2012 NFL Draft: Tracking Landing Spots for Top 25 Defensive Linemen

Jacob Betzner@@JacobBetznerCorrespondent IIApril 25, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Tracking Landing Spots for Top 25 Defensive Linemen

0 of 25

    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)

1 of 25

    Player: Kheeston Randall

    School: University of Texas

    Player Comparison: Tyson Jackson

    Randall possesses pure run stopping ability but lacks the ability to pass rush efficiently.  A comparable NFL players is Kansas City Chiefs' defensive end Tyson Jackson.

DL No. 25: Marcus Forston, Miami (FL) (DT)

2 of 25

    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)

3 of 25

    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)

4 of 25

    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)

5 of 25

    Player: Michael Brockers

    School: Louisiana State University

    Player Comparison: Richard Seymour

    Brockers plays a game similar to that of the Oakland Raiders'.  He penetrates the line almost on command and fits ideally in a 3-4 defensive scheme. The experts project big things from this big man.

DL No. 5: Quinton Coples, North Carolina (DE): Jets Round 1 (16)

6 of 25

    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)

7 of 25

    Player: Chandler Jones

    School: Syracuse University

    Player Comparison: Osi Umenyiora

    Jones is a raw pass rusher with a ton of potential to improve at the professional level.  He needs to work on his run defense, much like his New York Giants' defensive end doppelganger did in his early NFL years.

DL No. 7: Whitney Mercilus, Illinois (DE): Texans Round 1 (26)

8 of 25

    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)

9 of 25

    Player: Nick Perry

    School: USC

    Player Comparison: Brian Orakpo

    Perry reminds scouts of the current Washington Redskins' linebacker for a variety of reasons. Perry is an athletic anomaly and a premiere pass rusher. But his consistency and proficiency still need to develop before joining the NFL elite.

DL No. 6: Andre Branch, Clemson (DE): Jaguars Round 2 (38)

10 of 25

    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)

11 of 25

    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)

12 of 25

    Player: Jerel Worthy

    School: Michigan State University

    Player Comparison: Kevin Williams

    Worthy is another pass rusher with the ability to split the gap and track down the quarterback.  He reminds scouts of the Minnesota Vikings' defensive tackle, who's shown a similar knack for the sack.

DL No. 10: Devon Still, Penn State (DT): Bengals Round 2 (53)

13 of 25

    Player: Devon Still

    School: Penn State University

    Player Comparison: Darnell Dockett

    Still plays a comparable game to the Arizona Cardinals' defensive tackle. Additionally, his ability to move from defensive end to defensive tackle adds value to picking the hard-nosed Penn State product.

DL No. 13: Vinny Curry, Marshall (DE): Eagles Round 2 (59)

14 of 25

    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)

15 of 25

    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)

16 of 25

    Player: Mike Martin

    School: University of Michigan

    Player Comparison: Sione Pouha

    Martin's skill set includes the ability to open holes for his linebackers to rush the backfield.  His short, stocky build is similar to the New York Jets defensive tackle as is his game.

DL No. 23: Jake Bequette, Arkansas (DE): Patriots Round 3 (90)

17 of 25

    Player: Jake Bequette

    School: University of Arkansas

    Player Comparison: Matt Roth

    Bequette is a strong run defender, but lacks elite athletic ability.  His ability to play on the line or as a linebacker is similar to former Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive end/linebacker Matt Roth.

DL No. 19: Brandon Thompson, Clemson (DT): Bengals Round 3 (93)

18 of 25

    Player: Brandon Thompson

    School: Clemson University

    Player Comparison: Cullen Jenkins

    The Clemson product is able to play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.  Thompson's ability to collapse the pocket and rush the passer is similar to that demonstrated by the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive tackle.

DL No. 20: Alameda Ta'amu, Washington (DT): Steelers Round 4 (109)

19 of 25

    Player: Alameda Ta'amu

    School: University of Washington

    Player Comparison: Domata Peko

    Ta'amu struggles against a double team, but is a good pass rusher if he can get free.  His size and skill set reminds scouts of the Cincinnati Bengals' defensive tackle.

DL No. 14: Jared Crick, Nebraska (DE): Texans Round 4 (126)

20 of 25

    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)

21 of 25

    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)

22 of 25

    Player: Malik Johnson

    School: University of Tennessee

    Player Comparison: Raheem Brock

    Johnson reminds scouts of former Seattle Seahawks' defensive end Raheem Brock. Malik's size and speed are his assets, but he lacks excellent technique and interior rushing ability.

DL No. 15: Billy Winn, Boise St. (DE): Browns 6 (205)

23 of 25

    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)

24 of 25

    Player: Trevor Guyton

    School: University of California

    Player Comparison: Jay Ratliff

    Guyton's skill set is similar to Dallas Cowboys' defensive tackle Jay Ratliff.  His speed and game sense allow him to play at the nose tackle position despite a lack of prototypical nose tackle size.

DL No. 18: Cam Johnson, Virginia (DE): 49ers Round 7 (237)

25 of 25

    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.