching tape. His 39 total pressures in 2017 were 4th in the nation among interior defenders, and his 91.6 PFF run defense grade was #2 in the nation. Against the pass, Vea’s QB hits and knockdowns don’t show up on the stat sheet, but allow his teammates to make plays and affect the passer both physically and mentally.

The defensive coordinator for UW, Pete Kwiatkowski, says Vea has “unlimited, untapped potential” because of his brute strength and speed — he apparently runs a 4.8 second 40-yard dash at nearly 350 pounds. He was forced to redshirt in 2013 because of poor grades in high school, however he took took online classes at home to academically qualify at Washington, and by his sophomore year was part of the 3.0 GPA Board, which was a big goal for him. Vea has also matured in other ways off the field, like 2x/week film sessions and growing into a leader in the defensive line meeting room.


  • Has raw size and power to destroy most guards and centers one-on-one; required double-team at college level
  • Rare combination of quickness and size to play in both one-gap and two-gap schemes
  • Versatility all over defensive line; played 0, 1, and 3-technique — not “just” a nose tackle
  • Collapses and suffocates running lanes with combo of violent hands and lateral agility
  • Potent bull rush that can cause immediate pressure up the middle


  • Played in 60% of defensive snaps in 2017; many teams view him as 2-down player only
  • Seen as very raw prospect that relies on physical gifts more than technique and awareness
  • Potential work ethic red flags: lack of film study and poor high school grades
  • High pad level and can get knocked off balance by savvy offensive linemen


How He’d Fit on the Redskins

Vita Vea is my dream pick for the Redskins at #13 (or — gasp — if we could even get him in a trade-back scenario), similar to how Jon Allen was my dream pick last year and somehow he fell to #17. He would give the Redskins the best young 3-man front in the NFL with Jon Allen, Matt Ioaniddis and Vita Vea all being under 25 years old.

I view Vea as the best defensive player in the draft (#6 overall) because he a) has massive untapped potential and b) creates opportunities for many other players around him. His size and strength requires teams to devote resources to stopping him, which allows his linebackers and linemen to make more impact plays. For this reason I see a Vita Vea selection immediately improving the Redskins’ running game because he frees up lesser players (someone like a Will Compton for example) to make tackles and take more advantageous angles to the ball. Vea would have a similar effect on the Redskins’ pass rush by giving Kerrigan, Smith, and others more one-on-one opportunities or the chance to make an easy clean-up sack if Vea gets pressure up the middle.