2011 NFL Draft: The Top 5 Defensive Ends in the NFL Draft


Defensive end (including the DE/OLB tweener) position is the deepest position in this year's draft. There are easily 10 first round talents in this defensive end class. Unfortunately for several of these stud sacking machines, there simply isn't enough room for all of them in one round.

Without further adieu, the five top prospects who are guaranteed to go in the first round.

1. Robert Quinn: DE, UNC

Before we jump into why Quinn is the most talented DE in the draft, it needs to be pointed out that any of these guys could go first in their class. It also should be added that taking Quinn as the first DE off the board is extremely risky as the guy didn't even play last year!!! It's difficult to fathom how a someone who was suspended and didn't play a single down could go in the top 10.

Suspended for receiving improper tutor benefits and roughly 5,000 dollars worth of benefits, Quinn will have to prove he can overcome another hurdle. He's already been through a lot. In high school the quiet but confident Quinn was diagnosed with a brain tumor and told he wouldn't be able to continue playing. That didn't stop him from becoming one of the nation's top pass rushers. Did a year away hurt his stock? Doesn't look like it.

Strengths:

The 2009 First-Team All-ACC award recipient and Second-team All-American ranked first in the ACC and 15th in the nation in tackles for a loss with 19. He was also 16th in the nation in sacks with 11. According to NFL Network draft authority Mike Mayock, Quinn is "as good a natural pass rusher as I've ever seen."

Quinn possesses a mix of speed and power that few others have. Some say his ability to use both pure speed rushes and bull rushes reminds them of Dwight Freeney. Pretty high praise for the UNC end, let's see if he can live up to the hype.

Weaknesses:

Obviously its his character concerns, which are slightly mitigated by the fact that he has the fight, heart and determination to overcome a brain tumor and return to such a high level. Otherwise there are relatively few flaws in his game.

Combine Stats:

He didn't "blow up" the combine as some were expecting/hoping but he certainly didn't disappoint much either. It looks like from a purely athletic standpoint that Quinn is worthy of a top 10 pick and is raring to go. The question always remains whether combine stats and workouts translate to on the field, a concern of particular note for Quinn. Nevertheless, he should be a top 10-15 pick.

Combine Invite: Yes
Height: 6040
Weight: 265
40 Yrd Dash: 4.62
20 Yrd Dash: 2.67
10 Yrd Dash: 1.61   
Vertical Jump: 34
Broad Jump: 09'08"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.40
3-Cone Drill: 7.13
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 22

2. Cameron Jordan, DE University of Cal

Cameron impressed scouts in an area that usually hurts fellow draftees and where few succeed: team interviews.  Teams raved about Jordan's personality, intelligence and character and teams - especially those that use complex schemes and packages -  will consider Jordan even more highly after having the chance to sit and meet with him.

Strengths:

One aspect of Jordan's game that teams especially liked was his versatility and willingness to be coached. A desire to learn and improve gives coaches more confidence in moving players around and utilizing them to find their best strengths. DeMarcus Ware is a prime example.

In college Jordan had experience at both the five-technique defensive end spot in a 4-3 base defensive as well as snaps at multiple positions in a 3-4 defense.. Jordan might not have the explosive step of some of the other DE's but it's his power and strength in his legs that allows him to keep fighting and never be pushed out of a play. With a relentless motor, Jordan is one of those second-effort pass rushers who often makes a lot of tackles on busted plays and in cleanup situations.

Weaknesses:

Jordan doesn't have blazing speed so he will probably won't ever develop into a pass rush specialist. His sacks will come on second attempts and when the quarterback tries to break containment. He also had a DUI back during his freshman season, but that seems to be aberration and a one time silly mistake.

Combine:

Jordan will probably fall anywhere between 15 - 25 although don't be surprised if he nears the top 10.

Used for this whole series, here are his draft stats provided by nfldraftscout.com:

Combine Invite: Yes
Height: 6041
Weight: 287
40 Yrd Dash: 4.74
20 Yrd Dash: 2.72
10 Yrd Dash: 1.64   
Vertical Jump: 31
Broad Jump: 09'09"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.37
3-Cone Drill: 7.07
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 25

3. J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin

The guy packs more lights than the lighting fixtures on game day.

J.J. Watt meant everything to Wisconsin's defense this year. He was their emotional leader, the Badger's MVP, the 2010 Lott Impact Trophy Award Winner, an AP and SI second-team All American and a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection. On top of that he led his team in tackles for a loss, forced fumbles, blocked kicks and sacks. Watt is probably haunted by the fact that he only finished second in tackles and wasn't the teams leading rusher, receiver or quarterback.

Oh and he was a Academic All-American as well. What can't he do?

Strengths:

See above. Watt has high energy, a relentless motor and unrivaled passion for the game. What separates him from the excited walk-on at the end of the bench is that he can tackle and constantly make momentum-swinging plays.

Weaknesses:

Watt isn't particularly fast. At 6'5 290 lbs. he is more of the traditional 4-3 prototype lineman. Unlike Jordan and others, you won't see Watt moonlight as a 3-4 pass rushing specialist. Instead Watt uses his strength and leverage to occupy blockers and hold the line. While he was sixth all-time at Wisconsin in sacks, he is equally as good in run support.

Because of his lack of athleticism, Watt has survived on technique and athleticism. The question remains to be answered as to whether that will be enough at the next level.

Combine Stats:

Watt should probably fall somewhere in the 16-32 range. Definitely a first round talent but probably not elite enough for the top half of the first round.

Combine Invite: Yes
Height: 6053
Weight: 290
40 Yrd Dash: 4.81
20 Yrd Dash: 2.71
10 Yrd Dash: 1.64  
Vertical Jump: 37
Broad Jump: 10'00"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.21
3-Cone Drill: 6.88
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 34

4. Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue

Kerrigan is J.J. Watt 2.0. Not quite as impressive as Watt, Kerrigan has spent his whole career similarly trying to shed the effort label. He did a good job of it at the combine, after he turned in the second fastest 40 time for DE's.

Suddenly Purdue had 23 scouts at their Pro Day all coming to see if Kerrigan is for real. Word is, Kerrigan impressed there too.

Strengths:

Kerrigan like Watt relies on his energy and determination to accumulate stats. He never quits on a play and always ends up making or assisting on a tackle during a play in which he should have been long since out of. Kerrigan was awarded for his efforts receiving the 2010 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (Coaches), the 2010 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year (Coaches), First team All-Big Ten (Coaches and Media) and runner up for the Ted Hendricks Award for the Nation's outstanding defensive end.

Weaknesses:

Kerrigan's attempts to shed the stigma that he relies exclusively on determination and energy has proven more difficult than for Watt because while they share the same position, Kerrigan is significantly lighter than Watt standing at 6'4 265 lbs. Giving up 30 pounds to Watt - and more importantly offensive linemen - will make it difficult to convince some scouts he can succeed at the next level.

Combine Stats:

That being said, Kerrigan should find a home in the later first round.You can only find so many faults with a guy before his stats and off the field production can no longer be ignored.

Combine Invite: Yes
Height: 6037
Weight: 267
40 Yrd Dash: 4.67
20 Yrd Dash: 2.72
10 Yrd Dash: 1.61  
Vertical Jump: 33 1/2
Broad Jump: 10'02"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.39
3-Cone Drill: 7.18
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 31

5. DaQuan Bowers, DE Clemson

What a difference a few months can make in the fickle minds of NFL draft scouts. Not long after the season ended, DaQuan Bowers, the Nagurski and Hendricks award winner (given to the best defensive lineman and best overall defensive player respectively) was widely touted as the presumptuous number one pick. But after electing to undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, Bowers' stock has plummeted. First, he didn't participate in the combine to allow for his knee to heel despite Bowers saying his knee was 100 percent healthy. Then Bowers pushed back his pro-day workout by more than a month, which set off alarms among NFL teams. To make matters worse, his workout was only average at best. Now Bowers is facing the prospect of sliding into the teens or even further.

Strengths:

If healthy, Bowers is the best defensive player in football. The 2010 ACC Defensive Player of the Year had a standout season finishing second on Clemson in tackles (63) and leading Clemson in tackles for a loss (24), sacks (15.5) and quarterback pressures (17). If his knee does heal, whoever gambles on Bowers is getting a potential 10 year pro-bowl player.

Weakness:

His knee. Plain and simple. Bower's health is the only thing that is preventing him from being the next Julius Peppers. The scary part is that there are whispers that some teams legitimately believe his injury could be career threatening.

 

Combine Stats: NA

His Pro Day results (below) are troubling. 4.92 in the 40 is damagingly slow. Bowers is in for a long draft night. Unless someone (say the Lions) takes a flier on him, Bowers will drop 15-20 spots from where he was a few months ago.

Dates: 04/01/11
Height: 6033
Weight: 280
40 Yrd Dash: 4.92
20 Yrd Dash: 2.89
10 Yrd Dash: 1.76    225 Lb. Bench Reps:
Vertical Jump: 34 1/2
Broad Jump: 09'02"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.57
3-Cone Drill: 6.98


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