2012 NFL Draft: Tracking Landing Spots for Top 25 Defensive Linemen
The 2012 NFL Draft has finally arrived and, as usual, the quarterbacks are the talk of the draft.
As the old saying goes, "Offense (read: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III) sells tickets; defense wins championships." So although the so-called skill players get most of the pub, many teams will be looking to address problems with weakened defensive lines, and the 2012 Draft class features several impact players with the ability to patch those holes.
The following 25 defensive linemen are some of the top players available in this year's draft at the position.
DL No. 22: Kheeston Randall, Texas (DT)
DL No. 25: Marcus Forston, Miami (FL) (DT)
Player: Marcus Forston
School: University of Miami (Florida)
Player Comparison: Ed Johnson
Forston needs to improve his game sense. His skill set is more than adequate to play at the NFL level, but his ability to know his limits and play his role remind scouts of former Carolina Panthers' defensive tackle Ed Johnson.
DL No. 4: Dontari Poe, Memphis (DT): Chiefs Round 1 (11)
Player: Dontari Poe
School: University of Memphis
Player Comparison: Haloti Ngata
Shades of the Baltimore Ravens' defensive tackle are noticeable in Poe's game. His versatility and skill set allows him to play almost every different position along the defensive line. That gives him an advantage in the draft because it makes him appealing to a broader array of teams.
DL No. 3: Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State (DT): Eagles Round 1 (12)
Player: Fletcher Cox
School: Mississippi State University
Player Comparison: Cullen Jenkins
Cox draws comparisons to the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive tackle because of his explosive speed off the line of scrimmage. That allows him to penetrate offensive lines with ease and wreak havoc in the backfield. The Mississippi State product is able to play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense.
DL No. 2: Michael Brockers, LSU (DE): Rams Round 1 (14)
DL No. 5: Quinton Coples, North Carolina (DE): Jets Round 1 (16)
Player: Quinton Coples
School: University of North Carolina
Player Comparison: Ray Edwards
Coples is a premiere run blocker with the ability to break up pass plays, too. That sort of dual threat has caused scouts to compare him to the Atlanta Falcons' defensive end. If the comparison holds, whoever selects this monster will be happy with the pick.
DL No. 12: Chandler Jones, Syracuse (DE): Patriots Round 1 (21)
DL No. 7: Whitney Mercilus, Illinois (DE): Texans Round 1 (26)
Player: Whitney Mercilus
School: University of Illinois
Player Comparison: Tamba Hali
College quarterbacks feared Mercilus and his NCAA leading 16 sacks last season. It's no surprise, then, to see the Illinois star compared to the the Kansas City Chief, one of the NFL's premiere pass rushers with a similar game.
DL No. 1: Nick Perry, USC (DE): Packers Round 1 (28)
DL No. 6: Andre Branch, Clemson (DE): Jaguars Round 2 (38)
Player: Andre Branch
School: Clemson University
Player Comparison: Ryan Kerrigan
The extremely athletic Andre Branch needs coaching to perform with the best in the NFL. The Washington Redskins' linebacker to whom Branch draws comparisons started his professional career with a similar problem, so there's plenty of hope for the youngster.
DL No. 8: Kendall Reyes, Connecticut (DT): Chargers 2 (49)
Player: Kendall Reyes
School: University of Connecticut
Player Comparison: Ray McDonald
In his senior year, Reyes served as one of UCONN's team captains and was named to the All-Big East Conference first team. He finished the season with 10 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks switching between defensive end and defensive tackle for the Huskies.
DL No. 9: Jerel Worthy, Michigan State (DT): Packers Round 2 (51)
DL No. 10: Devon Still, Penn State (DT): Bengals Round 2 (53)
DL No. 13: Vinny Curry, Marshall (DE): Eagles Round 2 (59)
Player: Vinny Curry
School: Marshall University
Player Comparison: Trent Cole
Curry reminds scouts of the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive end because of his ability to attack the quarterback from the outside. The Marshall product uses his size and strength to push through offensive lineman and breakup plays.
DL No. 17: Tyrone Crawford, Boise State (DE): Cowboys Round 3 (81)
Player: Tyrone Crawford
School: Boise State University
Player Comparison: Chris Long
Crawford plays a game similar to up-and-coming St. Louis Rams' defensive end. On the plus side, he's got good pass defense and athleticism. On the down side, his run defense is suspect.
DL No. 11: Mike Martin, Michigan (DT): Titans Round 3 (82)
DL No. 23: Jake Bequette, Arkansas (DE): Patriots Round 3 (90)
DL No. 19: Brandon Thompson, Clemson (DT): Bengals Round 3 (93)
DL No. 20: Alameda Ta'amu, Washington (DT): Steelers Round 4 (109)
DL No. 14: Jared Crick, Nebraska (DE): Texans Round 4 (126)
Player: Jared Crick
School: University of Nebraska
Player Comparison: J.J. Watt
Crick's stock fell after a season ending injury. Once considered a first-round pick, the Nebraska product's ability to play on the edge as a power defensive end in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense reminds scouts of the Houston Texans' defensive end.
DL No. 16: Josh Chapman, Alabama (DT): Colts Round 5 (136)
Player: Josh Chapman
School: University of Alabama
Player Comparison: Jurrell Casey
Chapman played eight weeks on a torn ACL for the Crimson Tide this season. He uses his size and toughness to take on blockers and break up run plays. That makes the Tennessee Titans' defensive tackle a good comparison for the Alabama product.
DL No. 21: Malik Jackson, Tennessee (DE): Broncos Round 5 (137)
DL No. 15: Billy Winn, Boise St. (DE): Browns 6 (205)
Player: Billy Winn
School: Boise State University
Player Comparison: Tyson Jackson
Winn was named to the All-Western Athletic Conference second after a successful senior season at Boise St. He started in all 13 games for the Broncos, finishing with 28 tackles, 10 for a loss and four sacks.
DL No. 24: Trevor Guyton, California (DE): Vikings Round 7 (219)
DL No. 18: Cam Johnson, Virginia (DE): 49ers Round 7 (237)
Player: Cam Johnson
School: University of Virginia
Player Comparison: Michael Bennett
Crawford needs a lot of work to earn a regular job in the NFL. His athleticism and pursuit remind scouts of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive tackle, but he'll have to do something about his most noticeable weakness: his pass rushing ability.