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B/R NFL 1000 2013: Top 50 4-3 Defensive Ends

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 25, 2013

B/R NFL 1000 2013: Top 50 4-3 Defensive Ends

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    Who is the NFL’s best 4-3 defensive end?

    During last year's NFL 1,000 series, all defensive ends were combined in a ranking that we later found to be confusing to fans. Why scout, grade and rank Cameron Wake using the same criteria as Justin Smith when they are asked to do very different things on each play?

    That led to a revised look at defensive ends—and outside linebackers—in the 2013 NFL 1,000 rankings. The 50 players you’ll see next are all 4-3 defensive ends, or at least they played the majority of their snaps there during the 2012 season.

    They are ranked based on our team's study of film from the 2013 season. A player's career achievements are not taken into consideration. Nor is his potential.

    Players qualified with a minimum of 200 snaps. We evaluated their ability to rush the quarterback and stop the run. The scoring, out of a possible 100 points, was weighted to give a player's pass-rushing ability more importance.

    In cases where two players' total scores matched, we broke the tie based on which player we'd rather have on our team right now.

50. Lawrence Jackson, Detroit Lions

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    Run Defense

    34/40

    A quick mover for a big man, Lawrence Jackson was a tough run defender in 2012. He has the strength and length to come off blocks well, and he showed improved leverage at the point of attack.

    Pass Rush

    27/60

    Jackson lacks the quickness to show up as a pass-rusher, and in limited reps he didn’t show us much. An average first step keeps Jackson from making plays against the pass, and that puts him at a disadvantage right off the ball.

    Overall

    61/100

    Jackson took a step back in 2012 instead of continuing his development. His lack of production and impact as a pass-rusher stands out as an area to improve.

49. Shea McClellin, Chicago Bears

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    Run Defense

    28/40

    A rookie in 2012, Shea McClellin had trouble against the run as a defensive end. He doesn’t have the frame to stand up when blockers come off the line at him and will get shoved around when engaged. McClellin has to learn to use speed and strength to come off blocks. He’s fast enough to get to the ball in space and does a good job taking on blockers when attacking tosses and sweeps. But if he’s coming from a standstill position, blockers will overpower him.

    Pass Rush

    34/60

    A good natural athlete with quick feet, McClellin can be dangerous in space. He’s agile enough to bend the corner and dip his shoulder against tackles—especially slower tackles—and can get to the quarterback. McClellin can be a bit stiff at times and has trouble getting to quarterbacks. He’ll create pressure but not sacks and has to get better at attacking at full speed.

    Overall

    62/100

    McClellin has promise. As a 2012 first-round pick, he’ll be given opportunities to make plays, but it’s time to start developing.

48. Rob Ninkovich, New England Patriots

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    Run Defense

    33/40

    An assignment-style football player, Rob Ninkovich makes tackles in space but isn’t strong enough to beat blockers to the ball. He’ll get pushed around and driven off the ball when playing defensive end. Ninkovich would be better off at outside linebacker.

    Pass Rush

    29/60

    Stats can be deceiving, and Ninkovich is a good example of that. He generated sacks and pressures, but on film he wasn’t consistent coming off blocks and actually making plays. Ninkovich doesn’t produce when blockers get in his way, making most of his plays on uncontested blocks. Ninkovich didn’t show the burst or closing speed to be a factor.

    Overall

    62/100

    A good football player, Ninkovich doesn’t have the speed or strength to consistently impact the offense on every down.

47. Kroy Biermann, Atlanta Falcons

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    Run Defense

    34/40

    Kroy Biermann is a classic left defensive end, with an emphasis on run defense. He’s a strong defender who does well to shoot gaps and make positive plays in the backfield if within his reach. Biermann does a good job holding down the left edge, but he doesn’t have the speed to give much chase if runners do get loose. He won’t make many bad plays, but the plays he does make aren’t spectacular. 

    Pass Rush

    28/60

    Not a natural pass-rusher, Biermann is strong enough to get push on blockers and pressure the backfield. He’s not a slippery rusher who will evade blockers and crash the edge for a sack, but he will get pressure and is aware enough to come off blocks and make plays.

    Overall

    62/100

    A solid defender on first and second down, Biermann is limited as a pass-rusher. The Falcons love his run game, but his lack of pass rush was a liability in the playoffs.

46. Da'Quan Bowers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Run Defense

    33/40

    A rotational player in 2012, Da’Quan Bowers missed half of the season with injury. He’s a big-bodied end with the strength to attack the run and hold his own on the edge. Bowers does a good job coming off blocks to make tackles. He can drive and push the line of scrimmage with his powerful lower body.

    Pass Rush

    30/60

    Bowers took a few weeks to warm up once he returned from injury, and the biggest issues were in pass rushing. Tackles were able to get the jump on him off the snap, keeping Bowers from gaining ground in the backfield. Physically, he has all the tools to be a very good pass-rusher if he can stay healthy and work on developing a strong countermove. He’s built to convert speed to power.

    Overall

    63/100

    Bowers could be a star if ever healthy, but that's been a major issue throughout his career. There’s potential here for him to move way up the list if he can play 16 games.

45. Trevor Scott, New England Patriots

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    Run Defense

    28/40

    A solid athlete on the edge, Trevor Scott will make cutting plays in the backfield and flash exceptional potential at times, but he’s too inconsistent on film. Scott gets pushed around off the edge and will be driven back off the ball. He is quick enough to beat tackles to the hole but can be pushed outside the play.

    Pass Rush

    35/60

    Scott has some upside as a pass-rusher. He’s quick off the edge and can use his athletic ability to bend the corner. He’ll get banged up against quick tackles who can take the edge away.

    Overall

    63/100

    A good rotational player with the ability to play standing up or down on the line, Scott has to be more consistent.

44. Jeremy Mincey, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Run Defense

    32/40

    A stout player on the Jaguars' left side, Jeremy Mincey has good speed to get through the line and make plays on the run game. He’s a knifing end with good strength to fight off blockers. He shows good closing speed on the ball in space and won’t get fooled in space. His biggest obstacle is just getting clean from blockers off the snap.

    Pass Rush

    31/60

    A balanced end, Mincey doesn’t flash great quickness off the edge or much fluid ability to dip his shoulder and beat tackles in space, but he is a solid all-around rusher. Mincey has a tendency to get upfield too fast and out of control, which tackles take advantage of by using his momentum to drive him out of the play. Mincey can stunt and twist, showing good versatility at end.

    Overall

    63/100

    Mincey struggled at times last year to just get free off the ball, but he flashed good potential as a run-stopping defensive end on the left side of the line. Mincey may be best in a rotational role.

43. Derek Wolfe, Denver Broncos

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    Run Defense

    37/40

    A strong, stout defender with high-level run-defense skills, Derek Wolfe plays like a defensive tackle on the edge. Wolfe has the power to stop the outside run by stuffing rushing lanes with his bulk, and he’s quick enough to come off blocks and make tackles. He’s quick in a tight space and can attack the backfield to shut down the run game behind the line of scrimmage.

    Pass Rush

    27/60

    Not a natural pass-rusher, Wolfe won’t offer much in the way of pass rushing as an outside end. If moved inside on passing downs, Wolfe would make more of an impact. He lacks the speed to come around end and threaten the edge, but he has the quick first step to get into the body of blockers and create panic.

    Overall

    64/100

    A very good run defender, Wolfe is out of place rushing from the edge in the Denver defense. He would be better off as a third-down defender inside at tackle.

42. Corey Wootton, Chicago Bears

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    Run Defense

    30/40

    The first thing you notice with Corey Wootton is his exceptional length. He has long arms to keep offensive linemen off his frame and to also pull down running backs. Wootton has good strength to come off blockers when engaged as long as he keeps his feet moving. If his feet go dead, Wootton will get pushed back off the ball.

    Pass Rush

    35/60

    Wootton is limited as a pass-rusher due to average speed and quickness to close the distance on passers in the pocket. He’ll accumulate pressures over sacks and does a good job forcing the quarterback to make mistakes in the pocket. With his length, he can struggle with leverage needed to turn the corner.

    Overall

    65/100

    A solid first- and second-down defender, Wootton can struggle on third downs to create pressure and attack the edge. His value comes against the run.

41. Matt Shaughnessy, Arizona Cardinals

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    Run Defense

    36/40

    Matt Shaughnessy is strong enough to push blockers off the ball and can spot ball-carriers. He can stuff rushing lanes if asked to occupy space, but in that role he will not make many tackles against the rush.

    Pass Rush

    29/60

    A limited pass-rusher, Shaughnessy doesn’t have the speed to create pressure off the edge. He does show the strength to push through blockers and can split gaps, but not with the speed needed to be a threat as a pass-rusher.

    Overall

    65/100

    A starter who didn’t make much of an impact in 2012, Shaughnessy comes in ranked below many backup or rotational ends on our list.

40. Everson Griffen, Minnesota Vikings

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    Run Defense

    32/40

    Everson Griffen made big strides in 2012, notably in his run defense. Griffen was much more aggressive this past season, reading the play and fighting to get to the ball-carrier. He’s still not a tackling machine, but Griffen created plays and showed the strength to stop the run.

    Pass Rush

    33/60

    An above-average pass-rusher, Griffen doesn’t have great speed to turn the corner, but he’s strong enough to be a headache for blockers and will fight for positioning. He uses his hands well to keep blockers off his body. The 2012 season saw Griffen becoming a more productive pass-rusher as he learned to keep his feet moving and throw away blockers.

    Overall

    65/100

    Griffen showed improvement in 2012. He became a better all-around player and showed better quickness and awareness on the field.

39. Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins

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    Run Defense

    32/40

    A rookie in 2012, Olivier Vernon took some time to adjust to the NFL but eventually found his place. Lining up at right defensive end, Vernon was playing against more athletic left tackles, which gave him an opportunity to show off his quickness against the run on weak-side plays. As a rotational player, he was tasked more with rushing the quarterback, but he showed good awareness against the run and the speed to run down and pursue the ball. 

    Pass Rush

    33/60

    Vernon’s raw pass-rushing skill didn’t pop off the film like it did in college. He was timid and hesitant at times, allowing left tackles to get leverage and positioning. Vernon struggled against faster, smoother tackles coming off the right edge of the defense. Heading into 2013, Vernon must work on firing off faster and stronger while learning to use a secondary pass-rushing move to beat tackles to the corner.

    Overall

    65/100

    A solid rotational end, Vernon has potential as a starter in the Miami defense opposite Cameron Wake. He’s a player worth keeping an eye on.

38. Frank Alexander, Carolina Panthers

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    Run Defense

    26/40

    With good size and long arms, Frank Alexander has the ability to clog rushing lanes from the end of the line. He’ll crash off the ball and get into the B-gap, creating pressure. Alexander can get blocked down too easily, allowing blockers to turn his shoulders and open rushing lanes off his front.

    Pass Rush

    39/60

    Alexander has speed off the ball and the length to be an impact as a pass-rusher, but he’s too inconsistent right now. He flashes the ability to engage and break off blockers, and he can split the gaps with a quick first step. But too often, Alexander will get tied up by blockers and let his feet die.

    Overall

    65/100

    Alexander has the skill set to be better, but his inconsistency in the passing game and lack of strength against the run prevents him from being a better player.

37. Wallace Gilberry, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Run Defense

    31/40

    A better run defender than pass-rusher in 2012, Wallace Gilberry has value as the Bengals' rotational end. He has the awareness to read and react to the run and won’t get fooled by misdirection. Gilberry is strong enough to fight for positioning and drive blockers back off the ball.

    Pass Rush

    34/60

    Gilberry has good speed to get to the quarterback, but he tends to be an all-or-nothing type of pass-rusher. Gilberry will get a few sacks, but very few pressures on top of that. He has the first step to get outside blockers’ reach, and he’ll counter well with an inside power move. But Gilberry can also get tied up and struggle to break free from hands.

    Overall

    65/100

    Gilberry has talent, but to become a higher-ranked player, he has to be more of an asset on pass-rushing downs. He’s a quality rotational end.

36. Austen Lane, Jacksonsville Jaguars

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    Run Defense

    34/40

    A rotational end in the Jaguars system, Austen Lane saw starts at left end this past season and played well. He’s a big body on the end of the line, and at 6’6”, he has the length to keep blockers from getting inside his frame. Lane sees the run well and is quick to react.

    Pass Rush

    34/60

    Lane doesn’t show the quickness to close on quarterbacks and make big plays on passing downs. He’s a better run-blocker for all the reasons that he struggles in the pass game. He’s better suited to read and react instead of firing off the ball and taking on the corner to get to the quarterback.

    Overall

    68/100

    Lane is a very balanced end with the length and quickness to be an impact in both the run and passing games. He could be looking at a bigger role in 2013.

35. Kyle Moore, Buffalo Bills

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    Run Defense

    28/40

    Kyle Moore has the size to be a nuisance for offenses when working against the run. He can lock his arms to keep space between himself and the tackle and then use his speed to break free and go after the ball. Moore will get in trouble against quick tackles who beat him off the ball, and he must show better consistency to make plays through traffic.

    Pass Rush

    40/60

    Moore has good size and quickness, but until 2012, he hadn’t shown much promise as a pass-rusher. Thanks to better coaching and a better understanding of how to convert quickness to speed, he had a big year. He uses his hands well when on the move, but he can overpursue at times.

    Overall

    68/100

    Moore began the 2012 season as a situational player, but he earned more playing time with strong all-around play. There’s room for him on the depth chart in 2013.

34. Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams

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    Run Defense

    27/40

    One of the lowest-ranked run defenders in 2011, Robert Quinn was better against the run this past season, but he still struggled to make an impact. He doesn’t have the strength to fight off blockers on the right side of the defense and will get blown back off the ball. 

    Pass Rush

    42/60

    Quinn has improved in each of his two seasons as a pass-rusher. He’s naturally quick off the ball and is able to get past blockers on the corner. In terms of pure agility, Quinn is elite, but he lacks the strength to counter his speed rush. His athleticism is what fuels his pass-rushing ability, and while dangerous in space, he can be a liability underneath. 

    Overall

    69/100

    Quinn has enormous upside as a pass-rusher, but he has to become a better player against the run too. This is the only thing holding Quinn back from being a top-15 player in 2013.

33. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints

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    Run Defense

    39/40

    A big man on the edge, Cameron Jordan has the body type to be a fit in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense and hold the end of the line in the run game. Jordan has a long reach that allows him to grab and pull down runners and helps him create enough distance between himself and blockers to make a move once he reads the play. He will get bit by misdirection at times and has to work on making his reads quicker.

    Pass Rush

    30/60

    Jordan’s 2012 season was a tale of two players. He started the year with a string of poor performances in Weeks 2-8, but he was dominant after that. Early in the season, Jordan struggled to come off blocks and was trying to split the tackle’s inside shoulder on every rush. By season’s end, he was playing more versatilely, setting tackles up with an outside move before coming back inside. Jordan has the skill set—power, quickness, balance—to be an elite end, but he has to learn to put those skills to use.

    Overall

    69/100

    Jordan was asked to play out of position at times in 2012. While he has incredible talent and potential, it wasn’t being used properly. Look for him to move up quickly in 2013.

32. Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks

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    Run Defense

    24/40

    Rarely used against the run, Bruce Irvin is the definition of a pass-rush specialist. He is undersized and doesn’t have the power to get any push at the point of attack. Any plays he makes in the run game are due primarily to his agility.

    Pass Rush

    46/60

    A dynamic pass-rusher, Irvin possesses an extremely quick first step and a knack for getting to the quarterback. He can blow past any offensive tackle in the game and can stop on a dime to change direction. Irvin lacks the strength to get a consistent bull rush, but with his speed and agility, he doesn’t need to go to the bull rush often.

    Overall

    70/100

    Unless he adds some bulk, Irvin won’t ever be an every-down player. He is able to wreak havoc in the backfield on passing plays, and as long as he is able to stay out of trouble off the field, he will have a long career doing so.

31. Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants

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    Run Defense

    25/40

    A rush-first defensive end, Osi Umenyiora opened himself up to inside runs and misdirection by overpursuing the quarterback. Umenyiora doesn’t have the strength to contain the run or fight through blockers to make tackles off the edge. He’s only a space defender against the run.

    Pass Rush

    45/60

    A talented athlete, Umenyiora allowed offensive tackles to beat him by stopping his feet the moment he was touched by a blocker. Umenyiora has the raw athletic ability to blow by offensive linemen, but he’s playing tall and letting blockers get to his body. When he’s matched up in a wide set, Umenyiora will blow by blockers off the edge. But if in more of a 6- or 5-technique, he’ll get pushed around. 

    Overall

    70/100

    Effort was an issue from Umenyiora in 2012. His lack of fire and motor on rushing and passing downs was a point of frustration for our scouting team on each viewing. 

30. Kamerion Wimbley, Tennessee Titans

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    Run Defense

    25/40

    Built like an outside linebacker, Kamerion Wimbley is comfortable in space and on the end of the line. He’s athletic enough to change direction and give chase in the run game, but he won’t hold up at the point of attack and can be pushed upfield off the ball. Wimbley is an average run defender who will make tackles in space, but he surrenders his ground too easily.

    Pass Rush

    45/60

    A gifted natural pass-rusher, Wimbley has to go outside the tackle to win on the edge. If asked to come inside to the tackle’s right shoulder, he’ll lose due to a lack of strength. A pure right end, Wimbley has the first step to beat most tackles off the ball when he’s lined up on their outside shoulder.

    Overall

    70/100

    As a pure edge-rusher, Wimbley is talented, but his struggles against the run may make him a better candidate to play as a situational pass-rusher.

29. Robert Ayers, Denver Broncos

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    Run Defense

    32/40

    Robert Ayers stood up well against the run during the 2012 season. His strength at the point of attack aided his ability to make tackles against running backs. Ayers doesn’t have great length to create space between himself and blockers. He’ll get driven back off the ball by offensive linemen who have the quickness to attack his inside shoulder.

    Pass Rush

    38/60

    Ayers has the athletic ability to be a dynamic pass-rusher, but he’s not shown the ability to come free off blockers and close the door on the quarterback. Ayers has a good first step, but he doesn’t use his hands well enough to break free once engaged. Ayers hasn’t developed a great countermove yet, but he can win in one-on-one battles using his athleticism.

    Overall

    70/100

    The Broncos' No. 3 defensive end in 2012, Ayers could move into a bigger role in 2013 with Elvis Dumervil out of town. He’ll have to step up his pass-rushing game.

28. Cliff Avril, Seattle Seahawks

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    Run Defense

    25/40

    A small defensive end better suited to pass rushing, Cliff Avril doesn’t show up at the point of attack. Tackles are successful getting their hands inside Avril’s frame on rushing downs and forcing him out of the play. He can get low and fire off with some success, but Avril is largely a nonfactor against the run. 

    Pass Rush

    46/60

    Don’t let his sack numbers fool you; Avril didn’t have a great season. He may be a well-recognized player, but NFL tackles were able to knock Avril off-balance all season, something he didn’t recover from well in the moment. He does have very good speed, but without the balance and agility to beat blockers and maintain his feet, Avril can be marginalized. His killer first step will win most battles, especially if he’s lined up wide of the left tackle. With that quickness and his natural athleticism, Avril can be a factor if he can stay free of punches.

    Overall

    71/100

    Avril took a step back last season after being ranked as the No. 14 overall defensive end the season prior. Offensive tackles beat up Avril all season, which could be a big reason why the free-agent market was weaker than expected.

27. Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore Ravens

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    Run Defense

    23/40

    Elvis Dumervil doesn’t have the strength to fight and claw for positioning to stop the run, and it shows up on film. He’s short-armed and light in his lower body, which allows blockers to get positioning and drive him off the ball. In Baltimore, Dumervil should be used primarily as a pass-rusher.

    Pass Rush

    49/60

    A dynamic pass-rusher in space, Dumervil has the quickness and balance to cause problems off the edge. He doesn’t match up well against offensive tackles who can beat him off the snap, and he will get tied up easily with no inside move. Dumervil does a good job getting to the quarterback and either hurrying the play or gaining a sack.

    Overall

    72/100

    You won’t find many players as naturally gifted when rushing the passer, but Dumervil is a one-down star who disappears on rushing downs.

26. William Hayes, St. Louis Rams

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    Run Defense

    38/40

    A college outside linebacker, William Hayes has bulked up and added the strength to compete in the NFL. He was at his best in 2012 taking on the run off the corner. Hayes is strong enough to shed blockers and come free to make tackles. Hayes was the Rams’ best run defender at defensive end.

    Pass Rush

    35/60

    A rotational player for the Rams, Hayes had his best season with seven sacks behind the Rams' top two pass-rushers. Hayes is a bigger-bodied end who can use power off the edge as well as quickness, but he doesn’t have the speed to be a highly productive outside rusher. Hayes doesn’t have top-end burst or flexibility in space, but he has the push to get between blockers and pressure the backfield.

    Overall

    73/100

    A high-quality No. 3 defensive end, Hayes could potentially be a starter in another system. He’s worth his salary and then some.

25. Junior Galette, New Orleans Saints

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    Run Defense

    27/40

    An undersized end built more like a linebacker, Junior Galette has trouble holding down the edge in the run game. He can make tackles if playing in space, but if asked to engage a blocker and fight through the line for a tackle, he’s not going to win.

    Pass Rush

    46/60

    A speed-rusher who may ultimately be better standing up on the edge, Galette has the quickness to get into the backfield and make plays. Short arms limit his ability to create distance with blockers, but he makes up for that with good hand use to slap away punches and nice balance on the move. Galette can get bumped on the edge by tackles who are quick enough to slide with him. He needs to develop a second move to be able to counter his speed on the edge.

    Overall

    73/100

    Galette is likely to play outside linebacker in 2013, a role that better fits his overall skill set and will allow his pass-rushing ability to shine.

24. Juqua Parker, Cleveland Browns

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    Run Defense

    28/40

    A third-down pass-rushing specialist, Juqua Parker was better against the run than we expected. He has the strength to get through punches from tackles and can knife through gaps to make stops in the backfield. He’s still susceptible to misdirection at times, but he was a different player in 2012.

    Pass Rush

    45/60

    This is where Parker makes his money. He was improved in terms of burst and balance on the edge last season, picking up more impact plays in the process. Parker was able to pressure the pocket with a quick first step and loose hips to turn the corner. He looked much quicker and more aggressive this past season.

    Overall

    73/100

    The 2012 season saw Parker become a better all-around player and a dangerous pass-rusher. He’ll look good in the 3-4 defense in 2013.

23. Justin Tuck, New York Giants

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    Run Defense

    32/40

    A household name among football fans, Justin Tuck’s 2012 season was a disappointment overall, but he was solid on rushing downs. Tuck played with good strength at the point of attack, showing the base to take on blockers and runners and convert to tackles. He has the length to create separation and then find the ball. 

    Pass Rush

    42/60

    Tuck has the athletic ability to dominate here. He plays straight up at times, though, and will get pushed around by offensive tackles as he loses leverage. Tuck would come off the ball, stand up and chicken fight with tackles instead of keeping his base low, dipping a shoulder and trying to turn the corner. This was an issue against non-running quarterbacks too, so it wasn’t a matter of the Giants playing contain. Tuck’s “on” switch seemed stuck at halfway last year. Injuries have been an issue, but effort is part of the problem here.

    Overall

    74/100

    Tuck is an example of player whose reputation is greater than his play, at least in 2012. Tuck was marginalized at times by opposing offenses. He has to fix what was holding him back.

22. Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills

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    Run Defense

    35/40

    Most people only know about Mario Williams’ skill as a pass-rusher, but he is one of the best run-stopping defensive ends in the league. He has extremely quick hands to shed blocks and amazing power to blow up plays in the backfield.

    Pass Rush

    40/60

    While Williams is still one of the most gifted pass-rushers to ever play the game, he didn’t have one of his best seasons in 2012. He finished the year with 10.5 sacks, but he got five of those in two games (Indianapolis, three; Arizona, two). Williams has a vast repertoire of moves, and when he is on, he is almost impossible to block.

    Overall

    75/100

    Most of the defensive ends in the league would love to have the season Williams had this past year, but for a player with Williams’ ability, it was an off year. In the second half of the season, Williams started looking a lot more comfortable.

21. Trent Cole, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Run Defense

    27/40

    A smaller defensive end without great length, Trent Cole is paid to rush the quarterback, not stop the run. He’ll make positive plays in space, but if the run is at him, he won’t be much of a factor. Cole will bounce off blockers when going outside to take on sweeps and tosses, but inside or off-tackle runs kill him.

    Pass Rush

    48/60

    An athletic, quick pass-rusher off the edge, Cole can be limited to one move at times. He’s an outside pass-rusher who needs to loop outside the tackle off the snap to have a chance at the quarterback. Cole isn’t big enough or strong enough to counter his trademark outside move with an inside rip or stunt. The good news for Cole is that he’s fast enough to still beat most tackles off the edge, but it’s definitely something for which teams can and do scheme. Cole can be protected by his scheme and contribute more consistently if he has an attention-grabbing defensive tackle next to him.

    Overall

    75/100

    The 2012 season was a rough one for Cole as he saw his ability and production dip. Teams figured out the Eagles defense midway through the season and effectively shut him down from there.

20. Jabaal Sheard, Cleveland Browns

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    Run Defense

    38/40

    Jabaal Sheard was a wrecking crew on the edge last season, shutting down the run with tackles and clogging rushing lanes. Sheard played stronger in 2012, showing better ability to separate from blockers and make tackles. 

    Pass Rush

    38/60

    Sheard was more aggressive, more aware and quicker in 2012. He doesn’t generate a ton of statistics as a pass-rusher, but Sheard is capable of coming off the ball and pressuring the pocket. He does a good job using his low center of gravity to get under blockers’ hands and drive through them. Sheard doesn’t have elite quickness, and he can get caught up by blockers who beat him off the ball. He’ll have to learn to use his hands better while anticipating the snap.

    Overall

    76/100

    One of the most improved players at the position from the 2011 season, Sheard didn’t have a great season as a pass-rusher, but his all-around game is exciting. 

19. Jason Babin, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Run Defense

    30/40

    An active end who is all over the field, Jason Babin plays the run well on outside plays like tosses and sweeps. He’s quick to read and recognize and is an effort player who will go after the ball on weak-side plays. Babin is best at getting into the backfield and containing the edge.

    Pass Rush

    46/60

    Known for his outside pass-rushing skills, Babin doesn’t have the game to play in a tighter alignment and must be used as an outside rusher. Coming off the ball, he shows good speed and the agility to dip his shoulder and drive, but only if he has the first step on the tackle. Babin will be shut down if he doesn’t get the jump on tackles, and he lacks the strength to win if playing head-up.

    Overall

    76/100

    A better all-around player than given credit for, Babin struggled a bit midway through the season but showed promise once traded to Jacksonville. How he fits in Gus Bradley’s scheme remains to be seen.

18. Chandler Jones, New England Patriots

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    Run Defense

    34/40

    Chandler Jones lacks great strength and will come off the ball too high at times, but he has great balance and is able to shed blocks at the last moment to make stops. He has long arms, strong hands and a good initial punch. He is also athletic enough to get down the line and make plays from the back side. 

    Pass Rush

    44/60

    Starting the season on fire, Jones notched five sacks in his first six games, but he had only one sack for the remainder of the year. He has all of the physical tools to be one of the best pass-rushers in the league, but he needs to develop some countermoves after his initial rush is stopped. 

    Overall

    78/100

    Jones showed signs this past year of becoming one of the bright young stars in the NFL, but he will need to become more consistent and continue to bulk up to be more effective on every down. 

17. Brian Robison, Minnesota Vikings

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    Run Defense

    30/40

    Strong and fast, Brian Robison holds up well at the point of attack, but he is a much better run defender in pursuit when the ball is away. He’ll get driven off the ball if he’s a step late, which is natural when blockers are 50 pounds heavier. Robison doesn’t show the ability to attack the inside gaps and make plays, but he tracks the ball well and makes open-field tackles.

    Pass Rush

    49/60

    Unnaturally fast and athletic, Robison can come off the edge clean and turn the corner as well as anyone. His read-and-reaction game needs some work, as he’ll overpursue and get pushed out of the play, but his all-around pass-rushing skill set flashes on film. Robison has elite agility, and tackles know he can beat them off the ball, causing them to exaggerate their kick slide. Once Robison learns to counter this, he could be a 15-sack player.

    Overall

    79/100

    An athletic specimen, Robison has improved every season. He’s a natural pass-rusher who could be better on the right side of the defense, but he does well pressuring the pocket coming off the left edge.

16. Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Run Defense

    34/40

    An active tackler against the run, Carlos Dunlap shows up on film on first and second down with his strength and ability to stuff ball-carriers. He moves to the ball well and makes quick reads, not being pulled in by misdirection. Dunlap won’t miss many tackles in space.

    Pass Rush

    45/60

    A power rusher with the size and strength to bull rush and beat blockers with countermoves, Dunlap can be dangerous coming off the edge. He doesn’t show the elite-level quickness to get into space and make plays, but he’ll force pressures and convert pull-down sacks. Dunlap can be a bit stiff when asked to turn the corner, but his pass-rushing skills are for real.

    Overall

    79/100

    A quality all-around end, the only thing holding Dunlap back is his lack of a speed rush. He’s a perfect fit in the Cincinnati defense when paired with speed-rusher Michael Johnson.

15. Israel Idonije, Chicago Bears

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    Run Defense

    34/40

    A big, strong defensive end with the skill set to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, Israel Idonije is a run-stuffer off the ball with the strength to take on blockers and the length to win. Idonije can play too high off the snap, allowing tackles to gain leverage and control him.

    Pass Rush

    45/60

    With an average first step, Idonije does more of his damage with power and reach. He has good quickness coming off the edge, but he isn’t flexible or fast enough to turn the corner with a high success rate. His ability to diagnose the play can be a bit late, and if he doesn’t fire off low early on, he won’t be able to beat most tackles.

    Overall

    79/100

    A very good run defender with natural size and strength, Idonije could be a fit at left end in a 3-4 or as a versatile defender in a 4-3.

14. Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders

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    Run Defense

    40/40

    Lamarr Houston has the size of a defensive tackle and the speed of an end, which makes him tough to contain in the run game. Houston has the strength to hold anchor at the point of attack, and he’ll shed blocks and attack if the run comes his way. He’ll make a noticeable impact in the run game as the Raiders left end.

    Pass Rush

    41/60

    Houston is a big, powerful pass-rusher with the skills to beat you with quickness or strength. He doesn’t put up eye-popping pass-rushing stats, but he creates havoc in the backfield with pressures and hits. Becoming a better finisher would increase Houston’s score, but he’s limited in his ability to close on the pocket playing outside. If he were moved inside, his sack numbers would take off as his athleticism would be too much for guards to handle. As it stands now, Houston isn’t good enough going outside to pose a serious threat as an edge-rusher. If asked to stunt or cross the face of the tackle, he’s one of the best.

    Overall

    81/100

    Houston seems out of place as an end in a 4-3 defense, but that doesn’t stop him from being a talented all-around player. His strength and quickness combination is one of the best in the game.

13. Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings

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    Run Defense

    30/40

    Not thought of as a great run defender, Jared Allen made more than his share of plays against the run last season. He was a top tackler among all defensive ends, showing the vision and acceleration to take on the run in space. Allen can get pushed out of the frame at times, especially if he’s lined up outside the tackle and the play is coming his way. But he will fight through traffic and isn’t the type of player to give up on a play.

    Pass Rush

    51/60

    The player we scouted in 2011 didn’t show up much in 2012, as Allen didn’t have his trademark quickness and violence off the ball. His first step was still good, but Allen was affected more by punches and tackles who were sliding to counter his moves. While still productive, Allen didn’t convert as many pressures into sacks last season, as quarterbacks were able to step up and away from his pressure more. Too many penalties (nine on the year) were a factor in Allen’s ability to consistently make plays.

    Overall

    81/100

    Jared Allen threatened the single-season sack record in 2011, but he fell back to earth a bit in 2012 with a good pass-rushing performance but just average play on rushing downs.

12. Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears

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    Run Defense

    31/40

    Julius Peppers has more natural athletic ability than most players in the NFL, but that ability doesn’t always show up on film. A slow start to the season affected our grade of Peppers, as he struggled to get off blocks and make tackles in the run game. Quicker tackles gave him fits early in the year. They were able to get leverage with smart angles and drive him off the line. By season’s end, Peppers was coming off blocks better and attacking the run like an All-Pro.

    Pass Rush

    51/60

    As far as natural pass-rushers go, few can compete with Peppers, but he went through cold spells this past season where his impact wasn’t seen on the field. Peppers struggled to get off the snap cleanly, with his trademark first step being stopped by tackles who were digging their heels in to combat his power move. The incredible strength that makes Peppers so tough to handle didn’t show up until late in the season. He did close out the year well, but inconsistency keeps Peppers out of the top 10.

    Overall

    82/100

    Fans may think of Julius Peppers as a flawless defensive end, and while he is a very good player, film study didn’t show Peppers to be quite as elite as his reputation.

11. Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Run Defense

    36/40

    With great range, length and the quickness to cut through the offensive line, Michael Johnson can impact the game as a run defender. He doesn’t have the natural strength to be an anchor on the edge, but as an outside defensive end, he’ll knife through the tackle-guard gap to stop inside runs. If the run goes outside, Johnson is quick enough to make plays in space.

    Pass Rush

    47/60

    A speed-rusher with the length to crash the edge, Johnson wins with athletic ability in space. Blockers can cause problems for him if engaged, but he has a developing shoulder dip and had increased footwork in 2012. Johnson can do better to work inside and find countermoves. Johnson won’t show the strength to bull rush, but his length and speed are exceptional.

    Overall

    83/100

    Thought of too often as a situational player, Johnson has developed into an every-down stud as a run-stopper and pass-rusher.

10. Chris Clemons, Seattle Seahawks

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    Run Defense

    28/40

    Not a great player against the run, Chris Clemons will get pushed around off the snap. He’s at his best coming down the line to make tackles from behind. Clemons is strong enough to fight off blockers, but if a good tackle gets an angle on him, he’ll get walled off easily.

    Pass Rush

    55/60

    Clemons is quick and fast, and he anticipates the snap very well to fuel his burst off the line. He’s a good read-and-react pass-rusher who can take a line on the quarterback and use his speed to close on passers. Clemons has a nice shoulder dip, and he’s agile enough to bend going around the corner and then accelerate to the passer. He’ll contribute sacks and hurries equally.

    Overall

    83/100

    A late-season injury puts Clemons’ 2013 in question, but there were few pass-rushers with more success than Clemons in 2012.

9. Chris Long, St. Louis Rams

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    Run Defense

    30/40

    Chris Long has the frame, length and strength to be very good against the run, but that wasn’t always the case this past season. He is strong enough to force the run back inside by coming off the ball and threatening the back, but he doesn’t convert that pressure to a tackle. He has the power to stand up blockers with good leverage, but getting off the ball quicker is a key for him. Long can be an asset here, but he needs to clean up his hand placement and timing.

    Pass Rush

    53/60

    A top-tier pass-rusher, Long has a nice combination of burst and strength to threaten pass-blockers. He does a good job using his arms to lock out blockers and then shed their hands to attack the backfield. Long won’t bend the corner or run past elite tackles, but he can mix up speed and power to throw enough of a pass rush at them to contribute a ton of sacks and hurries.

    Overall

    83/100

    The type of big-bodied 4-3 defensive end that can take over a game with power and speed, Long could improve in the run game. But the Rams have to be happy with the production he’s giving in the pass game.

8. John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons

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    Run Defense

    27/40

    A pass-first defender, John Abraham isn’t asked to do much against the run from right end. If teams run at Abraham, he won’t be able to get through traffic and make plays. But on weak-side runs, he gives good pursuit and will make stops from behind.

    Pass Rush

    56/60

    A very talented pass-rusher, Abraham was Atlanta’s only pass-rushing option for much of 2012. He’s able to stand up or play down with his hand in the dirt, giving defenses a different look. He will struggle if tackles get their hands on his frame, as he doesn’t have the strength to break free if locked up. He is a heads-up player who will get up in the air to knock down passes.

    Overall

    83/100

    A smart, veteran defender, Abraham was excellent again in 2012. How much gas he has left in the tank is a big question as he heads into 2013.

7. Derrick Morgan, Tennessee Titans

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    Run Defense

    30/40

    Derrick Morgan is an athletic outside pass-rusher who happens to line up on the left side of the defense. This means he’s asked to do a lot against the run, and Morgan holds his own there. He’s an active tackler who crashes hard down the line on backside plays and shows the awareness to not get sucked in on misdirection. Not quite strong enough to overpower blockers, Morgan can get walked back on play-side runs.

    Pass Rush

    54/60

    Morgan doesn’t generate a ton of stats, so box-score scouts will be disappointed. But he does generate pressure, and that’s his job. We saw an end with the power to bull rush effectively and the agility to dip his shoulder and keep his feet moving. Morgan’s ability to accelerate off the edge makes him a dangerous player in space.

    Overall

    84/100

    A talented pass-rusher who has great upside, Morgan hit his stride late in 2012 and heads into 2013 with high expectations.

6. Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers

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    Run Defense

    33/40

    Greg Hardy is quick enough to beat blockers into space and has the strength to make tackles on the edge. Hardy will get pushed around if a tackle or guard gets their hands on him early in the play, as he’s not quite strong enough to dig in and hold the edge.

    Pass Rush

    52/60

    An edge-rusher with the speed to disrupt the backfield, Hardy draws plenty of attention on the right side of the defense. He has a good first step and follows it up with a number of pass-rushing moves. Hardy can bend the edge with flexible hips or turn and bull rush the tackle once he gets them off-balance. Hardy is a bigger, stronger end than most 4-3 defenders, and he has the power to win with his bull rush.

    Overall

    85/100

    Hardy gets overlooked with Charles Johnson on the other side of the line, but he’s become a talented player in his own right—and one that could command a big payday. Hardy was one of the most improved players we saw in 2012.

5. Charles Johnson, Carolina Panthers

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    Run Defense

    30/40

    A good run defender but better pass-rusher, Charles Johnson is constantly making plays for the Panthers. While he isn’t strong enough at the point of attack to be a dominant run defender, Johnson does well in space and when asked to track down the line of scrimmage on backside plays.

    Pass Rush

    56/60

    A bit of a freak as an edge-rusher, Johnson produces sacks, pressures, hurries and hits on the quarterback at an alarming rate. He’s a smooth pass-rusher at his size with the agility to bend the edge and attack. Johnson has the length to pull down the quarterback even while engaged by blockers. Guys his size shouldn’t be able to move and bend the way he does.

    Overall

    86/100

    An exceptional athlete coming off the Carolina left edge, Johnson is one of the most talented pass-rushers in the NFL today.

4. Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks

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    Run Defense

    37/40

    An underrated athlete, Michael Bennett has the quickness and strength to attack the run and make plays. He’s stout at the point of attack, and playing left end he’s asked to stop the run often. Bennett will get caught going too far outside and letting teams run underneath him, but he shows good recovery speed.

    Pass Rush

    51/60

    A talented pass-rusher who creates constant pressure on the quarterback, Bennett not only gets to the passer for sacks but also generates hurries and hits that cause mistakes or set up sacks for other players. Bennett uses a combination of speed and power moves to get free of blockers. His hand use to swat away blockers is great. The biggest knock would be that Bennett doesn’t always finish well and doesn’t have elite speed to close ground on the quarterback.

    Overall

    88/100

    One of the more balanced defensive ends in the league, Bennett has the agility to be a top-level pass-rusher while showing the strength to stop the run.

3. Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants

49 of 51

     

    Run Defense

    38/40

    A better run defender than people may realize, Jason Pierre-Paul has the strength to stop the run off the edge or up the middle. The Giants like to move him around in different alignments, and Pierre-Paul does a good job knifing through blocks to make stops. He was one of the most active run-stopping defensive ends we scouted all season. With his length, raw strength and awareness, JPP is a beast against the run game.

    Pass Rush

    52/60

    JPP is a strong, balanced pass-rusher with an all-around game to frustrate offensive linemen. Pierre-Paul is the first man off the ball on defense and shows the burst to get through the offensive line with his first step. He plays with exceptional leverage for a big man, making himself small and limiting the amount of space linemen can hit. His awareness for reading and recognizing the play was some of the best our team saw. With his strength, Pierre-Paul can rush from the outside or inside and can be a matchup nightmare any time he is in a one-on-one situation. 

    Overall

    90/100

    He’s like a shark on defense—always moving toward the ball. Pierre-Paul is one of the most versatile, impactful defensive players in all of football.

2. Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Run Defense

    34/40

    A high-motor player, Brandon Graham will make stops in the run game and can be a positive player there. Graham fires off the ball at full speed, which will expose him to runs underneath, but he’s quick enough and aware enough to catch runners from behind. He doesn’t show the strength to be a stand-up defender off the edge, but in space he can take on a blocker and will fight through traffic to make plays on the ball.

    Pass Rush

    56/60

    An active, athletic pass-rusher off the edge, Graham plays well coming off the left or right side of the line. He’s a natural outside rusher with the quick first step to hurry offensive linemen. From there, Graham has the skills to counter with an inside or outside move to create spacing. He shows the quickness to close on the quarterback, but he didn’t show great ability to pull the passer down for sacks. Graham pressured the quarterback, but actual sacks were limited. The Eagles’ Wide 9 alignment helped Graham get space off the ball, but it made sacking the quarterback harder due to the distance he was asked to cover.

    Overall

    90/100

    Graham had a spectacular 2012 season, showing off the athletic ability and pass-rushing skill set that led to him being a first-round draft pick. As the Eagles move to a 3-4 defense, Graham will be one of the centerpieces.

1. Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins

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    Run Defense

    35/40

    A noted pass-rusher, Cameron Wake isn’t a one-trick pony on defense and can make plays against the run. Wake comes off the ball so quickly—and generally with an outside loop—that he will take himself out of run plays at times. The positive, and rare aspect of his game, is that Wake is quick enough to make plays from behind in those situations. It’s not a perfect play, but he can gain ground and will make backside tackles.

    Pass Rush

    59/60

    A fierce pass-rusher, Wake dominated the 2012 season with sacks, pressures and hits on the quarterback. No 4-3 defensive end did better. Wake has the quickness to fire off the ball and quickly challenge the edge against offensive tackles. He has the flexibility to turn his hips and turn the corner against slower right tackles from his spot at left defensive end. Wake is strong for his size and can rip away from blockers who manage to get their hands on his slippery frame. When he is stopped by a blocker, Wake is persistent enough to fit through blocks and still put pressure on the backfield. No player in the NFL bent the edge better than Wake did in 2012.

    Overall

    94/100

    A terror for NFL offenses due to his quickness and explosion off the edge, Wake had a positive impact in every single game this season. He showed rare consistency while putting quarterbacks on the ground.

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