2011 NFL Draft Rankings: Ranking the Top 10 Run Stuffers in the 2011 NFL Draft

Mihir Bhagat@mihirbhagatSenior Analyst IIIApril 15, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Rankings: Ranking the Top 10 Run Stuffers in the 2011 NFL Draft

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    The 2011 NFL draft is an opportunity for teams to come in and fill their needs with the wide array of talent available ranging from flashy wideouts to shutdown corners.

    Every team has different needs and some, such as the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos or Arizona Cardinals, include improving their run defense, as they each ranked in the bottom three of the league last year.

    Fortunately for them, they're in luck as this draft class has an abundance of run-stoppers which should surely improve their unit.

    That said, here's my power ranking of the Top 10 run-stuffers in the 2011 NFL draft.  

10. Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan

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    Sometimes in football, it doesn't matter if you're the biggest player out there. More often than not, relentless effort and a hard work ethic can do wonders. That's why Ryan Kerrigan is such a special player.

    Even though he's a bit of a tweener, Kerrigan's hustle is unmatched and his technique puts him over the top. 

    He's improved his strength and makes up for whatever is lacking by proper use of his hands to shed blockers. When he's there, he uses his long arms to wrap up ball carriers and bring them to the ground.

9. Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward

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    Cameron Heyward, who fits best as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 system, has proven to be strong against the run with his ability to beat off any lineman that tries to come in his way with a fierce punch.

    His tremendous strength and underrated quickness off the snap allows him to gain leverage and attack the ball.

8. Illinois DL Corey Liguet

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    Aside from his last name being totally "legit," the Illinois standout defensive lineman has made great strides as a football player.

    From virtually any position on the line in any scheme, the versatile Liguet will utilize his quickness to penetrate and make plays in the run game.

    He does a nice job locating the ball, and when he closes in, he's a surefire tackler.

7. Cal DE Cameron Jordan

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    Cameron Jordan possesses the ability to anchor a defensive front, which is a coveted skill in the NFL today.

    He understands gap responsibility and is surprisingly active in pursuit for a man his size. 

    His greatest strength, however, lies in his tremendous strength, which he uses to separate from his blockers and then drag down his opponent. 

6. Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt

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    J.J. Watt is a classic football player who plays hard and plays with excellent fundamentals. 

    He's got good size at 6'5", 290 lbs., which helps him clog running lanes and can demand a double-team on a regular basis  

    All in all, he's a natural football player, and with more training he should be a stud at the next level. 

5. Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers

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    Da'Quan Bowers has been receiving a ton of skepticism due to his injury concerns, but let's not forget how phenomenal of a player he was in college. In fact, barring injury, he was looking like a bona-fide top five selection.

    While he's a dominant pass rusher, Bowers can also hold his own against the run by applying his strength to shed blockers. After, he can move sideline-to-sideline to make the play. 

    What separates him from the rest, though, is his ability to diagnose plays with keen instincts.

    If he can stay healthy, then he will be a beast in the pros. 

4. Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn

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    Simply said, Adrian Clayborn has a knack for stopping the run.

    He knows how to stay square, use his leverage and utilize his hands to shed blockers and then get in pursuit to bring them down. Even when pounded by double-teams, he stays on his feet and plows through.

3. Auburn DT Nick Fairley

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    When it comes down to the top three, a team would be ecstatic to pick up any of them.

    As for Nick Fairley, putting his character issues aside, his ability to stop the run is simply astounding. Just ask Mark Ingram who was contained to merely 36 yards against Fairley and the Tigers.

    He's got unbelievable quickness to penetrate through the line of scrimmage and make big-time plays in the backfield.

    If he can stay in check, there's no question in my mind that he'll be a Pro Bowl-caliber player in the NFL. 

2. Oregon State DE Stephen Paea

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    Stephen Paea may not be the best overall player, but when it comes to stuffing the run, that's where he shines and shines brightly.

    His burst through the line is jaw-dropping and he will take down ball carriers at will. Despite being just 295 lbs., he had a combine-high 49 reps at the bench press, which just goes to show how brutally strong he is.

    Paea plants his feet and will disengage himself regardless of who's blocking, partly because of his low center of gravity.

    If you're a running back coming against this guy, all I can say is good luck.  

1. Alabama DT Marcell Dareus

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    Marcell Dareus is arguably the most complete football player in the draft and one of his multiple skill sets is imposing his strength against the run.

    Due to his understanding of the game, he can read where a play is going and then use his explosive hands to shed blockers and then get to it by charging at the point of attack.

    In addition, for a man his size (6'3" 319 lbs.), he moves extremely well and gets in pursuit quickly.

    That said, Dareus could anchor a defensive front for years to come and immediately improve a team's run defense.