2011 NFL Draft: Top 10 Defensive Ends Heading Into The Combine

Sal DeRose@@TheSalDeRoseCorrespondent IFebruary 23, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Top 10 Defensive Ends Heading Into The Combine

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    AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Da'Quan Bowers #93 of the Clemson Tigers against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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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    MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 03:  Quarterback Landry Jones #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners scrambles away from linebacker Allen Bailey #57 of the Miami Hurricanes at Land Shark Stadium on October 3, 2009 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Miami defeated Oklahoma 21-20
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    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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    ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 04:  Defensive end Jeremy Beal #44 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates with the Big 12 Championship Trophy after the Sooners beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers 23-20 at Cowboys Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    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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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 13:  Cameron Heyward #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes chases after quarterback Matt McGloin #11 of the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    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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    PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Defensive lineman J.J. Watt #99 of the Wisconsin Badgers rushes the TCU Horned Frogs in the 97th Rose Bowl game on January 1, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    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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    TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Defensive end Adrian Clayborn #94 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the Insight Bowl against the Missouri Tigers at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona. The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers 27-24.  (Photo by Christian
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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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    MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 29:Defensive lineman Cameron Jordan #97 of the North Team during  the Under Armour Senior Bowl on January 29, 2011 at Ladd-Pebbles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images for Under Armour)
    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    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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    COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 23:  Ryan Kerrigan #94 of the Purdue Boilermakers attempts to tackle Brandon Saine #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    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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    KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Jordan Webb #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks is sacked by Aldon Smith #85 of the Missouri Tigers during the game on November 27, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    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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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - SEPTEMBER 19:  Robert Quinn #42 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates after a sack with teammate Marvin Austin #9 against the East Carolina Pirates at Kenan Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by St
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    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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    AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Michael Dyer #5 of the Auburn Tigers against Da'Quan Bowers #93 of the Clemson Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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