This class of DE prospects has the making to be a very special group of pass rushers come April. There is a solid mix of true strong-side DE, 5-tech in the 3-4, and athletic pass rushers who can stand up in the 3-4.
These rankings will fluctuate as the season goes on, as any of the top 4 guys could end up as the number one DE prospect. Michael Buchanan is someone to keep an eye on, as many scouts believe he is a better overall prospect than current Houston Texan and former Illini Whitney Mercilus.
Not only is there quality at the top, but there is pretty good depth. Malliciah Goodman, Margus Hunt, and Craig Roh are all sleepers to keep an eye out as the season progresses and will most likely finish the season higher in the rankings than they are now.
If the top juniors in this class declare, DE should be by far the deepest and most talented position for the 2013 Draft.
These rankings are extremely fluid, especially this early in the season and will change constantly throughout the process. Juniors will be added as they begin to declare for the draft.
1. Alex Okafor, Texas, 6’4 260: 1st Round
-Okafor brings speed and versatility that will make him highly sought-after DE this April. He shows very good agility and certain suddenness that most DE’s don’t have. Was second on the team last season with 7 sacks and had 17 QB hurries. Combined with junior Jackson Jeffcoat, the Longhorns have one of the better DE combos in all of football.
2. Michael Buchanan, Illinois, 6’5 240: 1st Round
-Michael Buchanan stood out more than last year’s first round pick Whitney Mercilus on several occasions. Despite his limited size, Buchanan has a lethal first step and brings a variety of pass rushing moves to the table. 2012 should be a really big year for him, and look for Buchanan to fly up most DE rankings.
3. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State, 6’3 258: 1st-2nd Round
-Jenkins is an extremely active and athletic pass rusher who is best suited standing up in a 3-4. Looks natural when he gets around the edge and drops his shoulder and changes directions very well. His play in 2011 didn’t come close to what he did in 2010, so this is a key season for him. Would like to see if Jenkins has developed more pass rushing moves instead of simply using his speed.
4. Dion Jordan, Oregon, 6’6 246: 2nd Round
-The former highly ranked TE coming out of high school is an excellent fit as an OLB in the 3-4. He was rarely asked to play with his hand in the dirt and has experience in coverage. Jordan shows excellent flexibility when getting around the edge and has a killer first step. He uses his length to his advantage and displays pretty strong hands. Would like to see him develop more strength and develop more moves as a pass rusher, but he should come off the board middle of round 2 if he continues to develop.
5. John Simon, Ohio State, 6’2 260:2nd-3rd Round
-A few negative things jump out when you watch Simon play. He’s undersized and isn’t the greatest athlete. He’s 6’1 you would think a move to OLB is in the cards, but since he lacks any quickness he’s most likely stuck at DE. But where Simon will make his money is from his consistency and fundamentals. He’s one of the most technically sound prospects from the DE class and knows how to play his position. He doesn’t have a high ceiling, but what you see with Simon is what you get, a hard-working, blue collard DE with a mean streak.
6. Devin Taylor, South Carolina, 6’6 260: 3rd Round
-Taylor will get recognition based on his effort and upside alone. He constantly forces pressure, and is always around the ball. However, Taylor is the true definition of a ‘tweener. He’s athletic and has the look of a speed rusher in a 3-4, but has zero experience dropping into coverage. He could put on some weight and stay as a DE in a 4-3, but would the weight gain cause him to lose his explosiveness of the line?
7. Wes Horton, USC, 6’5 265: 3rd Round
-Horton isn’t flashy, but he gives you great effort on every play. He’s a less than average pass rusher, but he’s very consistent against the run. He doesn’t have the eye-popping stats and will be playing without Nick Perry for offenses to focus on. Horton is just an average athlete but due to his consistency should get a look in the middle rounds of the draft.
8. Malliciah Goodman, Clemson, 6’4 280: 4th Round
-Goodman will enter this season as the leader on a young defensive line that has put several of its memebers in the NFL in recent season. Goodman is sort of Jack-of-all trades, but master of none. He has good size to play in the 4-3, and is strong against the run and can play on all three downs. However, he’s not a dynamic pass rusher, which is apparent by is only two sacks and 2 tackles for losses last season.
9. Margus Hunt, SMU, 6’8 288: 4th Round
-Hunt has measurable that are literally off the chart. At 6’8 280, Hunt has a wingspan of 82” and a vertical of 36”. By far his best quality is his length which is evident by his 7 blocked kicks in 2009. The former track star from Estonia is still raw as a pass rusher on the field and lacks a variety of moves. Hunt is still defining his technique especially against the run. Due to his height and can get too high in his stance and lose his balance. However, due to his sheer size and athletic ability he will be compelling to some teams this draft.
10. Datone Jones, UCLA, 6’4 275: 4th Round
-What makes Jones so compelling as a prospect is his enormous upside. He’s very athletic and very long and looks the part of a DE, but also has the ability to play in the 3-4. Would like to see more consistency as far as pass rushing is concerned, but with his strength and NFL size, Jones has a chance to be something special if he can put it all together. Jones is a high effort guy who is very solid against the run, and can get around OTs with his speed.
11. Craig Roh, Michigan, 6’4 280: 4th Round
-Roh is a former LB who added weight and muscle and made the transition to defensive line. He has a solid skill set and should be comfortable in either the 3-4 as a 5-tech, or in the 4-3. Roh is very physical and strong at the point of attack. He seems to be around every play and plays with a high motor. At time he can play out of control and will over pursue at times.
12. Damion Square, Alabama, 6’3 286: 4th-5th Round
-Square is the ideal 5-tech in the 3-4. He eats up space and will cause havoc for offensive lineman. He clogs up running lanes and I like the fact he can play all three down. He will never make highlight reel plays, but he’s an overall solid prospect.
13. Brad Madison, Missouri, 6’4 265: 5th Round
14. Cameron Meredith, Nebraska, 6’4 260: 5th Round
15. Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky: 6th Round
16. Pete Massaro, Penn State, 6’4 265: 6th Round
17. John Youboty, Temple, 6’4 258: 6th Round
18. Lavar Edwards, LSU, 6’4 258: 7th Round
19. David Bass, Missouri Western State, 6’3 262: 7th Round
20. Nathan Williams, Ohio State, 6’3 249: 7th Round
21. Tourek Williams, Florida International, 6’3 262: 7th Round
22. TJ Fatinikun, Toledo, 6’2 250: PFA
23. Quinton Dial, Alabama, 6’5 304: PFA
24. Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame, 6’4 306: PFA
25. Walter Stewart, Cincinnati, 6’3 249: PFA
26. Izaan Cross, Georgia Tech, 6’5 298: PFA
Recap: (Virginia Tech)
27. Sean Proger, Northern Illinois, 6’3 255: PFA
28. Ben Obaseki, Indiana State, 6’2 260: PFA
29. Chancey Aghayere, LSU, 6’4 265: PFA
30. Willie Jefferson, Stephen F. Austin, 6’5 235: PFA
Sam Montgomery, LSU, 6’5 260
Barkevious Mingo, LSU, 6’4 240
Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas, 6’4 250
Corey Lemonier, Auburn, 6’3 242
James Gayle, Virginia Tech, 6’3 256
William Gholston, Michigan State, 6’6 278
Bjoern Warner, Florida State, 6’4 256
Ronald Powell, Florida, 6’3 244
Stansly Maponga, TCU, 6’2 265
Kareem Martin, North Carolina, 6’5 260
Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports