Nov 29, 2014; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive tackle Anthony Zettel (98) intercepts a pass from Michigan State Spartans quarterback Connor Cook (18) in the second quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Zettel is a Senior defensive tackle at Penn State University and was a focal point of the #3 run defense in the nation last year. He had some very impressive numbers last season with 28 tackles(17 for a loss), 8 sacks, and three interceptions. He is a little undersized (6-4 285 pounds) but makes up for it with an elite first step and some really impressive hand technique. He is hyper athletic for the position and should excel at the Scouting Combine. Coaches at Penn State love his work ethic and he displays a tenacious effort on the football field. However, Zettel is most likely going to fall in the draft because of his size which should make him a very good value pick in the draft. He is a versatile tackle who can make an impact in the run game and as a pass rusher.
Zettel gets off the ball to fast for the guard to handle, he bursts right by the guard and slaps his hands away with a violent rip move. He is in the backfield immediately and stops the back for a loss before the play has even started. Zettel lives in the opponents backfield, over 60% of his tackles resulted in a negative play. There is a common saying in scouting circles that “disruption is production” as a pass rusher and Anthony Zettel is a prime example. He constantly is in the backfield funneling plays towards his teammates. His penetrating forces is something a defense has to deal with on every play and is very hard to scheme around.
He is a force in the run game and has a very impressive anchor for his size. He is stout at the point of attack and has the violent hand use needed to toss aside much bigger blockers. In the play above, Zettel bursts off the ball and pushes the guard into the backfield. His penetration forces the running back inside and right into his hands for a minimal loss. His pad level and strength at the point of attack are very impressive and help make up for his lack of size.
Zettel is a versatile player who has shown he can win at a number of positions. He is more effective rushing the passer from the interior, but has the athletic ability to rush from the edge as well. In the play above Zettel bursts around the edge and shows some impressive bend for his size. The tackle is immediately forced to chase on the play and struggles to gain any leverage against Zettel. He finishes the play by hitting the quarterback’s arm which forced an incompletion on the play.
The biggest hole in Zettel’s game is his balance. He sometimes seems to be moving to fast for his body to handle and ends up on the ground on a lot of plays. He rushes like reminiscent of the Tasmanian Devil, he has very little control of his body at times and it forces him off-balance at times. When he’s facing larger and quicker guards in the NFL this could become a much bigger problem when they can match his first step quickness. He already missed some big plays last year by falling down or failing to finish the play. He also hasn’t shown the ability to consistently beat double teams, he doesn’t have the functional strength or technique necessary to break through. He shows off his anchor on these plays and is a load to move, but still rarely makes a play when he is doubled.
Zettel is a perfect fit for the Lions defense as a gap shooting 3- tech and they need some young talent at defensive tackle after Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley left last year. He should have another huge season at Penn State and really deserves more hype than he’s getting. If he can get his weight up to around 295-300 he is a sure-fire first round draft pick. Just ask this tree.
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