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B/R NFL 1,000: Top 64 Defensive Ends

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 2, 2012

B/R NFL 1,000: Top 64 Defensive Ends

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    When we think of the great defensive ends in the NFL—past and present—we think of the great pass-rushers. Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Michael Strahan. They all knew how to get to the quarterback.

    The primary job for most defensive ends is to sack the quarterback, but let's not forget there is a run game that must be shut down too.

    As the NFL moves to a more offensively dominant league, the defensive end position is quickly becoming the most important position to fill on defense. But what makes up a great defensive end?

    We've set out to find the best defensive ends in the NFL—based on how well they tackle, stop the run and rush the passer. Each starter has been assessed as to how well he exemplified those traits in 2011. The quest comes as part of the B/R NFL 1,000. The series offers an in-depth look at every position in the NFL, breaking down players' skills in a way never before seen on the Internet.

    B/R 1,000 rankings don't assess who had the best year, or even who has the most potential. Rather, players—in this case, defensive ends—are judged on their current skills and mechanics, based on film study of the 2011 NFL preseason and regular season only.

    After hours spent scouting every starter and every potential starter, the top 64 defensive ends have been scored on 10 criteria (more on the criteria here). In the slides that follow, we'll explain each player's strengths and weaknesses as the final ranking is revealed.

    One quick note: Where is Mario Williams? We added this note to remind folks that Williams was moved to outside linebacker before the 2011 season.

    One more quick note: A defensive end is classified as such if on the majority of plays there is no other player covering the tackle/tight end on his side of the line. Terrell Suggs is often over the tackle/end (in a two or three-point stance), while outside linebackers like Von Miller are pass rushers, but they have a defensive end covering the end-man on the offensive line.

64. Leger Douzable, Tennessee Titans

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    Agility

    5

    A limited athlete. Lacks the burst off the line to be graded any higher in this area.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Shows nice strength in his lower body to be an effective bull-rusher, but this isn't his strongest area.

    Speed Rush

    1

    Not a factor off the edge as a speed-rusher.

    Run Defense

    8

    Does a good job fighting off blockers who try to get inside and drive him down the line.

    Speed/Burst

    3

    Has below-average speed and burst. Sees limitations in his game due to this.

    Strength

    6

    Above-average strength at the point of attack.

    Pass Deflect

    3

    Won't be a factor when the ball is thrown in his direction.

    Read & React

    4

    Still learning the game. Slow to read the play at times. Will bite on play action.

    Tackle

    6

    Will let runners get out of his grasp too often due to a lot of arm tackles.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    52

    Douzable has good size and strength to be a big-bodied left defensive end, but he lacks the athletic ability at this point in his career to be a factor. 

63. Ziggy Hood, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Agility

    5

    Hood plays in a 5-technique for the Steelers, which allows him to survive with less-than-exceptional agility.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Strong enough at the point of attack to drive blockers off the ball.

    Speed Rush

    4

    Doesn't have the quickness to get the needed jump off the ball and can be controlled without a secondary move.

    Run Defense

    3

    Was very inconsistent during the 2011 season at locating and stopping the ball. 

    Speed/Burst

    4

    Not enough to be effective on many plays.

    Strength

    7

    Can hold his own against most tackles, but lacks the elite strength to take care of the game's best tackles. 

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Doesn't always work off blockers to get his hands up when the ball is thrown.

    Read & React

    4

    Still learning the game, Hood can be slow to react to the ball and struggles to diagnose play action.  

    Tackle

    6

    Has the strength needed to improve. Can be a grab and pull tackler.

    Health

    10

    Was healthy throughout the 2011 season.

    Overall

    56

    Drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft to become an eventual starter at defensive end, Hood has seen his chances limited behind Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel. Now he's seeing more time, but Hood appears overmatched and lost at times. He has a lot of work to do before he's on par with the rest of the Steelers defense.

62. Everson Griffen, Minnesota Vikings

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    Agility

    6

    Shows good athleticism, but lacks flexibility and body control.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Shows nice strength in his lower body to be an effective bull-rusher, but this isn't his strongest area.

    Speed Rush

    4

    Doesn't have the quickness to get the needed jump off the ball and can be controlled without a secondary move.

    Run Defense

    6

    Will make more good plays than bad, but isn't considered a top-tier run defender.

    Speed/Burst

    5

    Has average speed and burst. Sees limitations in his game due to this.

    Strength

    6

    Can be a liability at the point of attack. Must gain strength.

    Pass Deflect

    4

    Won't be a factor when the ball is thrown in his direction.

    Read & React

    5

    Slow to read the play at times. Will bite on play action.

    Tackle

    5

    Form and technique need work.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    57

    Throw out all of Everson Griffen's off-field problems (and there are many) and you have a football player who hasn't yet taken the next step in his development. Griffen has the size to be a solid left end, but he has to stay on the field and out of the commissioner's office to do so.

61. Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams

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    Agility

    8

    Elite speed and quickness.

    Bull Rush

    3

    Woefully incapable of overpowering anyone.

    Speed Rush

    8

    Baits tackles into relaxing, then explodes off the edge.

    Run Defense

    1

    Simply not a factor here.

    Speed/Burst

    8

    Superb in space when hustling after the quarterback.

    Strength

    5

    Improvement here would move him way up the list.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Athleticism allows him to effectively switch to pass-blocking mode.

    Read & React

    3

    Has a lot of strategic ground to cover before he can start putting his speed to more use.

    Tackle

    5

    Poor form and a tendency to try to make highlight films instead of fundamental tackles.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    58

    A super athletic pass-rusher, Quinn struggled early in his first season but started to look the part by the end of the year. Quinn must work to improve his awareness and play recognition if he's ever going to be more than a situational pass-rusher.

60. Mike DeVito, New York Jets

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    Agility

    5

    Super strong but lacks the burst or general coordination to put that strength to use.

    Bull Rush

    5

    Hasn't turned his muscles into an ability to push into the backfield.

    Speed Rush

    2

    Simply not agile enough to do it.

    Run Defense

    8

    Aggressive and with fine vision, he'll find the ball and get to it.

    Speed/Burst

    3

    Will need to discover some of this if he's to become a threat against the pass.

    Strength

    8

    Powerful enough to hold his position against almost anyone.

    Pass Deflect

    5

    No special knack for knocking down passes.

    Read & React

    6

    Does well to see run plays develop.

    Tackle

    6

    Not as good at this as his strength would indicate.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    58

    The New York Jets could look to move on from DeVito if a quality defensive end is available this offseason. While he does some good things, DeVito isn't helping much when rushing the passer.

59. Tim Jamison, Houston Texans

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    Agility

    6

    A strong guy who's held back by overall lack of maneuverability.

    Bull Rush

    4

    Have yet to see his muscle translate to making plays in a power rush.

    Speed Rush

    3

    Athletic limits put him at a disadvantage.

    Run Defense

    7

    Here's where Jamison comes into play, demonstrating a knack for getting to the ball-carrier.

    Speed/Burst

    4

    Hampered by his inability to get going.

    Strength

    7

    An advantage against most tackles.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Can break free to get his arms up.

    Read & React

    6

    Not ideal, but does well getting in the way of run plays.

    Tackle

    6

    Another place where his lack of agility hurts.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    60

    A rotational player on the Houston Texans' 3-4 defensive line, Jamison is a solid player who the team can count on in a pinch. Jamison likely won't become a starter, but quality backups who can step in and not slow down the defense are valuable.

58. James Hall, St. Louis Rams

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    Agility

    6

    Doesn't stand out in any area.

    Bull Rush

    4

    Mediocre strength and burst mean Hall's not much of a help here.

    Speed Rush

    5

    Not agile enough on the corner to be a big concern for the offense.

    Run Defense

    7

    Hall's biggest asset can be his ability to fight to get on top of the ball.

    Speed/Burst

    5

    Nothing special and often a step slow.

    Strength

    5

    More mediocrity. Needs to keep working to gain brute strength.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Often too engaged with blockers to get free to reach up.

    Read & React

    6

    Does well to anticipate run play and get into position.

    Tackle

    6

    Lack of strength and speed leads to running backs slipping through.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    60

    James Hall filled in nicely as a No. 3 defensive end for the St. Louis Rams this year, providing depth and experience for Robert Quinn to follow. Hall is limited as his career progresses, but he's still a quality rotational player.

57. Antonio Smith, Houston Texans

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    Agility

    6

    Not all bad, but his athletic shortcomings filter throughout his game.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Strength makes up for lack of agility.

    Speed Rush

    3

    Doesn't have the wherewithal to get around the corner and threaten the passer.

    Run Defense

    2

    A shame he can't put his strength to use here. His feet rarely put him in position.

    Speed/Burst

    4

    Slow off the ball and in space.

    Strength

    8

    Powerful from top to bottom.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Can get up and reach at the right time.

    Read & React

    7

    Pretty smart at anticipating the play.

    Tackle

    7

    When he's on the ball, he'll make the play.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    60

    Smith is a starter at right end in the Texans' 3-4 scheme, but the team could upgrade. Smith is a solid player, but doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well. He's experienced, a great leader and a safe player to have on the field. 

56. Raheem Brock, Seattle Seahawks

10 of 66

     

    Agility

    6

    Solid, but not special in any regard.

    Bull Rush

    5

    Mediocre strength and maneuverability.

    Speed Rush

    4

    Lacks the quickness to get the needed jump.

    Run Defense

    6

    Makes more good plays than bad as good positioning compensates for mediocre athleticism.

    Speed/Burst

    4

    A severe weakness.

    Strength

    6

    Above average at the point of attack.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Blockers often keep him busy when the ball's going up.

    Read & React

    7

    Has a good eye for figuring out what's going on.

    Tackle

    7

    Consistently does the job when he's put himself in the right place.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    61

    Brock fits the mold as a rotational defensive end in the Seahawks' oversized scheme. He's good at the point of impact and a solid tackler, but don't look for many sacks from Brock.

55. Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys

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    Agility

    6

    Body coordination and flexibility are drawbacks.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Good lower body strength could make him a factor here with better technique.

    Speed Rush

    4

    Not quick enough to get a good jump.

    Run Defense

    7

    Will fight for the ball when he gets on top of a play.

    Speed/Burst

    5

    Can be left behind at the snap.

    Strength

    7

    Powerful frame makes him a test for most tackles.

    Pass Deflect

    5

    Knocks down a few passes.

    Read & React

    5

    Often doesn't catch on soon enough to be a factor in the play.

    Tackle

    6

    Poor technique sometimes undermines his strength.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    61

    An underrated 5-technique defensive end, Hatcher does a good job protecting the edge on his side of the field. A lack of pass-rushing ability can be covered up in a 3-4 defense, but it hurts Hatcher's overall score.

54. Jared Odrick, Miami Dolphins

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    Agility

    6

    Doesn't excel in any one area but is OK in most.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Lower-body strength, if put to better use, could make him an asset here.

    Speed Rush

    5

    Not quick enough to make a difference.

    Run Defense

    4

    Can't get into position quickly enough most of the time.

    Speed/Burst

    5

    Only average, at the expense of many facets of a defensive end's job.

    Strength

    7

    Odrick's saving grace is that he can stand up to most tackles.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Capable of wrestling off a blocker to stop a pass. Just doesn't do it that often.

    Read & React

    5

    Slow to see a play develop and will fall for play action.  

    Tackle

    7

    Nice job here when he's in the right place.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any action in 2011.

    Overall

    61

    A big, strong defensive end who will also see time at defensive tackle in 2012, Jared Odrick has the potential to be exceptional. To date, he's not yet put that potential into use on the field, where his production and impact haven't been felt yet.

53. Corey Liuget, San Diego Chargers

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    Agility

    6

    Good basic skills but needs flexibility.

    Bull Rush

    5

    More of an edge-rusher. Isn't going to run anyone over.

    Speed Rush

    7

    Will beat tackles off the ball to get an angle on the quarterback.

    Run Defense

    3

    Poor anticipation combines with mediocre athleticism, making Liuget a liability.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    A factor in pursuit who is usually just a step behind the ball-carrier.

    Strength

    6.5

    Just needs to build more leverage from his lower-body strength.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Good instincts and skills to get his hands on the ball.

    Read & React

    4

    Rarely is a step a ahead of the offense, and often is a step behind.  

    Tackle

    6

    Too much grabbing when he needs to get full contact.

    Health

    10

    No injury issues in 2011.

    Overall

    61.5

    Drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft, Liuget isn't a great fit as a 3-4 defensive end after playing tackle at Illinois. What Liuget does best is shoot gaps and create penetration. Playing in a 5-technique, he's getting moved off the ball too often.

52. Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers

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    Agility

    7

    Not blessed with elite quickness, but otherwise more than adequate.

    Bull Rush

    3

    Poor strength makes him a pushover here.

    Speed Rush

    7

    Pretty good off the snap to get an edge on his tackle.

    Run Defense

    1

    A non-starter when the opposing quarterback hands off.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    Sharp at the snap with decent speed in space.

    Strength

    5

    Must build himself up in order to be an all-around player.

    Pass Deflect

    10

    Demonstrates quick hands. A real nuisance for passers.

    Read & React

    6

    Fast enough to make up for some of his shortcomings in anticipation.

    Tackle

    6

    Ends up trying to pull down ball-carriers with arm tackles.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    62

    Hardy has the skill set to be a more productive player than he has been to date. The tools are all there for Hardy to blow up with a 10-sack season, but he has to improve his reaction time first.

51. Lawrence Jackson, Detroit Lions

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    Agility

    7

    Not quite quick enough to be elite.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Good lower-body strength but otherwise lacking in this area.

    Speed Rush

    6

    Fast, but doesn't maneuver around the corner well enough.

    Run Defense

    7

    Can chase the runner and will fight for the ball.

    Speed/Burst

    6

    Average first step. Lack of quickness hurts.

    Strength

    6

    Doesn't use leverage well.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Gets stuck on blockers sometimes.

    Read & React

    6

    Capable of getting to the right place, but inconsistent.

    Tackle

    7

    Often resorts to ankle tackles but overall excellent.

    Health

    6

    Missed time during the 2011 season with injury.

    Overall

    63

    Jackson has the ability to become a quality left defensive end in the NFL. The strength to take on blockers is there, but Jackson has to stay healthy first. He's solid against the run and has enough of a pass-rushing presence to become more of a factor in 2012.

50. Desmond Bryant, Oakland Raiders

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    Agility

    6

    Agile enough to make a lot of plays but doesn't frighten anyone with his quickness.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Good first step and technique. More strength would put him among the best.

    Speed Rush

    4

    Ineffective on the edge.

    Run Defense

    7

    Fights blockers well to get to the runner.

    Speed/Burst

    5

    Not much of a threat in space.

    Strength

    6

    Lower-body strength is okay, but he doesn't always play with proper leverage.

    Pass Deflect

    5

    Only rarely a factor. Will occasionally knock down a pass.

    Read & React

    5

    Doesn't show a lot of smarts in guessing what's coming.

    Tackle

    8

    Strong enough to bring down runners even as he's battling blockers.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    63

    A hybrid player who can line up at end or tackle, Bryant is strong enough to take on tackles head-up. Bryant is a quality player who would work well in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense with his ability to play both inside and out.

49. Matt Roth, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Agility

    7

    A good athlete who could just use some more quickness.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Only okay, despite good lower-body strength.

    Speed Rush

    6

    Here's where the lack of quickness hurts trying to turn the corner.

    Run Defense

    8

    Very good vision and ability to fight off blockers.

    Speed/Burst

    6

    First step only average.

    Strength

    6

    Often impresses at the point of attack.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Doesn't always shed blockers in time to get his hands up.

    Read & React

    6

    Often in the right place at the right time.

    Tackle

    7

    Can close on the ball in a hurry.

    Health

    6

    Missed time with injuries in 2011.

    Overall

    64

    A strong, athletic player who can line up at either end or outside linebacker. Roth has moved around in his career, but he's showing the skill set to fit in full time as a situational pass-rusher from a standing up or 3-point position.

48. Juqua Parker, Cleveland Browns

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    Agility

    7

    Mostly good, just needs to quicken.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Strong enough but doesn't always execute.

    Speed Rush

    6

    Hasn't shown the necessary quickness.

    Run Defense

    7

    Goes after the ball, just doesn't always get there.

    Speed/Burst

    6

    Not a threat on the edge

    Strength

    7

    Holds his own against most tackles.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Often unable to get his hands up in time.

    Read & React

    6

    Susceptible to play-action fakes.

    Tackle

    7

    Will make plenty of plays, but not overly impressive here.

    Health

    6

    Struggled with injury in 2011.

    Overall

    64

    A solid pass-rusher, Parker is at his best stopping the run—which is a nice change-up from Trent Cole and Jason Babin. The Browns would love to rotate Parker in more in 2012, but he has to stay healthy. A defensive line featuring Parker, Jabaal Sheard and Frostee Rucker on passing downs should improve the Cleveland defense.

47. Jonathan Fanene, New England Patriots

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    Agility

    6

    Overall athletic, if not particularly flexible or coordinated.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Boasts the strength and first step needed to put blockers on their heels.

    Speed Rush

    5

    Unable to get around the corner with much consistency.

    Run Defense

    4

    Will lose sight of the ball and then struggle to recover.

    Speed/Burst

    6

    A little slow off the snap and has only adequate foot speed.

    Strength

    7

    Able to push around many tackles.

    Pass Deflect

    5

    He'll get his mitts in the way on occasions, but this area is not an attribute.

    Read & React

    6

    Often turns up right where he should be. Can be fooled, too.

    Tackle

    8

    At his best when bringing down a ball-carrier. Consistently shows good form.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    64

    Fanene will move on to New England in 2012, where he'll bring a skill set that makes him an ideal fit for a 3-4 defense. In Cincinnati, Fanene did a good job attacking the line, showing the strength to take on blockers and open up tackling lanes for linebackers.

46. Darryl Tapp, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Agility

    7

    Lack of elite quickness holds him down.

    Bull Rush

    4

    Not strong enough to be effective regularly.

    Speed Rush

    6

    Not talented enough on the edge.

    Run Defense

    7.5

    An asset here with his ability to evade run blockers.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    Not bad in open space but still limited in pursuit.

    Strength

    5

    A liability at the point of attack.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Only occasionally able to free himself for a pass block.

    Read & React

    7

    Works well to be aware and get in position.

    Tackle

    7

    Makes a lot of ankle tackles.

    Health

    8

    Missed a few games in 2011 with injury.

    Overall

    64.5

    Tapp has molded himself in to a quality rotational pass-rusher. He has the strength to be a factor in the run game and is the ideal person to spell Trent Cole and Jason Babin along the Eagles defensive line.

45. Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants

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    Agility

    8

    But for a little stiffness in his hips, he's got all the skills.

    Bull Rush

    5

    Not really strong enough to be a factor.

    Speed Rush

    7

    Quick enough. Only lacking a little maneuverability around the edge.

    Run Defense

    4

    Struggles to come off blockers.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    Can't chase down a lot of people but still good in open-field plays.

    Strength

    7

    Just a couple notches below the level needed to handle the league's top tackles.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Able to stand tall and get his hands on the ball.

    Read & React

    7

    Uses good vision in combination with fine quickness to flow to the ball.

    Tackle

    8

    Won't miss many tackles in space.

    Health

    5

    Fought injuries for much of 2011.

    Overall

    65

    A healthy Osi Umenyiora has top-15 talent, but we didn't see that player in 2011. Umenyiora struggled with injury all year, which kept him from flashing the pass-rushing ability that made Osi one of the NFL's most promising ends just a few years ago. If healthy in 2012, Umenyiora will once again be a player to keep an eye on.

44. Mark Anderson, Buffalo Bills

22 of 66

     

    Agility

    6

    Flashes some talent but not impressive overall.

    Bull Rush

    5

    Just not strong enough.

    Speed Rush

    8

    Can usually be counted on to beat tackles with his speed and quickness.

    Run Defense

    5

    Can chase a play effectively.

    Speed/Burst

    8

    Fair body control and thrust off the snap.

    Strength

    4

    Substandard. A must-improve area.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Often not strong enough to get free of blockers in order to get his hands up.

    Read & React

    6

    Sometimes slow to figure out a play but just as often gets where he needs to be.

    Tackle

    7

    Can close on the ball in a hurry.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    65

    Mark Anderson was on fire this season as a pass-rusher, lining up at both left and right defensive end (and even some linebacker). Anderson is a one-trick pony, though, as he didn't contribute as a run-stopper and lacked the strength to take on blockers off the edge. If placed in a 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker, Anderson would be graded out more favorably.

43. Jabaal Sheard, Cleveland Browns

23 of 66

     

    Agility

    7

    As with many of the ends in his tier, quickness is the missing link.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Lack of overall strength hurts.

    Speed Rush

    7

    Not great off the edge but good enough to beat tackles off the ball.

    Run Defense

    5

    Strength and vision not advanced enough for consistency here.

    Speed/Burst

    6

    His first step is average. An area for improvement.

    Strength

    6

    Demonstrates decent lower-body strength but plays without great leverage.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Inability to disengage from blockers hurts here.

    Read & React

    6

    Inconsistent and subject to play-action fakes.

    Tackle

    6

    Too many arm tackles equals too many runners breaking free.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    65

    A promising young player, Sheard had an up-and-down rookie season coming off a lockout-shortened offseason. Sheard is a powerful player who has the ability to create as a run-stuffer and pass-rusher. Once he develops better awareness and a second pass-rush move, Sheard will be moving way up the list.

42. Da'Quan Bowers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

24 of 66

     

    Agility

    7

    Coordinate and flexible but not terribly quick.

    Bull Rush

    5

    More of an edge-rusher.

    Speed Rush

    7

    Can be effective but could use a better secondary move.

    Run Defense

    3

    Too inconsistent at zeroing in on the ball-carrier.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    Strong first step but follow-up quickness is more limited.

    Strength

    7

    Not ready for the game's best tackles but can handle many of his foes.

    Pass Deflect

    9

    Very aware of when and where the pass will be going.

    Read & React

    4

    Not so good figuring out what sort of play is coming.

    Tackle

    6

    Can be a grab-and-pull tackler.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    65

    Da'Quan Bowers' rookie season wasn't quite as jaw-dropping as many had expected, but most notably he stayed healthy and showed no ill-effects from a knee injury that killed his draft stock. Bowers needs time to develop, but the speed and power are all there for him to be great.

41. Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets

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    Agility

    7

    Not too quick but otherwise above average.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Strength is an asset here, but he doesn't always use it effectively.

    Speed Rush

    5

    Can't dart around the edge as well as many of his peers.

    Run Defense

    7

    Usually does the job, showing good fight to get on the ball.

    Speed/Burst

    5

    Limitations here are what holds him back in most facets of his job.

    Strength

    7.5

    Combination of upper- and lower-body strength puts him near the top tier.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Muscles his way clear for blocking passes.

    Read & React

    4

    Rarely sees what's coming and often late to catch up.  

    Tackle

    7

    Powerful enough to make plays when he's in position.

    Health

    10

    Healthy throughout 2011.

    Overall

    65.5

    Wilkerson played better than most in the New York media and fanbase would admit. He showed the skills to become a very good 30-scheme defensive end, with the strength to anchor the run and enough quickness to be a factor rushing the passer.

40. Frostee Rucker, Cleveland Browns

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    Agility

    7

    Good foot speed but not a powerful player.

    Bull Rush

    3

    Well below his peers. Hitting the offensive line on the edge is the only option.

    Speed Rush

    6.5

    Speed can get him around the corner, but he's not super evasive.

    Run Defense

    7

    Effective at chasing down plays.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    An asset in the open field.

    Strength

    5

    Ends up on his heels at the point of attack.

    Pass Deflect

    8

    Athleticism allows him to reach out and block his share of pass attempts.

    Read & React

    6

    Not great at anticipating but once he knows where to go is often able to get there.

    Tackle

    6

    Doesn't use his full frame often enough, resorting to arm tackles.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    65.5

    Rucker is a good athlete who benefited from the Mike Zimmer defense, where he was allowed to rush the passer from off the edge. Moving to Cleveland this offseason, Rucker will be asked to line up at right end and crash the edge. This is what he does best, but his strength and reaction time are limited.

39. Randy Starks, Miami Dolphins

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    Agility

    6

    Flexibility and body control are his weaknesses.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Doesn't always execute despite great strength.

    Speed Rush

    4

    An easy stop for most blockers on the edge.

    Run Defense

    7

    Usually battles well to get in on the play.

    Speed/Burst

    4

    Slow feet fail to get him where he needs to be.

    Strength

    8

    Can hold the edge with powerful upper and lower body.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Uses muscle to get free and get his hands up.

    Read & React

    7

    Smart enough to see what's coming, even if he's not always fast enough to put that to use.

    Tackle

    7

    Effective when he's right on the ball.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    66

    Starks is a great fit in a 3-4 defense, but in a 4-3 set he would drop down to defensive tackle. What Starks does best is take on blockers, freeing up his linebackers to make plays. He's not a threat as a speed-rusher, but has enough burst and strength to push blockers off the ball.

38. Paul Kruger, Baltimore Ravens

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    Agility

    6

    Athleticism appears only in flashes, but it's there. Uptick in quickness would help.

    Bull Rush

    7

    First step is not bad and technique is good but isn't strong enough to reach top tier.

    Speed Rush

    4

    Can be controlled before he gets a chance to make his move.

    Run Defense

    6

    Must learn how to disengage from blocks and find the ball.

    Speed/Burst

    6

    Not enough here to be effective around the corner.

    Strength

    6

    Another area where Kruger has what it takes but doesn't stand out.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Will knock down a few passes but often is tangled up with blockers.

    Read & React

    7

    Does well to stay a step ahead of the offense.

    Tackle

    8

    Knows how to hit and makes few mistakes.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    66

    A good pass-rusher as either a defensive end or outside linebacker in the Ravens' hybrid scheme, Kruger will enjoy a larger role in 2012 with the loss of Jarrett Johnson in free agency. The pressure will be on for Kruger to produce as both a run-stopper and pass-rusher.

37. Tyson Jackson, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Agility

    7

    Jackson's a good athlete, but he's slow.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Often fails to establish leverage.

    Speed Rush

    5

    Not quick enough to be a positive factor at the edge.

    Run Defense

    8

    Maintains position when blockers try to drive him down the line.

    Speed/Burst

    5

    Not fast enough to make many plays.

    Strength

    7

    Enough to fight through most tackles.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Wrests his arms free to get after balls in the air.

    Read & React

    6

    Will be sucked into play action.

    Tackle

    6

    A key shortcoming: Resorts to arm tackles.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    67

    Jackson has yet to live up to his billing as the No. 3 overall pick '09, but he is becoming a solid defensive end in the Chiefs' 3-4 defense. Jackson enjoyed his best year in 2011, showing the strength and leverage to anchor the edge.

36. Adrian Clayborn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Agility

    7

    Better than most across the board, but not super quick.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Can be controlled when he doesn't get inside leverage.

    Speed Rush

    7

    Needs a better secondary move but effective nonetheless.

    Run Defense

    3

    Very inconsistent.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    Benefits from a strong first step and adequate ability in space.

    Strength

    7

    An advantage against most tackles.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Must learn to free himself for deflections.

    Read & React

    6

    Capable of moving effectively to get in front of a play. His anticipation isn't as effective.

    Tackle

    7

    Overall athleticism makes him a stout tackler.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    67

    Not enough people are talking about the year Adrian Clayborn had. The rookie posted eight sacks and 32 quarterback pressures, proving that the Buccaneers made the right pick by grabbing the DE out of Iowa in the first round. Clayborn should be featured on many "players to watch" lists for 2012.

35. Will Smith, New Orleans Saints

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    Agility

    7

    Smith possesses good quickness and above-average agility. He can pressure the pocket with good acceleration.

    Bull Rush

    5

    Shows decent strength in his lower body area, but lacks the technique to be an effective bull rusher.

    Speed Rush

    6

    Has an above average speed rush, but lacks the flexibility to turn the corner. With improved quickness, he could be a better speed-rusher.

    Run Defense

    6

    Will make more good plays than bad, but isn't considered a top-tier run defender. Must improve his ability to disengage from blocks and find the ball.

    Speed/Burst

    6

    His first step grades out as average. This trait is not quite a liability, but it's not a strength, either. He lacks the quickness off the ball to be be a threat on the edge.

    Strength

    6

    Shows good lower body strength, but plays without great leverage. Above-average strength at the point of attack.

    Pass Deflect

    9

    Has quick hands and is athletic enough to get his hands up and deflect the ball.

    Read & React

    7

    Is a classic read and react player who has the quickness to flow to the ball.

    Tackle

    7

    Solid at tackling in space, and does a great job of using his hands to bring down runners.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    69

    A solid all-around defensive end, Smith does his part on passing downs but also contributes in the run game. He has the needed speed to give chase, but is strong enough to be an impact when staying in line.

34. Brett Keisel, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Agility

    6

    Keisel possesses the minimum athletic ability needed for the position and this is one of his biggest weaknesses. He lacks the burst off the line.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Shows nice strength in his lower body to be an effective bull-rusher, but this isn't his strongest area. 

    Speed Rush

    3
    Keisel's limited athletic ability keeps him from being a factor here.

    Run Defense

    8

    This is where Keisel is effective, as he has very good vision to find the ball but won't be fooled on misdirections. He does a good job fighting off blockers who try to get inside and drive him down the line.

    Speed/Burst

    4

    Not known for his speed, he lacks the burst to get going in a hurry, and there are limitations in his game because of this.

    Strength

    10

    This is his biggest strength. He is a bull to handle for even the best offensive tackles. Has the strength to control the line of scrimmage.

    Pass Deflect

    9

    Shows the awareness to know when the ball is coming out and where it's going.

    Read & React

    7

    Is a classic read and react player who has the quickness to flow to the ball.

    Tackle

    7

    Makes a lot of ankle tackles, but can close on the ball in a hurry.

    Health

    9

    Keisel missed two games in 2011.

    Overall

    69

    A classic 3-4 defensive end, Keisel has the power and leverage to dominate in the run game. While Keisel isn't asked to do much against the pass, he is adept at occupying blockers and opening up blitzing lanes for his teammates.

33. Israel Idonije, Chicago Bears

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    Agility

    7

    Shows good quickness when coming off the edge, but lacks the agility to be truly elite.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Has a good first step and flashes good ability, but doesn't have the strength to be great in this area.

    Speed Rush

    5

    Lacks the quickness to be a factor off the edge when asked to speed rush the tackle.

    Run Defense

    8

    Excellent at defending the run, he does a good job fighting off blockers who try to get inside and drive him down the line.

    Speed/Burst

    6

    His first step grades out as average. Not quite a liability, but it's not a strength. Lacks the quickness off the ball to be a threat on the edge.

    Strength

    7

    Can hold his own against most tackles, but lacks the elite strength to take care of the game's best tackles.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Can get up and get his hands on the ball.

    Read & React

    6

    Can be late to read the play, but is often in the right place at the right time. Can get sucked in on play action.

    Tackle

    7

    Makes a lot of ankle tackles, but can close on the ball in a hurry.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    70

    A mammoth man with unreal athletic ability for his size, Israel Idonije is an improving player with great potential. The Bears don't get much production from him rushing the passer, but he's stout against the run and can shut down on the edge.

32. Cory Redding, Indianapolis Colts

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    Agility

    6

    Only flashes elite ability. Not agile enough to give tackles fits on the edge

    Bull Rush

    8

    Can be stymied when he doesn't get inside leverage.

    Speed Rush

    4

    Lacks the basic tools to be a threat.

    Run Defense

    8

    Won't be fooled by misdirection and will fight off blockers as he gets to the ball.

    Speed/Burst

    5

    The missing ingredient for Redding.

    Strength

    7

    A step below the best, Redding can manhandle many a tackle.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Able to get his arms free and his body up to block passes.

    Read & React

    8

    Identifies protections and plays before the snap.

    Tackle

    8

    Knows how to bust up a runner.

    Health

    9

    Was inactive for one game in 2011.

    Overall

    70

    Redding is among the better 3-4 defensive ends in the league, and that's where he'll play in Indianapolis next season. The nine-year vet is strong at the point of attack, and has the skills to shut down the run off the left side.

31. Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Agility

    8

    Only gripe is he's a bit too stiff, but he moves his feet and controls his body very effectively.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Adequate lower-body strength helps his cause.

    Speed Rush

    8

    A mix of moves and threatening quickness make him a force on the edge.

    Run Defense

    6

    Not at his best against the run, as he gets tied up too often.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    While Dunlap won't chase down too many runners, he's pretty good in space.

    Strength

    7

    Gives most tackles more than enough to worry about.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    A factor when the ball's coming his way.

    Read & React

    7

    Flows to the ball well off solid anticipation.

    Tackle

    8

    Doesn't miss often.

    Health

    6

    Struggled with injury throughout the 2011 season.

    Overall

    70

    Dunlap is a great athlete, and he has exceptional potential, but his 2011 season was less-than-stellar. The 6'6", 289-pounder can get after the passer, but he has to close the deal, generating sacks instead of pressures. Dunlap could enjoy a breakout 2012 season if he can improve here.

30. Elvis Dumervil, Denver Broncos

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    Agility

    8

    Dumervil has a freakishly good first step, but he can be stiff in his hips at times.

    Bull Rush

    3

    Lacks the strength to use an effective bull rush.

    Speed Rush

    9

    Near elite when asked to take off on the edge and make plays. Can be knocked off balance.

    Run Defense

    7.5

    Better than you'd expect, Dumervil knows how to get dirty in the run game and makes a ton of tackles chasing runners from behind. 

    Speed/Burst

    9

    Exceptional speed that sets up his entire game.

    Strength

    4

    Dumervil lacks the size and strength to be much of a threat inside.

    Pass Deflect

    5

    Just average here, Dumervil's lack of height is an issue.

    Read & React

    8

    Shows the ability to come off the line and diagnose the play quickly and effectively.

    Tackle

    7

    More of a grab-and-pull tackler, Dumervil gets the job done.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    70.5

    In his first season back since rupturing his Achilles tendon, Dumervil looked solid if not quite 100 percent. He has exceptional speed, and if Denver can add better defensive tackles to draw some attention off the edge, his numbers will shoot up.

29. Chris Clemons, Seattle Seahawks

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    Agility

    7

    Clemons has a good first step when stepping down to go inside, but lacks the quickness to jump outside to make plays.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Big, strong hands allow Clemons to get inside the blocker and drive him off the ball.

    Speed Rush

    6

    Has decent speed, but uses his body well in space to generate distance between him and the blocker.

    Run Defense

    6

    Able to stand up and find the run, Clemons does a good job working down the line of scrimmage.

    Speed/Burst

    7.5

    Shows good enough burst off the line of scrimmage to gain an advantage in space.

    Strength

    7

    Clemons is strong enough to fight off blockers.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Smart player who times his jumps well to disrupt passing lanes.

    Read & React

    6

    Can get hooked and sucked in on play fakes, Clemons is above-average reading the play.

    Tackle

    7

    Strong enough that if he gets his hands on you, he's bringing you down.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    70.5

    Clemons does a good job as a left defensive end in the Seahawks scheme, showing an ability to get to the quarterback off the edge and make plays in the backfield. Clemons' 2011 season was once again solid.

28. Michael Bennett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Agility

    7

    Has good initial quickness and is naturally strong.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Is able to press off the snap and get up under the pads of offensive linemen.

    Speed Rush

    6

    Doesn't have great speed, but can bend the corner on lesser-talented tackles.

    Run Defense

    9

    Bennett's best asset is his ability to stop the run off the edge. He's a bull at the point of attack.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    Has decent speed and a good first step, but Bennett's game is his power.

    Strength

    7

    Strong enough to shed blockers and get to the backfield.

    Pass Deflect

    5

    Here's where the comment goes.

    Read & React

    6

    Still developing his diagnosing skills at this point.

    Tackle

    8

    A strong wrap-up tackler with good ability to lower the boom on backs.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game with injury in 2011.

    Overall

    71

    An up-and-comer at the position, Bennett is someone to keep an eye on during the 2012 season. He's a dynamite run-stopper, one of the best in the game for a 4-3 defensive end.

27. Jason Jones, Seattle Seahawks

39 of 66

     

    Agility

    7

    Has above-average agility, but is lacking the natural quickness to be elite.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Has a good first step and flashes good ability, but doesn't have the strength to be great in this area.

    Speed Rush

    6

    With better quickness, he could be a better speed-rusher, but so far this isn't happening.

    Run Defense

    5

    Grades out as average against the run, flashing ability at times, but too inconsistent.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    Shows a strong first step, but his follow-up quickness is more limited.

    Strength

    8

    Has very good strength throughout, showing the upper and lower body strength to hold the edge.

    Pass Deflect

    8

    Tall enough with enough wingspan to knock down passes.

    Read & React

    7

    Can be late to read the play, but is often in the right place at the right time.

    Tackle

    7

    Makes a lot of ankle tackles, but can close on the ball in a hurry.

    Health

    9

    Missed two games in 2011.

    Overall

    71

    An athletic player who will line up inside and outside—depending on the defense—Jones will be playing mostly inside for the Seattle Seahawks in 2012. Jones is quick enough to play in space, but his strength is best used on the inside.

26. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints

40 of 66

     

    Agility

    8

    An exceptional athlete who has the quickness to play in space and the strength to drop down inside.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Lacks the technique to drive tackles off the ball.

    Speed Rush

    6

    Jordan needs to develop a stronger secondary move, but he has unlimited potential.

    Run Defense

    8

    Far ahead of most rookies in 2011, Jordan was a force against the run.

    Speed/Burst

    6

    Shows a strong first step, but didn't respond well when asked to chase the ball.

    Strength

    6

    A full offseason in an NFL weight program will do Jordan good.

    Pass Deflect

    9

    Was close to the top of the NFL in terms of his ability to knock down passes.

    Read & React

    5

    Can be fooled by misdirection. Must do a better job staying home on his side of the ball.

    Tackle

    7

    A sound tackler who won't let many runners away once the impact is made.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    71

    Cameron Jordan has only scratched the surface of his remarkable potential. Thrown into the spotlight after a lockout-shortened offseason, Jordan played well enough to have the Saints believing they've found their bookend pass-rusher of the future.

25. Jeremy Mincey, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Agility

    7

    Has the first step to generate pressure off the snap.

    Bull Rush

    6

    Stronger than anticipated at the point of attack. Can chop his feet to press at the line.

    Speed Rush

    8

    Mincey has a good first step and the strength to use his hands to keep blockers from grabbing on to him.

    Run Defense

    8

    Does a great job shedding blockers to shut down the run.

    Speed/Burst

    8

    Has a first step that few tackles kept up with during the 2011 season.

    Strength

    6

    Strong enough to fight off blockers, but will struggle when double-teamed.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Has the athletic ability to go up and get the football.

    Read & React

    6

    Mincey shows good vision and quick reads.

    Tackle

    7

    Has the reach to extend and grab runners. Is strong enough to hang on and pull them down.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    72

    An underrated all-around defensive end in Jacksonville's 4-3 defense, the team was wise to lock him up long term this offseason. Mincey has the ability to speed rush off the edge, but is also one of the better 4-3 run-stopping DEs.

24. Glenn Dorsey, Kansas City Chiefs

42 of 66

     

    Agility

    7

    A surprisingly good athlete with nice quickness and a good first step.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Has the strength to drive off the ball, but wins with his impressive first step that catches blockers off guard.

    Speed Rush

    5

    Doesn't offer much in the way of a speed rush.

    Run Defense

    10

    Not many noticed Glenn Dorsey's 2011 season against the run. He graded out as the second best defensive end I scouted at stopping the run.

    Speed/Burst

    6

    Has the required first step, but in a 3-4 defense he's not asked to shoot the gaps very often.

    Strength

    8

    Strong enough to take on blockers and control two gaps at the snap.

    Pass Deflect

    5

    Will get pushed down if tackles know the ball is coming out quickly.

    Read & React

    7

    A smart player who does a good job generating depth and then reading the ball in a hurry.

    Tackle

    7

    A strong tackler who does a good job wrapping up to maintain impact.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    72

    Glenn Dorsey too often gets mentioned as a draft bust, but anyone who really watched him play in 2011 saw a player who is close to taking over at the position. Dorsey is a player to keep an eye on in 2012 for a breakout season.

23. Chris Long, St. Louis Rams

43 of 66

     

    Agility

    7

    A good overall athlete who possesses the strength and quickness to excel.

    Bull Rush

    8

    Has very good strength and plays with ideal leverage to push blockers off the line.

    Speed Rush

    5

    Long lacks the quickness and burst to be a player in space.

    Run Defense

    5

    Strong enough to force the run inside, Long doesn't make many plays on his own due to double teams and a lack of speed.

    Speed/Burst

    5

    Merely average for the position.

    Strength

    8

    Exceptionally strong at the point of attack.

    Pass Deflect

    8

    A tall player with quick hands, Long can get up and knock the ball down.

    Read & React

    9

    Does a good job locking on to the tackle and finding the ball, then shedding and running in pursuit.

    Tackle

    8

    A strong, wrap-up tackler with good form and production.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    73

    The NFL's leader in quarterback pressures for 2011, Long is a key piece of the Rams defense. While his 2011 numbers weren't great, Long looked good on film. If he can develop more of an outside speed rush, or get help from the tackle next to him, Long could have a 12-sack season in 2012.

22. Brian Robison, Minnesota Vikings

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    Agility

    9

    Scary good, Robison is one of the best all-around athletes in the league.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Has the strength to knock blockers off the ball and run through them to the quarterback.

    Speed Rush

    6.5

    Has a good first step and enough burst, but can get knocked off balance when trying to turn the corner.

    Run Defense

    6

    Asked to play more on the edge, Robison could do a better job crashing the line and not getting washed down.

    Speed/Burst

    8

    Robison has a dangerous first step, and the speed to back it up.

    Strength

    8

    A naturally strong player who can push and pull linemen to gain leverage and find space to rush the passer.

    Pass Deflect

    8

    Shows great leaping ability and the quick hands needed to go up for the ball.

    Read & React

    5

    Still working on learning how to read the ball and flow without getting out of control.

    Tackle

    6

    Not a wrap-up tackler, Robison comes in too high at times looking for a kill shot.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    73.5

    A player we'll be watching closely in 2012, Brian Robison is poised for a breakout season. He has rare athletic ability, and once he learns to play more disciplined, he will be the perfect complement to Jared Allen on the talented Vikings line.

21. Red Bryant, Seattle Seahawks

45 of 66

     

    Agility

    6

    Bryant has a good first step, but he can be heavy-footed and off balance at times.

    Bull Rush

    8

    Has the strength and momentum to push blockers back off the ball.

    Speed Rush

    4

    Doesn't flash much ability to create space and explode to the quarterback.

    Run Defense

    9

    Does a great job finding the ball and locking down running lanes.

    Speed/Burst

    4

    Lacks the speed to run down the ball from behind.

    Strength

    9

    Bryant has the strength scouts love for the position. Is built more like a defensive tackle.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Has long arms and big hands to extend and knock down the ball.

    Read & React

    8

    Bryant is rarely fooled by misdirection. Does a great job staying at home and playing his assignment.

    Tackle

    9

    A strong, punishing tackler who rarely misses tackles.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    74

    The 6'4", 323-pound Bryant is built more like a defensive tackle, but the Seahawks love what he can do off the right side of the line. Bryant's game is all strength, but he does a great job generating pressure and shutting down the run.

20. Ray Edwards, Atlanta Falcons

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    Agility

    7

    Edwards is a good athlete, but lacks the burst and speed of other top ends. He's more of a power player.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Has the strength to push linemen off the ball and pressure the pocket.

    Speed Rush

    5

    Doesn't show much ability to bend the edge of the line and create pressure in space.

    Run Defense

    8

    Edwards' best asset is his ability to stuff the run coming off the left side of the defense. He's quick enough to stop sweeps and strong enough to hold his ground inside.

    Speed/Burst

    6

    Has good speed for stopping the run, but lacks the quickness to be an effective pass-rusher in space.

    Strength

    8

    Edwards flashes the strength to take on blockers head-up, and in most scenarios he's going to win.

    Pass Deflect

    8

    Does a very good job jumping up to get his hands in the way, which is a must-have for a left defensive end against right-handed quarterbacks.

    Read & React

    7

    Sees the ball well and has a natural ability to flow through traffic.

    Tackle

    8

    Edwards has good form, showing the ability to wrap and lock ball-carriers in space.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    74

    Edwards didn't have the impact that some expected when the Atlanta Falcons signed him, but he's not a 12-sack guy; Edwards excels at stopping the run and penetrating off the edge to pressure the passer. Edwards only notched four sacks, but he contributed 25 pressures in 2011.

19. Charles Johnson, Carolina Panthers

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    Agility

    7

    A good athlete, Johnson is only lacking closing speed.

    Bull Rush

    8

    Has a strong lower body which allows him to drive tackles off the ball. Follows this up nicely with a swim move.

    Speed Rush

    8

    Johnson is better when initiating contact and then playing off the tackle, but he's good enough at crashing the edge to rush in space.

    Run Defense

    6.5

    Does a good job locating the ball, but can be taken out of the play by kicking out too wide.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    Johnson has a good enough first step to scare pass-protectors into making mistakes, which sets them up for a strong inside move.

    Strength

    7.5

    Johnson may not be known as a strong player, but he has the natural strength to shed blockers and track the ball.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Has the length to go up and get the ball, but is rarely in position to do so.

    Read & React

    7

    Does a good job sticking too his assignment and finding the football.

    Tackle

    7

    A strong tackler, Johnson can get too high at times and get caught hugging air.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    74

    Charles Johnson notched 10 sacks and 32 quarterback pressures in 2011—solid numbers for any player. Some were disappointed with Johnson's production on the legs of a new mega-contract, but his overall game is still one of the best in the league. Add a solid defensive tackle to draw attention from Johnson on the outside and watch out.

18. Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts

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    Agility

    8

    A top-notch athlete who displays the burst and strength to play the position at a very high level.

    Bull Rush

    2

    Is more of an edge-rusher who uses his quickness to get to the backfield.

    Speed Rush

    9

    Shows very good flexibility to bend off the edge. Displays the quickness and burst to be a nightmare for tackles off the edge.

    Run Defense

    7

    Has the quickness to be a chase tackler. Will fight for the ball, but can be washed down at times.

    Speed/Burst

    9

    Has excellent burst and the speed to chase down runners from behind. Shows the quickness off the line to dominate tackles at the point of attack.

    Strength

    6

    Shows good lower body strength, but plays without great leverage when locked up.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Doesn't always work off blockers to get his hands up when the ball is thrown.

    Read & React

    9

    Won't be fooled by play action or misdirection.

    Tackle

    9

    One of the best in the game. Shows the strength to wrap-up and drive the ball.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    75

    Mathis is one part of a dynamic pass-rushing duo in Indianapolis. His 2011 season was again solid, logging 10 sacks and 30 quarterback pressures despite facing double teams every game.

17. Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts

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    Agility

    10

    A shifty, explosive athlete who has rare burst and closing speed.

    Bull Rush

    2

    Freeney's game is all about speed in space. He's not a factor to bull rush.

    Speed Rush

    10

    One of the best in the NFL during the 2011 season (and in his career) at getting separation off the edge and closing on the quarterback.

    Run Defense

    4

    Does a good job moving laterally to shut down the run, but lacks the strength to attack the ball inside.

    Speed/Burst

    10

    One of the best in the NFL, Freeney's first step is nearly unstoppable.

    Strength

    7

    Stronger than he's given credit for, Freeney can disengage from blockers in space.

    Pass Deflect

    5

    Wasn't a factor in 2011.

    Read & React

    9

    Does a great job finding the football and using his speed to close on the play.

    Tackle

    8

    A form tackler who rarely misses tackles.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    75

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are still having nightmares after the Week 3 performance Freeney put on them. Anyone questioning the ability of this stud pass-rusher should queue up the footage of that game. Freeney may be slowing down, but he still has top talent.

16. Darnell Dockett, Arizona Cardinals

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    Agility

    8

    Is naturally strong, showing good foot speed and quickness for a bigger-bodied defensive end.

    Bull Rush

    8

    An effective bull-rusher, he uses his legs to drive off the ball and has good hand placement.

    Speed Rush

    6

    Has an above-average speed rush, but lacks the flexibility to turn the corner.

    Run Defense

    6

    Will make more good plays than bad, but isn't considered a top-tier run defender.

    Speed/Burst

    8

    Has good burst out of the blocks, firing off with a low center of gravity and nice body control.

    Strength

    8

    Has very good strength throughout, showing the upper and lower body strength to hold the edge.

    Pass Deflect

    5

    Doesn't flash this ability consistently, but does knock down a few passes.

    Read & React

    8

    Has a quick eye and can pick up on what the offense is doing in a hurry.

    Tackle

    8

    Strong enough to bring down runners with one arm when he's fighting blockers in the trenches.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    75

    Dockett plays a hybrid role with the Arizona Cardinals, working inside and outside in a 5-technique position. He's asked to rush the passer and stop the run equally, and does both very well. Darnell Dockett is one of the premier 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL.

15. Andre Carter, New England Patriots

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    Agility

    8

    A strong all-around athlete who has the quickness, speed and strength to play either standing up or down in a three-point stance.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Strong enough to generate pressure off the line when barring down on tackles.

    Speed Rush

    7

    Has a good first step and eats up yards on the edge when crashing the corner.

    Run Defense

    8

    Carter is strong enough at the point of attack to take on blockers and throw them aside to find the football.

    Speed/Burst

    9

    A quick, powerful first step allows Carter to beat tackles who aren't expecting it.

    Strength

    7

    Carter is strong enough to take on blocks, but can be moved around when caught head-up.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Has the ability to get his hands up and knock down the ball.

    Read & React

    8

    A smart player with experience in space and in-line, Carter is disciplined and aware.

    Tackle

    8

    Carter showed a good skill to tackle in space or fight through traffic to get the ball.

    Health

    6

    Missed most of the second half of 2011 with a quad injury.

    Overall

    75

    Had Carter not been hurt late in the year, it would be interesting to see how the Super Bowl would have played out. Carter was playing his best football last season, becoming a true presence off the edge against the run and pass. If healthy in 2012, Carter is worth watching closely.

14. Cliff Avril, Detroit Lions

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    Agility

    8

    Avril has upper-level athletic ability, showing great body control in space.

    Bull Rush

    6.5

    Lacks the strength to consistently drive blockers off the ball.

    Speed Rush

    8

    Has quick feet and the flexibility to dip his shoulder and turn the corner.

    Run Defense

    7

    Plays the run better than expected for his size, showing an ability to crash the backfield and stop the run.

    Speed/Burst

    8

    Avril has a killer first step that allows him to get the jump on blockers off the snap.

    Strength

    6

    Above-average strength at the point of attack.

    Pass Deflect

    6

    Doesn't always work off blockers to get his hands up when the ball is thrown.

    Read & React

    8

    Is able to identify protections and plays pre-snap. Flows to the ball well.

    Tackle

    8

    What we call "laying the wood," Avril knows how to hit.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    75.5

    One of the premier edge-rushers in the NFL, Avril enjoyed a great 2011 season, notching 11 tackles and 37 quarterback pressures. If Avril can learn to play with better discipline (11 penalties in 2011), he has the potential to be an All-Pro.

13. Justin Tuck, New York Giants

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    Agility

    9

    A first-class athlete with the strength and quickness to be elite.

    Bull Rush

    9

    Tuck is strong enough to drive back tackles, but he's also slippery enough to get a step on them and then burst inside for penetration.

    Speed Rush

    9

    Tough to stop when he's crashing the edge, Tuck has the quickness and hands to dominate.

    Run Defense

    7

    Tuck does a good job finding the ball and fighting through traffic to make the tackle.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    Has a good first step to catch blockers off guard, and is fast enough to chase the ball.

    Strength

    7

    Strong enough in his lower body to be a factor at the point of attack.

    Pass Deflect

    8

    Is long enough to get in the air and make plays on the ball.

    Read & React

    7

    Does a better job locating the ball in space. Can lose sight of the play when asked to crash the line.

    Tackle

    7

    Has long arms to reach the ball-carrier, and the strength to pull them down once he gets a hold of them.

    Health

    6

    Tuck missed considerable time in 2011.

    Overall

    76

    A healthy Justin Tuck is a top 15 defensive end, but his 2011 season was disrupted by injury. Tuck is still one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL, and if healthy in 2012, he'll enjoy a great season due to the exposure and attention Jason Pierre-Paul will draw from opposing linemen.

12. John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons

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    Agility

    7

    Abraham has lost some quickness due to age, but he's still a top-notch player.

    Bull Rush

    6.5

    Not quite strong enough to win battles on the inside.

    Speed Rush

    8

    Has the fast-twitch speed to blast off the edge and get into space before the tackle can react.

    Run Defense

    7

    Can be washed down at times, but has the quickness to be a chase tackler.

    Speed/Burst

    7.5

    Has good burst out of the blocks, firing off with a low center of gravity and nice body control.

    Strength

    7

    Can hold his own against most tackles, but lacks the elite strength to take care of the game's best tackles. 

    Pass Deflect

    8

    Athletic enough to get his hands up and deflect the ball.

    Read & React

    7

    Is a classic read and react player who has the quickness to flow to the ball.

    Tackle

    8

    Strong enough to bring down runners with one arm.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    76

    The 12-year vet of out of South Carolina is nearing the end of a very good career, but he's not slowing down yet. Abraham notched 10 sacks in 2011 despite seeing constant combination blocks. He also added 37 pressures to that total.

11. Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders

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    Agility

    8

    Houston is a big man who moves with surprising speed and quickness. 

    Bull Rush

    9

    Has natural strength and quickness to hit and drive.

    Speed Rush

    7

    Has enough quickness to get on the edge and get tackles backpedaling.

    Run Defense

    8

    Houston looks good when asked to engage blockers to occupy rushing lanes, he's also quick enough to come off and make tackles.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    Houston has good straight-line speed, but enough burst to close on the ball.

    Strength

    7

    Very good natural strength throughout his frame.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Flashes the quick hands to knock the ball down in flight.

    Read & React

    7

    Shows the quick-read skills to find and flow to the football.

    Tackle

    7

    A wrap-up tackler who does a good job working off blocks to find the ball.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    77

    Houston is a hybrid defensive end/tackle who has amazing upside. When first scouting Houston, I had him pegged as a top-30 guy. But watching him work off blockers and use his speed to crash the backfield, I was blown away by his raw ability. Houston has All-Pro potential.

10. Ray McDonald, San Franciscon 49ers

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    Agility

    7

    McDonald is an impressive overall athlete who may be a little stiff at times.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Does a good job getting inside the blocker and using his big, strong legs to drive back the line of scrimmage.

    Speed Rush

    5

    McDonald doesn't show great open-field speed or agility to bend the corner and rush off the edge.

    Run Defense

    10

    One of the best defensive ends in the game when asked to stop the run. McDonald can quickly get off blocks and close on the ball.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    What McDonald lacks in straight-line speed he brings in burst off the line of scrimmage. Has a dynamic first step.

    Strength

    9

    McDonald has a big, strong base with ideal strength through his bubble and arms.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Has the height and length to get this hands up when the ball is thrown.

    Read & React

    7

    Will get sucked inside by play action at times, but is otherwise a smart, disciplined player.

    Tackle

    9

    McDonald is a strong tackler who comes off blocks well and does a good job opening his arms to make the play.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    78

    As a defensive end in a 3-4 defense, Ray McDonald has different responsibilities than the pure pass-rushers ranked. He is asked to hold a line at left end, preventing the run and going against tackles to pressure the quarterback. He does both jobs very well, which is why he's ranked as the 10th-best DE in the NFL.

9. Jason Babin, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Agility

    8

    Babin shows good burst off the edge, with the flexibility to dip his shoulder to slide past tackles.

    Bull Rush

    9

    Plays stronger than expected, Babin will drive through blockers if he can beat them off the ball.

    Speed Rush

    9

    Babin is at his best when taking a wide loop around the edge, where he has the strength and closing speed to be a factor.

    Run Defense

    6

    Some of the issue here is the wide scheme the Eagles play, but Babin could do a better job anchoring off the edge.

    Speed/Burst

    9

    Has an elite first step with great burst.

    Strength

    9

    Field strong, he can push and drive off tackles without issue.

    Pass Deflect

    3

    Doesn't do a great job getting his hands up and attacking the ball.

    Read & React

    8

    Smart player who can be sucked in at times, Babin plays good, disciplined football.

    Tackle

    9

    Is a sound technician who will wrap up and drive through the ball carrier. Strong enough to pull down players with an arm tackle.

    Health

    9

    Missed little time in 2011.

    Overall

    79

    Babin followed up his great 2010 season with an even better 2011 campaign. He's a great fit in the Eagles' wide-9 defensive formation, as his natural speed and strength make him a nightmare to match up against on the edge.

8. Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals

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    Agility

    8

    Campbell has good quickness, nice flexibility in his lower body and top-notch strength.

    Bull Rush

    8

    Does a great job sinking his hips and rolling through blockers who dare get in front of him.

    Speed Rush

    5

    Lacks the agility to get out on the edge and try to win with speed.

    Run Defense

    6

    Plays the run well, but can be washed down when trying to over-pursue.

    Speed/Burst

    7

    Has good enough burst to break through the line, but his pursuit speed is limited.

    Strength

    9

    Tough to handle by just one blocker, Campbell is a beast.

    Pass Deflect

    10

    One of the best in the NFL at knocking the ball down at the line of scrimmage.

    Read & React

    8

    Has good natural instincts and shows the ability to flow to the ball.

    Tackle

    8

    When Campbell makes impact, there are few players strong enough to break free or run out of his grasp.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    79

    One of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL, Campbell benefits from the Cardinals coaching staff moving him around to find matchups. He does his part by bringing a great combination of strength, vision and burst off the ball.

7. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

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    Agility

    8

    Watt shows a great first step with the power to back up his every move. A tremendous overall athlete.

    Bull Rush

    8

    Once Watt develops a solid countermove to his already strong bull rush, tackles will be left powerless.

    Speed Rush

    6

    More of a power-rusher, Watt can work in space but is less effective there.

    Run Defense

    9

    Sees a ton of action playing on the left side of the defensive line. Is able to take out lead blockers and attack the ball.

    Speed/Burst

    8

    Shows excellent first-step quickness to penetrate the offensive line.

    Strength

    10

    A bit of a freak in terms of raw strength, Watt is already one of the best at his position in the NFL after one year.

    Pass Deflect

    9

    Watt displays a heads-up ability to find the ball and get his hands up—and he's athletic enough to pick off passes others will simply bat down.

    Read & React

    7

    Still learning how to read flawlessly, Watt does a great job working through the line to get the ball.

    Tackle

    8

    Has big, long arms that allow him to reach runners in traffic.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    83

    A player I'm so glad I was wrong about before the season,  J.J. Watt looked a little lost during the first preseason game...and then he turned it on. Watt has the strength and burst to fire off the ball and get into the backfield against stronger right tackles. The sky is the limit for the former Wisconsin Badger, who should be a perennial Pro Bowler.

6. Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears

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    Agility

    10

    A former college basketball player, Peppers is one of the most athletic men in the NFL.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Strong enough to force his way through tackles who try to get in his way.

    Speed Rush

    9

    Has deceptive speed, and is fast enough to blow past tackles who get caught flat-footed.

    Run Defense

    6

    Is strong enough to play the run, but will get caught looping outside too often.

    Speed/Burst

    8

    Has one of the best first steps at the right defensive end position, with strong chase speed to boot.

    Strength

    9

    Incredibly strong for the position. Has the ability to throw off blockers.

    Pass Deflect

    8.5

    This is where his days as a rebounder really come in to play. Peppers can get up and knock the ball down.

    Read & React

    9

    Peppers does a great job finding the ball post-snap. He's rarely fooled by play action or misdirection.

    Tackle

    9

    Has the long arms to fight through blockers and wrap up. A very strong tackler.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    85.5

    One of the best in the game, Julius Peppers can do it all. If the Bears need a pass-rusher, he can accelerate to the quarterback with the best of them. Need someone to stop the run? Peppers will play the hole and throttle blockers. Peppers remains the ideal mold for a 4-3 defensive end.

5. Trent Cole, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Agility

    10

    Cole is one of the most underrated athletes in the game. Has an unnaturally fast first step and good upper-body strength.

    Bull Rush

    7

    Not quite strong enough to push the pile when locked inside.

    Speed Rush

    10

    Cole has a quick first step that will get tackles bailing in a hurry—which lets him undercut and open up secondary rushing moves.

    Run Defense

    8

    Better than he's given credit for as a smaller pass-rusher, Cole does a great job catching runners as they cross his face.

    Speed/Burst

    10

    Cole received our highest ranking among defensive ends in terms of speed and burst off the edge.

    Strength

    7

    Strong enough to shed blockers and push through traffic.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Lacks the height to jump up and deflect at a high rate.

    Read & React

    9

    Is able to read the blockers and find the football. Plays well off his keys.

    Tackle

    9

    Has great closing speed and will pounce on the ball-carrier.

    Health

    9

    Missed some time in 2011 due to injury.

    Overall

    86

    Trent Cole could easily be considered the best pure DE in the NFL when you take away hybrid players and 3-4 defensive ends. Cole is one the premier edge-rushers in the game.

4. Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings

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    Agility

    9

    Allen has exceptional quickness and rare strength for the position.

    Bull Rush

    10

    Strong enough to engage blockers and then push his way through them to the backfield.

    Speed Rush

    10

    Fast enough to beat tackles to the corner, Allen is also flexible enough to dip and close.

    Run Defense

    8

    Can be beat if a team runs off tackle, as he's constantly looping around end.

    Speed/Burst

    10

    Allen has the quickness to dominate even the best tackles, as evidenced by his NFL-best 22 sacks.

    Strength

    9

    Allen has the hand and arm strength to keep blockers from getting inside his frame.

    Pass Deflect

    7

    Has the hands to knock balls down, but is often out of range.

    Read & React

    8

    There are times, albeit rare, when Allen can be mentally taken out of the game. The other 99 percent of the time he's unstoppable.

    Tackle

    9

    A hard, violent tackler who has amazing closing speed.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    90

    One of the best in the NFL, Allen could arguably be the best pass-rusher in the game. His numbers certainly back it up. Allen led the league with 22 sacks in 2011, third best all time.

3. Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

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    Agility

    9

    Suggs has a rare combination of speed, burst and strength at the position.

    Bull Rush

    9

    He is strong enough to go through blockers—setting them up for a spin or swim move later on.

    Speed Rush

    9

    Fast enough to crash the edge, Suggs has great lower-body flexibility to dip his hips and bend the corner.

    Run Defense

    10

    A lock-down defender on the edge, Suggs plays the run with strength and discipline.

    Speed/Burst

    8.5

    Suggs isn't known for a great 40 time, but his burst is among the best in the NFL.

    Strength

    9

    A thick, strong player who uses his size and strength well on the field.

    Pass Deflect

    8

    Suggs is tall enough and athletic enough to get up and knock the ball down.

    Read & React

    10

    Rarely out of position, Suggs is the game's best defensive end at reading and recognizing play calls.

    Tackle

    8

    Suggs is a damn good tackler, but there are times when he misses open-field tackles.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    90.5

    Suggs could be classified as either a defensive end or an outside linebacker, but we looked at where he played most of his snaps in 2011 and listed him at end—and he dominated. The 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Suggs does it all as a pass-rusher, run-stuffer and even cover man in the Ravens' complex defensive system.

2. Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants

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    Agility

    10

    The most athletic player in the NFL on a pound-for-pound basis, Jason Pierre-Paul is a freak of nature. He once did backflips the length of the football field.

    Bull Rush

    9

    JPP has developed a nice bull rush that counters into a spin move back to the edge. He's becoming impossible to block with one guy.

    Speed Rush

    10

    There's not a tackle in the NFL who could block JPP if he plays at the level he was at in the playoffs for a full season.

    Run Defense

    8

    Will get caught taking a wide arc to the quarterback and giving up the edge to off-tackle runs.

    Speed/Burst

    10

    JPP has the fastest first step of any player in the NFL—at any position. Watching his first three yards is surreal.

    Strength

    9

    His strength is continually improving, and in 2011, JPP was tossing blockers who tried to strong-arm him aside. You have to block him with your entire body. Or just hold, it's easier.

    Pass Deflect

    10

    Athletic enough to get his hands up on the ball, JPP is aware and alert at the line.

    Read & React

    9

    Still gets fooled at times on screen packages, JPP has to learn to throttle down when the path to the quarterback is too easy.

    Tackle

    6

    The only thing keeping JPP from the No. 1 spot was his eight missed tackles during the 2011 regular season.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    91

    In only his second season, Jason Pierre-Paul dominated the NFL at DE. Lining up at right end for most of the year, JPP was one of the most impactful players in the game. Watch his Week 13 game against Green Bay (six QB pressures), Week 14 against Dallas (two sacks), or even his entire playoff resume. JPP is quickly becoming elite.

1. Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers

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    Agility

    8.5

    Smith doesn't have great speed, but he's a fantastic athlete with good burst and crazy strength.

    Bull Rush

    10

    Strong enough to generate pressure by driving his man back off the ball, creating a more shallow pocket.

    Speed Rush

    7.5

    Smith isn't asked to jump out in space much, but he does have enough burst to take the edge and close on the quarterback.

    Run Defense

    9

    Smith does an excellent job anchoring the edge. He's strong enough to drive blockers back off the line of scrimmage.

    Speed/Burst

    10

    While Smith doesn't have track-star speed, his burst more than makes up for it. His short-area quickness is elite.

    Strength

    10

    Strong enough to drive the strongest, biggest tackles back on to their heels.

    Pass Deflect

    8

    Does a good job staying in passing lanes and getting his hands up when the ball is thrown.

    Read & React

    10

    Smith's best characteristic, he excels at finding the ball and then doing whatever necessary to shut it down.

    Tackle

    10

    The man simply doesn't miss tackles—well, to be fair he missed one. All year.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    93

    The NFL's best all-around defensive end just might be the best defensive player in the NFL. Justin Smith has become the prototypical 3-4 defensive end, playing with speed and power off the edge. Smith is able to shut down the run, pressure the backfield, and create sack opportunities for himself and his teammates.

Honorable Mentions

66 of 66

    A quick look at a few defensive ends who were close to making the Top 64, but just missed the cut.


    Jarvis Moss, Oakland Raiders

    Overall: 51


    Jarvis Jenkins, Washington Redskins

    Overall: 50.5


    William Hayes, St. Louis Rams

    Overall: 50

    Kroy Bierrman, Atlanta Falcons

    Overall: 50


    Stephen Bowen, Washington Redskins

    Overall: 49.5

    Dave Tollefson, Oakland Raiders

    Overall: 49


    Alex Carrington, Buffalo Bills

    Overall: 46


    Antwan Applewhite, Carolina Panthers

    Overall: 45



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