NFL1000: Ranking the Top 4-3 Defensive Ends from 2017 Season

NFL1000 ScoutsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2018

NFL1000: Ranking the Top 4-3 Defensive Ends from 2017 Season

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    The hybrid nature of modern NFL defenses requires players to do more than ever, and defensive ends are no exception. It's the rare 4-3 end who stays in one place for every snap of a game, let alone every snap of a season. Now, they may line up in two-end sets to one side, forcing guards to act like tackles and causing all kinds of confusion along the offensive line. 

    More prominently, defensive ends, trained as edge-rushers, must become conversant with the idea of moving inside on obvious passing downs when teams move to nickel and dime defenses. Not only do you need to bend the edge and trap offensive tackles with your inside counter, but you must also time gaps and use your bull rush as a pass-rushing tackle.

    With the passing game as indispensable as ever, the need to pressure quarterbacks is equally crucial. No defense is complete without at least one elite end, and the need for two has become more apparent.

    NFL1000 defensive line scout Justis Mosqueda watched every 4-3 defensive end all season, and these are his final grades. Scores are based on the following:

    Pass Rush: 30 points. An end's entire pass-rushing skill set, from looping around tackles to performing stunts to gap versatility.

    Run Defense: 20 points. How complete is this end? Can he put the brakes on and adjust to become a positive force against the run to his side?

    Snap Quickness: 20 points. Reading and reacting to line calls is perhaps the most important aspect of the pass rush. How well and how often does this player get off the snap with a sense of anticipation?

    Tackling: 20 points. Can this player complete the stop with form-tackling fundamentals?

    Position Value: 8/10. The value of the player's base position versus other positions.

    Make sure to check out all of the NFL1000 rankings from the 2017 season.



Nos. 75-71

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    Tampa Bay's Ryan Russell
    Tampa Bay's Ryan RussellAssociated Press

    75. Ryan Russell, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Pass Rush: 19/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    64/100

    Despite being Tampa Bay's third end for the majority of the season—playing almost as many snaps as William Gholston down the stretch—Ryan Russell only recorded two sacks in 2017. That's abysmal for a 4-3 defensive end who is receiving close to a starter's snap volume. With 23 NFL games, six starts, three seasons and just three sacks under his belt, Russell hasn't fared well throughout his career.

                   

    74. Dawuane Smoot, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Pass Rush: 19/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    11/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    64/100

    Dawuane Smoot is the fourth defensive end in Jacksonville. That's a fine role for him from the Jaguars' perspective. In a crowded rotation, he's never asked to do much more than come in as a pass-rushing specialist who can land a solid countermove every few reps. With Dante Fowler Jr., Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell ahead of him on the depth chart, Smoot will have a tough time earning a starting role during his rookie contract. He's a 22-year-old, third-round insurance policy going into 2018.

                  

    73. James Cowser, Oakland Raiders

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    65/100

    In terms of true edge defenders, it's Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and James Cowser in Oakland. If you're trying to figure out why Oakland fails to notch sacks with both Mack and Irvin on defense, your answer is the depth behind them. Despite playing in every game this year, Cowser has failed to record a sack. If you pointed just at the measurables and stats of the 245-pound edge defender, you'd more than likely guess he's a special teams tight end instead of a key defensive contributor.

                    

    72. Kerry Wynn, New York Giants

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    65/100

    In four years with the New York Giants, 2014 undrafted free agent defensive end Kerry Wynn has just three sacks. Wynn played in 15 games this year but he hasn't given the Giants much of a reason to play a bigger role in 2018. A player of his caliber should be able to find work in a weak end rotation, but you'd expect him to bounce around a bit. With Giants' leadership changing, his return isn't a sure thing.

                      

    71. Marcus Smith, Seattle Seahawks

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    65/100

    Seattle has almost become a sanctuary for failed first-round picks like the Jim Harbaugh San Francisco 49ers were. Marcus Smith, along with Dion Jordan, became significant contributors for the Seahawks defensive line this year after the NFL wrote them off. Smith hasn't yet lived up to first-round expectations, but he was a depth piece behind Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark early in the season. The Seahawks thought enough of him to trade Cassius Marsh to the New England Patriots late in the preseason. That's about as big of a vote of confidence for a backup lineman as you'll get.

Nos. 70-66

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    Dallas' Tyrone Crawford
    Dallas' Tyrone CrawfordWinslow Townson/Associated Press

    70. Tyrone Crawford, Dallas Cowboys

    Pass Rush: 21/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    11/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    65/100

    Tyrone Crawford may be the most expensive defensive lineman you've forgotten about. After signing a five-year, $45 million contract before the 2014 season, the 3-technique tackle was moved to defensive end, where he's played the last two years. His cap hit ($9.1 million in 2018, per Spotrac) will finally be more than his dead cap ($7.3 million), opening an opportunity for cost cutting. His inability to play to the athletic standard of a 4-3 defensive end—because he's a 4-3 defensive tackle by trade—has hurt Crawford and Dallas over the last few years.

                       

    69. Wes Horton, Carolina Panthers

    Pass Rush: 19/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    65/100

    While Mario Addison and Charles Johnson started, giving Julius Peppers rest as a rotational player, Wes Horton was the fourth defensive end in Carolina in 2017. As a pass-rusher, he can take wide angles to the quarterback, which is a problem if you don't have elite speed to make up for running yourself out of plays. In the ground game, he allows linemen to cross his face more often than the average end.

                 

    68. Charles Johnson, Carolina Panthers

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    11/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    65/100

    Recently, Charles Johnson has been sticking around Carolina on short-term contracts. This year, he's appeared like more of a shell of himself than any season prior. To start the campaign, he looked and played like a defensive end with a little too much weight on his frame (listed at 6'2", 278 lbs). He recorded zero sacks in 11 starts, and a performance-enhancing drug suspension followed. It's safe to assume the Panthers will not lean on him as a starting-caliber player in 2018.

                  

    67. Ryan Davis, Buffalo Bills

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    11/20
    Tackling: 
    11/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    65/100

    After spending 2015 with Jacksonville and 2016 with Dallas, Ryan Davis found a home in Buffalo in 2017. The 28-year-old is what you'd expect a true backup defensive end to be. He can make plays that don't demand a high level of athleticism to finish, but some get away from him. He's best as a rotational player, which then translates to his being on the field for rushing downs, due to the value of pass-rushing reps.

                  

    66. Will Clarke, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    66/100

    Like Michael Johnson before him, Will Clarke spent his rookie contract with the Cincinnati Bengals before moving to Tampa. The Buccaneers seem to have put an emphasis on length at defensive end like the Bengals have in the past, so the 6'6" end is a good fit from that perspective. There were many squeaky wheels in Tampa this season, even on its expensive defensive line, but Clarke filled his role as a fourth defensive end. His length will keep him cashing NFL checks.

Nos. 65-61

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    San Francisco's Tank Carradine
    San Francisco's Tank CarradineAssociated Press

    65. Tank Carradine, San Francisco 49ers

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    66/100

    Tank Carradine was once one of the most visible defensive linemen in college football before a knee injury late in his Florida State career led to his slip to 2013's second round. Nearing the end of his fifth year in the NFL, Carradine has just 5.5 sacks. Still, all but one of his eight career starts came in 2017.

    A late-season starter in the base end role in San Francisco's 4-3 defense, Carradine might've found a spot. But at minimum he'll have to compete with 2015 first-round pick Arik Armstead, with Leger Douzable and DeForest Buckner potentially in the running for the role, too. There are just too many mouths to feed in San Francisco to make sure predictions.

              

    64. Shaq Lawson, Buffalo Bills

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    66/100

    Shaq Lawson began his NFL career on the physically unable to perform list after having surgery on his shoulder between the 2016 draft and the start of the regular season. Following his rookie year, he had knee surgery. Then after moving to 4-3 defensive end, the role he played at Clemson, he battled through a groin injury and an ankle injury in 2017.

    To say the least, Lawson hasn't lived up to first-round expectations through two NFL seasons, mostly because he's played hobbled. It's possible that he, like his teammate Jerry Hughes, could break out later in his rookie deal, as he does show flashes. He can put it all together to make tackles in the backfield, but frequency is the issue.

                

    63. Eddie Yarbrough, Buffalo Bills

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    66/100

    Eddie Yarbrough's breakout started in the preseason, when he went from the roster bubble to safely securing his 2017 role. He's a spot starter who should hang around the league for another half-decade, but he's not an ideal every-down player. He's a solid all-around defensive end who lacks enough juice in his legs to be a long-term option.

                    

    62. Leger Douzable, San Francisco 49ers

    Pass Rush: 21/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    67/100

    Leger Douzable has had one of the more unique career paths. The 6'4", 284-pound end has played defensive tackle during stretches of his 10-year NFL stint. He's also with his ninth franchise. After signing with the 49ers in mid-October, he only played five games in 2017. He started all five. It's clear San Francisco has a specific run-first big-end role for him, which the 6'7", 292-pound Arik Armstead could fill when he returns from a broken hand. Still, Douzable should continue to find work as a hybrid defensive end-tackle for teams in a pinch.

                 

    61. Brian Robison, Minnesota Vikings

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    67/100

    At 34, Brian Robison was finally demoted to a backup role. Minnesota still relied heavily on him since it didn't have much depth. But passing the torch to Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, two of the best middle-round pass-rushers in recent memory, must have been an easy decision for the team. Still, with no one ready to take Robison's reps, you could envision the Vikings giving him significant snaps in 2018. If not, he could land somewhere as a depth veteran in a similar move to Chris Long's jump to the Philadelphia Eagles last offseason.

Nos. 60-56

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    Tampa Bay's William Gholston
    Tampa Bay's William GholstonKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    60. William Gholston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    67/100

    On the surface, the five-year contract William Gholston signed in 2017 is one of the sport's oddest. The former Michigan State pass-rusher recorded just 10 sacks (2.5 per season) during his first four years. This season, he didn't record a sack. He's slated to make $20.5 million over the next four years, but not a cent after 2017 is guaranteed, meaning the Buccaneers can pull the rug from underneath their agreement.

    A potential cap casualty, the 6'6", 281-pound Gholston has the length to be rushing-down end or a potential 5-tech with better pass-rushing ability than most 3-4 defensive ends. A three-down starting 4-3 defensive end role isn't in his future, though.

                 

    59. Taco Charlton, Dallas Cowboys

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    67/100

    Taco Charlton doesn't have a high athletic upside, which is concerning for a 2017 first-round pick who didn't immediately produce in his rookie season. While he was more than serviceable, it was clear he was used to winning with inside swims and spins, but NFL bookends didn't bite as easily as college offensive tackles. He's a high-effort player and shouldn't come close to a roster bubble in coming seasons, but these next few years will be make-or-break with the decision on his fifth-year option on the horizon.

              

    58. Chris Long, Philadelphia Eagles

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    67/100

    Chris Long went from being on the second line of the depth chart in New England to the second line of the depth chart in Philadelphia. He's more than talented enough to be a veteran piece in a defensive line rotation, and he seems to be somewhat of a locker room leader, despite only playing with the Eagles for one season. His effort and tenacity will likely keep him employed as long as he wants to be, even if 300 snaps in a season aren't attached to the contract.

              

    57. Derrick Shelby, Atlanta Falcons

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    67/100

    Derrick Shelby isn't an ideal starting 4-3 defensive end, but he's not asked to do that in Atlanta. He's a larger-body end (6'2", 280) who wins with his hands more than his feet. Even when given time late in a down, Shelby can find it hard to disengage from bookends. He's a functional rotational edge defender.

              

    56. Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit Lions

    Pass Rush: 21/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    68/100

    After recording no fewer than 7.5 sacks a year in his first three seasons, Ezekiel Ansah has only garnered 14 sacks combined over his last two years. In 2017, three of his 12 sacks came in Week 2 against the New York Giants, who have notably struggled at bookend, He got three each against Cincinnati and Green Bay lines that have similarly struggled late in the season. While the 12 sacks may make him look like an elite pass rusher, Ansah has regressed in a contract year. At this point, Ansah would not be a lock to start next season if he didn't come with name value. 

Nos. 55-51

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    Detroit's Cornelius Washington
    Detroit's Cornelius WashingtonJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    55. Cornelius Washington, Detroit Lions

    Pass Rush: 21/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    68/100

    Cornelius Washington is a little slow off the ball for a pass-rusher, but he's fared well in his transition from playing in a 3-4 with the Chicago Bears last season. As long as he's not handling obvious passing downs, there's no major flaw in his game. Expect him to stay on the second line of a defensive end depth chart for years.

                

    54. Carl Nassib, Cleveland Browns

    Pass Rush: 21/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    11/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    68/100

    Carl Nassib gets off the ball better than he did in 2016, but there are plenty of times he misses in space. He'll never bend the edge like Von Miller, but he's a good enough end to hang around on the second line of a depth chart for a while. Before Myles Garrett, who was injured to begin the season, joined the lineup, Nassib was Cleveland's starting defensive end opposite of Emmanuel Ogbah. As the Browns' third defensive end, he doesn't have much creativity in his pass-rushing game, either.

                 

    53. Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals

    Pass Rush: 21/30
    Run Defense: 
    16/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    11/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    68/100

    Michael Johnson has rejuvenated his career in his second stint with the Cincinnati Bengals. A better run defender than pass-rusher, Johnson has benefited from rookie defensive ends Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis' presence. Prior to this year, it was clear the Bengals only trusted two defensive ends, which strained Johnson in the rotation. Now, he's able to flex inside to defensive tackle, where he's better suited to obvious passing downs.

                    

    52. Robert Ayers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    Robert Ayers came into the league in 2009 as a first-round pick and failed to meet expectations until the last half of the 2015 season with the New York Giants, his second NFL team. He parlayed that into a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In two seasons, he's only recorded 8.5 sacks. It's clear, as Ayers will be 33 by the time Tampa kicks off 2018, that he can't be "The Guy."

                  

    51. Trey Hendrickson, New Orleans Saints

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    12/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    Trey Hendrickson was mostly a rotational pass-rusher for the New Orleans Saints in his rookie season, but he showed promise as an edge-bender in 2017. Up-and-down pad level can get him into trouble, but he's more than talented enough to continue in this role. If the Saints don't re-sign Alex Okafor, Hendrickson has a chance to start across the line from Cameron Jordan in 2018. New Orleans doesn't have much edge depth, and Hendrickson was the No. 103 selection last April.

Nos. 50-46

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    New Orleans' Hau'oli Kikaha
    New Orleans' Hau'oli KikahaAssociated Press

    50. Hau'oli Kikaha, New Orleans Saints

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    Since his college days at Washington, Hau'oli Kikaha, when healthy, has been somewhat of a hybrid end-linebacker. Without a great jump or bend, he mostly wins with his hands. The 2015 second-round pick is a rotational pass-rusher for when Cameron Jordan kicks inside to defensive tackle.

                  

    49. Elvis Dumervil, San Francisco 49ers

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    12/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    You can understand why the 5'11", 250-pound Elvis Dumervil is a pass-rushing specialist. One can't dominate in run defense with that frame. That's just reality. Despite recording 105.5 career sacks, Dumervil has only been a full-time starter in six of his 11 NFL seasons. Over the last five years, he's only been a full-time starter once, in 2015.

    In San Francisco this season, he was a 3-point and 2-point pass-rusher who could still bend the edge but had issues pushing through bookends on the corner. With Cassius Marsh in town, the team might be able to find a cheaper option to replace Dumervil with once Arik Armstead (broken hand) returns to the lineup.

                    

    48. Avery Moss, New York Giants

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    Avery Moss is not a special pass-rusher. He wasn't even the top edge-defender drafted out of FCS' Youngstown State last April (that honor went to Derek Rivers). New York's stars-and-scrubs defensive line mentality had positives and negatives. But the margin of error that even an average end such as Moss brings, especially as a cheap, young player, is exactly what the team needed.

    If the Giants want to preserve the legs of expensive veterans Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon over the next three seasons, Moss could become a key contributor. Many teams, such as the Minnesota Vikings, essentially split end snaps three ways to the point where there's basically three starters. That's the next move for New York.

                  

    47. Cassius Marsh, New York Giants

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    Last season, you could have made the case that Cassius Marsh was the best fourth defensive end in the NFL, as he was a quality player who sat behind Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark. Late in the offseason, Seattle traded Marsh to the New England Patriots, who later released him. It wasn't until late November that the 49ers picked him up and used him as a rotational pass-rusher. In the right circumstances, Marsh could compete for a starting defensive end role. If nothing else, he's a good depth player.

                  

    46. Trey Flowers, New England Patriots

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    11/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    The Patriots have struggled getting into the backfield over the past two seasons and desperately need their front seven to be more productive.  On most teams, Trey Flowers would be a fan favorite and complimentary defensive lineman, but in New England he had to take the reins in 2017. He's a high-effort player who, like his former Arkansas and now-Patriots teammate Deatrich Wise, has great technique. His ability to play with his hands above his eyes is a massive plus, as he understands the value of both leverage and winning with inside hands.

Nos. 45-41

7 of 23

    New England's Deatrich Wise
    New England's Deatrich WiseBrett Carlsen/Getty Images

    45. Deatrich Wise, New England Patriots

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    17/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    10/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    Wise was one of the more surprising rookie breakouts, as he wasn't even a Senior Bowl invitee last season and wasn't a full-time starter at Arkansas as a senior. The fourth-round pick didn't post the most production in the 2017 rookie class, but he did play key snaps as a pass-rushing defensive end for the Patriots. Look for him to flirt with being the second or third defensive end on the roster long term.

                  

    44. Andre Branch, Miami Dolphins

    Pass Rush: 21/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    For a No. 2 pass-rusher, Andre Branch is about as average as it gets. Could a team do better? Yes. Could one do worse? Yes. The three-year, $24 million deal he's playing on is likely too much for his talent, as he's never recorded more than six sacks in a season, but he deserves the reps he's getting in Miami. He may not have elite athleticism, but he's got good enough fundamentals to make up for it with his 6'5" length.

                  

    43. Julius Peppers, Carolina Panthers

    Pass Rush: 23/30
    Run Defense: 
    16/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    10/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    If Julius Peppers is in a position to win a play with his hands, he's still more than qualified for the job. His good technique still allows him to cross opposing blockers' faces, but his legs, at 37, leave some plays on the field. He may transition into an interior role soon, as his lack of containment skills can spring large runs on the sideline. But there's still a role for him in the NFL in 2018.

                   

    42. Adrian Clayborn, Atlanta Falcons

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    69/100

    Obviously, the highlight of Adrian Clayborn's 2017 season was his six-sack game against the Dallas Cowboys. That legendary performance even featured a sack he recorded after dropping into coverage. From a stylistic standpoint, he's a power-rusher compared to teammates Vic Beasley and Brooks Reed. He doesn't have the legs to be much of a chase player, but he's tough at the line of scrimmage.

                 

    41. Noah Spence, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Pass Rush: 23/30
    Run Defense: 
    12/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    Noah Spence is a 2016 second-round pick who finished his college career at Eastern Kentucky after suspensions at Ohio State. In his rookie season, the 6'2", 251-pound edge-bender recorded 5.5 sacks, which was among the best sack totals for NFC rookies, but he only played in six games in 2017 due to a shoulder injury.

    Spence only recorded one sack on a Buccaneers team that might have had the worst pass-rushers in the league in 2017. Unless a splash veteran signs with the team, expect Spence, who had six starts over two seasons, to push for a starting role in 2018.

Nos. 40-36

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    New England's Lawrence Guy
    New England's Lawrence GuyJim Rogash/Getty Images

    40. Lawrence Guy, New England Patriots

    Pass Rush: 21/30
    Run Defense: 
    17/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    11/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    Lawrence Guy was one of the bigger free agents the New England Patriots brought in last year, even if no one mentioned his name once all offseason. While listed as a 4-3 defensive end, he played a big-end role in New England, where he could go from playing on offensive tackles' shoulders to the outside shoulder of a guard on any given down. His strong hands translate to his ability as a run defender. Long term, he could be a base end who kicks inside for pressure packages and/or a 3-4 defensive end. Premium pass-rushing reps on the edge are not ideal for him.

                 

    39. Charles Harris, Miami Dolphins

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    In his rookie season, Charles Harris had more influence in games than the box score would suggest. He's a tightly wound, bursty pass-rusher with upside in setting up inside counters, such as spins. When the depth chart ahead of him loosens up and he begins to play the run better, he'll be a 16-game starter. There's no reason for concern.

               

    38. Chris McCain, Los Angeles Chargers

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    Chris McCain was one of the season's most pleasant surprises. Listed at 236 pounds, he doesn't command the line of scrimmage like some 4-3 defensive ends, but he's an upside pass-rusher. There are few examples of edge-rushers, let alone 4-3 defensive ends, who weigh under 240 pounds in the NFL. He gives hope to future undersized edge defenders. Look for McCain to carve himself a long-term role as a third-down specialist.

               

    37. Nate Orchard, Cleveland Browns

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    Mostly a backup defensive end, Nate Orchard could easily be a trade candidate going into a contract season in 2018. He's a high-effort player with bursty athleticism, which translates well as a pass-rusher, but he got few reps with the starting defensive line outside of sub-packages. As an inside stunter, he's fairly inefficient. If someone wants to kick the tires on him before he hits the open market in 2019, he should be available, as he's technically the fourth defensive end in the Browns' 4-3 scheme.

              

    36. Arik Armstead, San Francisco 49ers

    Pass Rush: 21/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    Arik Armstead has been a blue-chip prospect since he was recruited as both an offensive tackle and defensive lineman by major college programs. He finally started to put together a year that seemed like he would live up to expectations as a first-round pick, but a broken hand cut short his 2017 season. The 6'7", 292-pound end should be a disruptive starter next year, but entering a fourth season with questions is not where you want a first-round pick to be.

Nos. 35-31

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    New York's Olivier Vernon
    New York's Olivier VernonEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    35. Olivier Vernon, New York Giants

    Pass Rush: 23/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    70/100

    Olivier Vernon signed a blockbuster $85 million deal with the New York Giants in 2016. It immediately revamped their defense, turning them into a legitimate playoff team, and Vernon had arguably the best year of his career.  In 2017, he recorded just 3.5 sacks by the time the Giants were officially ruled out of playoff contention with a 2-9 record, and he managed just seven sacks overall despite a late-season burst of production. With cap hits of $17 million, $19.5 million and $19.5 million on the horizon, don't be surprised if a replication of Vernon's 2017 season leads to his being a 2019 cap casualty.

                 

    34. Dante Fowler Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    Despite only recording 12.0 sacks in his first two years in the NFL, in part due to a knee injury that cost him his rookie year in 2015, Dante Fowler Jr. had a breakout season as the third defensive end in Jacksonville's rotation. When Calais Campbell kicked inside, Fowler came off the bench on pass-rushing downs. Only a 23, Fowler somehow earned an early "bust" label and has already shaken it off. With Campbell, Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue locked in for the foreseeable future, he'll have every opportunity to keep this momentum rolling. 

                

    33. Benson Mayowa, Dallas Cowboys

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    Benson Mayowa started the season for the Cowboys as their right end, but he only kept the job for two games. He has athletic upside, but in the fifth year of his NFL career, there is some question about how long teams will flirt with the idea of him as a potential starter. At the moment, he's a pass-rushing specialist who can give breathers to starting defensive lines in the second quarter. Plenty of teams could do worse than Mayowa, who wasn't able to get home often in 2017 in that role.

                 

    32. Solomon Thomas, San Francisco 49ers

    Pass Rush: 20/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    15/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    Solomon Thomas made many backfield tackles in his rookie season. The issue is that the vast majority of them came in the ground game. The super-athletic defensive end, who played nose tackle during stretches at Stanford, is an above-average run defender with a high upside because of his first step and flexibility. Only 22 years old, he has plenty of time to develop as an edge defender, especially considering the fact that he's in the first year of a transition.

                  

    31. Brooks Reed, Atlanta Falcons

    Pass Rush: 21/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    The first thing you need to note about Brooks Reed is that he's a flexible athlete. In terms of how well he can bend the edge or hit a spin move, he's just as fluid as Vic Beasley. The issue with Reed is that his burst off the line of scrimmage comes and goes. When he's on, he's one of the more underrated defensive ends in the sport.

Nos. 30-26

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    Cleveland's Emmanuel Ogbah
    Cleveland's Emmanuel OgbahAssociated Press

    30. Emmanuel Ogbah, Cleveland Browns

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    16/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    Before his season-ending foot injury, Emmanuel Ogbah was averaging more than one tackle at or behind the line of scrimmage per game. He re-establishes the line of scrimmage at an above-average rate, even if he does have the tendency to get reached by quality right tackles. He also fights through blocks until the whistle blows and has good awareness of how and when to obstruct passing lanes.

                 

    29. Jordan Willis, Cincinnati Bengals

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    For one of the better two-deeps in the NFL, Jordan Willis was able to contribute off the bench at a high level as a pass-rusher and a defensive end who reset the line of scrimmage. While fellow rookie end Carl Lawson stole the show as the team's premier pass-rusher, Willis was much better in the ground game. Look for Willis to be a starting-caliber player for the next half-decade or so, potentially taking over full-time when Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson come off Cincinnati's books in 2019.

                       

    28. Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    2017 was a bit of a down year for Vic Beasley. The hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker didn't lose a step in his burst off the line of scrimmage, but he didn't bend around the corner quite the same as he did last year. Part of that could have been a hamstring injury that kept him out of three games and out of the starting lineup in five more. Look for Beasley to bounce back in 2018.

                    

    27. Alex Okafor, New Orleans Saints

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    71/100

    After recording 5.5 sacks in 2015 and 2016 combined, Alex Okafor entered the offseason as a potential roster-bubble veteran. Signing just a one-year, $2 million deal with the New Orleans Saints, Okafor wasn't projected to be close to a starter. Before an Achilles injury ended his season, he won the starting job opposite Cameron Jordan, earning him 10 starts on the year. His quick hands and feet led to many run stuffs. Overall, he had one of the more surprising seasons (in a good way) before he went on the injured reserve list. Expect him to have a market if he's able to recover to 100 percent.

                      

    26. Vinny Curry, Philadelphia Eagles

    Pass Rush: 23/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    72/100

    Vinny Curry signed a five-year deal worth $47.3 million with the Philadelphia Eagles, a price tag he didn't live up to in 2016. Last year, the Eagles drafted first-round pass-rusher Derek Barnett, presumably to replace Curry in 2018, when the team can save $5 million in cap space by releasing him. The "issue" is Curry had a career year on a loaded defensive line in 2017. Curry should start somewhere in the NFL in 2018, be it at 4-3 or 3-4 defensive end, even if it's not in Philadelphia.

Nos. 25-21

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    Cincinnati's Carlos Dunlap
    Cincinnati's Carlos DunlapJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    25. Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati Bengals

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    17/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    72/100

    If you're looking for a prototypical 4-3 defensive end, Carlos Dunlap fits the bill. He's stronger as an overall player than as a pass-rusher, but he's still more than flexible enough to sneak in for splash plays. If he could just get a better burst off the ball, he would likely be considered one of the 10 best edge defenders in the sport. 

                  

    24. Takkarist McKinley, Atlanta Falcons

    Pass Rush: 23/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    72/100

    Takkarist McKinley's rookie season should be viewed as a plus for Atlanta Falcons fans. Though he had his share of mistakes, it's important to remember he's only a few years removed from junior college football. He has high-end twitch, which translates well moving forward if he can finish a bit better. Many people got on Vic Beasley for the same thing in 2015 before he led the NFL in sacks in 2016.

                  

    23. Bruce Irvin, Oakland Raiders

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    72/100

    After his rookie season and a suspension to start his second year, Bruce Irvin was buried in Seattle's pass-rushing depth chart behind free-agent signings Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. After moving to off-the-ball linebacker, he elected to sign with the Oakland Raiders after his rookie deal, where he's quietly been one of the better pass-rushing signings in recent offseasons. Irvin not only has the athletic ability to keep bookends honest, but the undersized pass-rusher also has the feet and hands to convert speed into power by going through the chests of stagnant tackles. Oakland's interior and depth behind the Irvin-Khalil Mack combo is an issue, but don't expect major movement on the first line of their depth chart anytime soon.

                 

    22. Derek Barnett, Philadelphia Eagles

    Pass Rush: 23/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    16/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    73/100

    Derek Barnett came out of college as a churning edge-bender who got in the backfield mostly because he anticipated the snap well with his quick first step. There were questions about how well that would translate when he wasn't playing in front of a home crowd of 100,000, but he's met or beaten all expectations with his rookie season. Barnett was a third defensive end and pass-rushing specialist, but with Vinny Curry potentially leaving town in 2018, Barnett could easily become a sophomore starter. His ability to develop an inside counter, something he can build off his edge-bending style of play, was one of the more significant developments for a young pass-rusher this season.

                

    21. William Hayes, Miami Dolphins

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    17/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    73/100

    This offseason, William Hayes was traded from the Los Angeles Rams, who were transitioning to a 3-4 defense. In Miami, he was a tackle-for-loss monster, even making a key play that helped the Dolphins beat the favored Atlanta Falcons. Hayes, who missed the last six games of the season, proved himself as a talented penetrator, despite not putting up great sack numbers. In terms of penetration in the running game, there are few 4-3 defensive ends with the track record of Hayes over the last half-decade. 

Nos. 20-16

12 of 23

    Minnesota's Danielle Hunter
    Minnesota's Danielle HunterStacy Revere/Getty Images

    20. Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings

    Pass Rush: 22/30
    Run Defense: 
    16/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    73/100

    Despite playing a significant number of snaps in 2016, Danielle Hunter officially became a starter in the Minnesota Vikings' three-man rotation at defensive end this season. While he was unable to match his 12.5-sack effort from last year, he still has over 25 sacks as just a 23-year-old. Hunter looks like he'll be a 10-year starter.

                    

    19. Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants

    Pass Rush: 24/30
    Run Defense: 
    16/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    12/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    73/100

    While the discussion about Jason Pierre-Paul almost always revolves around his lost digits, the real "What if?" in his career is what he would look like if back injuries hadn't slowed his game down. Over the last two years, we've seen an 85 percent version of JPP compared to the 2011 version that recorded 16.5 sacks as a part-time starter. Still, the limited version is good enough for about seven sacks a season. The New York Giants had a massive regression on the defensive side of the ball this season, but JPP was mostly not part of the problem. 

                    

    18. Cliff Avril, Seattle Seahawks

    Pass Rush: 23/30
    Run Defense: 
    13/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    15/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    73/100

    After recording at least five sacks in his first nine NFL seasons and at least eight sacks in six of the last seven seasons, Cliff Avril may have played his last snap in 2017. Avril landed on the injured reserve list in October with a neck injury. Jermichael Finley and Nick Collins had career-ending neck injuries, and Avril's could be similar. Early on in 2017, he wasn't having the best season of his career, but the edge-bender was playing like a starting-caliber defensive end. It seems clear that his future in Seattle will be decided between he and his doctors.

                  

    17. Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins

    Pass Rush: 23/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    73/100

    While still starting games at 35 years old, Cameron Wake is in the pass-rushing-specialist portion of his career. Despite the limited number of snaps, he's a massive asset because he's recorded more than 20 sacks over the last two years. On the bubble for the Hall of Fame, Wake could bounce around at the end of his career in a Dwight Freeney-like role. He still has to play out one more year in Miami, which could start either William Hayes or Charles Harris to preserve Wake's legs in 2018.

                   

    16. Anthony Zettel, Detroit Lions

    Pass Rush: 24/30
    Run Defense: 
    17/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    12/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    74/100

    No player experienced a bigger turnaround this season than Anthony Zettel. Last year, as a rookie, you could make the case that he was one of the NFC's worst defensive ends. In 2017, Zettel, like Kerry Hyder the year before, proved that not only was he worthy of time in a rotation, but that he was a starting-caliber defensive end as well. While Ezekiel Ansah is the big-name pass-rusher in Detroit, the better player in 2017 was the strong, high-effort Zettel.

Nos. 15-11

13 of 23

    Cleveland's Myles Garrett
    Cleveland's Myles GarrettJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    15. Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

    Pass Rush: 23/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    74/100

    When you have a rookie who posts two sacks in his first game and a sack on his first snap, you've found a player. Myles Garrett, who turned 22 years old in late December, is one of the young bright spots on the Cleveland Browns. Garrett has the hips to bend around the corner and the feet to play both sides of an option run as the read man. He looks like he's worth the draft investment.

                 

    14. Mario Addison, Carolina Panthers

    Pass Rush: 25/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    74/100

    Mario Addison went from part-time pass-rusher to full-time starter over the last six years in Carolina, earning him a $22.5 million contract and notoriety as a late bloomer. He has bend to his game, even if he lacks some explosiveness in his legs. He also has a nonstop motor, which—coupled with his ability to bend the edge—means quarterbacks have to set their internal alarms to him. 

                    

    13. Jerry Hughes, Buffalo Bills

    Pass Rush: 23/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    74/100

    Jerry Hughes is one of the best speed/bend pass-rushers in the sport. After playing as a 3-4 outside linebacker for Rex Ryan, Hughes transitioned back to a full-time pass-rusher role as a 4-3 defensive end for Sean McDermott. With Lorenzo Alexander's move from 3-4 outside linebacker to 4-3 outside linebacker, Hughes had to be "the guy" for Buffalo this season. With little to no holes in his game, he should be considered an above-average starter for the position.

                     

    12. Frank Clark, Seattle Seahawks

    Pass Rush: 23/30
    Run Defense: 
    16/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    15/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    75/100

    As a pure football talent, there are few players with as bright of an on-field future as Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark. The 24-year-old 2015 second-round draft pick already has 22 sacks in his NFL career. His short-area quickness allows him to beat tackles to the outside or set up a swift inside counter. Over the last two seasons, only eight edge defenders have recorded nine or more sacks in both 2016 and 2017: Mario Addison, Joey Bosa, Chandler Jones, Ryan Kerrigan, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Cameron Wake and Clark. Should Cliff Avril not return to football, making Clark a 16-game starter for the first time in his career, expect him to fit right in.

                   

    11. Carl Lawson, Cincinnati Bengals

    Pass Rush: 25/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    75/100

    Most of Carl Lawson's counting statistic production came against a reserve Green Bay Packers bookend, but the Day 3 rookie was a pressure generator all season for the Cincinnati Bengals. He and former Pro Bowl end Carlos Dunlap were the team's best pass-rushing duo, which allowed starter Michael Johnson to get a breath on the sideline or kick inside in key situations. Just one year into evaluating the 2017 draft class, it's hard to find a better return on investment than the edge-bending Lawson.

10. Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Pass Rush: 25/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    15/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    76/100

    Late Day 2 draft picks aren't supposed to have 20-plus sacks before they turn 23 years old. Before the final pieces were brought into Jacksonville, Yannick Ngakoue had already proved to be a "value pick." While he still struggles a bit in the ground game, he's one of the league's top young pass-rushers. He's on pace to break sack-fumble records in his NFL career. 

    —NFL1000 DE Scout, Justis Mosqueda

    Those who think of Ngakoue as a one-trick pony from the edge might have missed his sack of Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 16 against the 49ers, when he alternated between both A-gaps in a three-man front and blew through the line to take Jimmy GQ down. The 2016 third-round pick has rounded out his NFL game nicely in just two seasons. Flash speed off the edge is his primary attribute, but he's adding gap versatility, root strength and pass-rush moves to the equation.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar   

9. Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Pass Rush: 24/30
    Run Defense: 
    16/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    76/100

    Khalil Mack is one of the league's top young pass-rushers, but we're still waiting for the season when he leads the NFL in sacks. In Oakland's scheme, which in base looks can be 3-4-heavy for stretches, either he or fellow edge defenders Bruce Irvin have to drop into coverage often. Mack also varies with a two- or three-point stance depending on what situation the team is in. He has to do multiple things every game, a different style of football from what the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars do on Sundays, when they just line up talented defensive linemen and tell them to win one-on-one matchups.

    —NFL1000 DE Scout, Justis Mosqueda

    Every opposing offense who faces the Raiders knows one thing--if they don't account for Mack on every single play, he'll wreck their entire game plan. He may not put up legendary sack totals every season, but with his ability to beat tackles with inside and outside moves, as well as one of the most intimidating bull-rushes in the game, he may be the most complete "endbacker" in the NFL today.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar   

8. DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Pass Rush: 27/30
    Run Defense: 
    16/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    77/100

    On the first play of the Dallas Cowboys' season, DeMarcus Lawrence recorded the tackle. On the first third down of the Cowboys season, he recorded a sack. Lawrence's contract year, coming off a 2016 season that started with a suspension, was amazing for him. In all likelihood, he's going to get hit with a franchise tag or be given a contract worth $80 million, as elite left ends should. After Dallas spent top picks on Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Taco Charlton over the last few years, one of those pass-rushers finally developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber player.

    —NFL1000 DE Scout, Justis Mosqueda

    Though Lawrence has the estimable speed and strength required of every elite pass-rusher, the thing that flashes on his tape more than any other attribute is his amazing flexibility and change-of-direction skills. It's how he can beat a right tackle to the inside after committing to the outside and getting stonewalled, and it's how he can move off the pass rush in an instant to take down a running back. Flexibility equals versatility in Larwence's case. 

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar   

7. Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Pass Rush: 26/30
    Run Defense: 
    17/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    77/100

    Michael Bennett doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. While he may never lead the NFL in sacks, he consistently makes plays in NFL backfields. Bennett is one of the more balanced defensive linemen in the league, as he wins with a high level of technique and heavy hands, and he can do it all from inside or outside of an offensive tackle. On any given down, Bennett could go off, which makes him a nightmare to prepare for.

    —NFL1000 DE Scout, Justis Mosqueda

    At age 32, Bennett is still every bit the pass-rusher he's ever been when he's healthy. But what's always made him special is that, like J.J. Watt, Calais Campbell and a handful of defensive linemen, he's just as effective as a passing-down tackle as he is as a speed end. Bennett has a grasp of every required technique for both positions, but it's his intelligence and understanding of snap counts and angles that truly sets him apart, and allows him to beat the age curve. 

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar   

6. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints

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    Bill Feig/Associated Press

    Pass Rush: 25/30
    Run Defense: 
    17/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    78/100

    Over the last few years, there aren't many defensive ends who have been more dominant than Cameron Jordan. He's recorded six straight seasons of at least 7.5 sacks, and he earned his third Pro Bowl in 2017. His heavy hands are his best asset. If you want to see a clinic, go ahead and pop in what he did to Detroit's backup offensive linemen this season.

    —NFL1000 DE Scout, Justis Mosqueda

    Back in the old days, ends who stood 6'4" and weighed about 280 pounds were considered "tweeners"—not built for static end or tackle positions. But in the modern NFL, such a player can win from multiple positions if he has the technical understanding to succeed. Jordan is outstanding as a run-stopping end. He has the quickness to get into the backfield from the edge, and he's strong enough to knife through double-teams when he kicks inside. He's one of the more underrated—and complete—defensive linemen in the game today.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar   

5. Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Pass Rush: 26/30
    Run Defense: 
    15/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    16/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    79/100

    Melvin Ingram parlayed a franchise tag into a four-year, $64 million contract last offseason. After recording just six sacks in his first three seasons combined, the "undersized" pass-rusher has recorded at least eight sacks in each of the last three seasons. After Von Miller, there are few speedy edge-benders who are better than Ingram in the NFL. Between his flexibility and his first step, Ingram is almost too athletic to not be a major factor.

    —NFL1000 DE Scout, Justis Mosqueda

    At South Carolina, Ingram was notable for his freakish ability to win in every gap—including the 1-tech—despite standing 6'1" and weighing around 260 pounds. Ingram can still do this in the pros, but his best and most familiar spot with the Chargers is as an edge-rusher, both in a two-point stance and with his hand off the ground. One of Ingram's most underrated talents is his ability to stunt inside at the snap and pick the perfect gap to create pressure. There are few more complete pass-rushers in the league.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar   

4. Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Pass Rush: 27/30
    Run Defense: 
    14/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    15/20
    Tackling: 
    15/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    79/100

    After years of recording top-end pressure and quarterback hit stats without it reflecting on the sack column, Brandon Graham finally got the production he deserved with a career high in sacks. The Eagles defensive line forced more passes in short-yardage situations than any other team in the league, in part because of the strength of the defensive front. Graham, who has been underpaid for his entire career, could hold out and sign a megadeal in the near future. Only costing the Eagles a $7.75 million cap hit in his contract season of 2018, he won't even crack the NFL's 200 most expensive cap hits.

    —NFL1000 DE Scout, Justis Mosqueda

    Graham benefits from his place in a stellar defensive line, but he also does things that would allow him to succeed in any front four. The first thing you notice when watching Graham's tape—and it bursts off the screen—is his inhuman speed at the snap. More often than not, he'll have his hands up, ready to engage, as the offensive tackle is still getting set. With a wider array of moves, including a nice bull rush, Graham is finally turning his pressure totals into sacks.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar   

3. Everson Griffen, Minnesota Vikings

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Pass Rush: 27/30
    Run Defense: 
    17/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    15/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    80/100

    In every one of the first eight games of the season, Everson Griffen recorded a sack. Setting his own personal sack mark in 2017, it's clear that he's getting better with age. He's not the most athletic pass-rusher while bending the edge, but he plays with great hand placement and has an amazing first step. The savvy edge defender also has one of the best spin moves in the league.

    —NFL1000 DE Scout, Justis Mosqueda

    Griffen is a veteran of the pass-rush game, and he loves to set opposing offensive tackles up to fail. He'll come straight at them with a bull rush, only to beat them inside with a devastating spin move out of nowhere. Just when you think you have him blocked around the arc, he'll hit you with a rip move and get past you to the pocket. At other times, what he does isn't complicated—he'll just waste a blocker with his speed around the edge or embarrass a tackle with a sharp push at the snap. Griffen has the ideal combination of technical excellence and physical gifts. 

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar   

2. Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Pass Rush: 27/30
    Run Defense: 
    17/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    14/20
    Tackling: 
    14/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    80/100

    Joey Bosa is the best young pass-rusher in the sport. After Bosa finished his college career as a back-to-back All-American and started his NFL career as the 2016 Defensive Rookie of the Year and a 2017 Pro Bowler, a five-year-old could tell you that he is on track to be one of the great ones. Bosa has the strength, flexibility and high-level technique to continue his double-digit sack pace for a decade. Along with Melvin Ingram, he's part of the best edge pairing in the league.

    —NFL1000 DE Scout, Justis Mosqueda

    Many young pass-rushers who stand as tall as Bosa at 6'5" need to do a lot of work to adjust their pad level before they're able to win strength battles with professional offensive linemen. Bosa has no such issues—like J.J. Watt, he comes off the snap with tremendous leg drive and power from a low stance. Moreover, when he's in a two-point stance at the edge or in a wide-9 position, he has the upper-body strength to move even the best offensive tackles out of the way with a rip move or two. Add in his ability to disrupt from the inside, and it's stunning how far Bosa has come in just two NFL seasons.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar   

1. Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Pass Rush: 27/30
    Run Defense: 
    19/20
    Snap Quickness: 
    13/20
    Tackling: 
    13/20
    Position Value: 
    8/10
    Overall Grade: 
    80/100

    Without the free-agent signing of Calais Campbell, the Jacksonville Jaguars defense would not have been the best in the league. Possibly the NFL's best "big end" in the sport wins with savvy pass-rushing techniques and strong hands that re-establish the line of scrimmage. Already winning with an "old man game," the 6'8" 31-year-old may still have a long shelf life.

    —NFL1000 DE Scout, Justis Mosqueda

    Throughout his career in Arizona, Campbell was a rare player from both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions. Pound for pound, he is one of the strongest players in the game, and he has no pad level issues despite his 6'8" frame. As more of a defensive end in Jacksonville's four-man fronts, Campbell combines that strength with unusual speed and an encyclopedic understanding of pass-rushing moves.

    —NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar