The NFL Comparison for Top 10 DE Recruits from Class of 2014
Recently within the past month or so, we've been making comparisons to NFL players for the 2014 class. The comparisons stem from what NFL player the recruit most closely resembles on the field.
Again, as I always say with these comparison pieces, these aren't just shot-in-the-dark comparisons, but rather keen and well-examined looks into how a recruit's size and skill size favorably remind me of an NFL player.
The defensive end position, aside from QB and LT, could be the most important position to a football team. As a squad, you need a guy who can consistently get to the passer and disrupt the opposing offense's passing game and QB play. If you notice, many of the top NFL teams have at least one great DE/pass-rusher.
These 2014 ends are the next crop of potential difference-makers from the DE position. Here are the 10 best of the bunch right now and the NFL comparisons for each guy.
10. Dewayne Hendrix
Hendrix is close to 6'5" and will probably be over 250 pounds as a freshman in college. He shows a solid get-off, good speed in his rush and can be a powerful kid.
A deceptive athlete, the Illinois native shows solid agility and can change direction adequately in tight settings to pursue the run. He's a prospect that is really growing on me, and he reminds me of Justin Tuck.
9. Gerald Willis III
Willis is one of the best defensive prospects in the South this year. He is an interesting prospect, as this is a guy who's strength is so impressive that you start to think he may be a DT at heart.
I can imagine Willis, at 6'3" and 260 pounds, growing into a 3-4 DE due to the ability to be stout against the run. He's got solid quickness, but there are speedier rushers than Willis.
His skill set, strength and overall skills remind me of Quinton Coples a little bit.
8. Justin Thornton
Thornton is a pretty long athlete at 6'5" and 224 pounds. He's not going to really try to beat up people at the point of attack or wrestle with a blocker.
Thornton wants to put his hand down, use his long arms to keep clean and out-quick blockers on the way to the passer. He's got a quick burst at the snap and can be pretty tough at times.
Thornton reminds me of Osi Umenyiora.
7. Myles Garrett
Garrett may win the "Greek God Frame" award this year, as the 6'4", 245-pounder has the body of an impressive specimen. From Texas, he shows good explosion at the snap, doesn't back down from blockers and has good speed.
Garrett can play the run and is strength is sneaky, but it's not his strong suit. That's why I liken him to Robert Quinn.
6. Nifae Lealao
Lealao is not a true DE, as he's going to grow into an interior DL, without a doubt. However, he still plays a little on the edges for his Northern California high school team and can play the DE spot in a 3-4 scheme.
With his good snap quickness, ability to anchor and be stout vs. the run, read blocking schemes quickly and ability to be a force, there's a lot to like about Lealao.
Let's see, a big DL who can play end in a 3-4 or work well inside a 4-3...hmm. Richard Seymour comes to mind when I watch Lealao.
5. Lorenzo Featherston
Featherston is from North Carolina and looks like a basketball player. He's 6'7" and weighs just 215 pounds right now, so clearly he needs to add some bulk.
Yet, pop on the tape and you see an athletic kid who has good quickness at the snap, speed to pursue from the backside and even some ability to bend around the pocket. With his length, athleticism and high ceiling, one can't help but compare Featherston to Michael Johnson.
4. Solomon Thomas
The 6'3", 251-pounder is from Texas and really excels against the run. Thomas has good strength, can set the edges and really anchors well vs. edge-blockers.
He shows good quickness in obvious passing situations, but don't look at Thomas as just a run defender. He can drag a man outside before shooting back to the inside half and flashes some hand usage.
Thomas resembles Chris Long in a lot of ways.
3. Kentavius Street
Street is a bully and he knows it. He's a big and thick 6'4", 265-pounder from North Carolina who can intimidate blockers with his strength and power.
Street is a clear-cut edge-setter who can punch people in the mouth at the point of attack, anchor, press to shed and make stops vs. head-on runs. He has some pass rush potential, but this guy could be the best run-defending DE in the country.
I get a lot of Anthony Spencer thoughts when I watch Street.
2. Lorenzo Carter
Carter may not be No. 1 on this list, but he's still one of the 10 best players overall in the nation this year. He stands between 6'5" and 6'6", while weighing 235 pounds.
An incredible athlete with length, speed and agility, it's a sight to watch Carter play on film. He makes a ton of plays with explosiveness and rare athleticism.
There's not much Carter can't do, as he can even stand up and play the rush end spots in 3-4 defense as an OLB. Think about Jason Pierre-Paul and even a little Julius Peppers when you think of Carter.
1. Da'Shawn Hand
Hand is an exceptional prospect and is the No. 1 overall prospect in 2014 recruiting. He's 6'5", over 250 pounds and is extremely sudden and explosive at the snap.
Hand isn't just a speed guy, as he has great strength at the point of attack. The Virginia native also has very good hand quickness and shows a solid pass rush plan with his ability to set up blockers.
He also can play DT in sub-packages and is very good vs. the run. I can't help but to be reminded of DeMarcus Ware when I watch Hand.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (formerly ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.