When Vita Vea joined the Washington Huskies football team in 2014, most Husky fans believed that they were getting a player who could potentially fill Danny Shelton’s enormous shoes. What they couldn’t know was that Vea would eventually develop into an utterly freakish talent who dominated the defensive line in ways that reminded Dawg fans of Steve Emtman.
After earning second-team all-conference honors as a redshirt sophomore in 2016, Vea exploded as a junior in 2017. In addition to registering 44 tackles (31 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, he:
- Won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12’s best defensive lineman;
- Was recognized as the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year;
- Was honored as a second-team All-American by USA Today, Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and The Athletic; and
- Earned an Academic All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention.
At Washington, Vea excelled at one thing above all others: Virtually every play, he demanded a double- or triple-team from opposing offensive linemen, giving the Husky defense a frequent numerical advantage. Even so, Vea frequently found his way to the ball carrier, averaging nearly 3.4 tackles per game.
At 6’4” and 347 lbs., Vea has ideal measurements for a true zero-tech nose tackle prospect. What really separates him from his peers, however, is his speed and ability to move laterally. His 5.1-second result in the 40-yard dash at last month’s NFL combine speaks to that skill set, but take it from me: You don’t truly know happiness until you watch your team’s 347 lb. defensive tackle chase down a 180 lb. running back or wide receiver on a check-down or screen pass, make the tackle and force a punt on fourth down.
Thanks to his stellar 2017 season and impressive showing on the Combine, Vea is all but assured to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday. The latest mock drafts from NFL.com, SB Nation, Sports Illustrated and ESPN all project him as a sure-fire top-20 pick, with a few thinking the Miami Dolphins select him as early as No. 11.