Top Returning SEC Defensive Ends For 2017

    SEC quarterbacks won’t have to deal with Myles Garrett, Derek Barnett, Jonathan Allen or Carl Lawson in 2017. Still, this is the SEC, where elite pass-rushing defensive ends go to lay a foundation for careers in the NFL.

    March 9, 2017

    SEC quarterbacks won’t have to deal with Myles Garrett, Derek Barnett, Jonathan Allen or Carl Lawson in 2017. Still, this is the SEC, where elite pass-rushing defensive ends go to lay a foundation for careers in the NFL.


    The SEC took an enormous hit at defensive end in January, comforting news for league quarterbacks who’ll sit in pockets this season. No Myles Garrett, Derek Barnett, Jonathan Allen or Carl Lawson, each of whom is expected to be selected early in the 2017 NFL Draft. Plus, the SEC’s expected top returning edge presence, LSU’s Arden Key, took an unspecified leave from the program on Feb. 15. While this conference is never devoid of top pass rushers, it might not be a typical banner year based on the standard it’s established at the position.

    Top Returning SEC Defensive Ends

    5. Denzil Ware, Kentucky

    The Wildcats like to use Ware as a hybrid defender, meaning he can impact the run defense as well as the pass rush. He’s especially effective when he pins his ears back, using his outstanding closing speed to impact the integrity of the opposing `pocket. At 6-2 and 255 pounds, Ware is built to contribute in multiple areas, as evidenced by last season’s output of 70 tackles, a dozen tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries.

    4. Marcell Frazier, Missouri

    The Tigers went all the way to Oregon to locate what could be the successor to Charles Harris and the next star pass rusher at D-Line Zou. As only a five-game starter, Frazier bagged 7.5 sacks to finish second on the team to Harris. And he was building a head of steam last November, collecting all but one of those sacks over the final three games. Plus, at 6-5 and 260 pounds, Frazier is constructed to be a factor on all three downs.

    3. Cece Jefferson, Florida

    As long as the Gators use Jefferson on the outside in 2017, he’ll be poised for a breakout junior year in Gainesville. The top recruit in 2015 has been productive in his first two seasons, but his progress was somewhat stunted by a temporary shift inside to fill a need on the interior. Once he was moved back to his more natural end spot late in the year, he resumed beating opposing tackles to the backfield. Jefferson plus sophomore Jabari Zuniga will cause fits for SEC quarterbacks this season.

    2. Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss

    Haynes is one of the fastest defensive linemen in the country, a blur around the corner at a strong safety-sized 6-3 and 222 pounds. There are limitations pertaining to his size, when opposing linemen engulf him. In space, though, he has the explosive burst off the snap and the tenacity heading toward the backfield to alter the tenor of a game. While Haynes’ numbers dipped a bit in 2016, he still led the Rebels with 11 tackles for loss, seven sacks, eight quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.

    1. Arden Key, LSU

    Key has taken a leave of absence from the LSU football program. What exactly that means to his availability for the 2017 season remains to be seen. What is not up for debate is Key’s ability to rush the passer as well as any amateur in America. If he’s a go for the Tigers this fall, he’ll use his junior season in Baton Rouge to convince NFL types why he ought to be one of the first players chosen in next year’s draft. Key is a special talent, with the length and the range to not only sack and hurry quarterbacks but also disrupt their field of vision.

    MORE: Top Returning Defensive Ends In College Football For 2017

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