NFL Combine: Defensive Ends – What Do They Need To Prove?

    Who are the best defensive ends going into the NFL Combine, and what do they need to prove in Indianapolis?

    February 19, 2016

    Who are the best defensive ends going into the NFL Combine, and what do they need to prove in Indianapolis?


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    1. Joey Bosa, Ohio State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Top Five Overall

    What He Needs To Prove

    – The interview process is going to be the key factor. If he’s really a top five overall pick, and maybe even No. 1 overall, he has to be another J.J. Watt. However, Watt has the physical tools along with the insane attitude and makeup to be the best defensive player in football. Bosa has to show he can be the same type of guy to go along with the talent.

    – Is there any concern whatsoever about his strange 2015? From the suspension, to getting booted in the Fiesta Bowl, to the lack of pass rushing production compared to 2014, it wasn’t the shining campaign expected. He was still very, very good – the numbers don’t show all he did – but there would’ve been even more excitement if he was able to come out after last year.

    – Does he have the speed and raw quickness? He’s not known as a flash of a pass rusher, but considering where he’s going to be taken, he needs to be a double-digit sack type of guy no matter what. He might be seen as way overrated if he’s lumbering in any way compared to past top defensive end draft picks.

    2. Shaq Lawson, Clemson

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – It would be great to be a fly on the wall in the interview room. He’s an alpha-dog leader with the attitude to take on a defense and make it his. He might become a high first round pick instead of a mid-20s guy just because he’ll sell it well.

    – Can he look faster than Joey Bosa? Lawson isn’t a speed rusher, but the two ends have similar size and a lot of the same skills. If Lawson can be a whole bunch faster and more athletic looking, there will be scouts who’ll ask why the big price is being paid for Bosa when Lawson might be a far better value.

    – Can he get in better overall shape? Effort was never a problem, but conditioning could be a wee bit of a concern going forward. He has to be every bit as good in the fourth as he is in the first.

    3. DeForest Buckner, Oregon

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Everyone loves him because it’s all there with the right frame and the right body, but can he be the right athlete, too? He was tremendous for the Ducks last season, and now he has to keep the momentum rolling.

    – He’s already seen as a possible top ten overall pick, but can he go ahead of Joey Bosa? If he comes up with a huge performance in Indy and he flies around like a much smaller prospect, he’ll do everything needed. He has the tools, and he has to crank it all up a few notches and prove he’s the real deal athlete next to all the other options.

    – Sorry, but it matters. Arik Armstead is just getting started, but he failed to impress in his rookie year, and Dion Jordan was a disaster. It might not be fair, and it might not be right, but Buckner has to try to fight his way through the Looks-The-Part-Tall-Talented-Duck-Lineman concern.

    4. Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – He’s a top ten talent with major issues and concerns after getting booted from Ohio State after failing drug tests. He ripped it up at Eastern Kentucky and appeared to be a new man who realized he needed to change, and did. Of course, though, the interview process will be the one big part of the program for him.

    – Be the Von Miller type. Everyone is looking for the devastating, unstoppable pass rusher from the outside, and Spence looks and plays the part. In the drills, he needs to be every bit as quick and athletic as expected.

    – What’s his real position? No one was quite sure to do with Miller other than to turn him loose, and that might be the same thing with Spence. However, is he a smallish end? Is he a big outside linebacker? It might not matter, but Indy might help figure out his position.

    5. Jonathan Bullard, Florida

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Known as a versatile option on the line who can do a little bit of everything, that’s what he has to be. He has to be quick enough to see time as an end, and strong enough to be seen as a tackle. He can be a tweener, but in a good way.

    – Is he explosive enough? If he is, he’s an end. However, most will try to stick him inside and hope he can be too athletic for most guards. There’s no question he can play, but Indy has to help everyone see exactly where.

    – To harp on the point, is it worth him adding a little weight to get up wo 290 and really be a tackle, or would it be better to gear down a bit to around 275 and be an ideal all-around end?

    6. Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Third Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – A potentially elite pass rusher, can he run like it? He was disrespected in college, he’s being disrespected in the draft process, and he might be disrespected at the Combine. One good 40 and a few good drills and everything changes.

    – He needs technique work and polish, but how much? He should be great off the snap and should show great quickness, but is there more? How smooth is he?

    – Does he really want it, or does he just need more time and work? Is he just a specialist, or is he going to be a full-time playmaker up front?

    7. Carl Nassib, Penn State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Is the try-hard walk-on really just a try-hard walk-on or does he really have NFL skills? The non-stop motor is great, but that only goes so far if he can’t really move.

    – Is he just scratching the surface, or was his one great year just one great college year? How much can he improve with refinement and work? How much upside is there to his game?

    – Physically, what can he do at an NFL level? Does he have the speed to work on the outside? Does he have the strength or the bulk to ever be an undersized tackle? He’s a player, but is he a real starter, or is he just a cog?

    8. Kevin Dodd, Clemson

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Is he ready to take his game to a whole other level? He was good, and this year he became special on the other side of Shaq Lawson. Was it a great year, or was that him figuring it all out and being ready to become special?

    – Does he have all the tools? He’s got the right size and the right look, but he really only had an amazing short stretch – is he going to get too much credit for what he did in the College Football Playoff? None of that matters if he has one of the most productive and effective workouts in Indy.

    – How much was helped by having Lawson taking away all the attention? Is he able to be the alpha dog, which is what he’ll need to be as a top 50 pick?

    9. Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Is he big enough? He’s tall, but he’s not bulky enough to be seen as a dominant run stopper on a consistent basis. Would he be able to add 15-to-20 pounds without losing anything? He can’t afford to lose a step.

    – He has to look like a possible speed rusher. He’s not going to fly around the edge, but he’s always working and he’s always fighting to get to the quarterback. At the Combine, he has to come up with a wow factor.

    – Is he too nice? Everyone will love him in interviews – he’s really smart, really polished, and will say all the right things – but is that going to be a negative? Can he become a nasty dude who destroys people?

    10. Shawn Oakman, Baylor

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Obviously he has the body, and obviously he has the frame, but is he just a specimen and not a top football player? He makes lots of plays by eating ball-carriers alive, and he has some panache to his game, but can he be steady?

    – Does he have the burst off the ball? He’s not going to be fast, but he has to be explosive enough to show that he can get around an NFL-caliber tackle on a regular basis. He looks the part, but he has play it in Indianapolis. He has to be a true workout warrior.

    – He’ll never get any sort of leverage with his height and size, so he has to bring the power – he might not have it. His strength has to be more functional against the run, especially considering he’ll be going against linemen who could block him way too easily.

    Other Defensive Ends Invited To The Combine (alphabetically)

    Mehdi Abdesmad, Boston College
    Sterling Bailey, Georgia
    Jimmy Bean, Oklahoma State
    Ronald Blair, Appalachian State
    Kamalei Correa, Boise State
    James Cowser, Southern Utah
    Jason Fanaika, Utah
    Branden Jackson, Texas Tech
    Matt Judon, Grand Valley State
    Ufomba Kamalu, Miami
    Bronson Kaufusi, BYU
    Dean Lowry, Northwestern
    Alex McCalister, Florida
    Giorgio Newberry, Florida State
    Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland
    Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech
    Victor Ochi, Stony Brook
    Romeo Okwara, Notre Dame
    Drew Ott, Iowa
    D.J. Pettway, Alabama
    Charles Tapper, Oklahoma
    Ron Thompson, Syracuse

    MORE: NFL Combine: Cornerback Rankings – What Do They Need To Prove?

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