With Mike Nolan reportedly on board, I think it's all but certain that we'll switch to the 3-4 system in 2009. It means we'll need to use a top pick on an NT in this year's draft. Here are the ones I've read about/watched play that I think would be great. Most of this stuff is compiled from various sources (Scouts, Draftcountdown, FFtoolbox, etc). and I tossed in a few of my own observations.
B. J. Raji (Boston College)
Pros: Good bull rush, good at reacting at the line, frequently draws double teams, disengages from blocks well
Cons: Not a great pass rusher, has missed easy tackles, has a tendency to stay high
Pros: Super athletic (unofficial 4.8 40), can drop back into coverage, Michigan power lifting champion
Cons: Lacks stamina, intensity can wane and fall through the course of a game
Peria Jerry (Ole Miss)
Pros: Explosive off the line, good at breaking off blocks, great closing speed to catch players out the backfield, vocal leader
Cons: Undersized, frame is filled out at just 190, has struggled in run coverage, old for a rookie (25), intelligence issues, DE is possibly his natural spot
Ron Brace (Boston College)
Pros: Great size, teamed up with Raji to stuff the run at BC, a few more pass rushing moves than Raji
Cons: Still needs work with disengaging from blockers, quickness could be a weakness
Dorell Scott (Clemson)
Pros: Very solid in the run game, a classic space eater who could actually add more weight beyond his current 320 lbs
Cons: Lacks quickness, lacks a refined pass rush
Of course, these are just a few of the many available options. I didn't include some guys like USC's Fili Moala because they may not be big enough to fit a 3-4 system. Ideally, we can pick up a guy in the 310-330 range with quickness- the best bet looks like it could be BC's B.J. Raji. One common thread between all the top NT's in this year's draft seems to be the inability to pass rush effectively; however, provided they can draw consistent double teams, they can probably open up rushing opportunities for the ends.
Another option we can't overlook is Carlton Powell, who we took in the 5th round last year. He sat out the whole year of course, but he was (at the very least) a top 10 NT from last year's class. In my opinion, he's way too small to be the NT of a 3-4 system (290-300 range if I'm remembering his pre-draft stuff correctly). But he's certainly an option. I hope styg50 can add a lot more on the NT's, I remember he said he had a lot of notes on them last year.
The draft can't come soon enough....