2011 NFL Draft: Top 10 Defensive Ends Heading Into The Combine
Just one more day. One more day and the NFL Combine is here. It's kind of like the NFL Draft's half-way point. This year's defensive ends are looking to stand out and make a statement, as there are a plethora of ends entering this year's draft.
Here's where all these players can separate themselves from one another. The Combine weeds out the weak and shows the strong.
Entering this year's Combine, who are the top defensive ends entering the draft?
10. Allen Bailey, Miami (FL)
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Allen Bailey is a very versatile player entering this year's draft. He can play defensive end or defensive tackle, depending on the scheme.
He has excellent size for a defensive end, entering the draft at 6'4" and 285 pounds.
The senior had an excellent career at The U, finishing with 107 tackles, 33 tackles for a loss and 20 career sacks.
He has some durability issues, but his upside and potential should kill any naysayers of the senior end. Bailey could end up being a late first or second round pick.
Career Stats: 107 tackles, 33 tackles for a loss, 20 sacks
9. Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma
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Beal has great speed, is very versatile (able to play defensive end or outside linebacker in the NFL, depending on the scheme) and has decent size for a NFL player (6'3", 267 pounds).
In his career at Oklahoma, Beal struck fear into the hearts of the Big 12 quarterbacks. In four seasons, he racked up 29 sacks and 223 tackles. Stats prove the upside of this defensive end.
He's not the most athletic end in this year's draft, but he's definitely near the top. He has the versatility of the many other defensive end/outside linebacker hybrids in this draft.
Career Stats: 223 tackles, 58.5 tackles for a loss, 29 sacks
8. Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
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These next six guys are pretty interchangeable, but this is how they stack up in my mind.
Heyward has the prototypical size of an NFL defensive end (6'5", 288 pounds) and has pretty decent speed off the snap.
He's super strong and can manhandle the offensive lineman that oppose him. He is also very, very athletic.
The one thing that holds him back in my mind, his sacks.
Over the course of four seasons he only sacked the quarterback 15.5 times. Not a very productive sack machine.
Career Stats: 163 tackles, 37.5 tackles for a loss, 15.5 sacks
7. J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
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Much like Heyward, Watt doesn't have the stats to back up his high projection.
Looking at it though, Watt only played two true years of football. He redshirted in 2008 and was mostly a fill-in in 2007, not accumulating stats at all in 2007.
He's got great size, being 6 foot 6 never hurts an NFL Draft prospect, and weighs in at 292 pounds.
He produced seven sacks last season and 21 tackles for a loss.
Watt should have a tremendous NFL career. He's got tremendous upside and has almost everything you would look for in an NFL defensive end. He most surely will be a mid to late first round pick.
Career Stats: 106 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks
6. Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
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He's like every other defensive end entering this draft and on this list. He's a first round pick for sure, no question about it.
Not only that, he has the skills and intangibles you want in your defensive end.
He was a menace in the Big Ten in 2009 with 70 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks.
Clayborn's biggest question marks? He has some character issues and isn't exactly the most explosive off the line.
Career Stats: 192 tackles, 37.5 tackles for a loss, 19 sacks
5. Cameron Jordan, California
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Cameron Jordan has a nice career ahead of him. He enters the 2011 Draft with the possibility of being picked around the same spot as his ex-teammate, Tyson Alualu, from last season.
Yeah, he ran into trouble off the field, so what? Not to mention it was 2008!
He possesses great potential for the pro game. He has great size and, depending on the scheme, can play defensive tackle or defensive end.
He's very explosive and has the speed to chase anyone down.
He will be a very good NFL defensive end.
Career Stats: 175 tackles, 34 tackles for a loss, 17.5 sacks
4. Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
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Let's start off Kerrigan by saying he has a little bit of an injury concern.
But honestly, he's worth the pick. He's versatile and can play linebacker or defensive end.
Kerrigan doesn't quit. He's a very strong and capable defensive end. Personally, he's my pick to have a successful career.
Kerrigan knows his way around the field and knows how to flat out play defense.
He should be a top 20 pick in the 2011 Draft.
Career Stats: 209 tackles, 55.5 tackles for a loss, 37.5 sacks
3. Aldon Smith, Missouri
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Smith is another hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker prospect. Aldon could be a top five or top ten pick come the draft, and deservedly so.
He redshirted in 2008 and only played in 2009 and 2010. Yet, the 6'5" tall, 260 pound prospect has gone up a lot of draft boards and could have a long NFL career.
He missed a few games last season for Missouri and still produced 48 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks.
Smith's hybrid status will surely help boost his stock. His great skill set doesn't hurt either.
Career Stats: 112 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, 17 sacks
2. Robert Quinn, North Carolina
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He's another hybrid and yet he's number two.
I know, I know, he should be number one and everybody is going to say something about it. He missed last season and that's what lands him at number two.
Missing a year could seriously hurt his ability. He'll have something to prove at the combine and on his pro day.
Quinn's 6'5", 270 pound body is ideal for whatever position he's going to play.
Robert is definitely worth the risk, but I think missing a year could affect him.
Career Stats: 86 tackles, 25.5 tackles for a loss, 13 sacks
1. Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
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Bowers is the first overall pick, no question about it. He has everything the Panthers could want.
He had a tremendous season at Clemson last year and has shown he has what it takes to have success at the next level.
Bowers has a tremendous upside and skill set, without any potentially alarming issues.
In drafting him, the Panthers will have found Julius Pepper's replacement. He's going to be a successful NFL defensive end for years to come.
Career Stats: 150 tackles, 43.5 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks