Darius Stills has a natural flair as an inside pass-rusher that will appeal to teams on Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Some may be put off by an undersized defensive tackle, but smart scouts will have been impressed with Stills’ relentless motor and ability to split gaps along the interior. Those qualities could make Stills invaluable in a scheme where defensive linemen are allowed to play the run only on their way to the quarterback.
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Name: Darius Stills
Position: Defensive Tackle
School: West Virginia
Weight: 285 lbs
Core Strength (1.5/5)
Stills won’t win many strength-on-strength battles in the heart of the trenches. He is light for his position and packs his 285 pounds onto a generally lean frame. A big-bodied guard with a thick base will put Stills on skates, especially in the running game. You also cannot expect Stills to control a double team.
Hands Usage (3/5)
Hand-to-hand combat is something of a forte for Stills. He’s particularly adept at putting together combinations and counters on the move. He strikes cleanly and knows how to bait his blocker with the first move, before winning with the next. The only drawback to how Stills puts his hands to use is short, 32-inch arms. He can be held at bay if he doesn’t fully extend quickly enough.
Stills can naturally play low because he barely measures 6’1″. Yet he doesn’t use his innate leverage to his advantage often enough. Stills’ pad level is inconsistent and he looks to dart by blockers rather than get underneath to try and move them. The result is an easy target often being presented to guards and centers.
Lateral Quickness (4/5)
Few interior defensive linemen in this class move as well as Stills. He’s swift and fluid when working across the line or redirecting to collapse the edge. Part of his superior lateral quickness is borne from that nimble frame, but Stills also possesses naturally active feet that often keep him ahead of the flow of a play.
Without a doubt, the weakest part of Stills’ game is an inability to consistently diagnose plays. Specifically, he struggles to recognize blocking schemes in the running game. Part of the reason for those struggles is the way he plays full throttle and downhill on every snap. He doesn’t read the game but relies on winning it on the run. That means trap blocking often catches Stills out, while delayed draws are a must against a defensive tackle who will desert his gap responsibility.
There are ways to mitigate Stills’ issues with reading keys and standing up to the run. One of them is to tweak his common stance. He’ll usually align in a classic, straight-ahead three-point stance. Sometimes his upper body is a little too high, while his feet can be too far apart, resulting in him lurching into blocks rather than springing from a more secure base. A cocked or titled alignment would serve Stills well, particularly whenever he plays over the center. Turning across a gap would better position for him to maximize his first-step quickness.
The most enticing part of Stills’ game is his track record of making splash plays. He logged 9.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss during his final two seasons with the Mountaineers. Natural disruption allied with production is a combination NFL teams love. The intelligent coach will know Stills’ penchant for playmaking will easily translate to the next level in the right system.
The right system for Stills means keeping on the outside shoulders of interior offensive linemen. Stills didn’t always play in those spots for West Virginia. He also spent some time as a nose tackle in a 3-3-5 front. His best fits are either as a one-technique attacking the A-gap on either side of a center, or a three-technique splitting the B gap between a guard and offensive tackle. This type of scheme would allow Stills to play to his strengths and develop his obvious potential as a pass-rusher.
Some NFL team is going to get a fun and versatile defensive tackle in Darius Stills. Really love his energy and explosiveness pic.twitter.com/1a3EZLMmOR
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) January 16, 2021
Stills will prove a late-round bargain if he goes to a team that relies on a four-man rush in front of a lot of zone coverage. Any team running that type of defense should look at him as a valuable rotational contributor who can be moved around to multiple spots and allowed to attack. Reading on the run will be key for a player who only needs one remit: get into the backfield as quickly as possible.
Final Grade (21/40): Fourth- to seventh-round pick.
Player Comp: Maliek Collins
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