In a league driven by quarterbacks, teams are searching for the next great pass-rusher. Fortunately for those near the top of the 2013 NFL draft, there's no shortage of options.
With the way the league is clamping down on contact in the secondary and protecting defenseless receivers, it's getting harder and harder to defend the pass. The easiest way is simply to stop the QB before he even releases the ball. You're not going to get any unnecessary roughness penalties for recording a sack.
Fans will likely see three edge-rushers go in the first 10 or so picks. It's a bit of a role reversal, as you're used to seeing three QBs at the front end of the first round.
In terms of the round as a whole, these are the likely destinations for the top pass-rushers.
No. 4 Philadelphia Eagles: Dion Jordan, Oregon
This would be a smart pick because it gives the Eagles the best pass-rusher in the draft, and it reunites Dion Jordan and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. Jordan will come in with an immediate respect for Kelly and know exactly what his coach will be asking of him.
Jordan is a great athlete, with both height and speed. Offensive linemen will have a hard time dealing with somebody that tall and fast.
The biggest problem with Jordan is his strength. His frame is still a bit lanky, so there's the chance linemen will be able to bully him around a bit. Once he gets on the right strength and conditioning program, though, that problem should disappear.
No. 5 Detroit Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Ezekiel Ansah is the best athlete of any of the pass-rushers available. Unlike Jordan, strength isn't a problem. Ansah has it all and could become a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. His speed off the edge is very good, and he can overpower linemen as well.
One of the biggest issues with Ansah is his technique. When compared to many of the players in this draft, Ansah is relatively inexperienced, and that shows in his performance. He can rely on superior physical gifts a little too often. In the NFL, he won't be able to get away with that.
The defensive line is a huge area of concern for the Detroit Lions. They've lost both Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch so far. Ansah would be a huge boost coming off the edge.
No. 9 New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, LSU
It may sound like you're stuck in an echo chamber, but Barkevious Mingo is yet another fantastic athlete. These kinds of players are becoming more and more important. It's good to have a steady, dependable player on the line, but guys with upsides like Mingo's, Jordan's and Ansah's are considered the elite.
Mingo is still pretty raw, arguably much more so than either Jordan or Ansah. It's a concern because if he didn't make improvements on his game in college, there's the risk he won't against tougher competition.
With both the No. 9 and 13 picks, the Jets have some flexibility in the first round. If New York doesn't take a pass-rusher at nine, though, there's a very good chance one of the aforementioned trio will be gone by 13.
No. 19 New York Giants: Cornellius Carradine, Florida State
Once renowned for a great pass rush, the New York Giants have fallen off a bit. They weren't helped when Osi Umenyiora signed with the Atlanta Falcons. New York will likely be looking at a defensive end in the first round.
Cornellius Carradine has been shooting up draft boards recently. A month or so ago, few would have predicted him going in the first round, and now most experts have him as a first-rounder.
Carradine is very quick and uses his feet very well. With his first step, he can beat blockers off the line of scrimmage. His power also allows him to utilize a bull rush if necessary.
Inexperience is a major concern. Carradine spent two years at Florida State, only one of which came as a starter for the Seminoles.
No. 28 Denver Broncos: Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Bjoern Werner has been the exact opposite of his FSU teammate in terms of draft fortunes. A few months ago, many had Werner pegged as a top-five pick. He's since not performed well and many of his issues have been magnified.
Coincidentally, Werner might actually be the most polished pass-rusher in the draft at this point. He'd fit in perfectly with a Denver Broncos defense that's already one of the best. Denver doesn't need to fill any major holes, but Werner can be a dependable option next season.
Upside is the thing holding Werner back. You just don't see where he's going to make a huge jump, like those ranked ahead of him. Werner can become a very good defensive end, but there's not the likelihood he'll become a force, like Jordan, Ansah or Mingo.