There are plenty of athletic, versatile pass rushers in this year’s draft, although with so many team’s switching their defensive philosophies (most notably Green Bay last year), it’s important to note where each “defensive end” ranks in his appropriate category.
Read on for the top 10 defensive ends in the 2010 NFL Draft:
Note: Both Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy would probably head the 3-4 rankings if they were to play an end at the next level, but since it is widely assumed that both will play inside at the next level, they are left out of these rankings.
Top Five 3-4 DE Prospects:
1. Jared Odrick (Penn State)
Odrick has excellent size and bulk to succeed at the next level, and possesses he versatility to work on the inside, or be an effective pass rusher and run-stopper on the outside.
He has solid athleticism, along with great strength and elite versatility.
Work ethic, consistency, and slightly questionable character are his main concerns, which could actually cause him to not be the first 3-4 defensive end off the board. From a talent perspective, however, few 3-4 ends have his range and skills.
2. Lamarr Houston (Texas)
There isn’t much not to like about Houston, as he has the same enticing versatility as Odrick, and can match his athleticism and motor.
Houston has excellent strength and has the ability to blow-up offensive linemen at the point of attack, taking great angles and using proper leverage.
His main knock is that he may be relying too much on his brute strength, passing over fundamental issues that he definitely needs work on. He’s also much smaller than Odrick, but is one of the more determined and competitive players in the entire draft.
3. Carlos Dunlap (Florida)
Some scouts suggest Dunlap could be used inside, but he is strictly an outside pass rusher, and probably doesn’t have the size to be an elite inside defender.
He does have the size and strength to be effective in either the 3-4 or 4-3 defensive scheme, however, while also possessing fantastic athleticism and ideal pass-rushing ability.
However, as great of a prospect as Dunlap is, his character and decision-making are a slight concern, stemming from a DUI back in December.
4. Corey Wootton (Northwestern)
Wooten has elite size, strength, and length, and is exactly the type of defensive end NFL teams look for when building their 3-4 lines.
He doesn’t appear to have elite run-stopping ability quite yet, but there’s no questioning his ability to terrorize opposing tackles and get to the quarterback. He’s not bad against the run, but his expertise is the use of his quickness and athleticism to break through the line and get to the quarterback.
He’ll need to improve his run defense to see major field time in his rookie season, but his vast potential will simply be too great to slip past the third round.
5. Alex Carrington (Arkansas State)
Carrington was severely under-hyped up until a few weeks ago, when he had a sensational Senior Bowl week and game.
He lacks ideal quickness and overall athleticism, but has outstanding size and strength, making him an ideal fit for a 3-4 scheme. While he doesn’t have the explosiveness you look for out of an NFL defensive, he does have good mechanics and sound fundamentals in rushing the passer, and should still be fairly effective in doing so at the next level.
Honorable Mention: Mike Neal, Arthur Jones, C.J. Wilson
Top Five 4-3 DE Prospects:
1. Derrick Morgan (Georgia Tech)
Without a doubt the top 4-3 defensive end prospect, Morgan has the perfect blend of size and athleticism for the next level.
Getting owned by Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga in his final game at Georgie Tech doesn’t help his cause, but then again, Bulaga is expected to be a first round pick, just as Morgan is.
Morgan is still an elite pass-rusher (11.5 sacks in 2009) with all the tools necessary to succeed at the next level. It would be an absolute shock to see him fall out of the first round.
2. Jason Pierre-Paul (South Florida)
Pierre-Paul has all the size and ability in the world to make an impact at the next level, and is an absolute freak, athletically.
But fundamentally, he is beyond raw, and he doesn’t have a ton of experience. On top of that, his sacks (6.5) aren’t an exciting number, and he also benefited immensely from having great help on the other side of the line.
While Pierre-Paul may, for the moment, be more hype than substance, his ability and potential still keep him very high in these rankings. His combine will likely only ensure he stays this high.
3. Carlos Dunlap (Florida)
See above in 3-4 rankings.
4. Everson Griffin (USC)
Griffin has excellent size and strength, and is very explosive, especially considering his mass. He put on extra weight in the past year, and while it was initially an issue, it doesn’t look like it has hurt him.
Griffin is a perfect example of a guy with a ton of talent that simply hasn’t meant expectations. It’s doubtful he’ll ever reach his ungodly high ceiling that scouts have laid out for him, but it’s also unlikely that he ends up being a failure at the next level.
He’s a great value in the first two rounds.
5. Greg Hardy (Ole Miss)
Hardy has great size and strength for the 4-3 scheme, and probably doesn’t have the overall athleticism or quickness to be an elite OLB in a 3-4 scheme despite actually having decent speed.
Hardy performed very well in 2009 despite playing just eight games, as he tallied 8.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. He shows a good burst and an excellent ability to penetrate the line and get to the quarterback.
Hardy has fallen after a disappointing (yet still productive) 2009 campaign, as he was drawing comparisons to Julius Peppers, and simply hasn’t been able to live up to the hype.
He could easily be one of those guys that came out after a “down” year, and just explodes onto the scene. Needless to say, Hardy is a fairly under-rated prospect, and could be a gem in the second or third round.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Graham, Corey Wootton, Brandon Lang