NFL Draft: Breaking Down Which Pass-Rushers Would Fit on Philadelphia Eagles

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IMarch 11, 2013

NFL Draft: Breaking Down Which Pass-Rushers Would Fit on Philadelphia Eagles

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    The 2013 draft has a slew of potential pass-rushers that can make an immediate impact at the NFL level. Some of these players have a storied history of production at the collegiate game, while the success of others will be based more on potential.

    It’s difficult to know which of these players can fit in which defense. Bjoern Werner will very likely be a stellar pass-rusher, but is he a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker? Is there really a difference and should teams be worried about that when drafting these prospects?

    Obviously teams should take note of the difference between the two, especially those like the Philadelphia Eagles looking to transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4. I broke down the following players, each of whom is a pass-rushing 4-3 end or 3-4 outside linebacker. In a later article, I’ll preview the defensive/nose tackles to see which ones would fit in the Eagles’ defense.

    All scouting combine results are courtesy of NFL.com.

Do the Philadelphia Eagles Have the Nose Tackle for a 3-4?

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    Switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense is no easy task. The key to a successful 3-4 is the mammoth-sized nose tackle that plays zero-technique and draws double teams on every play.

    Vince Wilfork has been the NFL’s prototypical nose tackle for nearly the last decade. His success stems from his unique ability to take on two blockers at once, yet still provide strong assistance in run defense. A quality nose tackle has to be able to defend both A gaps.

    Teams can’t just take any defensive tackle and put him as a nose tackle. Fletcher Cox had a terrific rookie campaign and he’s going to have an extremely strong NFL career. But he lacks the size to play a traditional 3-4 nose tackle role. The average nose tackle is at least 325 pounds, while players like Ted Washington and Tony Siragusa (back in the day) had weights up to 350-plus.

    Chip Kelly won’t be able to use the 3-4 defense unless he gets his nose tackle. Antonio Dixon’s name has been floated around as a possible solution but he’s just a stopgap, considering he spent nearly all of 2012 out of football. Kelly will have to attack the draft, where players like Johnathan Hankins or Jesse Williams could be the answer at nose tackle.

If Chip Kelly Gets a Nose Tackle, What Does That Mean for the Defense?

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    Let’s say for the sake of this article that Chip Kelly gets his nose tackle via the draft. After all, if he really plans to run a 3-4, he’s going to need a nose tackle somewhere.

    That means he needs two players to play 3-4 defensive end. The average 3-4 end in the NFL weights about exactly 300 pounds, which all but rules out Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. Fletcher Cox could probably make an easy transition. Cullen Jenkins would have been a great fit, having played it in Green Bay, but he signed with the New York Giants after being released.

    That means Kelly will need some players that can serve as five-technique ends in a 3-4. He has the pass-rushing linebackers in Cole and Graham, plus Vinny Curry. DeMeco Ryans has played inside linebacker in a 3-4, and Mychal Kendrick should be a good fit in the other 3-4 inside linebacker spot.

Dion Jordan, Oregon

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    Size: 6’6”, 248 pounds

    Where He Played in College: Tight end, 4-3 defensive end, 3-4 outside linebacker

    2012 Stats: Five sacks, 44 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, no forced fumbles

     

    Potential or Proven Production: Dion Jordan is definitely more of a potential fit for the Philadelphia Eagles. His track record isn’t eye-popping a la Jarvis Jones or Damontre Moore, but he did perform well for each of the last two seasons.

    Jordan’s size makes him a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s extremely athletic, having formerly played tight end in college. That allows him to match up one-on-one with slot receivers at times. Jordan is also strong against the run.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance: Jordan was impressive when he ran, running a 4.60 40-yard dash. That ranked tied for fifth-fastest among defensive linemen and linebackers. Jordan elected not to participate in the bench press. His vertical leap was about average.

     

    Injury Concerns: Jordan did have offseason surgery on a torn labrum on his shoulder, which is at least a minor concern.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    The natural link of Jordan to the Eagles is the University of Oregon. Jordan spent five years at the same school with current Eagles head coach Kelly. As Kelly’s first-ever draft pick at the NFL level, he may want to play it safe and go with a familiar face.

    Jordan is the natural athlete Kelly loves. The only potential problem is that the Eagles have two very good pass-rushers in Trent Cole and Brandon Graham (even if Cole’s production was down last year). Drafting Jordan may lead to the Eagles phasing out Cole, and Cole could probably still give the team several more years.

    Otherwise, the Eagles will have three natural pass-rushers as 3-4 linebackers, plus Vinny Curry in the waiting.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    The fourth overall pick is a stretch to take Jordan. He’s a natural pass-rusher who will likely succeed at the NFL level. But he could probably be obtained several picks lower. The Eagles also have more pressing needs, namely who will play nose tackle and end in the team’s 3-4 defense.

Jarvis Jones, Georgia

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    Size: 6’2”, 245 pounds

    Where He Played in College: 3-4 outside linebacker

    2012 Stats: 14.5 sacks, 85 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles, one interception, four passes defensed

     

    Potential or Proven Production: There’s probably no player in the nation with more proven production than Jarvis Jones. He enjoyed a tremendous 2012 campaign, setting school records with 14.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss. Five times he recorded multiple sacks in a single game, including the bowl game.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance: Jones opted not to work out at the scouting combine.

     

    Injury Concerns: Jones has as many injury concerns as any first-round talent. He transferred out of his first college because the doctors wouldn’t clear his return from a serious neck and spine injury. This condition, spinal stenosis, has forced a handful of NFL players to retire early.

    The good news for Jones is that he was recently given a good medical report.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    If Jones’ injury problems don’t hold him back, he’s going to be an incredible player. Jones is comparable to Von Miller, who has dominated the league since his first NFL game. Jones has excelled in a 3-4 defense, racking up sacks like other linebackers pick up tackles. He can play against the pass and the run, he forces fumbles, and he makes plays.

    Regardless of whether the Philadelphia Eagles have enough pass-rushers, they can always find room for a player like Jones.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Absolutely. Jones wreaks havoc everywhere he goes.

    The Eagles are taking an obvious risk because of his injury concerns but the recent reports should bode well for the future. Jones probably won’t go in the top eight to 10 picks because of his injuries, but he won’t fall too far. There’s always a market for pass-rushers. I would have absolutely no problem if Chip Kelly grabbed Jones with his first-round pick.

Ezekiel Ansah, BYU

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    Size: 6’5”, 271 pounds

    Where He Played in College: 4-3 defensive end, 3-4 outside linebacker, 3-4 defensive end, 3-4 nose tackle

    2012 Stats: 4.5 sacks, 62 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one interception, nine passes defensed

     

    Potential or Proven Production: There’s very little proven production by Ezekiel Ansah’s name. His lifetime college numbers consist of just 4.5 sacks. He barely played until this past season, and even when he did play, his numbers don’t speak to how good of a player he is.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance: Ansah posted a fairly impressive 4.63 40-yard dash time. His 21 reps on the bench press weren’t particularly strong, while his 34.5 vertical leap put him in the top half of defensive linemen and linebackers.

     

    Injury Concerns: There’s no injury history to report, which is definitely a plus for the 22-year-old.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Ezekiel Ansah is a good fit for 32 of 32 NFL teams. His supreme athleticism make him likely to go in the top half of the first round. There’s a chance he could even parlay that into a top-five spot.

    Ansah’s strengths are his versatility, as he can play pretty much anywhere on the defensive side of the ball. This is a player at his best when rushing the quarterback but he even lined up at 3-4 nose tackle as a collegiate athlete. That’s absolutely remarkable. Ansah is made in the mold of players like Chandler Jones or Jason Pierre-Paul, as they are pass-rushers that had limited college production but ridiculous potential.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Ezekiel Ansah would likely be the first pass-rusher in history to go in the top five with fewer than five career sacks at the college level.

    He would be a tremendous addition to the Eagles though, largely because of his versatility. Chip Kelly wants to implement a 3-4 defense, and who better to add than Ansah?

    Ansah can play anywhere in a 4-3 or 3-4, and he’s the kind of guy that never stops until the whistle blows. The most impressive part about Ansah is how far he’s come. He was cut from the basketball team in 2008 and 2009, tried out for the football team in 2010 even though he was extremely undersized and fragile and then added enough muscle in the weight room to turn out an incredible 2012 campaign.

    It’s risky, but I would have no problem if Kelly selects Ansah fourth overall.

Bjoern Werner, Florida State

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    Size: 6’3”, 266 pounds

    Where He Played in College: 4-3 defensive end

    2012 Stats: 13 sacks, 42 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, eight passes defensed

     

    Potential or Proven Production: Bjoern Werner’s production as a junior at Florida State University was remarkable. There’s no telling what he would do as a senior.

    Werner’s 13.5 sacks came in just six total games, meaning Werner did tend to be hit-or-miss. But when he was on, he was really on. He had 4.5 sacks in the season opener, 6.5 in his first three games, and 3.5 in a late-season win over rival Florida.

    Then again, there’s been some criticism that his game can't actually translate to the next level.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance: Werner was merely average at the scouting combine, running a 4.83 40-yard dash and putting up 25 reps on the bench press.

     

    Injury Concerns: Werner was bothered by a left hand issue in 2012, but he doesn’t have any serious injury concerns.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    As talented of a player as Werner is, he probably wouldn’t be a great fit for the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s more of a conventional 4-3 defensive end because he’s not too good in space. Even if the Eagles didn’t switch to a 3-4 defense, they have two very good 4-3 ends in Trent Cole and Brandon Graham.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    For a team looking to draft a defensive end, Werner is a fine addition. He’s got a good track record and that should carry over to the NFL level. But Chip Kelly’s Eagles wouldn’t be a good fit for Werner.

Damontre Moore, Texas A&M

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    Size: 6’4”, 250 pounds

    Where He Played in College: 4-3 defensive end, 3-4 outside linebacker

    2012 Stats: 12.5 sacks, 85 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, two passes defensed

     

    Potential or Proven Production: Damontre Moore was extremely consistent during 2012, picking up 12.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss. In nine of his 13 games, he picked up at least one sack.

    He did wear down late in the season, failing to pick up a sack in his final three contests. That could be a conditioning issue.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance: Speaking of conditioning issues, Moore’s combine performance was red flag-worthy. He ran a slow 4.95 40-yard dash and benched 225 pounds just 19 times. That’s alarmingly awful. It was so bad Moore said he even sat by himself and cried.

     

    Injury Concerns: There’s not much injury history to speak of, other than a hamstring injury that slowed him at the scouting combine.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Moore can play as both a 4-3 end and 3-4 outside linebacker, which does leave the door open for him to go to the Philadelphia Eagles. Moore’s track record at college is very impressive in terms of his production.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Moore’s poor combine performance all but pushed him out of the top 10 overall picks. There’s no way the Eagles select him unless Moore somehow drops to the second round, but that’s not likely to happen.

Barkevious Mingo, LSU

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    Size: 6’4”, 241 pounds

    Where He Played in College: 4-3 defensive end

    2012 Stats: 4.5 sacks, 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, three passes defensed

     

    Potential or Proven Production: Like Ezekiel Ansah, Barkevious Mingo’s production at the college level was limited. Each player had just 4.5 sacks. Mingo did put up eight sacks as a sophomore though, meaning he has produced enough to show he should succeed in the NFL.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance: Mingo is an impressive athlete, having run a 4.58 40 yard dash and vertical jumped 37 inches. There is some concern about his small frame, and he elected not to bench press at the combine.

     

    Injury Concerns: Mingo has no injury history, although again, he is very undersized.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles? Mingo’s small frame means he absolutely has to play 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s probably best suited as a situational pass-rusher, like Aldon Smith.

    That doesn’t mean he can’t be productive, because Smith is a situational pass-rusher, and he gets the job done.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick? No way. Mingo is probably the worst of the big six pass-rushing prospects. He’s best suited in the middle to lower half of the first round. If the second round rolls around (and the Philadelphia Eagles haven’t already selected a pass-rusher), Mingo would be a terrific fit with the 36th overall pick.

Margus Hunt, SMU

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    Size: 6’8”, 277 pounds

    Where He Played in College: 3-4 defensive end

    2012 Stats: eight sacks, 31 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, one interception, four blocked kicks

     

    Potential or Proven Production: The production for Margus Hunt was pretty good in college. As a 3-4 end, his sack total is impressive and his ability to seemingly block kicks at will is absolutely remarkable.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance: Hunt’s performance at the scouting combine was historic. Not many 6’8”, near-280-pound men can run 4.60 40-yard dashes or bench press 225 pounds 38 times.

     

    Injury Concerns: No injury concerns at all

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Hunt would be a terrific addition to the Philadelphia Eagles. The team needs a 3-4 defensive end, and Hunt seems like he was made to play in that kind of defense. He spent his whole collegiate career as a five-technique defensive end.

    Hunt is a strong pass-rusher. He’s extremely raw but his physical skills will give him an edge at the NFL level.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    There’s no way Chip Kelly will consider Hunt at the fourth overall pick. And given Hunt’s spectacular combine, he won’t last until pick 36. Unless the Eagles manage to trade down to the middle of the first round, Hunt won’t be an Eagle.

Alex Okafor, Texas

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    Size: 6’4”, 264 pounds

    Where He Played in College: 4-3 defensive end, 4-3 defensive tackle

    2012 Stats: 12.5 sacks, 54 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss (4.5 sacks in bowl game)

     

    Potential or Proven Production: Alex Okafor put up big numbers in his senior season at the University of Texas. Okafor finished strong, with an incredible performance in the team’s final bowl game. He has good size to play 4-3 end or 3-4 outside linebacker.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance: Okafor didn’t run or participate in any of the agility or jumping drills because of a hip injury. He did bench 225 pounds a mediocre 21 times.

     

    Injury Concerns: Okafor dealt with an ankle and hip problem in his senior season. Prior to that though, he started 33 consecutive games.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    It’s surprising Okafor played defensive tackle in college, and it says a lot about his versatility. He won’t to play anything but 3-4 rush linebacker in the NFL. Okafor is a strong pass-rusher who would be an asset in a division that faces Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III and Eli Manning six times per season.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Okafor isn’t worth the fourth overall pick. He’s a borderline first-round pick who could still be available when the Eagles pick at No. 36. If that’s the case, they should snag him.

Datone Jones, UCLA

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    Size: 6’4”, 283 pounds

    Where He Played in College: 4-3 defensive end, 4-3 defensive tackle

    2012 Stats: 6.5 sacks, 62 tackles, 19 tackles for loss

     

    Potential or Proven Production: Datone Jones had solid production during his career at UCLA. He wasn’t an All-American, but he put up good numbers playing as a 4-3 end and even 4-3 tackle.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance:  Jones ran a 4.80 40-yard dash, which isn’t anything that impressive. Twenty-nine reps on the bench press is pretty solid though, and that strength is why Jones was able to play defensive tackle as well.

     

    Injury Concerns: Jones missed the majority of his sophomore season with a fractured ankle, but that shouldn’t be a lingering concern.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Jones has very impressive versatility, which will definitely be intriguing to NFL teams. But the problem is he’s played solely in a 4-3, and the Philadelphia Eagles will be going with a 3-4. Jones could probably translate to a 3-4 outside linebacker, and he’s big enough he may even be able to play some reps as a 3-4 end.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Jones isn’t worth any pick in the top 25 simply because there are just better prospects out there. He is likely to still be around when the Eagles make their second pick, and he would be a fine option there.

Sam Montgomery, LSU

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    Size: 6’3”, 262 pounds

    Where He Played in College: 4-3 defensive end

    2012 Stats: eight sacks, 37 tackles, 13 tackles for loss

     

    Potential or Proven Production: Sam Montgomery played pretty well at LSU, which could be from playing opposite Barkevious Mingo. He picked up sacks in seven of his 12 games at the collegiate level. Montgomery will go high because he’s proven he can excel against top teams.

     

    NFL Scouting Combine Performance: Mingo passed on the bench press at the combine and ran just a 4.81 40-yard dash. Those won’t elevate his stock at all.

     

    Injury Concerns: Montgomery did suffer a knee injury in 2010, but that shouldn’t linger over to the NFL.

     

    Is He a Good Fit for the Philadelphia Eagles?

    Montgomery played 4-3 end in college but won’t be able to do that on the Eagles. He’s going to project to 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, and he would probably be an asset for Chip Kelly’s team. Montgomery’s specialty is getting to the quarterback.

     

    Is He Worth the Fourth Overall Pick?

    Montgomery’s stock continues to drop as the NFL draft gets closer. He was initially viewed as a likely first-round pick, but he’s down to the second or third round by now. Concerns about taking plays off could also hurt his stock. The Philadelphia Eagles would be wise to wait until the third round before picking Montgomery.