NFL quarterbacks won't like this class of pass rushers, but NFL general managers will like it very much. It's a strong group, both in terms of high-end talent and in terms of depth. As many as 10 defensive ends could be taken in the first two rounds.
1. Dion Jordan, Oregon, 6-6, 248. One front-office man said Jordan reminds him of Jason Taylor and Jevon Kearse. "Best defensive player I've seen," another longtime scout said. He is a highly athletic, long, wiry pass rusher with speed around the corner. He has a fast get-off, the ability to bend and natural body lean. His motor is nonstop. In college, Jordan was asked to do a lot besides rush the passer, including covering slot receivers, so it affected his pass-rush production. "He's going to be better in the pros than he was in college," a scouting director said. He is a good fit for a 4-3 as a defensive end or a 3-4 as an outside linebacker. Playing the run is not his strength, but he isn't a liability on run defense. Jordan is a former tight end who still could put on weight. He still is learning how to play defense. He has a shoulder issue that could knock him out of offseason work and affect his stock.
2. Barkevious Mingo, Louisiana State, 6-4, 241. His best fit would be as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, but he can play defensive end in a four-man front. Mingo doesn't have ideal size to play with his hand down, however. His rare athleticism, quickness and speed will translate to whatever position he plays. Some scouts are a little cautious about Mingo because he had only 41/2 sacks last season. In fact, one called him "overrated." But some team will bet on him. His lack of sack production wasn't always a reflection of how well he was playing. He often was double teamed, even though he was facing some of the best offensive tackles in the country, and some of the gimmicky offenses LSU faced weren't conducive to sacking the quarterback. "He's just a puppy," a front-office man said. "He'll get bigger and stronger, and his best ball is ahead of him. Mingo has top intangibles, and he should be able to transition to the NFL quickly, even though he came out of school early.
3. Ezekiel Ansah, Brigham Young, 6-5, 271. This is one of the most interesting prospects in the draft. Ansah has been playing football for only three years. He was recruited from Ghana to be a 200-meter runner in track at 235 pounds, and his dream was to play basketball. Once in Utah, he was persuaded to try football. He started as a special teams player, and was a phenomenon on coverage and return units because of his speed (4.56 40-yard dash), size and intensity. "He might be the fastest guy on their defense," one high-ranking executive said. NFL teams didn't even know who he was before the 2012 season. He just became a starter during the 2012 season and has started only nine games in his life. He has only 41/2 career sacks. Ansah is very raw. "Clueless" is how one scout described him as a player. "He is years away from where other college players are in terms of football knowledge and instincts," a scouting director said. He has been compared to Jason Pierre-Paul. There is no doubt Ansah has the potential to be a bust. He also might have the potential to be a 10-time Pro Bowler. Ansah likely will need some time to learn and develop before he hits his stride. Ansah played all over the field at BYU and could be a versatile NFL player as well. He has the power to be used as a three-technique tackle.
4. Bjoern Werner, Florida State, 6-3, 266. He is a powerful pass rusher who goes all out to get to the quarterback, and he got to the quarterback quite a bit in college before leaving with a year of eligibility remaining. His coaches and teammates love this native of Germany who came to the U.S. as a foreign-exchange student. He is a leader and he plays smart. He seems to have a knack for pass rush despite playing until he was 15. His workouts have been unspectacular, and his athletic traits are not outstanding. He sometimes gets engulfed by big blockers, but he eats up inferior competition. One scout calls him a "poor man's Jared Allen." Another predicts Werner will be good for between eight and 10 sacks a season. He said he would not label him an elite pass rusher. Werner has a medical issue that could affect his draft stock.
5. Margus Hunt, Southern Methodist, 6-8, 277. His combination of size and athleticism is "freakish," according to one scouting director. Hunt can play in any scheme. He also can play other sports. In fact, he won gold medals in shot put and discus in the 2006 World Junior Championships for his native Estonia. He didn't start playing football until 2009, and he still is learning to play. He has a quick get-off and long arms. He can generate excellent power on bull rushes. Hunt is a very inconsistent player who flashes ability but then disappears. His ability to redirect is not very good. Even if he takes awhile to develop as a defensive end, he should be a valuable special teams player from the start. He blocked 16 kicks in his college career. He has as much potential as almost any player in the draft, but he also is a risk to be a bust.
6. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M, 6-5, 250. He has the size, strength and production to be in the discussion as a first-round pick. Moore can be a defensive end in a 4-3 or an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He has speed off the edge. He has the strength to hold the point, and he has good instincts against the run. He's around the football a lot, and makes hustle plays. Many of Moore's sacks came from inside rushes. Moore did not help himself with NFL teams in the postseason. He did not work out well and he interviewed poorly. One scout said he didn't look like he was in good shape. As a result, he lost some steam.
7. Datone Jones, UCLA, 6-4, 283. Teams that have a three-man front will like Jones as a five-technique defensive end. He has played defensive end and defensive tackle. Jones has some initial quickness, and he plays hard. He knows how to rush the passer and uses a variety of moves. One front-office man considers him a power rusher. Jones doesn't have blazing speed off the edge. He plays a little upright at times. "He is solid and very active, but he doesn't have outstanding athletic traits," he said.
8. Sam Montgomery, Louisiana State, 6-3 262. He is a power rusher who plays with excellent intensity. Montgomery has a stronger upper body and great punch. He controls offensive linemen with his hands and is good at shedding blocks. It's difficult to run at him. He produced more than his teammate Mingo, but he isn't as athletic or as fast. He is slow to react, and it takes him awhile to change directions. Montgomery has a different personality, but he was well-liked at LSU. Montgomery would fit in any scheme and should be ready to contribute early despite coming out of school with eligibility remaining.
9. William Gholston, Michigan State, 6-6, 281. He is one of the most gifted defensive linemen in the draft, but it doesn't always show up on tape. "He leaves a lot of production on the field," one national scout said. Gholston has an outstanding frame. He can defend the run and rush the passer. He can out-quick blockers, and he can overpower them. Some question how committed and focused he is. Said another front-office man, "If he gets his mind right and wants to really work, he could become one of the steals of the draft." Gholston could have benefited from staying at Michigan State for his senior season. He is the cousin of former Jets first-round pick Vernon Gholston.
10. Tank Carradine, Florida State, 6-4, 276. Carradine was having a fine season until he tore his ACL in November. He got to the quarterback about as well as any player in the country. He is a tough, hard-charging pass rusher with some straight-line speed. He has a knack as an edge rusher but is a little stiff athletically. "He's real strong and nasty," one area scout said. "He is a bull in a china shop as a rusher." NFL front-office men say Carradine's torn ACL probably will cost him a full round in the draft. He has not been able to work out for teams. He probably will have to start the season on the physically unable to perform list, and he might not even be able to play as a rookie. Carradine was a junior-college transfer and isn't the most experienced. He did not become a starter until last season. Whoever picks him is going to have to be patient.
11. Corey Lemonier, Auburn, 6-4, 255. He has an excellent frame to go with excellent athletic traits. He gets around blockers with speed and hustle. He can jolt blockers and he is an explosive hitter. Lemonier had a down season and then left school early. He helped himself running a 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine. One scout said Lemonier is an upright rusher who does not bend well or turn the corner. He does not always play instinctively. He also is a consideration at outside linebacker for 3-4 teams. He has the potential to develop.
12. Cornelius Washington, Georgia, 6-4, 265. He is a strength and power rusher who looks the part, but he had only a half-sack his senior season. One veteran talent evaluator labeled him an enigma. "He works out well but doesn't have a lot of production," he said. Washington vertical jumped 39 inches, broad jumped 10-8 and ran the 40 in 4.53 seconds at the combine. His instincts are questionable and he has been susceptible to low blocks. Another scout said Washington runs past ball carriers. But he flashes enough ability to intrigue the NFL. "He is an athletic freak kind of guy," the scout said. He may be more of an athlete than a football player. Washington can rush from defensive tackle on nickel downs.
13. Alex Okafor, Texas, 6-5, 264. He is well built for the position, and he has NFL strength. Okafor has a good motor and he uses his hands well. He can come off a block and make a tackle against the run. His speed and burst are average, and his workout was not very impressive. Okafor's consistency was up and down, but he had some great flashes. One front-office man questions if Okafor has the athleticism to drop in coverage as a linebacker in a 3-4. He has played some defensive tackle.
14. Devin Taylor, South Carolina, 6-7, 266. With his height, long arms (87-inch wingspan) and speed, Taylor has real potential. He probably isn't quite ready for prime time, however. He has been described as having "little play strength" by one scout. Another said, "The game is not natural to him." He needs to put on weight and learn the nuances of the game. Taylor underachieved in college, and his sack numbers went down every year from the 71/2 he had as a sophomore. Then at the East-West Shrine Game, he "looked like Deacon Jones," according to a scouting director. His stock has risen in recent months.
15. Malliciah Goodman, Clemson, 6-4, 276. He is a powerful, well-built end who can run. Goodman plays with an attitude. His athleticism on tape is average despite an impressive workout. He is slow off the ball and isn't very fast off the edge. Scouts would have liked to have seen him make more plays. He had seven sacks during the regular season, and then put up three against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. "He is still learning to be a football player," said a talent evaluator.
16. Michael Buchanan, Illinois, 6-6, 255. The Homewood-Flossmoor grad fires off the ball exceptionally well but sometimes gets knocked off track too easily. Buchanan changes directions very fluidly. He uses his hands well. He has an unusual body type with a long torso and short legs. As a result, leverage has been an issue. He needs to get stronger. Buchanan comes close to making a lot of plays but just misses. A college scouting director said he thinks Buchanan will be a rotational player in the NFL. After breaking his jaw in a brawl last summer, Buchanan dropped weight and did not have an impressive senior season.
17. John Simon, Ohio State, 6-2, 257. He plays physically and with great energy. Teammates feed off him. Nobody outworks or out-prepares Simon. He has been labeled an overachiever by NFL evaluators. He isn't a dominant player, but he's the type of guy you want on your side. "With the way he plays, it will be hard to keep him off the field," a scout said. "You can't have two or three like him, but you want one like him," he said. He uses excellent technique and knows how to defeat a block. He is not very explosive off the edge, and he can be attacked in coverage. One front-office man said he might be best as a stand-up outside linebacker for a 3-4 team. He compared Simon to Jarrett Johnson of the Chargers.
18. Trevardo Williams, Connecticut, 6-1, 241. NFL teams wanted to make him a linebacker, but scouts don't believe Williams can do that. Instead, he is likely to be used as a pass-rush specialist. He can put the quarterback on the ground, but he is not built like a pass rusher is supposed to built. He is a little reminiscent of Robert Mathis or Dwight Freeney. "He is a sawed-off guy who can really rush the passer," one general manager said. "He's just so short." Williams has good measurables for a defensive end and production as a pass rusher. His speed is outstanding, and he has a great first step. He can get underneath the pads of big offensive tackles and use his speed, strength and agility to turn the corner. His ability to defend the run at the NFL level is questionable.
19. Joe Kruger, Utah, 6-6, 269. He has a good frame to play base end in a 4-3. Kruger plays with good strength and is a smooth athlete with can finish a play. He plays with passion. He is a similar prospect to his brother, former Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger, who recently signed with the Browns. But Paul is more athletic. Joe plays too upright at times and gets blocked too easily.