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2011 NFL Draft: Ranking The Top 25 Defensive Line Draft Prospects

Jake CoxCorrespondent IOctober 19, 2016

2011 NFL Draft: Ranking The Top 25 Defensive Line Draft Prospects

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    The 2011 NFL Draft is now less than three months away, and don't be surprised to see a common trend throughout the first three rounds.  Fans should expect to see a lot of defensive linemen selected within the first two days of the draft in April.

    I currently have 25 defensive lineman prospects in my top 101 prospects.  That means that almost one-fourth of the top 2011 NFL Draft Prospects are defensive linemen! NFL teams have recently put an emphasis on getting pressure on the quarterback, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that linemen will be a hot commodity come draft day.

    This year's crop of lineman has a nice mixture of Seniors and Juniors, including 10 of these 25 who decided to skip their senior seasons to move to the next level in their careers. 

    This group of defensive linemen is also special because almost all of these players offer great versatility.  They can play multiple positions, and many of them would fit well in a variety of defensive schemes. 

    So here it is, the top 25 defensive linemen available for the 2011 NFL Draft:

25. DT Jurrell Casey, USC

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    Jeff Golden/Getty Images

    Height: 6'1

    Weight: 305

    Jurrell Casey is entering the draft after his junior season at USC.  Casey is a very explosive player who penetrates the gap well and has a wide variety of pass rush moves.  He had a great junior season, where he racked up 67 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and four sacks.

    I view Casey strictly as a 4-3 defensive tackle who should be able to become a very good pass rusher from the middle of the defensive line.  His height isn't ideal, but I don't think that he will drop too far in the draft because of it. 

    NFL Draft Projection: Late 2nd Round- Late 3rd Round

24. DT Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Height: 6'4

    Weight: 315

    Jarvis Jenkins had a very good senior season at Clemson that made his draft stock soar.  He has great strength and is very stout at the point of attack.  He is a very good athlete, who plays both the run and the pass very well.

    Jenkins had 51 tackles, nine of them for a loss, during the 2010 season.  He doesn't get a lot of publicity due to his low sack totals, but he is very highly thought of among scouts.  I think that he fits best as a 4-3 nose tackle, but he has the strength that is necessary to be effective in a three man front.

    NFL Draft Projection: Mid 2nd- Late 3rd

23. DE/OLB Sam Acho, Texas

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Height: 6'3

    Weight: 260

    Sam Acho really came on in his senior year after playing behind current NFL players Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle for his first three years in college.  Acho is a very good pass rusher with a non stop motor.  He is a team leader who can play through pain and injuries, and still be productive.

    Acho had 59 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and nine sacks as a senior for the Longhorns.  He is a bit of a "tweener", whose best fit may be as a pass rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.  Yet if he bulks up a bit, he could be a very effective in a 4-3 as well.

    NFL Draft Projection: Mid 2nd Round- Late 3rd Round

22. DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Height: 6'3

    Weight: 310

    Marvin Austin has been a very highly rated prospect since coming out of high school.  He was suspended for the entire 2010 season due to NCAA violations, which has had an effect on his draft stock.

    Austin is a great overall prospect who is very good against both the run and the pass.  He has very good strength and athleticism.

    The one main knock on Austin is that he has been inconsistent throughout his college career.  He looked very good at the East-West Shrine Game, so his stock has risen significantly in the past week or two.  He projects best in a four man front, but he may get some looks from teams who want to use him as a DE in their 3-4 defense.

    NFL Draft Projection: Mid 2nd Round- Mid 3rd Round

21. DE/OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Height: 6'3

    Weight: 262

    Brooks Reed’s stock has really risen in the past few months, especially after he had a very good week at the Senior Bowl.  He is a very good pass rusher with a wide variety of pass rush moves.  He plays with a lot of intensity, and his motor never runs cold.  He is a hard worker who will provide good leadership for whatever team drafts him.

    Reed had a breakout senior year, where he put up 47 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, and 6.5 sacks.  He may need to add some bulk if he wants to play defensive end in a four man front.  He will most likely get a lot of looks from teams running a 3-4 defense, and I fully expect his stock to continue to rise leading up to the draft.

    NFL Draft Projection: Mid 2nd Round- Early 3rd Round

20. DT Stephen Paea, Oregon St.

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Height: 6'1

    Weight: 311

    Stephen Paea had a stroke of bad luck, as he suffered a knee injury before the Senior Bowl that required surgery.  This is unfortunate for Paea, as he will probably drop out of the first round if he can’t workout before the draft.

    Paea is extremely powerful and can wreak havoc in the backfield.  He has a great work ethic and he plays with a mean streak on the field.

    Paea had a very good senior season at Oregon State, with 42 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, and six sacks.  I think that Paea’s best fit is as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense, but some experts think he could be effective in a 3-4.  Hopefully his injury won’t hurt his draft stock too much, but at this point I think he will be lucky to hear his name called on day one.

    NFL Draft Projection: Late 1st Round- Late 2nd Round

19. DT Phil Taylor, Baylor

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Height: 6'4

    Weight: 330

    Phil Taylor has seen his draft stock soar in recent weeks.  He is a big, powerful player who is very good at stuffing the run.  He knows how to use his hands well, and he is very good at getting off blocks.  He does weigh a lot, but it was reported from the Senior Bowl weigh-in that he carries it very well.

    Taylor burst on to the scene with his senior season, with 62 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, and two sacks.  He was a one time Penn State recruit, who was dismissed from the team following a fight in 2008.  Taylor offers a lot of versatility, and I personally believe he could play the nose tackle position in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.

    NFL Draft Projection: Late 1st Round- Late 2nd Round

18. DE Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Height: 6'4

    Weight: 260

    Jabaal Sheard had a very good senior season, especially considering the fact that his line-mate Greg Romeus was lost to an injury.  Sheard plays with good technique, and he has a very nice arsenal of pass rush moves.  He gets a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and he has been a very consistent performer throughout his college career.

    Sheard had a good season in 2010, racking up 52 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, and nine sacks.  He is another player who might need to add some bulk to be in a four man front, but he has the frame to do so without losing any of his abilities. 

    NFL Draft Projection: Early 2nd Round- Late 2nd Round

17. DT/DE Muhammed Wilkerson, Temple

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    Height: 6'5

    Weight: 305

    Muhammad Wilkerson is a prospect who not a lot of people had heard of before this season.  He is a very versatile player, having started at both defensive end and defensive tackle while at Temple.  He has good size and quickness, and he does a very good job of collapsing the pocket. 

    Wilkerson put up a very solid junior campaign at Temple, with 70 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, and 9.5 sacks.  Wilkerson’s stock is on the rise, and he could very well find himself being taken on day one of the draft.  His best fit would be as a defensive end in a 3-4 defense, but he is versatile enough to where he would be productive in a 4-3 defense as a tackle.

    NFL Draft Projection: Late 1st Round- Mid 2nd Round

16. DT/DE Corey Liuget, Illinois

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    Height: 6'3

    Weight: 300

    Corey Liuget had an outstanding junior season for the Fighting Illini.  Liuget has very good size, and he is very athletic for a defensive tackle.  He has a lot of strength and power, and he is very stout at the point of attack.  He is a good tackler who knows how to wrap up the ball carrier.

    Liuget’s excellent junior season included 63 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, and 4.5 sacks.  Liuget is another one of the linemen on this list who is very versatile and would play well in a number of different defensive schemes.  He could play end in a 3-4 or tackle in a 4-3, and he also has the strength and power to hold up well as a nose tackle in either defensive front.

    NFL Draft Projection: Late 1st Round- Mid 2nd Round

15. DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio St.

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Height: 6'5

    Weight: 288

    Cameron Heyward has been on every scout’s radar for awhile now.  He has NFL bloodlines, as his father, the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward was a running back in the NFL.

    Heyward has a good frame and is very well built for a defensive end.  He knows how to use his hands, and he is very technically sound overall.

    Heyward put up very respectable numbers as a senior, with 48 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks.  I think that Heyward’s best fit is as a five technique defensive end in a three man front.  He probably won’t be a top 10 pick as he was projected to be before the 2010 season, but he most likely will hear his name called in the first round.

    NFL Draft Projection: Mid 1st Round- Early 2nd Round

14. DE/OLB Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Height: 6'3

    Weight: 267

    Jeremy Beal has been a very consistent player throughout his college career.  Beal is a very good athlete who has very good speed.  He’s explosive off of the line with incredible burst.  Beal works hard at everything he does, and he will provide leadership and direction for whatever team he goes to.

    Beal had another very good season in 2010, putting up 72 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, and 8.5 sacks.  Beal is considered by some to be sort of a “tweener” and his best fit in the pros may be at outside linebacker.  If he wants to play with his hand on the ground in the NFL, I think that he will have to bulk up and add some more weight.

    NFL Draft Projection: Late 1st Round- Mid 2nd Round

13. DE/DT Allen Bailey, Miami

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    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Height: 6'4

    Weight: 285

    Allen Bailey is a physical marvel, who really looks the part of an NFL defensive lineman.  Scouts have been very impressed with his physique, and from what I've heard, his body looked even more impressive in person at the Senior Bowl.  He is an incredible athlete who is both a very good bull rusher, but he is also very solid against the run.

    Bailey had another good year at Miami in 2010, racking up 45 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, and seven sacks.  Bailey is a versatile player, as he has played both defensive end and defensive tackle.  However, he seems to lack a true position, but I think his best position is as a five technique defensive end in a three man front.

    NFL Draft Projection: Mid 1st Round- Early 2nd Round

12. DT Drake Nevis, LSU

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Height: 6'2

    Weight: 285

    Drake Nevis has really raised his stock since the start of the 2010 season.  He is an incredibly explosive player who has a great burst off of the line of scrimmage.  He plays with a mean streak and has a non stop motor.  He is the type of player who gives it his all on each and every play.

    Nevis had a very good senior season for the LSU Tigers, with 56 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, and six sacks.  He well probably never be great against the run, but he should have a big impact rushing the passer from the defensive tackle position.  I don’t think he’s a great fit in a 3-4 defense, but he should be a very good fit as a three technique defensive end in a four man front.

    NFL Draft Projection: Late 1st Round- Early 2nd Round

11. DE/OLB Justin Houston, Georgia

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Height: 6'3

    Weight: 258

    Justin Houston really exploded onto the scene with a very good junior campaign for the Georgia Bulldogs.  Houston has very good strength and is known as a workout warrior.  He has great pass rush ability, and from what I’ve heard, he is constantly working to improve every facet of his game.

    As I said, Houston had a very good junior year with 67 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, and 10 sacks.  Houston doesn’t have great size, so he may need to add some weight to be a defensive end at the next level.  Right now, his best position would be at outside linebacker, but I’m sure teams who run 4-3 defenses will strongly consider taking him in the draft this April.

    NFL Draft Projection: Late 1st Round- Early 2nd Round

10. DT/DE Christian Ballard, Iowa

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Height: 6'5

    Weight: 297

    Christian Ballard is a very under-rated player who I think gets overshadowed by teammate Adrian Clayborn.  Ballard has very good size and has great athletic ability.  He is a good all around player who is stout against the run, and is a very solid pass rusher.  He’s very explosive, and he seemed to always be around the ball in the game tapes that I have watched on him.

    Ballard did very well his senior year, with 43 tackles, five tackles for a loss, and three sacks.  He really is starting to rise on draft boards after an impressive Senior Bowl week, but I have been very high on him since the beginning of the season.

    Ballard offers great versatility, as he has lined up at both defensive end and defensive tackle for the Hawkeyes.  I think his best fit is as a five technique in a 3-4, but he would be a very good fit in a 4-3 defense as well.

    NFL Draft Projection: Mid 1st Round- Early 2nd Round

9. DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Height: 6'4

    Weight: 285

    Adrian Clayborn didn’t have the type of senior season that many people expected, but he is still a very highly thought of prospect.  Clayborn has good speed, to go along with a lot of strength and power.  He is very technically sound, and he understands leverage and how to use his hands.

    Clayborn still had a pretty good year, racking up 52 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks.  Clayborn could fit very well as a defensive end in a four man front, but he has the size necessary to be effective in a 3-4 defense too.  Despite a down senior year, Clayborn should expect to hear his name called on day one of the draft.

    NFL Draft Projection: Mid 1st Round- Early 2nd Round

8. DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Height: 6'4

    Weight: 263

    Ryan Kerrigan is one of the top pure pass rushers available for the 2011 NFL Draft.  He has a nice frame with excellent arm length to wrap up ball carriers.  He is the type of player whose motor never runs cold, and he was a team leader throughout his career at Purdue.

    Kerrigan had an excellent senior season with 70 tackles, an incredible 26 tackles for a loss, and 12.5 sacks.  Based on his size, he may get a look from teams who want to play him at outside linebacker, but I think that he has the frame to add some weight so that he would be more effective as a 4-3 defensive end.

    NFL Draft Projection: Mid 1st Round- Late 1st Round

7. DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Height: 6'6

    Weight: 292

    J.J. Watt really burst onto the scene with a very good junior season with the Wisconsin Badgers.  Watt has very good size for a defensive lineman, to go along with long arms.  He has good strength and quickness, and he is effective at both rushing the passer and stopping the run.

    Watt had 62 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss, and seven sacks in the 2010 season.  Due to his size, I think that Watt would fit best in a three man front.  Watt has been climbing up draft boards since the end of the season, and if he works out extremely well, I wouldn’t be surprised if he cracked the top 10.

    NFL Draft Projection: Mid 1st Round- Late 1st Round

6. DE/OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Height: 6'5

    Weight: 260

    Aldon Smith has been really impressive in his college career, which led to him leaving Missouri after his red shirt sophomore season.  He is very athletic and quick, which allows him to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback.  He is an active player who is relentless when he is on the football field.

    Smith had 48 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, and 5.5 sacks in what was actually a down year for him when you compare it to his freshman statistics.  Smith could fit well as a 4-3 defensive end if he adds a little more bulk, but he should get a lot of looks from teams who run a three man front.

    NFL Draft Projection: Early 1st Round- Late 1st Round

5. DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Height: 6'5

    Weight: 270

    Robert Quinn is still a top rated prospect, despite having to sit out the 2010 season due to NCAA violations.  He is very aggressive as a pass rusher, and is a very good athlete.  Quinn is a very hard worker.  His variety of pass rush moves have led to his success when rushing the quarterback.

    Quinn didn’t play in 2010, but he had 52 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, and 11 sacks during his 2009 season at North Carolina.  I personally think that he fits best in a 4-3 as a defensive end at this point, but his pure pass rushing talent could lead a team that runs a 3-4 to draft him to play outside linebacker.

    NFL Draft Projection: Top 15 pick

4. DT/DE Marcell Dareus, Alabama

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Height: 6'4

    Weight: 306

    Marcell Dareus has been a prospect on every scout’s radar ever since the 2010 National Championship game against Texas.  Dareus is a very disruptive player who is very explosive when the football is snapped.  He is an all around solid player, as he is stout against the run, yet he can still put pressure on the quarterback.

    Dareus’ had 34 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, and 4.5 sacks in his junior season with the Crimson Tide.  Dareus is projected by many to be a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense, but I think that he also could have a future as a five technique defensive end in a three man front.

    NFL Draft Projection: Top 10 pick

3. DE/DT Cameron Jordan, California

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    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    Height: 6'4

    Weight: 283

    Cameron Jordan is a very disruptive player who is quickly rising up expert’s draft boards.  Jordan was downright dominant at the Senior Bowl, and I fully expect him to continue to improve his draft stock in the next couple of months leading up to the draft.

    Jordan is a very athletic lineman, who is very good at rushing the passer, but he also has enough strength and power to stand up well against the run.  He also has NFL bloodlines, as his father Steve Jordan was a six-time pro bowl tight end in the NFL.

    Jordan had a great senior season, with 62 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, and 5.5 sacks.  Jordan is very versatile, and he has had a lot of experience playing in the 3-4 defense while at California.  I think that will be his best fit in the NFL, but based on his size, I could see him fitting well in a 4-3 defense as a defensive tackle.

    NFL Draft Projection: Top 10 pick

2. DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Height: 6'4

    Weight: 280

    Da'Quan Bowers had an incredible junior season at Clemson.  Bowers was the top rated overall player coming out of high school, and he showed why with the stats he put up this past season.  Bowers is an outstanding athlete, who gets very good penetration rushing the passer.

    Bowers had very good numbers his junior season, including 67 tackles, 25 tackles for a loss, and 15.5 sacks.  Bowers would be a perfect fit as a 4-3 defensive end based on his size.  Some teams will probably consider Bowers as a good fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but I’m not sure that he would be a great fit dropping back into coverage.

    NFL Draft Projection: Top 5 pick

1. DT/DE Nick Fairley, Auburn

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Height: 6'5

    Weight: 298

    Nick Fairley really came on in his junior season for the National Champion Auburn Tigers.  Fairley is a very disruptive player, who always seems to be around the ball.  He has a great bull rush, and he has also been very productive defending the run.  He has great versatility, and I have heard him compared to Warren Sapp over the past few months.

    Fairley put up great numbers as a junior, with 60 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, and 11.5 sacks.  He is considered to be the top defensive line prospect by many, including myself, and some experts even have him as the top rated overall player available for the draft.  I think that he would fit well in many different defensive schemes, which will make him a top three pick once the draft comes around in April.

    NFL Draft Projection: Top 3 pick

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