B/R NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Top Defensive Linemen for 2015

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 3, 2015

B/R NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Top Defensive Linemen for 2015

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Each spring, 256 players are drafted into the NFL and roughly another 100 are added as undrafted free agents. With close to 350 new players entering to the pros each year, it's tough to keep track of them.  

    Everyone knows who Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Amari Cooper are. But what about the rest of the class? At Bleacher Report, our aim is to thoroughly cover the draft unlike any other outlet, so we're not stopping with coverage of the top 32 picks or even the top 200 picks. We're covering the top 400 draft-eligible players, with a full scouting report on each one.

    The top 400 players have been tracked, scouted, graded and ranked by myself and my scouting assistants, Marshal Miller and Dan Bazal. Together, we have viewed a minimum of three games per player (the same standard NFL teams use), and oftentimes, we've seen every play from a player over the last two years. That's led to the grades, rankings and scouting reports you see here.

    Players are graded on strengths and weaknesses, with a pro player comparison added that matches the player's style or fit in the pros. Position by position, the top 400 players are broken down for easy viewing before the final release of a top 400 big board before the draft. 

    When there was a tie amongst players, they're simply ranked in order of which player our team would spend a higher draft pick on. It's subjective, but the only tie breaker we could agree on.

The Grading Scale

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    At the end of each scouting report you'll see a Final Grade that falls somewhere between 9.00 and 4.00 on a unique grading scale. This scale comes from the teaching I had from Charlie Casserly, Michael Lombardi and other former and current front office personnel in the NFL. I've tweaked it this year to be more transparent, and the result is each player receiving a number grade as well as their ranking.

    This applies to all positions.

    Matt Miller Draft Grading Scale
    GradeLabel
    9.00Elite, No. 1 pick
    8.00-8.99 All-Pro Potential 
    7.50-7.99Pro Bowl Potential 
    7.00-7.49Top 15 Player Potential 
    6.50-6.99Rookie Impact/Future Starter 
    6.00-6.49Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    5.50-5.99Future Starter
    5.10-5.49Quality Backup
    5.01-5.09Backup Caliber
    5.00Draftable Player Cutoff
    4.75-4.99Priority Free Agent
    4.50-4.74Camp Player
    4.00-4.49Not NFL Caliber

39. Xavier Williams, DT, Northern Iowa

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     - - - - -

    STRENGTHS

    You can tell Xavier Williams has a wrestling background when watching his film. He plays with exceptional balance and uses his strength well with smart angles and leverage. He’s a high-motor player with good developmental potential as a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme given his power and bulk. He gives maximum effort as a pass-rusher and can get good push with a bull rush.

    WEAKNESSES

    Williams didn’t dominate the small-school scene and offers very little as a pass-rusher. Too often, he comes out of his stance as a big target and lets blockers get into his chest to control his movement. Without great hand use, he’s easily blocked once locked onto as a pass-rusher. When Williams did step up to bigger competition, he disappeared.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     93 8.0 14.0

    FINAL GRADE: 4.90/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

38. Darius Kilgo, DT, Maryland

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     - - - - -

    STRENGTHS

    A big, thick nose tackle prospect, Darius Kilgo shows very good strength in the run game. Kilgo does a good job finding the ball and won’t get confused by play action or misdirection. He’s an experienced, well-coached player with a nice motor and great hustle.

    WEAKNESSES

    Plan on taking him off the field as a pass-rusher. Kilgo doesn’t bring the quickness or flexibility needed to work inside and get to the quarterback. He shows limited lateral agility and won’t slip blocks or knife through gaps and openings. He’s stout against the run, but double-teams gave him nightmares in college and will be a bigger issue in the NFL without improved strength in his lower body and better use of his length.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     43 2.0 8.0

    FINAL GRADE: 4.90/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

37. Warren Herring, DT, Wisconsin

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.2s 23 reps 35" 116" 7.38s

    STRENGTHS

    A quick, lean defensive tackle, Warren Herring made his way into the starting lineup in 2014 and showed solid pass-rushing potential. He uses his frame well and will get low off the snap and counter with a shoulder dip and drive. He doesn’t let himself get too high in his pads and can fire out with decent quickness off the snap.

    WEAKNESSES

    Herring missed five games in 2014 with a knee injury, which is notable given this was his only season as a starter. His lack of consistency is a concern, as too many snaps go by where Herring isn’t a factor in the game plan. Without great strength or bulk, he’s limited to what he can do before being blocked. Herring was an average college player with a small ceiling.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     17 - 2.0

    FINAL GRADE: 4.90/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

36. Chucky Hunter, DT, TCU

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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     - - - - -

    STRENGTHS

    With a nonstop motor, Chucky Hunter flashes on film as a player fighting for every inch. When facing a center or guard alone, Hunter can hold up at the point of attack well and shut down the run in tight spaces. He works off blockers well inside to make tackles and understands leverage and knee bend. He’s been well-coached and it shows.

    WEAKNESSES

    A good, not great, college player with very limited size and athleticism, Hunter faces an uphill battle as a prospect. He doesn’t have the athleticism to play as a pass-rusher or penetrator and lacks the length and power to play as a nose tackle. He’s a man without a position and without the skill set to be more than a developmental prospect.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     44 3.0 9.5

    FINAL GRADE: 4.90/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

35. Brandon Ivory, DT, Alabama

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    USA TODAY Sports
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     - - - - -

    STRENGTHS

    The anchor in the middle of the Alabama defense, Brandon Ivory has the thick, squatty, explosive frame needed to handle double-teams. He shows a good initial burst off the snap and can get into a center's way and drive him back off the ball. In the run game, he does more than occupy lanes and can be a one-gap penetrator.

    WEAKNESSES

    Ivory won’t give you much as a pass-rusher and is an average athlete on tape. He doesn’t look to have the sustained quickness needed to consistently get by blockers on the inside and may be limited to working as a 3-4 nose tackle who comes off the field on passing downs. Ivory was never a dominant, high-impact player at Alabama.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     13 - 0.5

    FINAL GRADE: 4.90/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

34. Tavaris Barnes, DE, Clemson

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     4.80s 22 Reps - - -

    STRENGTHS

    An athletic, versatile defensive lineman who played defensive end for the Tigers, Tavaris Barnes projects best as a defensive tackle in the pros. He’s raw but has the flashy athleticism to warrant a look as a developmental project. His quickness off the ball is good, and he follows it up with loose hips and a high motor.

    WEAKNESSES

    Barnes started just four games in his career at Clemson, which is a red flag. He doesn’t have NFL-ready pass-rushing moves and tries to win with a bull rush only. He’ll get locked up in the run game and surrender himself too early in the play. His instincts are questionable on film. Although he’s a project, he does have some upside.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     14 3.0 5.0

    FINAL GRADE: 4.90/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

33. Terry Williams, DT, East Carolina

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    USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     - 22 reps 24" 100" -

    STRENGTHS

    A squat, 4x4 of a player, Terry Williams looks as tall (5’11”) as he is wide (344 lbs) in pads. As a true nose tackle, he does a very good job stacking up blockers and shedding to find the ball. When in shape and at a comfortable playing weight, his first step was surprisingly good and allowed him to catch blockers off guard. He’s strong enough to toss away double-teams and can fight through combination blocks by splitting or pushing back. He’ll show a bit of a bull rush that has potential.

    WEAKNESSES

    Williams was suspended in 2013 for violation of team policy. He was also suspended in 2012 following a drug-related arrest. On the field, Williams’ lack of height will be an issue for many teams, and his ability to keep his weight in check will be, too. He looked much more effective when he played closer to 320 pounds than his ballooned weight of 353 pounds in 2014. Off the field, Williams is a big risk due to arrests, suspensions and his weight. On the field, he’s pretty impressive.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     34 1.5 6.5

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Backup)

32. Leterrius Walton, DT, Central Michigan

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.25s 25 Reps 27.0" 103.0" 7.91s

    STRENGTHS

    A former offensive lineman turned defender, Leterrius Walton is an upside player with a huge frame and surprising burst off the ball. He uses his hands well—likely from his experience as a blocker—and knows how to get angles and leverage to win inside. He’s a high-motor, big-effort player with a solid athletic base.

    WEAKNESSES

    Walton is a very raw player and needs to add strength to play a power position in the NFL. He’s still learning how to be a pass-rusher and too often relies on athleticism and not technique to find space. Shorter arms (32 ¼") may limit his ability to lock out blockers. Walton is a developmental project.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     33 2.0 3.5

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Backup)

31. Deon Simon, DT, Northwestern State

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.12s 35 Reps 29.5" 105.0" 7.92s

    STRENGTHS

    A huge nose tackle prospect from tiny Northwestern State in Louisiana—that’s the Southland Conference—Deon Simon got a combine invite and impressed with 35 reps on the bench (225 lbs) and showed solid movement for a 321-pound frame. On film, he’s bigger and stronger than most at the opposition and easily handles interior blockers with his strength. He’s a natural space-eater.

    WEAKNESSES

    Playing against smaller competition has allowed some bad habits. Simon is slow off the ball at times and tries too often to get cute in his pass-rush moves. He doesn’t always use his power to his advantage in the pass rush and should have dominated far more than he did at the collegiate level. He’s a 24-year-old rookie and has a recent knee injury to monitor.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     26 1.0 5.5

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Backup)

30. Angelo Blackson, DT, Auburn

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    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.02s 20 Reps 31.0" 101.0" 7.50s

    STRENGTHS

    A big run defender, Angelo Blackson is a good athlete with strength to anchor and the quickness to get upfield. He’s a good, sure tackler and can one-arm tackle running backs with power. He has a wide, strong base that allows him to squat on blockers and demand a double-team in the run game. He’s a fighter in the middle. 

    WEAKNESSES

    Blackson rotated often on the Auburn defensive line and started just five games in 2014. He started more games in 2012 (10) than he did the last two seasons (nine) total. You won’t get much pass-rush production from him, and his limited burst makes him a liability in passing situations. Blackson has to learn to win with his hands to offset limited push.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     17 3.0 5.5

    FINAL GRADE: 5.09/9.00 (Backup)

29. Kaleb Eulls, DT, Mississippi State

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.20s 26 reps 28" 104" 7.31s

    STRENGTHS

    A four-year starter at Mississippi State, Kaleb Eulls has played both defensive tackle and defensive end for the Bulldogs. He’s a high-motor player with good awareness off the ball and solid power at the point of attack. At 6’4” and 295 pounds, he’s built to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense (as a 5-technique) and offers scheme versatility.

    WEAKNESSES

    Eulls is a known commodity, but he didn’t get a combine invite, which is a red flag. He’s an average athlete on film and his pro day backed that up with a 5.20- and 5.26-second 40-yard dash and 28-inch vertical jump. He’s a high-effort player but lacks the agility or power to start in the NFL without major development.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     34 3.0 3.0

    FINAL GRADE: 5.09/9.00 (Backup)

28. J.T. Surratt, DT, South Carolina

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    USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.19s 29 Reps 30.0" 106.0" 7.78s

    STRENGTHS

    A high-effort, high-motor run-stuffer, J.T. Surratt is a fighter on the field. He works well through first contact and works to keep himself free and moving either laterally or upfield. His football IQ is high, and he has shown a good understanding of slants, stunts and reading play action. Surratt is a potential inside tackle in a four-man front, and he could play either 0-, 1- or 3-technique.

    WEAKNESSES

    Average size and average athleticism will hold Surratt back. On film, you don’t see big plays or a major impact as a pass-rusher, and that limits his draft stock. He looks like a nice two-down defensive tackle who can stuff the run but needs to be replaced on passing downs.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     30 1.0 4.5

    FINAL GRADE: 5.09/9.00 (Backup)

27. Travis Raciti, DT, San Jose State

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    USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.06s 21 reps 31.5" 106" 7.52s

    STRENGTHS

    Travis Raciti is built for the 3-4 defense at 6’5” and 285 pounds. Playing in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense in college, Raciti is experienced in multiple fronts and positions—and he’s athletic enough to even consider standing up as a linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He can win with quickness and length and does a great job in pursuit. As a pure pass-rusher, he has not had a chance to develop given his position changes, but he shows good potential there with nice speed and flexibility on film.

    WEAKNESSES

    Raciti wasn’t invited to the combine, something of a surprise, and it may be telling of how NFL teams view him. He regressed over his time at San Jose State and never got back to the impact he showed as a sophomore. Depending on how he’s used, Raciti would need to add a lot of strength in his base to hold up against blockers one-on-one. He’s such a tweener that any team that drafts him would likely view him as a project and place him in a developmental role.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     72 3.0 6.5

    FINAL GRADE: 5.09/9.00 (Backup)

26. Joey Mbu, DT, Houston

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.54s - 22.5" 97.0" 8.20s

    STRENGTHS

    A high-motor worker at defensive tackle, Joey Mbu was the Houston defense in 2014. He’s an effort player who's willing to fight to the whistle and has the size to back it up. His arm length (35”) is a wow number and will get him looks as a 5-technique in a 3-4 scheme. He uses that length well to get arm extension and then gets work done with his hands to disengage. His lateral quickness is good, and he’ll get outside the tackle to make plays on screens and tosses.

    WEAKNESSES

    Mbu’s production wasn’t great as a pass-rusher, and he’s limited in terms of edge rush and upfield push. He’ll struggle if asked to anchor against a two-gap and may be a scheme-limited player due to his average power at the point of attack. He doesn’t do anything great and produced in college by outworking blockers.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     32 2.5 4.5

    FINAL GRADE: 5.10/9.00 (Quality Backup)

25. Leon Orr, DT, Florida

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    John Raoux/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.16s - 28.0" 100.0" 8.26s

    STRENGTHS

    Leon Orr is a scheme-versatile performer able to play all over the defensive line. He passes the eyeball test with an impressive 6’5”, 323-pound frame and 34 ⅛-inch arms. On the hoof, he’s what NFL scouts want in a defensive lineman. He has a solid first step and can be used on stunts or delays. He makes a good number of plays down the field and in pursuit.

    WEAKNESSES

    Orr posted numbers at the combine that call into question his athleticism. On film, he looks like a player who needs to add strength, especially in his lower body. He gets pushed back off the line too easily and doesn’t have the power to redirect when locked up. He was injured in 2014 and then left the team, never to return.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     16 - 2.0

    FINAL GRADE: 5.10/9.00 (Quality Backup)

24. Louis Trinca-Pasat, DT, Iowa

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    USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     4.96s - 32.0" 105.0" 7.40s

    STRENGTHS

    The ultimate assignment football player, Louis Trinca-Pasat enjoyed his best year as a senior at Iowa and followed it up with a strong Senior Bowl showing. He has natural leverage and good, low-pad height-firing off the ball. He’s able to twist and knife through gaps and is an ideal one-gap penetrator. He shows good technique, good leverage and knows how to use his hands to win. In the run game, he won’t make a ton of plays, but he’s a pain for blockers to move if he gains positioning.

    WEAKNESSES

    Trinca-Pasat is undersized, both in height and weight, and doesn’t have a true position. He’s definitely limited to a four-man front, which eliminates around half of his potential NFL suitors. He’s not a flashy athlete and shows stiffness in his lateral agility and a limitation in his burst upfield. He’ll struggle to come off blocks due to limited length and power.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     69 6.5 11.5

    FINAL GRADE: 5.10/9.00 (Quality Backup)

23. David Parry, DT, Stanford

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.38s 34 Reps 29.0" 103.0" -

    STRENGTHS

    A natural nose tackle with good production and NFL-ready technique, David Parry is a treat to watch on the inside. He’s a powerful, smart technician who went from walk-on to starter at Stanford. His first step is explosive and violent, and he doesn’t shy away from contact. He can play in a one- or two-gap system and will hold his ground against double-teams. His bull rush is effective, and he counters off it well with twists and delays. 

    WEAKNESSES

    Undersized for the position, Parry will have to fight for every inch in the NFL because of his natural limitations. Adding weight would benefit him, but his frame already looks close to maxed out. His short arms (31") are a concern given the need to lock out blockers on the inside. As a pass-rusher, he was often taken out of the lineup by Stanford when its opponents were facing 3rd-and-longs.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     34 5.0 8.0

    FINAL GRADE: 5.15/9.00 (Quality Backup)

22. Derrick Lott, DT, Chattanooga

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    USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     4.99s 30 Reps 26.5" 106.0" 7.38s

    STRENGTHS

    A former Georgia Bulldog, Derrick Lott transferred to Tennessee-Chattanooga and has been in college since 2009. He’s a smart, technical defender who beat up on the lower-level talent he saw in the Southern Conference. Lott uses his athletic tools well together, and he’ll beat blockers with his hands or quickness. He’s not great athletically but is above average for his 6’4”, 314-pound frame.  

    WEAKNESSES

    Lott will be an older player (25-year-old rookie) and has limited film against top-tier competition. He’s not athletic enough to have the upside label and doesn’t have the power to play early. Finding a scheme fit for Lott is easy—he can play as a 3- or 5-technique—but he needs work in the run game before he’s field-ready.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     41 6.0 13.5

    FINAL GRADE: 5.15/9.00 (Quality Backup)

21. Ellis McCarthy, DT, UCLA

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.21s 24 Reps 32.0" 109.0" 8.16s

    STRENGTHS

    A surprise entry as an underclassman in the 2015 draft class, Ellis McCarthy can play all over the defensive line and has experience in a 3-4 defense at defensive end. He has the ideal height and length for the 5-technique position and backs that up with the weight and bulk to hold the point of attack. He’s naturally strong and could slide inside on a four-man line and play a 1-technique position. He’s a versatile athlete and worked out as an offensive lineman at his pro day.

    WEAKNESSES

    You won’t get much burst or pass rush from McCarthy. He’s really best used as a run-stuffer and containment player. His height (6'5") makes pad level an issue, and too often he lets himself get high off the ball and neutralized by hand placement. His weight has been an issue at UCLA and must be monitored, and he’s had surgery on both knees during his time in college.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     20 3.0 3.0

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Akiem Hicks, New Orleans Saints

    An oversized 3-4 defensive end, McCarthy and Akiem Hicks have the same build and look to play the same position in the NFL.

    FINAL GRADE:  5.20/9.00 (Quality Backup)

20. James Castleman, DT, Oklahoma State

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     - - - - -

    STRENGTHS

    A natural nose tackle, James Castleman plays with power at the point of attack and packs a punch with his 6’2”, 300-pound frame. Watching his motor is impressive, and he’s a high-effort player who gives it all in pursuit and when fighting on the inside for positioning. Castleman’s first step is impressive, and he’s surprisingly quick to get into his pass rush. He uses his hands like a pro and is very well-coached. He could excel in a one- or two-gap scheme.

    WEAKNESSES

    A combine snub, Castleman wasn’t among the 300-plus players invited to Indianapolis. As a tackler, he wasn’t impressive on film and too often lunged for the ball-carrier. He spends a lot of time on the ground and doesn’t elude cut blocks well in the run game. He’ll get hung up by blockers with good length and could struggle to redirect. As a pass-rusher, he doesn’t offer a ton of production.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     45 3.0 7.5

    FINAL GRADE: 5.20/9.00 (Quality Backup) 

19. Bobby Richardson, DT, Indiana

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    USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.16s - 32.5" 106.0" 7.57s

    STRENGTHS

    Bobby Richardson will be sending NFL teams tape from his game against Brandon Scherff and Iowa, as he had a career day against a likely early first-round pick. Richardson’s quickness off the ball was a nice surprise given his size and position in Indiana’s 3-4 defense. He played 5-technique there and can do the same in the NFL—or kick inside to a 3-technique. He has incredibly long arms (34 ⅝") and big hands (11") and a frame that could add more bulk if needed. He’s a block-shedder against the run and makes most of his plays in space, not by locking up blockers. He’s a high-motor, aggressive player who loves to break out a spin move to beat tackles on the edge.

    WEAKNESSES

    Richardson doesn’t have the ideal physical traits for any one position, which could mark him for tweener status. He can be timid in space moving laterally and has to do a better job wrapping up runners when given tackle-for-loss opportunities. Richardson flashes a lot of athleticism, but he did not test well at the combine.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     35 5.5 9.5

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta Falcons

    An underrated first-step pass-rusher with scheme versatility, Richardson and Babineaux are very similar players.

    FINAL GRADE: 5.20/9.00 (Quality Backup)

18. Christian Covington, DT, Rice

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     4.89s 24 reps 30.5" 111" 7.43s

    STRENGTHS

    An undersized pass-rusher in a one-gap scheme, Christian Covington has the burst and leverage to get into the backfield in a hurry. Covington has impressive power for his size and a big lower body to power his pass rush. In the run game, he can be a gap-shooter and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. His 33 ¼-inch arms give him the length to keep blockers locked out.

    WEAKNESSES

    Covington is a scheme-specific player who lacks the strength to anchor against the run. He injured his knee in the second game of the season and ended up getting surgery after appearing in just seven games, which made his leaving Rice early a major surprise. Missing that much time with a knee dislocation is a red flag that could drop his stock more than his on-film status shows.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     20 2.5 3.5

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Roy Miller, Jacksonville Jaguars

    A smaller defensive tackle with good burst and hands, Covington and Miller are built alike and play alike from the 3-technique position.

    FINAL GRADE: 5.40/9.00 (Quality Backup)

17. Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT, Southern Mississippi

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.02s 26 Reps 34.0" 114.0" 7.67s

    STRENGTHS

    A redshirt junior entry, Rakeem Nunez-Roches has the build for a 4-3 defense and enough quickness in his first step to make an impact on the interior. He’s a natural gap-shooter who identifies the play early and can attack the ball. He converts speed to power well for his size as a pass-rusher and can be a penetrator in a one-gap 4-3 scheme.

    WEAKNESSES

    Against the run, Nunez-Roches can disappear and be pushed off his spot. He’s a high-motor player but struggles if asked to redirect or reset his pass rush, as he lacks a countermove. Too often, he’s a straight-line player who doesn’t show lateral flexibility or quickness. Nunez-Roches doesn’t have the size or strength to play in anything other than a one-gap 4-3 scheme.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     58 3.0 14.0

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Clinton McDonald, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    The best role for Nunez-Roches is as a situational pass-rusher, and that’s what McDonald has been best at in his career.

    FINAL GRADE: 5.40/9.00 (Quality Backup)

16. Darius Philon, DT, Arkansas

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    USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.00s 26 Reps 31.0" 107.0" 8.0s

    STRENGTHS

    A redshirt sophomore entry out of Arkansas, Darius Philon will impress with his first-step quickness and ability to pressure the offensive line. Athletically, he shows good feet, nice balance and the flexibility and agility in his hips and knees to bend and attack. He plays with his hands well and can keep blockers from getting into his chest.

    WEAKNESSES

    Philon is very raw physically and needs to add strength in his lower body to be able to stand up against the run game. Currently, he’s a non-factor on rushing downs unless he blows the play up by penetrating. He’s a one-scheme player (4-3 defense) and isn’t likely to succeed outside of a 3-technique position. Leaving school two years early looks like a mistake, as he needed more time to develop.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     46 4.5 11.5

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: C.J. Mosley, Detroit Lions

    A quick rusher with raw hands and tools, Philon has a similar athletic profile and playing style to C.J. Mosley.

    FINAL GRADE: 5.40/9.00 (Quality Backup)

15. Tyeler Davison, DT, Fresno State

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    Eugene Tanner/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.18s 32 Reps 33.0" 105.0" 7.53s

    STRENGTHS

    One of the strongest defensive tackles in the 2015 class, Tyeler Davison passes the eyeball test in a big way. Davison shows advanced hand usage and will fight for positioning in tight spaces, and he uses his long arms and huge hands to get positioning. Davison works well through double-teams and has the quickness and strength to perform a countermove against blockers. He is a high rep player who rarely left the field and played both end and tackle for Fresno State. He’s strong enough to play nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme.

    WEAKNESSES

    Davison’s straight-line speed is good, but his lateral quickness and agility don't wow. His hand usage is a plus, but too often he gets caught standing up hand-fighting and doesn’t work through blockers. He can get caught up trying to win with power far too often and needs to learn to use his quickness.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     60 7.5 12.0

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Colin Cole, Carolina Panthers

    Cole, like Davison, is a very good athlete with speed and lateral strength who works best in a one-gap system.

    FINAL GRADE: 5.50/9.00 (Future Starter)

14. Marcus Hardison, DE, Arizona State

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    USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     4.92s 27 Reps 25.5" 107" -

    STRENGTHS

    A former defensive end who stood out with a great Senior Bowl, Marcus Hardison has grown into the defensive tackle position but still combines the quickness of an end with the size of a tackle. He uses his hands well on the inside and has the athleticism to get inside positioning and ride out blockers to the backfield. He's like a boxer with heavy, strong hands. Hardison has a good amount of upside as a tackle given his newness to the position. He could play right away as a 4-3 3-technique.

    WEAKNESSES

    Hardison is a bit of a tweener and has to get stronger in his lower body to play inside against the run. He’s not a natural bender when engaged by blockers and will surrender leverage too often when locked up. Hardison blew up late in the year and at the Senior Bowl, but he has limited production on film.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     53 10.0 15.0

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Lamarr Houston, Chicago Bears

    Houston is a running back-turned-defensive end, but he’s built like a defensive tackle. Hardison isn’t quite that athletic, but he’s a similar big man who has outgrown his natural position.

    FINAL GRADE: 5.50/9.00 (Future Starter)

13. Gabe Wright, DT, Auburn

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    Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.07s 34 Reps 26.5" 100.0" 7.73s

    STRENGTHS

    Gabe Wright is all about explosive power. He comes off the ball with a great first step and quickly gets into the space of blockers. He plays with a low pad height and makes it difficult to get hands on him, as he can get small to squeeze through gaps as a pass-rusher and run stopper. He’s best schemed as a penetrator but can play as a 1- or 3-technique.

    WEAKNESSES

    A lack of production is a concern for Wright, and it has to be noted that he rotated often at Auburn. His shorter arms (32 ⅝”) can be an issue if blockers get on him, and he’s not the type to aggressively fight off a double-team. In the run game, he can be neutralized.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     24 1.0 4.5

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Corey Peters, Arizona Cardinals

    Similar in size, athleticism and how they’re best used, Wright and Corey Peters have a lot in common.

    FINAL GRADE:  5.50/9.00 (Future Starter)

12. Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State

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    USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     4.86s 29 Reps 29.0" 111.0" 7.23s

    STRENGTHS

    A flashy athlete with impressive first-step quickness and balance, Xavier Cooper opened a lot of eyes at the combine. He has the ideal build for a 3-technique pass-rusher and flashes those athletic traits on film. Cooper can win with his quickness off the snap, but he works through blockers well with his hands and angles. He gets into a blocker’s space fast and is tough to stonewall at the snap. His athleticism makes him a factor in pursuit and even when the ball gets outside the tackle box.

    WEAKNESSES

    Cooper rarely dominated games from a production standpoint and must answer to the "workout warrior" label. He has short arms (31 ½”) that could limit his ability to keep blockers off his frame in the pros. His ability to win with power is questionable and will be a hurdle for him in the NFL.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     37 5.0 9.5

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Marvin Austin, Denver Broncos

    A top-tier athlete with raw, natural pass-rushing skills, Cooper’s film and measurables are reminiscent Marvin Austin's.

    FINAL GRADE: 5.90/9.00 (Future Starter)

11. Henry Anderson, DE, Stanford

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.03s - 30.0" 111.0" 7.20s

    STRENGTHS

    A 5-technique defensive end in Stanford’s 3-4 scheme, Henry Anderson is NFL-ready at the position. He’s a well-coached player with the football IQ and technique to be a contributor from day one. Anderson rips through blocks well using his hands to disengage and can follow that up with the quickness to explode into the backfield. He uses leverage well and can beat a blocker if they start to lean or overset. He’s versatile, too, having moved all around the Stanford defensive line.

    WEAKNESSES

    Anderson’s combine wasn’t great in the 40-yard dash (5.03) or explosive jumps, and he’s not a quick-twitch, long-speed athlete. He has a narrow, slight lower body and needs to build power throughout his base to be stronger at the point of attack. Anderson has to do a better job not surrendering himself to blockers, as he found himself tied up by players he should dominate too often.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     65 8.0 14.5

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Jared Odrick, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Anderson and Jared Odrick have very similar builds and are similar talents. Odrick has played the 3- and 5-technique in the NFL, and Anderson can, too.

    FINAL GRADE:  5.90/9.00 (Future Starter)

10. Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma

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    USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.17s 28 Reps 30.0" 105.0" 7.88s

    STRENGTHS

    Jordan Phillips dominates the eyeball test at 6’5” and 329 pounds. He’s a mammoth of a man with surprising movement skills laterally and in his first step. Just a redshirt sophomore when he left Oklahoma, Phillips is a young player with big upside given his rawness at the position. Phillips has the strength to play as a two-gap anchor but showed the agility to play as a one-gap attacker, too. He’s a smart, athletic big man with refined pass-rushing moves to swim and rip blockers. In the run game, he uses his length (34 ¾” arms) well to keep blockers off his frame, and when he wants to push the pile forward, he can reset the line of scrimmage with his power.

    WEAKNESSES

    A back injury kept Phillips out for nearly all of 2013, and that has to be checked thoroughly. On film, Phillips goes too many plays and games without making an impact. He’s a boom-or-bust player on a weekly basis. His conditioning appears suspect, as he wore down late in games despite not playing a higher snap count. His height, leverage and pad height are always a concern, and he has to learn to play with more knee bend.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     38 2.0 7.0

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Damon Harrison, New York Jets

    A classic nose tackle with huge size, Jordan Phillips not only looks like Damon Harrison, but they play a lot alike, too.

    FINAL GRADE: 6.00/9.00 (Future Starter)

9. Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State

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    USA TODAY Sports
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     4.84s 32 Reps 32.5" 120.0" 7.44s

    STRENGTHS

    The athleticism of a defensive end in the body of a defensive tackle, Mario Edwards will wow people with his movement skills. He is very intriguing because of his ability to move around the defense and play multiple positions. At FSU, he put his hand in the dirt, stood up off the edge and occasionally kicked inside to a tackle position, too. His power off the snap is impressive, and he’ll put linemen on skates with a bull rush. He's at his best in the run game, where he shows passion and toughness at the point of attack.

    WEAKNESSES

    The lack of pop from Edwards in his first-step quickness is a concern. He wasn’t a productive, effective player when asked to rush the passer yet still has potential as a prospect. He’s very raw and needs a sound technical base before he can unleash on the quarterback. Some teams will view him as a tweener without a true position due to his lack of burst.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     28 3.5 9.5

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Ray McDonald, Chicago Bears

    Edwards doesn’t have the burst that McDonald showed at Florida, but they are very similar if you look at what McDonald became in San Francisco. Edwards is a similar talent and scheme fit.

    FINAL GRADE:  6.00/9.00 (Future Starter)

8. Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson

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    Tyler Smith/Getty Images
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.06s 30 Reps 31.0" 112.0" 7.37s

    STRENGTHS

    A natural nose tackle or 1-technique, Grady Jarrett is a powerful, squared-off player with the talent to anchor the middle of the line. He’s an aggressive, high-motor defensive tackle with the lateral quickness to get off the ball and into the gaps. He doesn’t have great length but does use his hands well to free himself up from redirected blockers.

    WEAKNESSES

    Jarrett plays like a nose tackle, but he’s not built ideally for the position at 304 pounds with a maxed-out frame. Jarrett will struggle if he’s not able to win with his quickness off the snap, and he’s not the strongest player when he has to give a bull rush to push into the backfield. In the run game, he’ll struggle to hold the point of attack against combination blocks. He’s limited to playing inside in a 4-3 defense.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     45 1.5 10.0

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Akeem Spence, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Spence, like Grady Jarrett, is a one-gap penetrator on the inside of a 4-3 defense. They’re similar in size, athleticism and position.

    FINAL GRADE: 6.10/9.00 (Rookie Starter) 

7. Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     4.98s - 35.5" - -

    STRENGTHS

    A natural pass-rusher built for the 4-3 defense, Michael Bennett can get into the backfield and make plays. He uses his smaller stature (6’2”, 293 lbs) to get low and cut through the offensive line, playing with the leverage and quickness to produce from the 3-technique position. Bennett’s first step is one of the best in the class from defensive tackles, and he can win with his burst. He’s aggressive with a high motor and will win with his second effort. His technique is ideal, and you can tell he’s been coached well at Ohio State. Bennett won’t make mistakes or take himself out of a play, as he's shown he can play assignment football.

    WEAKNESSES

    Bennett is not a scheme-versatile prospect, and he truly projects only as a 4-3 3-technique. That limits how many teams will be looking at his tape. His 2014 season was inconsistent, and early in the year, he struggled to make an impact even though he’s surrounded by NFL talent at Ohio State. He’s a small-frame player who may turn off teams due to his lack of ideal measurables.


    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     40 7.0 14.0

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Henry Melton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Melton, like Bennett, is built for the 4-3 defense and has the quickness and hands off the snap to beat up on interior blockers.

    FINAL GRADE: 6.20/9.00 (Rookie Starter)

6. Carl Davis, DT, Iowa

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.07s - 33.0" 103.0" 7.91s

    STRENGTHS

    When Carl Davis is on his game, few defensive tackles can compare. Davis dominated at the Senior Bowl, showing an unblockable first step and the quickness to knife through gaps to attack the quarterback. He uses his 34 ⅝-inch arms well to lock out blockers, shed them and then is fast enough to pursue in space. Davis has a full set of pass-rushing moves, too, and he’ll bust out a spin move and an over/under arm rip. He’s well-coached with good technique and an ability to understand on the go.

    WEAKNESSES

    Davis’ senior season was inconsistent, especially early on when he couldn’t seem to get off blocks or make plays in the backfield. He has obvious talent but too often was rendered a non-factor. When he’s tired, his pad height goes way up, and that has to be fixed. You’d also like to see him used more as a pass-rusher than in the two-gapping system Iowa used, but that’s not on him as much as the scheme.


    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     36 2.0 9.0

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Linval Joseph, Minnesota Vikings

    At 6’5”, 320 pounds, Davis is a huge man with nimble feet and good pass-rushing skills. That draws a comparison to Linval Joseph, another big-bodied tackle with the ability to attack the backfield.

    FINAL GRADE: 6.20/9.00 (Rookie Starter)

5. Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State

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    Mike Groll/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.12s 19 reps 26" - 7.62s

    STRENGTHS

    A monster of a defensive tackle at 6’4” and 336 pounds, Eddie Goldman has the body of a nose tackle and the agility of a 3-technique. That scheme and positional versatility makes him an exciting prospect. Goldman could line up at the 0-, 1- or 3-technique depending on the defense he’s drafted into. As a run defender, he’s stout and can collapse the offensive line consistently. He’s a very aggressive, high-motor player with the hands to swat away blockers or get positioning to push into the backfield on run plays. He’s a natural bull-rusher with the big, strong lower body to bulldoze the pocket. Ideally, Goldman is a nose tackle on a team that lets him get upfield and attack rather than hold contain. 

    WEAKNESSES

    Goldman runs hot and cold and went from the best defensive tackle in the country to a non-factor at times. As a pass-rusher, he can be limited by a strong guard who sits down into his base well. Goldman’s first-step quickness isn’t advanced, and that will slow him down as a penetrator. Ideally, he’d play with more consistent leverage and lower pad height.


    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     35 4.0 8.0

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Jay Ratliff, Chicago Bears

    Goldman may not be as quick off the ball as Jay Ratliff, but their positional versatility and power foundations are very similar. Like Ratliff, Goldman may be moved around and become a bit of an anchor for the defensive line.

    FINAL GRADE: 6.99/9.00 (Rookie Starter)

4. Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.05s 26 29.5" 98" 7.84s

    STRENGTHS

    Malcom Brown was one of the most improved players in college football in 2014, which made his decision to leave Texas early for the NFL draft an understandable one. He has a thick, powerful, 6’2”, 319-pound frame with surprising flexibility in his lower body. He’s able to bend his knees and roll his hips to drive through blockers. Brown has power and speed, and he’s able to use them independently or together to get into the backfield. In the run game, he shows a high football IQ and is able to stack up blockers and shed to attack the ball-carrier. He plays with a mean streak and is a finisher.

    WEAKNESSES

    Brown will not wow anyone with athletic testing, and he can be timid at the point of attack at times. Perhaps most concerning, Brown was a one-year wonder at Texas and never dominated from a production standpoint. He may also be labeled a tweener given his nose tackle size and under-tackle playing style.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     70 6.5 13.0

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills

    Dareus, like Brown, didn’t have a true position coming out of Alabama and has been used all over the Bills’ defensive line. Dareus and Brown are similar not only in usage but in athleticism and body type.

    FINAL GRADE: 6.99/9.00 (Rookie Starter)

3. Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon

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    Ryan Kang/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.10s 24 34" 117.0" 7.57s

    STRENGTHS

    A naturally gifted athlete with lateral movement and upper-level agility, Arik Armstead defies what a 6’7”, 292-pound person should look like on film. He has a quick first step and follows it up with a smooth, well-timed swim move to get over and under blockers. Armstead uses his length well to create separation and has the quick-twitch speed to bend and explode past blockers. His burst off the line is eye-opening given his size. Armstead improved greatly in 2014 and is a big potential player with an incredibly high ceiling as a defensive lineman. He offers scheme versatility given his ideal body type as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 scheme but has the quickness to play inside as a 3-technique in a 4-3. He’s athletic enough that some scouts we spoke with believed he could become a top-10 player as a left tackle.

    WEAKNESSES

    Naturally, pad height and leverage are an issue for Armstead when lined up on the interior. Given his long, lean frame, he doesn’t generate much power in his base and can be tied up if blockers get under his pads. Armstead needs to develop a good bull rush and learn to play with a lower, stronger foundation. He’s a bit of a boom-or-bust player who really only came on and lived up to his prep hype in 2014. 

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     46 2.5 5.5

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals

    Campbell and Armstead not only look alike physically, but they have similar playing styles as well. The ideal position for Armstead is what Campbell does for the Arizona Cardinals—a 5-technique end with the versatility to move around the defensive line depending on down, distance and personnel.

    FINAL GRADE: 6.99/9.00 (Rookie Starter)

2. Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     5.64s 34 30.5"95" 7.99s

    STRENGTHS

    Danny Shelton is a monster of a man at 6’2” and 339 pounds. He’s the ideal nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme and is the type of two-gapping anchor you can build a defense around. He’s not a pass-rusher; rather, he's a player who sets up the pass rush by collapsing the offensive line from within. Shelton is an unmovable object against the run and can sit down and squat on double-teams. He dominated at the Senior Bowl by simply sitting down and keeping the center-guard combination from getting upfield push. As a pass-rusher, he does have some scoot and burst off the line, and he’ll use his power to walk the center back. Shelton played a high number of snaps, so there aren’t concerns about his usage or ability to handle high reps.

    WEAKNESSES

    Shelton has struggled to find a playing weight he’s comfortable with, and that’s something that must be monitored once in the NFL. He’ll surrender leverage too often when he’s tired, and he needs to learn to play with a lower base late in games.  

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     93 9.0 16.5

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers

    There isn’t one great comparison for Shelton because his in-game impact mirrors Vince Wilfork's or Dontari Poe's, but he’s not as athletic as Poe or as agile laterally as Wilfork was early in his career. Somewhere in between is B.J. Raji, a player Shelton is like in terms of use and athleticism, but Shelton looks to be a better overall prospect.

    FINAL GRADE: 7.20/9.00 (Top 15 Player Potential)

1. Leonard Williams, DE, USC

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    40         Bench PressVertical   Broad       3-Cone     
     4.97s - 29.5" 106.0" 7.59s

    STRENGTHS

    Leonard Williams is a rare athlete for a 6’5”, 302-pounder, and he brings a true positional and scheme versatility to the defensive line. He played left and right defensive end in USC’s 3-4 defense but is quick and agile enough to be best used as a 3-technique pass-rusher in a 4-3 defense. Williams does a great job getting small to knife through gaps and has the first-step burst to eat up space and get leverage on blockers. Williams has good hand use and doesn’t let blockers occupy his chest. He’ll knife and rip away, showing a hard swim move and the power to push through traffic. As a pass-rusher, he’s refined, showing speed and power moves with a good spin move and bull rush mixed in.

    WEAKNESSES

    The biggest question with Williams would be the number of small injuries he suffered at USC. He never seemed to be completely healthy, and that’s an issue coming into the bigger, stronger, tougher NFL. There are times when Williams’ first step is slow or labored, so he’ll have to prove he can go 100 percent and not throttle down on the interior. From a production standpoint, Williams never dominated, but you can argue he wasn’t given as many opportunities in the 3-4 defense.

    2014 STATISTICS

    Tackles          Sacks            Tackles for Loss
     80 7.0 9.5

    PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets

    Some want to compare Williams to Richard Seymour or J.J. Watt, but in terms of athleticism and style, Sheldon Richardson is more like it. Both are agile, nimble movers who have a lean, athletic build and can beat blockers with speed or power.

    FINAL GRADE: 7.50/9.00 (Pro Bowl Potential)

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