2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Defensive End Rankings

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2014 NFL Draft Defensive End Rankings

NFL Draft
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 college football season is only a few weeks away, but the NFL draft season never ends. I have used the past few weeks to go back and study as much as I can on draft eligible prospects from 2012 and creating my initial positional rankings for each position. As the 2013 season progresses, these rankings will be updated and change because they are obviously fluid. As players show more or less about their games, they will move up and down. It’s important to keep in mind that simply because one player is ranked third and another eighth, the distance between those players might not be so great as the gap between the eighth and 10th-ranked player. Once the season winds down, I will provide more in-depth looks at my player rankings.

Also, keep in mind this list includes underclassmen, and those included are just based on my opinion on who is most likely to declare. Again, this will be fluid as juniors and redshirt sophomores make their intentions known. For now, I have included the top underclassmen at each position where I think they fall compared to the top seniors.

This time we take a look at defensive ends. It's difficult to lump all defensive end prospects into a single list because of the myriad of defensive fronts both college and the NFL employ. Many college defensive ends are undersized and might not project to a defensive end at all. And depending on whether an NFL franchise runs a base 4-3 defense or a base 3-4 they will value these linemen differently. As the season progresses I will break my rankings up among traditional 4-3 ends, 5-technique 3-4 defensive ends, and even 3-4 rush outside linebackers. But for now, let's take a look at my top 20 overall defensive end prospects for the 2014 NFL draft.

Curt covers the NFL draft for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard and on Google+.

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Defensive Ends 6-20

NFL Draft
Jason Watson-USA TODAY Sports

6. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

7. Trent Murphy, Stanford

8. James Gayle, Virginia Tech

9. Morgan Breslin, USC

10. Dominque Easley, Florida

11. Taylor Hart, Oregon

12. Ed Stinson, Alabama

13. Chris Smith, Arkansas

14. Josh Mauro, Stanford

15. Will Clarke, West Virginia

16. Ryne Giddins, USF

17. Trevor Reilly, Utah

18. Larry Webster, Bloomsburg

19. Jason Ankrah, Nebraska

20. Kerry Huder, Texas Tech

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5-Kareem Martin, North Carolina

NFL Draft
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Martin shows flashes at times of a first round pick, but he has lapses where he allows plays that someone as talented as him should not. If he can improve his effort and play faster, he has a chance to really improve his draft stock.

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4-Scott Crichton, Oregon State

NFL Draft
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Crichton might end up projecting more as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but his skill set is solid. He does a nice job with his hand on the ground, showing the ability to hold the point of attack and turn the corner on the pass rush.

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3-Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame

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Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Some wouldn't consider putting a 5-technique defensive end this high, but I think Tuitt has a chance to be a very high pick next April if he continues to develop. His size would also give him the chance to move inside where his power would make him a fascinating defensive tackle prospect.

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2-Aaron Lynch, USF

NFL Draft
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

We haven't gotten to see Lynch play since his time at Notre Dame, but even then his potential was obvious. Lynch has impressive size and athleticism and plays with great energy as well as solid technique.

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1-Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

NFL Draft
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Clowney is the easy choice here and might be the only consensus top player at any position. His combination of size, speed and power is unmatched. Most consider him a lock to be a top 3 pick, with no. 1 overall not out of the question.

Clowney scouting snapshot