April 18, 2012

2012 - Defensive End Prospects

The next group of prospects is the Defensive Ends. There is no real need at this position. With Doom locking down one spot and Ayers at the other an early round DE would need to be an upgrade over Ayers. That is easier said than done. But there is always a need for quality pass rushers on our team. Plus we could use depth and a development player to rotate in. I have selected 7 guys I think we may take a look at. Most are early round guys that have a lot of talent and could contribute early. Then I have included a few later round prospects that could be developed into starters.

The type of defensive end that I look for are the bigger super athletic guys. Michael Strahan, Simeon Rice and Julius Pepper are the guys I model defensive ends I want after. The problem is the college game has changed to a more faster, flowing game with smaller defensive ends that can also play outside linebacker and drop into coverage. So it is hard to find those 6-5+ 280 pound monsters to play on the outside. Most of these guys are in that 6-3 260 pound range. The important question is are the pro teams going to do the same? Probably not. These guys are still seen as tweeners and more outside linebackers in a 3-4 than defensive ends. But what good teams do is project whether these guys can get get bigger and stronger to play on all three downs. That is one of the things I will be trying to do while reviewing these guys.

Scouting the Defensive Ends
As I said above I like my defensive ends big. The closer to 6-6 and 280 the better. The numbers for these guys can say a lot about their ability and potential but you need to watch out for those 'Vernon Gholston' types. In the 40 time you want to see the big guys move fast, under the 4.8s and 4.9s range. The 10 yard split is also important, you want to see prospects run the 10 yards very fast, the closer to 1.50s the better. This shows the player has good explosion off their first step. The 3 Cone Drill I probably overrate too much when reviewing the prospects. It is said that if you can run the 3 Cone drill in under 7 seconds you can rush the passer in the NFL. Therefore a prospect has to hit that 7 second mark or I will question their potential. The Bench is not so important but you like to see guys throw up close to 30 reps. The higher the vertical and broad the better. Same can be said for arm length and hand size. These guys need long arms to versus the opposing offensive tackles.

On tape you are looking for these guys to be a dominate force and make plays in the backfield. You want to see guys set the edge and be productive in run support. When rushing the passer you want to see the player use a number of rushing moves, rip, swim, spin, bull rush etc or whether they are a one trick pony. You want to see them come around the edge fast and locate the ball, can they beat the offensive tackle. Are they fast off the ball and strong at the point of attack. This and a many other things, on to the prospects.

Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
Height: 6-4. Weight: 261.
40 Time: 4.63. Official: 4.68 secs. 10-Yd Split: 1.56.
3 Cone Drill: 7.17 secs
20 YD Shuttle: 4.53 secs.
Bench: 27 reps.
Vertical: 32. Broad: 9-10. 118.0 inch
Arm Length: 33 7/8.
Hand Size: 9 1/4.
Projected Round (2012): 1.

Whitney is an early entry junior who red-shirted as a freshman and started only one year in 2011 at Illinois. He played the weakside end at Illinois and would be best served there in a 4-3 defense in the NFL. He has third-round value but could ascend if he times well in pre-draft workouts and continues to show his athletic ability.

Mercilus' startling 2011 season sent scouts scrambling to learn more about him, and the news was better than expected. After two mediocre seasons at Illinois, Mercilus used cat-like moves to become an All-American and win the Ted Hendricks Award as the best defensive end in the country. He led the nation with 16 sacks, nine forced fumbles and had 22.5 tackles for a loss. Of all his statistics, forced fumbles is the one that many scouts admire most.

"I just have a knack for it," he said. "Throughout the game I was able to watch the quarterback's movements and just see him open up and then I just go in there and just knock it away."

Scouts gush a list of positives traits, including quickness, agility, strength, instincts, condition, attitude … and he is just beginning to mature and could be a great outside linebacker. Reaching for comparisons, they mention names like Simeon Rice, Dwight Freeney, Richard Dent, and even the great Reggie White.

The U.S.-born son of parents who emigrated from Haiti in the 1980s, Mercilus played mostly soccer until high school. His 2011 season had an auspicious beginning when he lost the tip of his left index finger last spring in a weight-room accident. Teammates were shocked when he light-heartedly dismissed the injury as only a bother when he played the keyboard or tried to pick up coins.

Whitney is a fast, athletic defensive end who is quick off the snap and has a good burst to close on the quarterback. He is a situational rusher who excels against the run and brings the versatility to run to the flats at his size. Whitney is able to quickly get off the snap and engage into his man's frame. He excels in pursuit down the line of scrimmage and is a high motor player. He attacks the line of scrimmage with a vengeance and employs a number of pass-rush moves; he can win at the next level with his speed rush.

Whitney's feet are slowed by his instincts as he oftentimes gets caught looking into the backfield and hesitates when diagnosing the run. He can get occupied by bigger, stronger blockers and tends to shut it down completely in these looks. He is more quick than explosive. He is a drag-down tackler who relies on his body weight and is inconsistent in his wrap-up form.

Pass rush: Very active and plays with top effort on every snap. Moves all around the defensive line, lining up off the edge and inside at defensive tackle. Has the natural speed to win the edge and closes in a flash. Attacks gaps and is a pesky rusher, finding ways to squirm into the backfield. Hard player to block cleanly. Plays with a fighting mentality and has the violent hand usage to battle through the trash and make the play. Hustle player with a nonstop motor. Tends to play high and doesn't worry much about technique or fundamentals. Still developing his snap anticipation and will jump offside at times.

Run defense: Lacks an obvious power element to his game and struggles to shed blocks on run plays. Doesn't consistently set the edge and will over run his responsibilities. Still developing his recognition skills and instincts. Struggles to consistently locate the ball and will get caught out of position at times.

Explosion: Fires off the snap with a first step burst that really stands out. A bit tight in the hips and straight-linish in his movements. Lacks great change-of-direction ability to explode laterally or smoothly redirect his momentum.

Strength: Has adequate build with very good length and overall measureables. Plays tough with the hand strength to rip the ball out and force fumbles. Lacks an ideal frame for the position and doesn't have the prototypical muscle definition. Lacks great bulk and doesn't have a lot of room to get much bigger.

Tackling: Physical in the trenches and doesn't try to avoid contact. Has long arms to wrap and wrestle ballcarriers to the ground. Takes pride in his ability to finish and complete tackles.

Intangibles: Has only one year of starting production under his belt, causing questions about being a "one year wonder" and was a relative unknown entering the 2011 season. Had above average production in 2011, leading the nation in sacks (16.0) and forced fumbles (9) and finishing second in tackles for loss (22.5) -- consistent production week-in and week-out as a junior in 2011. Decided to leave early to help his family financially (both his parents are immigrants from Haiti).

Mercilus featured his special speed and athletic ability at the Combine. He ran well, moved extremely well laterally in the field drills and had quality strength. Mercilus showed 3-4 teams that he can operate as an outside linebacker. Reports were that Mercilus performed well at his pro day. Between the Combine and his pro day, he has cemented his status as a first-round pick.

A typical game from Mercilus in 2011 featured a sack and a forced fumble. He led the nation in sacks and forced fumbles last year. The junior totaled 57 tackles with 22.5 tackles for a loss, 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles.

Mercilus showed no mercy this season to offensive tackles and quarterbacks. All year long, he beat tackles with a combination of speed, strength and athleticism. Against Ohio State's Mike Adams, one of the best offensive tackles Mercilus played this year, he beat Adams for 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Mercilus was tough on Wisconsin and its powerful offensive line with a sack-fumble on a bull rush through massive right tackle Josh Oglesby. Routinely, Mercilus plays with ideal pad level and body lean.

The early entry prospect is extremely fast and gets upfield in a hurry. His speed puts offensive tackles on their heels, and he has the athleticism to drop his hips and shoulder to turn towards the quarterback. Mercilus' strength can take linemen by surprise, and he has a powerful bull rush. In run defense, Mercilus anchors and holds his ground well. He needs to work on shedding blocks in order to be able to make more tackles in the ground game.

My Opinion: He is not as big as I would like but is very fast. He did have a slow 3 cone time and is a one year wonder. He is a little slow in his hips and dip. Has a compact body but could add more muscle and power in his legs as they are thin, strong torso though. He has Ok footwork, he comes across as a bit top heavy when moving in space. Has a good motor. He is not as fast in pads. He can be faked out by the offense. He is an Ok run defender, he is a little slow in his reads. He does struggle with blocks when the OT gets his hands on him. He is better when out wider where he can use his speed against OTs. He is not very quick coming off the snap. He probably needs to use his hands more and be violent but he is pretty strong when he gets under the OTs' pads.

He wasn't very dominate in any video I saw and was blocked out a lot. I think with his motor and speed out wide he was able to have good production sacking the QB but he offered nothing in the run game. I would stay away from him.

Nick Perry, DE, USC
Height: 6-3. Weight: 271.
40 Time: 4.50. Official: 4.64 secs. 10-Yd Split: 1.56.
3 Cone Drill: 7.25 secs.
20 YD Shuttle: 4.66 secs.
Bench: 35 reps.
Vertical: 38.5. Broad: 10-4. 124.0 inch.
Arm Length: 33.
Hand Size: 9 1/2.
Projected Round (2012): 1-2.

Nick Perry was a top defensive end recruit out of Detroit that Pete Carroll was able to cherry-pick to USC, and his impact playing the "elephant" position within Caroll's defense as a freshman will encourage many teams to consider drafting him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. As a sophomore and junior he continued to develop into an elite pass rushing prospect, and has the size and athletic ability to be successful working against NFL tackles at the next level. He is a physically put together athlete with a good motor and extremely uncommon balance, and has late first round value.

Perry opted for the draft after being named USC's Defensive Lineman of the Year following a 2011 season in which he led the Pac-12 in sacks with 9.5.

Considered a 'tweener who could be an outside linebacker or defensive end, Perry wants to play the latter. So he added more than 10 pounds of lean muscle since the season ended to convince scouts.

Still, many believe he projects as a stand-up linebacker in a 3-4 defense, despite not showing instincts to play in the open. His natural athleticism was on display at the Combine, where he had an unofficial 10-yard time of 1.57 seconds and showed tremendous explosion with a 38.5-inch vertical jump, a mark worthy of a good wide receiver.

Scouts would also like to see more hustle on plays away and/or better conditioning as he seems to fatigue in the fourth quarter. Perry was a prized recruit after he led Detroit's King High School to a 14-0 season and a 2007 state championship with 147 tackles and 36 sacks, a Michigan prep record.

Perry has a very strong base and balance that helps him work against tackles and keep momentum towards the backfield regardless of his initial move. He is reminiscent of current Pittsburgh OLB's Harrison and Woodley, players who can set the edge with a strong, powerful base and are capable of winning using a direct bull rush. Perry plays with good leverage in all that he does and has surprising athleticism for his size. He has a good burst off the ball and a natural feel for disrupting plays. He chases laterally down the line well and is a sound tackler when he reaches the ball. He can beat tackles with power or quick gap penetration, and has developed his hands and spin moves over time. He has fluid hips and feet in the open field and looks capable of playing from a two point stance in an outside position. He will be reliable even as a rookie to set the edge and defend the run with strength.

Perry can get tied up on double teams often and have trouble when working against lineman in a tight area. This would bode well for a move to outside backer, where he can rush with more space and better set up his pass rush moves. He is projected by many to move to OLB in the NFL, and it remains to be seen if Perry can cover and move well in space to the flats, as he wasn't asked to do it often at USC. Perry is a thick player but still a bit of a positional tweener, and doesn't quite have the strength of most defenders his size. He could have trouble against the bigger, stronger offensive tackles in the NFL who can neutralize his leverage and power.

Pass rush: Has very good first step quickness and does a nice job in space. Has the footwork, body control and fluidity to quickly change directions. Does a nice job elevating and getting his hands up to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage. Works hard to collapse the pocket with a relentless motor. Brings aggressive playing style on every snap and doesn't quit. Lacks elite size and length -- undersized and can be swallowed by larger blockers.

Run defense: Read/reacts quickly with good awareness and recognition skills to chase down the play from different angles. Understands leverage and does a nice job staying balanced, getting lower than blockers and underneath their pads, usually attracting holding penalties.

Explosion: A quick, flexible athlete with sharp burst off the snap. Shows the natural bend and coordination to dip his shoulder and consistently win the edge. Doesn't always time-up his explosion and isn't a sudden pass rusher.

Strength: Uses his powerful upper body and hands to force his way into the pocket. Does a nice job swatting blocker's hands/arms with his violent, active hands. Struggles to disengage at the point of attack and will never be the strongest on the field -- functional strength is a question mark.

Tackling: Plays smart and disciplined, staying at home and restraining from biting on fakes -- listens and applies coaching. Good hand strength to secure tackles. Lacks ideal arm length, but works hard to wrap and tackle through the ballcarrier.

Intangibles: Projects best as a stand up linebacker in a 3-4 scheme at the next level, but doesn't have much experience in this area and there could be a learning curve -- can he play with his hand on the ground at the next level? Lined up in both the two and three-point stance in college. Has good production on his resume, capping off his career with a strong junior season, leading the Pac-12 in sacks. Has questionable instincts when asked to drop in coverage. Appears fatigued late in games and needs to show better conditioning.

At the Combine, Perry showed up 15-20 pounds heavier than his listed weight in college. He illustrated that it was good weight as he had one of the better bench-press totals among the defensive linemen. Perry then blazed a ridiculously fast 40 time and showed explosion in the other drills.

In the field workouts at the Combine and his pro day, Perry looked rather stiff, and he doesn't seem like a good fit in a 3-4 defense at the next level. Perry could be forced into a 3-4, but he will need some time to learn the position and should drop some bulk to be more fluid.

Perry really improved his performance from 2010. He finished the 2011 season on on a tear, notching 5.5 sacks in four games. Perry battled well against Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin even though he didn't have a sack in the game. As the year wore on, Perry simply got better. He is lightning off the snap, and his speed to turn the corner and cut back to the inside overwhelms offensive tackles. Perry has a good repertoire of moves, and the only thing lacking from his game is more bulk and strength.

The redshirt junior totaled 54 tackles with 9.5 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and two passes batted in 2011. If Perry had decided to return for his senior season and continued to improve under Monte Kiffin before going pro, he could have been a high first-round pick in 2013.

My Opinion: He added bulk for the combine as he wants to play DE not OLB at the next level. He has all the numbers expect one, the 3 cone time but he did slip while doing it. He has a really long stride. His body is nice and filled out. He struggles with change of direction and turning around his hips. He is decent off the snap. He posses a strong bull rush and hands, plus he plays with good pad level. He is pretty good against the run. Is slower when running around, this could be due to his long stride when at top speed. He has a good motor. He is much bigger now than on tape. He has a nice spin move.

I like Perry. He was more disruptive than Mercilus as he had more hurries of the QB for my mind. He also was in on more plays and involved. I also don't see how people think he will fit in a 3-4. He is a 4-3 End for sure and could be a good one. Does he offer more than Ayers to come in and start straight away (as you would expect a first rounder to do) I doubt it. But he has some nice potential to be a productive 10 sack guy a year though I doubt he ever has Strahan or DeMarcus Ware type numbers.

Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall
Height: 6-3. Weight: 266.
40 Time: 4.85. Official: 4.98 secs. 10-Yd Split: 1.68.
3 Cone Drill: 6.90 secs.
20 YD Shuttle: 4.40 secs
Vertical: 32. Broad: 9-2. 110.0 inch.
Arm Length: 32 3/4.
Hand Size: 9 1/4.
Projected Round (2012): 1-2.

Curry has good value at the next level as a pass rushing specialist; he has posted 23 sacks in the past two years (heading into the team's 2011 bowl game) at Marshall after playing sparingly in his first year and a half. Curry is an explosive athlete who could be moved around depending on the type of defensive scheme of the team who selects him. Some may stand him up and have him play outside linebacker in a 3-4 where he can focus on purely rushing the quarterback each play. In the run game, he is effective and can set the edge nicely against an offensive tackle, but has a difficult time getting to the ball if he is engaged upon early. Curry has second-round value based off his athletic ability and sack production the past two years.

Here is that potential pass rusher with a knack for causing fumbles, which is one of the most valuable talents on defense.

Curry is strong and relentless off the edge, and so intent on getting to the passer that he is often too upright and vulnerable to a quick cut block. However, he can get down and dirty with a decent bull rush and uses his strong hands well.

Curry was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 when he had 11 sacks, seven forced fumbles and 22 tackles for a loss. After a great high school career, Curry went to Cincinnati's Harmony Community School in 2007 to prep for college.

He played only seven games as a true freshman, then began to show up as a sophomore and finished his career with 26 sacks, 49 tackles for a loss and 10 forced fumbles.

Curry is quick off the ball when he is focused on rushing the passer, and he can set up tackles nicely by leaning them one way and dipping the opposite. He understands how to set up and work his moves throughout the duration of the game to continue to get into the backfield and rush a quarterback. Once he gets a lane, he shows an amazing burst to finish the play and get to the quarterback. On run plays and against quarterbacks alike he is reliable once to the ball and can be explosive when meeting a ball carrier. He has polished technique at the position and uses his hand well to keep blockers at bay. Although he gives up size to NFL-caliber offensive linemen, he is able to hold his ground and set the edge when necessary to allow his linebackers to make plays. His natural athletic ability is evident and the key to every play that he makes.

Curry can struggle at times and look out of place in the run game. He understands his role in the defense, but once engaged he has a difficult time getting in on any action, as he has trouble locating the ball. If the play does not come to him right away from his quickness and ability, he has yet to show that he has the instincts to react and be involved late in the play once it is already away from him.

Pass rush: Relentless and strong off the edge as a pass rusher when fresh. Gets under the pads of tackles to bull rush them into the backfield. Gives second and third effort to reach the passer. Uses his hands to swim past linemen. Struggles to beat cut blocks with his hands. Inconsistent get-off, stands straight up into his blocker and does not shed later in games. Plays a bit out of control, loses his balance when trying to shake tackles. Challenge interior linemen with quickness and strong hands when lined up inside.

Run defense: Chase defender outside, has good closing speed and hustle to get to ballcarriers running to or away from him. Works through multiple blockers to get to the ball, or at least force plays to other defenders. May take a false step inside on zone reads, but generally stays at home to keep containment.

Explosion: Usually comes off the snap in a hurry and very strong from either side of the formation. May not beat NFL tackles as a pure speed rusher, but will challenge their upfield shoulder. Quick enough to take inside lane if tackle guesses on speed rush. His initial quickness lets up later in games.

Strength: Plays with intensity and a nice anchor even when giving up 40-50 pounds against most blockers. Shows pop as a bull rusher. Stands up well against the run when lined up at five-technique, but must prove he has the bulk and strength to handle NFL linemen one-on-one or double-teams before moving inside.

Tackling: Possesses NFL-caliber length and strength as a tackler. Makes backside plays with regularity when zone schemes leave him unblocked. Gives great effort, following the ball to either sideline no matter where he is lined up. Adds himself to piles as the third or fourth defender. Spins off piles inside and finds the ballcarrier to drag him down.

Intangibles: Team leader, younger players look up to him. Positive attitude in the locker room, works well with the media. Hustle on the field reflects work ethic off the field. No major off-field incidents. Could have entered the draft in 2011 as a potential top 100 pick, chose to return to "win a championship".

Curry disappointed at the Combine with a slow 40 time. That poor performance halted his momentum toward the first round. However, Curry bounced back with a strong pro day and reportedly ran much faster with a 40 of 4.69 seconds.

While other players like Coples, Ingram and Upshaw were the superstar defensive ends of the Senior Bowl, Curry put together an impressive week that really helped his draft stock. He had success going against highly-touted offensive tackle Mike Adams. The week started extremely well when Curry checked in at 6-foot-3, 265-pounds. For the majority of the past couple of seasons, he was viewed as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Curry still could play that position because of his raw speed and athleticism, but he showed the strength and size to be a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. Curry was a base end in a 4-3 defense in college, so he already has a lot of experience lining up with his hand in the ground. Everybody knew that Curry was a quality pass rusher, but he performed well against the run also. It was an impressive week that really should open some doors for him to 4-3 defenses.

Curry had 77 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, three blocked kicks and seven forced fumbles in 2011. He had a three sack game against Southern Mississippi. Before this year started, Curry added weight from the 2010 season, roughly 10 pounds, yet he still looked fast and explosive. Curry had to battle consistent extra blocking this year. Right now, his consistency from 2010 to 2011 has his stock moving up.

In today's NFL, teams cannot have enough pass rushers on the roster, pushing defensive ends up boards on draft weekend. Curry might benefit from this notion, but his performance at his pro day is the biggest reason for his draft stock boost. After very average numbers at the Combine last month, including a 4.92 time in the 40-yard dash, Curry improved on almost all of his numbers at Marshall's pro day. He ran a 4.64 and 4.69 in the 40-yard dash, telling those in attendance that he knew he was faster than the 4.9 time he ran in Indianapolis. Curry also produced very good results in the vertical jump (35") and bench press (28) after not lifting in Indianapolis because of a wrist injury. With a strong resume, including 22.0 tackles-for-loss and 11.0 sacks last year, and his strong workouts, it wouldn't be a shock to see Curry sneak into the initial 32 picks of the draft.

My Opinion: He had great production and solid numbers but isn't overly big and his arms are a little short. He is fast off the line. He is a pretty good reader of the play. He could show more urgency getting around the field. He is much slower off the snap when he has to read run first, takes him decades to make a decision. He has a strong bull rush and I didn't see much else. He doesn't hit real hard with any impact.

He is better than Mercilus but not Perry. With him like Perry I don't see him being an OLB, he is too stiff in the hips. He does need some work and to be developed before starting so he should not go in the first round. But in the second he could come in and contribute to this team.

Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson
Height: 6-4. Weight: 259.
40 Time: 4.62. Official: 4.70 secs. 10-Yd Split: 1.56.
3 Cone Drill: 7.19 secs
20 YD Shuttle: 4.25 secs
Bench: 19 reps.
Vertical: 32.5. Broad: 10-0. 120.0 inch
Arm Length: 34.
Hand Size: 9.
Projected Round (2012): 1-2.

Branch is a tall, physical and athletic defensive end who could be moved to outside linebacker for a 3-4 team. He possesses the pass rush ability to regularly beat NFL linemen and disrupt the passer, either standing up or with his hand on the ground. This scheme versatility and pass rush ability could help him to be selected as early as the late second round of this year's draft.

Branch is a raw, flashy, long-armed player with great closing speed, but still has a long ways to go if he wants to excel in the NFL. He arrived at Clemson as a highly-rated high school linebacker and lined up there occasionally in college, but was usually at the team's "Bandit" or right end spot.

He was selected first-team All-ACC in 2011 after leading Clemson in sacks (10.5) and tackles for a loss (17). He finished his career with 17.5 sacks and made at least one tackle in 41 consecutive games.

There is nothing fancy about Branch's game and he will probably best fit into an NFL defense that has a very specific role to take advantage of his exceptional straight-line speed, which was validated at the Combine with an unofficial 4.70-second clocking in 40 yards.

Branch is an athletic big man who has great flexibility, which he uses to dip around lineman and get in the backfield. He has an uncanny ability to defeat blocks and move around lineman, and the burst to close once there. He uses his hands well and sets the edge nicely when working in the run game. His ability to rush the passer is his shining trait and the primary reason for his value.

Branch is less effective defending the run than he is against the pass. He will play high at times and can get overpowered by two blockers, all the more reason why there are growing discussions of moving him to linebacker at the next level.

Pass rush: Inconsistent initial burst off the snap. Has enough explosiveness to cross the tackle's face and shows good flexibility to dip under the blocker's reach and turn the corner. Long arms and quick hands, though he hasn't yet shown the pass rush repertoire to take advantage of his natural tools. Good closing speed. Can chase down the quarterback and shows good lateral agility and balance to flatten out and chase the ball-carrier to the sideline.

Run defense: Lacks the bulk and strength to consistently hold up at the point of attack at this time. Comes off the snap too high and relies on his arm length, initial punch and good lateral agility to shuck and elude blockers. Too often is blown off the ball in short yardage situations.

Explosion: Possesses a legitimate blend of explosive speed and power which could result in much improved play with greater technique. Can beat lethargic offensive tackles off the snap with his burst. Good upper body power to stack and shed, as well. Some untapped potential in this area.

Strength: Can't hold up to the double-team, but has enough strength to occasionally set the edge. Good strength for the pull-down tackle, flashing the explosiveness to knock ball-carriers to the ground based on impact, alone. Will have to add another 10+ pounds to remain as a full-time defensive end for most four-man fronts.

Tackling: Shows some intriguing natural athleticism in this area. Has the agility and balance to break down in space and make tackles of smaller, elusive ball-carriers. Good straight-line speed and possesses a legitimate closing burst. Has to do a better job of wrapping his arms around the ball-carrier securely, as NFL-caliber backs may be able to run through his explosive hits. Needs to be more consistent with his effort and angles in pursuit.

Intangibles: Signed with Clemson as an outside linebacker and still plays the position occasionally for the Tigers (Georgia Tech). Earned the "12th Man Award" in 2009, as he finished among team leaders in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks despite not starting a game. Enjoyed a "breakout" game against Virginia Tech in which he recorded career highs in tackles (11), tackles for loss (six) and sacks (four).

Branch turned in an impressive Combine performance. It wasn't surprising as he looked like a fabulous athlete and speed player at Clemson. Branch is said to have performed well at his pro day too. His best fit in the NFL may be as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Branch had a strong senior season. He made 77 tackles with 17 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2011. Branch played well against Auburn in the third game of the year. He didn't fare well against Florida State left tackle Andrew Datko.

After that performance, Branch exploded against Virginia Tech with 11 tackles, six tackles for a loss and four sacks. He is a very good athlete who has excellent straight-line speed. Branch is very quick and agile, plus he closes in an instant.

My Opinion: He has long arms. He had good numbers overall but missed on the 3 cone. He needs to get bigger to play DE full time. He has a lean muscular body, he could definitely add more bulk. He has good hips and lateral movement, definitely better at this than the previous prospects. He did have Brandon Thompson next to him eating double teams to free up the pass rush (we need Thompson!). He is good off the snap. He reads the play well. He has good hand work. He is not strong enough to beat OTs with power. He has a great motor. He is decent in run support. Has a good rip move. He generally tries to beat his guy around the edge with speed. He can find the ball carrier in the back field. He can turn the corner.

Compared to the others I could see Branch being an OLB. You either pick him as an OLB as is or you bring him in as a DE and build his body. Either way I think he could be a very productive player at the next level and would love to have him on our team to develop and rotate in on passing downs early.

Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
Height: 6-5. Weight: 266.
40 Time: 4.85. Official: 4.87 secs.
3 Cone Drill: 7.07 secs
20 YD Shuttle: 4.38 secs
Bench: 22 reps.
Vertical: 35. Broad: 10-0. 120.0 inch
Arm Length: 35 1/2.
Hand Size: 9 3/4.
Projected Round (2012): 2.

Jones is an underclassman defensive end who has displayed good size and speed throughout his career at Syracuse. He suffered a knee injury that severely limited him in 2011 and will need to prove he's fully recovered throughout the pre-draft prospect to warrant the draft consideration that he's shown he's worthy of on the field. He should be selected somewhere in the third round. Though undersized, he is best served playing the end position in a 4-3 scheme.

Jones is undersized but finds numerous ways to overcome that shortcoming to be an effective end. He has the tools to stay on the line at the next level and work mostly out of a 5-technique position, as he excels at working in short areas and being a scrappy, active player in the box. He has a good wingspan and is a long strider, which gives him great range to run down outside runs. He uses his arms well to keep linemen at bay, and he displays good technique to defeat blocks through hand fighting. He is an effective tackler with a lot of range. Although Chandler tends to get upright immediately at the point of attack, he is a good pass rusher who plays to his strengths.

Jones is undersized and could have issues against stronger offensive tackles. He is a long strider who takes too many steps to get to full speed and looks lost at times when diagnosing run plays. He is an effective player when moving decisively, but he can be out of place at times on the defensive line. Once in the backfield, he has trouble readjusting his body to get a clear path and burst toward the quarterback.

Pass rush: Relies on hustle, vision and strength as a pass rusher. Times the snap well and has a good initial burst off the line. Lacks sustained speed around the corner, however, and will have a hard time beating NFL offensive tackles to the outside. Very long arms and an effective swim move, though he doesn't use this often enough. Good rip move. Good upper body strength and quick hands to knock away the blocker's attempts to control him. Good leg drive for the bull rush, though Jones struggles with pad level, at times. Very good vision and effort. Plays to the whistle.

Run defense: Good upper body strength and length to lock-out his opponent. Has at least moderate lateral agility to ride the block to the sideline and keep contain, though he's a bit stiff in changing directions and has only average speed, overall, for the position. Good vision to locate the football on the draw or QB scramble. Quick to break off his pass rush and pursue downfield. Recognizes the cut block but has only average balance overall to avoid it due to his high-cut frame.

Explosion: Possesses a quick burst off the line which is enhanced by his ability to time the snap count. Does not have the speed to turn the corner consistently. Good upper body strength to drive his opponent into the backfield on the bull rush but lacks true explosiveness to rock them back onto their heels. Is a wrap and drag down tackler more than an explosive hitter than ball-carriers need to fear.

Strength: Flashes upper-body strength to rip past blockers and lower-body strength to stand up to double-teams, but will need to get stronger and play with more leverage to succeed at the next level. Controlled on the line too often by strong-handed blockers. Good strength for the pull-down tackle as the ball-carrier is rushing past him.

Tackling: Good hustle and chase tackler. Goes down the line and gets back to help teammates wrap up ballcarriers downfield, though his limited speed means he can be left in the dust quickly. Long arms and good strength for the drag-down tackle from behind, though he will leave his feet and lunge, on occasion. Is not a quick-twitch athlete who can change directions in small spaces and thus, can be eluded. Relies on his long arms to catch the ball-carrier rather than the agility to corral them.

Intangibles: Suffered a knee injury in the 2011 season opener against Wake Forest. The injury caused Jones to miss five games but was not publicly defined. Team doctors will certainly want to take a closer look at the Combine … Took on more of a leadership role in 2011, taking extra time to help coach up teammates from every defensive position on the team's scheme and expectations. Athletic bloodlines. Has two brothers -- Arthur, a former all-conference DT at Syracuse and currently with the Baltimore Ravens and Jon, who has been the UFC light-heavyweight champ.

At the Combine, Jones had a disappointing performance with a slow 40 and a low bench-press total. He should stay as a second-day pick. Some are pushing Jones into the first round, but he looks like better suited in the second or third round.

Jones could have improved his stock if he had returned for another season, but he decided to enter the draft. As a redshirt junior this year, Jones totaled 38 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and one interception. However when you consider that he accumulated that in seven games, it looks much better.

Jones missed five games with a leg injury in the first half of the season, but he came back strong with four sacks in three games after returning to the lineup. Jones had four sacks as a sophomore, so he never had a season of big time production at the college level.

Jones has a nice combination of size and speed. He is physical with offensive linemen and understands leverage concepts. Jones also does a good job of getting underneath the pads of linemen to get pressure on bull rushes. Furthermore, he has good pursuit skills and a quality motor.

Typically, Jones tries to beat tackles with either his speed around the corner, or his strength on a bull rush. In the NFL, he is going to need to add some rip, spin and other pass-rushing moves. In college, Jones could live off his athletic ability, but in the NFL, he will need to expand his game.

Jones is a raw prospect, and the team that drafts him should expect some developmental time.

There's a script and Chandler Jones is sticking to it. Like so many hopeful NFL pass rushers, Jones has spent long days at a large training facility. He has been in Florida, alongside Andre Branch, Frank Alexander and others. Explosion is the focus. But that's not where Jones truly morphed into a potential first-round pick. For that, he points to the off-season before his final year at Syracuse. The 6-foot-5, 266-pounder had access to a training partner no other prospect has. Jon "Bones" Jones, the Ultimate Fighting Championship star. His brother. Their mixed martial arts workouts went beyond the bench press. "Some flying knees, punching, elbowing, throwing everything I can," Chandler Jones said. No player in this year's draft class has Jones' pedigree. One brother is the face of an entire sport. The other, Art Jones, is a defensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. Now, it's Chandler's turn. His helicopter, 35-inch wingspan and active hands stand out most. Jones says he has drawn interest from teams that use 4-3 and 3-4 schemes - he had workouts with the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars among others. Jones also met with the Green Bay Packers at the scouting combine. Thanks to "Bones," Jones' hands became weapons. "The way I was taught to play football, I was told there was a target I had to hit every snap," said Jones, who had 27 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in three seasons. "Looking at the target out of snap, my hands were a lot more fast. I was on that target before I could even think about being that fast. My hands got lightning fast and I'm excited to see them get even better.

My Opinion: He has great size for the position and monster arms. He has plenty of room to grow into his frame. He had decent college production. He has thin legs much like his brother. He has a very long and lanky frame. He looks like he could add a lot of bulk to it. He doesn't have the greatest footwork, this is probably due to his long stride. He is definitely a DE at the next level. He is a good tackler. He could be a little faster coming around the outside. He is Ok off the snap. He posses a great motor. He is pretty strong at the point of attack, strong enough for OTs. He needs more use of the hands. He is a disruptive player.

I am not going to lie to you I really want Jones. After following his brother for quite some time and watching him develop into one of the best MMA fighters in the world I hope Chandler can do the same. He is a development player and will need to be coached up. But he has the tools, with technique and another 20 pounds of muscle he could be a monster coming from DE. He might even be better served getting much bigger (290-300) and playing in the Under tackle (3-Tech) in the 4-3. There is just so many possibilities with Jones and he would be a tremendous development pick in the second round. I hope we snag him.

Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State
Height: 6-4. Weight: 275.
40 Time: 4.81. Official: 4.89 secs. 10-Yd Split: 1.62.
3 Cone Drill: 7.09 secs.
20 YD shuttle: 4.44 secs.
Bench: 28.
Vertical: 33. Broad: 9-5. 113.0 inch.
Arm Length: 33 3/4.
Hand Size: 9 1/2.
Projected Round (2012): 3-4.

Crawford ended up at Boise State by way of a junior college, proving himself an intriguing prospect after only one year starting for the Broncos at defensive end. He originally from Canada, where he played for a year after high school and prior to attending Bakersfield College. He has a ton of upside considering his play history, and posses prototypical NFL athletic ability and speed on the perfect frame. He can play in various spots across a defensive line and could be plugged in to a number of schemes. He is a bit of a late riser and has second- or third-round value as a developmental prospect with starting traits.

Crawford attended Bakersfield College Career out of high school where he played for two seasons. He started as a sophomore and was the conference's defensive MVP, finishing with 42 tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks, earning Junior College First Team All-American honors. Crawford was a three-star JUCO recruit and transferred to Boise State after the 2009 season.

He served as a back-up defensive end in 2010 as a junior, recording 32 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, 1 pass break-up and 1 forced fumble. Crawford became a starter in 2011 as a senior (11 starts), finishing with 44 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss (team-high), 6.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery (returned 32 yards for a score), earning First Team All-MWC honors.

Crawford has a strong, filled-out frame with adequate height and length for the position. He has good quickness for his size and looks coordinated in his movements, but he lacks the natural burst and get-off speed to be a consistent pass rusher. Crawford isn?t a quick-twitch player, but can move up and down the line of scrimmage with very good strength, he is still raw and offers some upside as a base end in a four-man front or possibly as a five-technique in a 3-4 scheme and should hear his name early on the draft?s third day.

Crawford is quick to get out of his stance off the snap and has the instincts to slant and hit a gap without being touched. He is consistently disrupting plays in the backfield and is a solid tackler. He is a strong player who shows an explosive arm jolt when keeping blockers at bay. Crawford shows good change of direction when stopping to pursue plays laterally. As a rusher, his motor is the key to his success. He never gives up on a play and can use a strong burst to get to the quarterback. He has a ton of upside, which undoubtedly increases his values to teams who are set at the position and willing to patient and work with him. Despite his size, he could even play special teams early on in his career because he has such a nasty demeanor.

Crawford is a raw prospect who only has one year of collegiate playing experience at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. He would be a project early on for the team that selects him, and he could have a tough time adapting right away. He has had trouble getting off double teams, which could be a technique issue, a likely possibility given his well-documented strength. Crawford will need extra coaching and attention to adjust to the NFL.

Strengths: Looks the part with a strong, defined frame and good length (33?? arms, 9?? hands). Has good quickness and athleticism for his size. Coordinated with smooth movement skills. High effort rusher and works through the whistle. Relentless worker, fighting off blocks and battling to the ballcarrier. Has strong hands and holds his own at the point of attack. Stout anchor when he plays low to the ground. Has strong practice habits and coaches talk highly of his work ethic. Has been productive at the FBS-level with a combined 27.0 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks the past two seasons. Offers some scheme versatility.

Weaknesses: Not a quick-twitch player who will consistently threaten the edge. Has limited explosive qualities and lacks great initial burst or overall range for the position, not overly flexible or loose. Has a limited array of pass rush moves and needs to improve his technique in this area. Struggles to locate the ball at times and needs to do a better job with his read/react skills. Has some durability concerns, missing time this past season with leg injuries. Has only year as a starter at the FBS-level and was part of a rotation-heavy defensive front ? limited experience against top competition.

Crawford is a heavy defensive end who is a solid presence at the point of attack. He had a quality week at the East-West Shrine and fared well in the one-on-ones. Crawford totaled 44 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2011. In his junior season, he totaled seven sacks, 32 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble.

Crawford is not the best athlete, but it looks like he has the potential to be a solid depth player. Crawford was solid at the Combine and his pro day.

My Opinion: He had decent production in college. He looks a lot bigger than his weight, he has nice wide shoulders and can probably get much bigger and stronger. He is stiff in the hips. He will have to be an End in the pros. He is decent against the run. He played DE in a 3-4 and occasional slid to OLB. He is strong enough against OTs.

I couldn't find much tape on Crawford but I like the kids story and size. He is a development player that should go in the later rounds, I like him in the fourth. He can come in and contribute in a rotation as he develops his technique. He may be limited to that as he doesn't really have the tools to be a starter.

Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee
Height: 6-5. Weight: 284.
40 Time: 4.93. Official: 4.91 secs. 10-Yd Split: 1.69.
3 Cone Drill: 7.38 secs.
20 YD Shuttle: 4.41 secs.
Bench: 25 reps.
Vertical: 28. Broad: 9-9. 105.0 inch.
Arm Length: 33 3/4.
Hand Size: 9.
Projected Round (2012): 4-5.

Jackson came to UT after leaving USC during the grace period granted to players there during the NCAA-imposed sanctions, and has really blossomed during his time in the SEC, becoming a two-year starter for the Volunteers. Although severely undersized for the defensive tackle position (he had to gain weight early in his career at USC to even see playing time at DE), Jackson has gotten upwards of 270 pounds and been an effective scheme player when slanting and stunting for Tennessee. He will likely switch back to DE in the NFL, but 3-4 base defense teams could be excited about him playing DE considering his time spent inside. He has seventh-round value as a versatile d-lineman.

Jackson was a top 50 defensive line recruit out of high school and chose to attend Southern California over several other West Coast programs.

He played sparingly as a true freshman backup end, recording 4.0 tackles, 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble. Jackson was again a backup in 2009 as a sophomore in what turned out to be his final season for the Trojans, collecting 18 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

In the summer of 2010, he opted to transfer to Tennessee, becoming the second Southern Cal player to take advantage of NCAA-instituted bylaws allowing USC juniors and seniors to transfer to another FBS-level program without sitting out a year, claiming "needing a fresh start" as his reason.

Despite only a few months in Knoxville, Jackson earned a starting job as a junior in 2010, splitting time between end and tackle and earning Second Team All-SEC honors with 48 tackles, 5.0 sacks, four pass breakups and a team-best 11.0 tackles for loss. He returned in 2011 as a senior and started all 12 games at defensive tackle, collecting a career-high 56 tackles and led the team in both sacks (2.5) and tackles for loss (11.0) and earned Second Team All-SEC honors.

Jackson is a highly-cut athlete with a versatile skill-set and saw time inside and outside in college, but looks more natural as an end. He played 95 percent of his snaps at tackle for the Volunteers, which limited his effectiveness and production playing out of position.

Jackson is an upright defender who relies too much on his upper body and needs to develop his lower-body strength to reach his potential. Despite his lack of flexibility, he has the quickness and skill-set to be an effective lineman, but he needs to improve his leverage off the snap in order to be effective at the next level.

Jackson showed steady improvement over his career and his best football looks to be ahead of him - Tennessee coaches rave about his ability.

Jackson is quick off the ball, and more effective when given space to not have to face bigger linemen, usually through a schematic call that allows him to run free through a gap. Although undersized, he is able to hold up bigger linemen and then shed those players to get to the ball. He had good rush production inside even though he was often physically over matched, and once in the backfield he is a fluid mover toward the ball.

Jackson can get washed out at times by stronger offensive linemen. Strength has been his consistent Achilles heel and it's a wonder that he survived after being moved inside after transferring. He is better suited at end and even then could struggle to get off blocks against Pro Bowl-caliber offensive linemen.

Strengths: Very good size and frame with a strong upper body and long arms. Very good quickness and agility for his size and is a naturally explosive player with good get-off speed. Jackson stays balanced through contact and keeps working to penetrate the pocket, playing with a good motor. He is stout at the point of attack and plays with good length and wrist/hand strength to secure tackles. Jackson has also shown the ability to rip the ball out of the grasp of ballcarriers with four career forced fumbles. Improved awareness and footwork to drop in space when needed. Versatile skill-set to play multiple positions on the defensive line and has experience playing inside and outside.

Weaknesses: Plays too tall and allows himself to get upright off the snap. Needs to do a better job with leverage to win at the line of scrimmage, relying too much on his upper-body strength. Lean lower body and needs to improve his strength in his legs and thighs. Suspect body flexibility and tight hips. Not a natural bender and lacks fluid change of direction ability. Plays with inconsistent pad level and is often knocked backwards off the snap. Only average career production at the college level (13.0 career sacks). Still a bit raw in his development and needs to eliminate senseless penalties. Looks fatigued at times, struggling to finish plays, and conditioning might be an issue.

NFL Comparison: Tim Crowder, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jackson had 56 tackles with nine tackle for a loss, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and two passes broken up in 2011. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl, but played decently in Mobile. Jackson saw a sizable amount of double teams in SEC play this season. He did not produce a Combine performance to help his stock.

The Peyton Manning Watch had taken over much of the state of Tennessee this week but it was 10 "other" former Volunteers who drew 21 scouts to the UT campus Friday for the team's Pro Day. Combine-invitees Malik Jackson (DL) and Tauren Poole (RB) generated most of the attention. Jackon, who earned First Team All-SEC honors last year as a 267 pound defensive tackle, weighed in even heavier Friday than he had at the Combine. The 6-5 Jackson weighed in at 284 pounds in Indianapolis a few weeks ago but added six pounds since. Despite the added bulk, according to a source at the workout, Jackson showed good athleticism in defensive line drills run by a member of the New Orleans Saints. Jackson showed fair strength at the Combine by posting 25 repetitions of 225 pounds. Jackson transferred to Tennessee after originally signing with Southern California out of high school. He played closer to 250 pounds while with the Trojans and had to bulk up just to see playing time at defensive end. The fact that he's steadily improved while adding weight and appears to have the frame even more mass is sure to intrigue scouts. Some believe that because of his height and relatively long arms (33 3/4") he's a natural candidate as a developmental 3-4 defensive end. Poole also had a strong positional workout, demonstrating natural cutting ability and soft hands out of the backfield -- two areas in which scouts had some concerns.

My Opinion: He has a huge frame, I love his size. He may be better as a UT in the 4-3. he has pretty good footwork. His torso is huge. Shows good hustle on plays and a great motor. I thought he showed good strength fighting against the OL. He is fast off the snap and can get around the edge. He needs work on his run defense. He played UT and DE in college. Surprisingly how fast he is at covering ground and I love that he is versatile. I think he is strong enough to play inside or out in the NFL he just needs to have better pad level. Really surprised people are down on this guy. Seems like a great kid.

I was really surprised with Jackson. I love the versatility and potential he has. If he is still there in the later round this kid could be a steal. With more strength training and technique coaching he could be a starter someday and will play early in a rotation. I really want this guy on our team.

That is another group finished. I was surprised by a couple of these guys and a number of them I can see helping our team. The draft is so close I can smell the anticipation ~ Aussie.


  1. Like you said, we don't have room for a starter and a rotational type or a project shouldn't be drafted until at least the 3rd. If Jones last til then I like him too. I think we will skip this until late picks or UDFA.

  2. I would agree with you and it is what we should do. But Elway and Fox love their pass rushers and I would not be surprised that they pick one. I just don't see the fit anyway expect UT.

    I am leaning tomorrow we either trade down to the end of the first round and get doug martin. Sit tight where we are and take a corner or hopefully one of the DTs that drops.

    Or surprise us all and move up into the 15s for some guy.

    Realistically at 25 I am looking at Gilmore, Brockers, Still and Jeffery.

  3. Not Jeffery. The other 3 would be good. Trade up a few for Kirkpatrick would be good. Trade down would be cool with me too.