2015 NFL Draft: Top Ten Defensive Ends

    From the college perspective, breaking down the defensive ends.

    April 24, 2015

    It’s the NFL Draft from the college perspective with a simple mindset: can the guy play at the next level or not? What are his chances to succeed, and is he worth the time and effort? What’s his value? 

    The class is … at least in terms of pure prospects, as strong as any class in recent history. It’s all about the hybrid blends of outside linebacker and defensive end with plenty of defendiers who can fill in and fit in any style. Depending on where you want to put Dante Fowler, Randy Gregory and Vic Beasley, if you lump them all into the defensive end tweener bucket, there’s an abundant about of pass rushers there for the taking. 
    The most overrated prospect: Arik Armstead, Oregon (DT)
    The top underrated prospect
    The deep, deep sleeper: Ryan Delaire, Towson 
    The best value prospect: Nate Orchard, Utah 

    1. Dante Fowler, Florida 6-3, 261
    – Is there any reason to be alarmed that the combine workout wasn’t all that great? It was fine for a defensive end, but not as an outside linebacker. It wasn’t that bad – the 4.6 40 was terrific – but he needs to get stronger and his lack of explosion compared to other top pass rushing prospects might be a bit of a concern. However, he’s just scratching the surface. He’ll bring the effort and the energy to go along with the talent, and while it might take a little bit, he’ll produce. 
    – Can he turn into a refined pass rusher? What’s his role? Most scouts won’t care – they’re just going to want him on the front seven to turn loose – but he isn’t a tweener. Is he going to be more than a guy who can get into the backfield? Can he be nasty against the run? 
    Yes or No: Everyone will want massive sack total numbers from him right out of the box, but he’s more than that and he’s going to be more well-rounded. 
    Round Value: First Round

    2. Vic Beasley, Clemson 6-3, 246
    – Off the charts athleticism, he destroyed the combine with blinding speed, quickness and explosion. Throw in the high character/coachability aspect, the upside to his game once he refines his moves, and the potential to do even more against the run once he bulks up a bit more, he has blossomed into the must-have prospect. 
    – What is he? Is doesn’t really matter, but is he an outside linebacker or can he work as a defensive end? He might be a one-trick, pass rush only guy, and while that might be good enough to turn into a superstar, somehow he has to be physical enough to hold up if doesn’t put on more good weight. 
    Yes or No: If he can dial up the sand in his game a bit more and find the desire to destroy everything in his path, he could become the star among a star-studded group of hybrid outside linebacker/defensive ends in this draft. He’s an outside linebacker, but he’ll line up in a variety of roles. Turn him loose and watch out. 
    Round Value: First Round

    3. Shane Ray, Missouri 6-3, 245
    – Even though he’s built for it, and even though he’s athletic enough, he’s not really an outside linebacker compared to other hybrid types in this draft. The burst off the ball is special, and he’s going to be a flash of lightning getting into the backfield on a regular basis. Throw in the fight to his game and the fire, and he’s what you’re looking for in terms of a dangerous disruptive force – all except for the lack of raw bulk. 
    – Can he be good enough to get past his lack of bulk? He needs more good weight to become a true defensive end, and he’ll need to show as much strength as possible to get past the one concern – his raw strength. Will he get erased by the more powerful linemen? 
    Yes or No: He might not have the all-around game of Dante Fowler, and he’s not quite as athletic as Vic Beasley or have the frame of Randy Gregory, but he’s going to be a double-digit sack guy. 
    Round Value: First Round

    4. Randy Gregory, Nebraska 6-5, 235
    – What is he? Is he he a too tall outside linebacker, or is he a thin defensive end who could be a killer once he adds 15 pounds to his frame? He has freakish tools and when he was on, he was great, but he’s not there yet. Sometimes you just take a chance on a guy like this that it’s all going to work out like it’s supposed to, and other times you get Dion Jordan. 
    – Why didn’t he blow up last year? He was very, very good, but considering he’s seen as a franchise-changing pass rusher, and he’s not quite a finished product, he didn’t come up with franchise-changing production. Is he just a great athlete and prospect, or is he a great athlete and prospect who can turn into devastating force? 
    Yes or No: Ehhhhhhhhhh, be careful here. There just seems like there’s something missing, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the failed drug test at the combine. He got beaten up way too much in Big Ten play and disappeared way too often. 
    Round Value: First Round

    5. Eli Harold, Virginia 6-3, 247
    – Okay, so he’s really more of an outside linebacker than a true defensive end, but with his style and what he’s going to do, he’ll be used in a variety of roles. However, he doesn’t have the body type to work as a 4-3 end, even as a pass rushing specialist, and if he gets blocked, he’ll stay blocked. 
    – He’ll have to somehow become more than just as a specialist. He might turn into a fierce pass rusher, and his athleticism and upside alone should make him worthy of a top-20 pick. However, if he’s going to be THAT guy who’s going to be someone’s franchise disruptive force, he has to be amazing in the backfield. 
    Yes or No: No matter where he plays, he’s going to camp out in the backfield. He’s going to have to learn how to become a true outside linebacker, but he’ll produce no matter how he’s used. 
    Round Value: Second Round

    6. Danielle Hunter, LSU 6-5, 252
    – It’s all there to become a phenomenal, unstoppable pass rusher with a central casting body and frame, but can he bring the production? He was great at getting into the backfield throughout last season for the Tigers, and he was in on plenty of plays, but he’s not a terror of domiant force for a player with his tools and talents. 
    – He has all the speed, size and quickness, but is he a next-level, first-round caliber football player and not a project and workout warrior? There’s one big problem – he came up with a grand total of 1.5 sacks last year. A player of his skills should’ve been a better producer. 
    Yes or No: Teams will work him out and think they’re seeing the NFL’s next great superstar, and then they’ll go back to watch the tape. He can absolutely play, but know what you’re getting – a good defender who hasn’t reached his potential, and might not. 
    Round Value: Second Round

    7. Trey Flowers, Arkansas 6-2, 266
    – He might be short and squatty, but he can scoot. While he’s not a devastating athlete, he can move well enough to get by to go along with a ton of energy and fight. He’ll battle and seems to take his game up a notch when he needs to. A battler against the run, he’ll hold up well and will be a try-hard type who’ll produce. 
    – Is he athletic enough to be a true end? He’s built more for a 3-4, but if he can bring the quickness and burst on a regular basis, all of a sudden, his prospects will quickly change. He has to become a far more dangerous pass rusher. 
    Yes or No: It would be nice if he was more of a pass rusher, and he’ll never put up big numbers in the backfield, but he’s a starter on a line – just not a spectacular one. 
    Round Value: Third Round

    8. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA 6-3, 267
    – A phenomenal athlete, does it all translate? He looks the part and he has all the prerequisite skills, but he doesn’t bring the production as well as he’s supposed to. He’s tough against the run, and he can do a variety of things well, but he looks like a pass rusher and he just isn’t. 
    – What is he? Does he have enough quickness and athleticism to be an NFL pass rusher? In drills, yeah, but on the field, not really. Does he have the bulk and the toughness to be a tackle or a 3-4 end? Not really. He has skills, and there’s enough there to be an NFL starter, but he has to do more than just look the part of a professional football player. 
    Yes or No: A superstar recruit for UCLA, he was okay, but he didn’t blow up. He has all the NFL tools, and the upside is phenomenal, but he needs to become a far more complete pass rusher. 
    Round Value: Second Round

    9. Mario Edwards, Florida State 6-3, 279
    – Part tackle, part end, Edwards is big enough to work on the inside with the speed and quickness off the ball to become a dangerous interior pass rusher – potentially. He shed some weight and can in anywhere in any style, bringing a bit of power and pop when he gets into a lather. 
    – He’s a 3-4 end at the next level, but he’s not quite enough of a playmaker in the backfield to be a three-down defender. He has to be something more than just a big part of a rotation considering his talent and potential. There’s enough to his game to think that he might be scratching the surface. 
    Yes or No: He might slide a bit considering no one will be 100% sure what to do with him, but at a lower weight – and keeping his power – he might turn into a dangerous run stopper with a great burst to the ball. He’s an easy risk pick to make. 
    Round Value: Third Round

    10. Arik Armstead, Oregon 6-7, 292
    – In terms of upside, tools and potential, he has the upside to become a superstar lineman to build the defense around. He’s extremely athletic for his tremendous size – even though he underwhelmed at the combine – but he plays a bit too high, isn’t consistent with his power, and disappeared way too often. He was always expected to blossom into something otherworldly amazing in college, and he never did. 
    – Is he worth the risk? How NFL-ready is he to become a force as a 3-4 end? He was a better part of a puzzle than he was as an individual talent, but now he has to be the reason a defense is great. 
    Yes or No: He’ll be way overdrafted. There’s a shot he blossoms into his tools and turns into a dominant force who destroys as a 3-4 end, and he could turn out to be versatile enough to be used in a variety of ways, but buyer beware. 
    Round Value: First Round

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