B/R CFB 250: Top 26 Defensive Ends

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2015

B/R CFB 250: Top 26 Defensive Ends

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    Bleacher Report/Getty Images

    Bleacher Report's CFB 250 is an annual ranking of the best players in college football, regardless of NFL potential. Through interviews with B/R Experts Matt Miller, Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer, authors Brian Leigh and Brian Pedersen have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country, narrowed that list to 250 and sorted by position. Today, Brian Leigh presents the Top 26 Defensive Ends.

    Other CFB 250 Positions

    2015 was a strong year for college defensive ends.

    In some ways, it was too strong for its own good.

    With so many great linemen to sort through, certain players appear lower on this list than one might expect. They still rank pretty high on the overall list—look closely at their grades, not just their rankings—but the competition at defensive end was fierce.

    But before we dig into that, a disclaimer. The linemen who follow were graded as college prospects, not as NFL prospects. If they get the job done at this level, it's irrelevant how they project to the pros.

    This is all about college performance.

    Note: If two players finished with the same grade, the authors made a subjective call on which player they prefer.

26-22. Pierson, Haynes, Hall, Correa, Wormley

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    Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

      26. Dale Pierson, Iowa State

    82/100

    Pass Rush: 43/50; Run Defense: 30/40; Motor: 9/10.

    Dale Pierson ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 with 8.5 sacks. That number matched an Iowa State record, tying him with Cyclone great Shawn Moorehead. Despite another year of disappointment in the win column, Iowa State got a memorable performance from its defensive leader. That's something fans can take from another lost season. 

      25. Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss

    82/100

    Pass Rush: 43/50; Run Defense: 31/40; Motor: 8/10.

    Marquis Haynes is one of the best pass-rushers in the SEC. He finished No. 3 in the conference with 9.5 sacks this regular season. His run defense is noticeably behind, but he has one elite skill that will translate to the NFL. If he adds weight to his frame (6'3", 220 lbs), he could also theoretically round out his game.

      24. Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M

    82/100

    Pass Rush: 43/50; Run Defense: 31/40; Motor: 8/10.

    Daeshon Hall emerged across from teammate Myles Garrett, developing into a useful partner in crime. He faded after starting the year on fire, but his four-sack game against Arizona State made a loud-and-clear statement nationally: The Aggies are more than Garrett along the line, which changes how teams can attack them.   

      23. Kamalei Correa, Boise State

    82/100

    Pass Rush: 42/50; Run Defense: 32/40; Motor: 8/10.

    Kamalei Correa broke out at the end of last season, peaking with two sacks against Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. His progress stalled in 2015, with just five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, but he's still among the best mid-major players. If his junior slump forces him to stay another year, it would be a blessing for Boise State.

      22. Chris Wormley, Michigan

    83/100

    Pass Rush: 41/50; Run Defense: 34/40; Motor: 8/10.

    Chris Wormley has thrived under head coach Jim Harbaugh, emerging as one of the country's best run-stoppers. He posted 5.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss on the season, and much of his production came in ways that can't be measured. His size off the edge (6'5", 300 lbs) fits more in an NFL 3-4 defense than a college 3-4 defense. Good luck to any teenagers trying to block him.

21-17. Price, Ngakoue, Walker, Tapper, Landry

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

      21. Ejuan Price, Pittsburgh

    83/100

    Pass Rush: 43/50; Run Defense: 32/40; Motor: 8/10.

    Ejuan Price was a breakout star for Pittsburgh. He embraced head coach Pat Narduzzi's attacking style en route to 11.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. That latter number ranked No. 2 in the country behind Clemson's Shaq Lawson. He padded those stats with a five-sack, six-tackle-for-loss game against Louisville—one of the saddest offensive lines in college football—but still had a phenomenal year.

      20. Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland

    83/100

    Pass Rush: 45/50; Run Defense: 30/40; Motor: 8/10.

    Yannick Ngakoue had a great year for a bad team. On a defense replacing most of its front seven, he emerged as a star and helped the Terrapins stay at least competitive on defense. His 13 sacks were tied for No. 2 in the country behind Penn State's Carl Nassib. That's not bad for a player most fans have never heard of.

      19. DeMarcus Walker, Florida State

    84/100

    Pass Rush: 42/50; Run Defense: 34/40; Motor: 8/10.

    Florida State's rebuilt front seven needed someone to emerge as a star. DeMarcus Walker took that prompt and ran with it. He led the Seminoles with 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss, closing strong with 2.5 and 3.5, respectively, in the season-ending blowout of Florida. If he returns, the rangy junior (6'3", 281 lbs) will be a sneaky All-America candidate. 

      18. Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

    84/100

    Pass Rush: 42/50; Run Defense: 34/40; Motor: 8/10.

    Nothing he does is sexy, but Charles Tapper gets the job done and then some. He's a three-year starter who proved, after a down 2014 season, that he can still get after the quarterback. Granted, he posted five of his seven sacks against Kansas and Iowa State, with just two in the other 10 games. Despite that, he still had a strong year.

      17. Harold Landry, Boston College

    85/100

    Pass Rush: 41/50; Run Defense: 36/40; Motor: 8/10.

    Boston College led the country in yards allowed per game, yards allowed per play and touchdowns allowed per game, and Harold Landry was a big reason why. The Eagles also led the country in adjusted line yards, per Football Outsiders, which is where Landry made his biggest impact. The sophomore has a smallish frame (6'3", 245 lbs) but plays with a high motor and uses his hands like a pro. Keep him circled as a player to watch next season.

16. Shawn Oakman, Baylor

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "I think he's super overrated. He's just not consistent enough. I could find one great play and 99 bad ones."

    —Matt Miller

     

      Pass Rush


    42/50

    When he's on, Shawn Oakman terrorizes quarterbacks. The problem is how rarely he's on. Despite his freakish measurables (6'9", 275 lbs), his sack total regressed from 11 in 2014 to 4.5 this season. That doesn't sink his grade because he still commands attention, which helps his teammates. He's just not as productive as he should be. 

      Run Defense


    36/40

    Oakman is a big-play run defender. He posted 10 non-sack tackles for loss this season—an improvement on 2014. There are times when the mythos around him actually helps on the field because offenses run away from him or double-block him. His presence just makes opponents overcompensate.   

      Motor


    7/10

    For someone who looks so angry, Oakman doesn't really play that hard. He disappears from game tape and lets blockers he should dominate hold their own. If he develops a killer instinct and learns to maintain it, he could finally turn the corner and let his steak match his sizzle. But right now, that is patently not the case.

      Overall


    85/100

    Oakman's upside will tempt some NFL team into making him a first-round draft pick. That's not necessarily a bad thing—at some point, he might look like a steal—but whichever team selects him will be taking a massive risk. He's a can't-miss prospect on paper but an easy-to-miss prospect on tape. Will he ever make the most of his talent?

15. Dean Lowry, Northwestern

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "Lowry is a great athlete playing along the defensive line. I love watching him play against the run, both to and away, because he just outclasses offensive linemen with his athleticism."

    —Michael Felder

     

      Pass Rush


    41/50

    Dean Lowry is not a great pass-rusher. He posted three sacks and eight QB hurries in 12 games, although his impact does exceed those numbers. He's huge for a 4-3 defensive end (6'6", 290 lbs) and drew attention away from teammate Deonte Gibson, who led Northwestern with nine sacks. This is still not Lowry's strength, but he does find a way to contribute. 

      Run Defense


    37/40

    Speaking of Lowry's strength: It's run defense. He's one of the best in college football. His size and athleticism make him an outlier in a 4-3 defense. He tortured Big Ten blockers with his transfer of speed to power, finishing the regular season with 46 tackles and 10.5 non-sack tackles for loss.

      Motor


    8/10

    Lowry works hard and sets the tone for Northwestern's front four. The Wildcats finished No. 19 in adjusted line yards, per Football Outsiders, so that's a strong group to set the tone for. His huge game against Nebraska, when he posted 10 tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks in a 30-28 road win, remains one of the best efforts of the season.

      Overall


    86/100

    On the surface, the Northwestern defense seems like a group of overachievers—a unit where the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. But Lowry is one of four Wildcats defenders to make this list, and a couple more could have joined them. The defense that shut down Stanford in the season opener, holding the Cardinal to six points and 3.87 yards per play, had more than just the time zone working in its favor. It had athletes such as Lowry putting in work.

14. Drew Ott, Iowa

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "He reminds me of [Green Bay Packers lineman] Mike Daniels when he was at Iowa. He doesn't quite fit all the numbers you want from a down lineman, but gosh, he just makes so many plays."  

    —Matt Miller

     

      Pass Rush


    43/50

    Prior to a season-ending injury, Drew Ott posted five sacks in six games. More than that, those sacks went for an average of minus-10 yards, which means they were all, for the most part, total drive-killers. Although he's not a speed rusher, Ott moves well for a player his size (6'4", 272 lbs) and often requires multiple blockers. Iowa missed him badly when he departed.  

      Run Defense


    34/40

    Ott is an active run defender, although he moved into more of a passive role this season. After posting 50 tackles as a sophomore and 57 as a junior, he was on pace for fewer than 30 as a senior. Regardless, he's a beast in passive run support, setting the edge to funnel runs inside or sealing gaps to open space for his linebackers.   

      Motor


    9/10

    Ott is a borderline crazy man. He proved as much at Big Ten media days, when he explained his preference for eating raw eggs with the shell on. That anecdote has nothing to do with football—or so you think!—but seems fitting to post in this section. Ott plays like the type of lunatic who eats raw eggs with the shell on (and that's a good thing).  

      Overall


    86/100

    If you think Iowa enjoyed a "dream season," consider that it lost its best player—or at the very least one of its best players—in the second game of conference play. Ott was off to the best start of his career before tearing his ACL against Illinois, and his absence, while plastered over, was never quite fixed. Considering Iowa's margin of defeat against Michigan State, it's tempting to think what might have been. But for Hawkeyes fans, it's probably easier not to.

13. Derek Barnett, Tennessee

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "Very quietly, he's come close to matching his 2014 campaign. He's been really consistent for a defense that's needed him and emerged as a leader. Getting him back for another year will help Tennessee's young pieces grow next season." 

    —Barrett Sallee

     

      Pass Rush


    44/50

    Derek Barnett came on strong at the end of the season, looking more like the breakout freshman who posted 10 sacks than the slumping sophomore who posted one sack in his first five games. He had eight sacks in his final seven games, including six during Tennessee's regular-season-ending five-game winning streak. He has great burst for a player with decent size (6'3", 257 lbs).

      Run Defense


    35/40

    If Barnett took a step back in any area, it was probably run defense. He still played well, but his non-sack tackles for loss dropped from 10.5 as a freshman to 2.5 as a sophomore. He's not enough of a space-eater to lose the part of his game where he forces negative plays. This is still not an area of weakness, but it's where he stands to improve. 

      Motor


    8/10

    Barnett plays hard and sets the tone for a young, scrappy defense. His leadership-by-example is instrumental for a line with so many freshmen. Defensive tackles Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie will benefit greatly from Barnett's return next season. When your star plays with a high motor, so too will your role players.

      Overall


    87/100

    Although his grade dropped from a preseason 89 to a postseason 87, Barnett is still one of the nation's best underclassmen. His early-season slump was disconcerting, but he came on strong in the back half and looked more like last year's breakout freshman. His all-around skill set and pass-rushing acumen make him a player offenses have to account for. He's one of many things Tennessee fans will feel good about this offseason.

12. Carl Nassib, Penn State

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "I don't think he'll be a great NFL guy because of his lower body; he doesn't bend very well. But he's a heck of a college player. He reminds of Margus Hunt at SMU." 

    —Matt Miller

     

      Pass Rush


    46/50

    Carl Nassib led the FBS with 15.5 sacks this regular season. No other player had more than 13. On top of that, Nassib missed most of the last two games with an injury, playing only four total snaps against Michigan and Michigan State. So he outpaced the field by even more than the numbers suggest. 

      Run Defense


    33/40

    Although he doesn't struggle in run defense, Nassib still has room for improvement. It is clearly the weaker of his two defensive phases. He often plays straight up and generates little power from his lower body. He has the size and frame (6'7", 272 lbs) to be better against the run than he is.

      Motor


    9/10

    Cliche as it sounds, Nassib plays with a walk-on attitude. He's transformed his body in the weight room and brings that same energy and commitment to the field. Despite his aforementioned lack of flexibility, he finds ways to bend the edge into the pocket. His motor could power a cruise liner.  

      Overall


    88/100

    Nassib won the Ted Hendricks Award as the best defensive end in college football. This list is a little less bullish on him, but it's hard not to be impressed with his performance. Prior to this season, he had never been a starter—not even in high school. Now he's an All-America candidate. 

11. Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

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    Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "I like him. I don't know where the heck he'll play in the NFL, but I love that you can line him up anywhere. He'll play defensive end, he'll play defensive tackle—he doesn't care. He just wants to play."

    —Matt Miller

     

      Pass Rush


    43/50

    Sheldon Rankins doesn't look like a pass-rusher. He sports a hefty, defensive tackle-type frame (6'2", 303 lbs) and seems as if he wouldn't have any burst. But flick on the tape, and you'll see why Louisville plays him at end and why ACC teams have so much trouble with him. He transfers speed to power and gets after the quarterback often. 

      Run Defense


    37/40

    As a pass-rusher, Rankins is better than he looks. As a run defender, he's exactly as good as he looks—but that's a good thing. He's a tank on the edge for offensive tackles used to blocking pure speed rushers. And because he's so stocky and powerful, he can win with leverage and move blockers wherever he wants. 

      Motor


    8/10

    Like the rest of the Louisville defense, Rankins plays with a chip on his shoulder. He knows his offense struggles and that it needs the defense to dominate to win. That didn't always happen this season, when the Cardinals regressed to 7-5, but the defense, for the most part, held its own. Rankins and his peers still carried the load.

      Overall


    88/100

    Everyone I know who has closely watched Rankins thinks highly of him. He's an easy player to root for: an oversized end with deceptive athleticism and a mean streak. Even in a down year for Louisville, he posted strong tape and finished with six sacks and 12 tackles for loss. He'll leave behind a void when he graduates this offseason.

10. Jarran Reed, Alabama

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "He's labeled as a space-eater, but that's not really what he is. He's more of a guy who can move around the defensive line, and that's what makes Alabama so special. He's made himself some money coming back [for his senior season]."

    —Barrett Sallee

     

      Pass Rush


    42/50

    Jarran Reed is not a high-volume pass-rusher. He posted only one sack this regular season, and that sack came against Louisiana-Monroe. However, he makes an impact in the passing game by occupying blockers, driving them off their lines and freeing up space for his teammates. Alabama finished No. 2 in the country in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders, and getting there was a consummate team effort.

      Run Defense


    38/40

    Alabama also finished No. 3 in the country in adjusted line yards, per Football Outsiders—and on that front, Reed was even more responsible. His size (6'4", 313 lbs) is simply too much for exterior linemen to handle. He's such a gifted athlete that playing him outside is not playing out of position. That makes him a matchup nightmare for just about everyone he faces.

      Motor


    9/10

    The scariest thing about Alabama's defensive line—and there's a lot to be scared of—is how hard everyone plays. Not content with being great athletes, the Tide imagine a chip on their shoulder and play with it. Reed is at the center of most of that, helping nose guard A'Shawn Robinson set the tone for the nation's best position group. He's big, quick and angry.  

      Overall


    89/100

    The stats don't reflect it, but Reed is one of Alabama's best players. His impact against the run can be seen in his 53 tackles, but that same impact is undersold by his 3.5 non-sack tackles for loss. Against Ole Miss, for example, he recorded five tackles and zero tackles for loss—but all five of those tackles went for no gain. He's a monster at the line of scrimmage. 

9. Shaq Lawson, Clemson

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "He just gets loose. I don't think he's this great athlete, but he just always gets it done. My comparison for him is [Carolina Panthers defensive end] Kony Ealy—and that's meant as a compliment."

    —Matt Miller

     

      Pass Rush


    44/50

    Shaq Lawson isn't Vic Beasley, but he's pretty much the next-best thing. He posted 9.5 sacks in 13 games, including six in the second half of the season. Although he's not the fastest player, he has great size (6'3", 270 lbs) and an even greater work rate. He forces opposing tackles to match his power.  

      Run Defense


    37/40

    This is where Lawson excels. His burst off the edge makes him close to unblockable, especially when combined with his bull rush. He led the country with 22.5 tackles for loss before bowl games, exceeding everyone else by at three TFL. Clemson also ranked No. 4 in adjusted line yards, per Football Outsiders, so it's not as if his stats ring hollow. 

      Motor


    9/10

    Even more than power, motor might be Lawson's best quality. He's an Energizer Bunny who just keeps going until the whistle. He fires off the line and tracks the ball like a heat-seeking missile. He's the heartbeat of the Clemson defense.

      Overall


    90/100

    Clemson lost a ton of production from last year's defensive line. Beasley and seniors Grady Jarrett, DeShawn Williams, Corey Crawford and Tavaris Barnes all departed. Lawson was the main key returnee, and the fate of Clemson's season rested on how he and the young guys would develop. Suffice it to say they've done well.

8. Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "Speed is the name of Calhoun's game as he uses his quickness off the ball and pure speed to get around the edge of tackles. While his future may be as a stand-up OLB in a 3-4, at Michigan State he has handled playing hands-down DE very well."

    —Michael Felder

     

      Pass Rush


    46/50

    Shilique Calhoun is a nightmare for offensive tackles. He was built in a lab to rush quarterbacks, possessing long arms on an NFL frame (6'5", 250 lbs) and enough speed to play standing up. He's that classic sort of 'tweener who can play 4-3 end or 3-4 outside linebacker. Michigan State lets him play with his hand down, and he's rewarded it with 26 sacks in three years. 

      Run Defense


    36/40

    Calhoun lacks the size of previous (and even current) Michigan State ends. But what he lacks in girth and gap-plugging, he makes up for in quickness and savvy. He's a hand-to-hand technician who can sidestep blockers, free himself and make plays near the line or in the backfield. In addition to those 26 sacks, he's posted 15 non-sack tackles for loss the past three seasons.

      Motor


    8/10

    You'd like to see someone with Calhoun's physical upside show up more often. He plays well on big stages, most notably in the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa, but is also sometimes quiet for weeks at a time. It's unclear if that has to do with "motor," but it's a bad look any way you swing it. He's shown he can play with fire; he just needs to strike the match every Saturday.    

      Overall


    90/100

    Calhoun is the face of the Michigan State defense and has been since breaking out two years ago. He wasn't the best player on the "No Fly Zone" unit—that would be defensive back Darqueze Dennard—but he did play a key role in leading MSU to a Rose Bowl win. This year, he has led it to even greater heights: a spot in the College Football Playoff. The breadth of his career has made him a legend in East Lansing.

7. Jonathan Allen, Alabama

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    Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "He's the first stud defensive end in Alabama's new-look system. He's a guy with great speed who can go east-west—the first in a new wave of guys [head coach] Nick Saban wants who can help Alabama defend exotic offenses." 

    —Barrett Sallee

     

      Pass Rush


    45/50

    Jonathan Allen led Alabama with 10 sacks this regular season—the most by an Alabama player since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. His production came in spurts, but those spurts came against quality competition: two sacks against Wisconsin, two against Texas A&M and three against Mississippi State. His length (6'3", 283 lbs) and speed make him a nightmare for pass-blocking tackles.

      Run Defense


    37/40

    Allen is an Alabama lineman, which is to say he dominates on the ground. He's the pass-rusher among Alabama's three starters, but he's good enough against the run to start instead of entering on passing downs. His frame is a little light for a 3-4 end, but his functional strength and slipperiness make up for that.

      Motor


    8/10

    Allen works hard most downs and refuses to give up on plays. The shining example of his motor took place two years ago, when he chased down Auburn running back Tre Mason, a future Heisman finalist, from behind in the open field. Reminder: This guy is 6'3", 283 pounds!

      Overall


    90/100

    Allen is one of three Alabama defensive linemen ranked in our Top 60. The unit has been that good. Together with Jarran Reed, he gives the Tide two bookend linemen with long NFL futures ahead of them. Combine that with nose guard A'Shawn Robinson, and this is easily college football's best unit.

6. Charles Harris, Missouri

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "People don't talk about him enough. He's so aggressive and so consistent for a team with so much roster turnover up front. Even though Mizzou went 5-7, that defense was pretty awesome."

    —Barrett Sallee

     

      Pass Rush


    44/50

    Charles Harris is not his predecessors. He doesn't rush the passer as well as Shane Ray, Markus Golden, Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. But it's not as if he struggles to rush the quarterback, having logged seven sacks and 10 QB hurries this season. His most impressive tool is his hand usage.   

      Run Defense


    37/40

    On the ground, Harris dominates. Missouri ranked No. 6 in the country in stuff rate, per Football Outsiders, and Harris was a big reason why. He posted 11.5 non-sack tackles for loss and made his presence felt down after down. He's built like a speed rusher (6'3", 235 lbs) but disengages so well from blockers that he rarely gets tied up or pancaked.       

      Motor


    9/10

    Harris plays with the maniac quality that typifies so many great defenders. His style could be defined as "controlled chaos," which is just how defensive coordinator-turned-head coach Barry Odom wants his linemen to play. Watching Harris fire off the ball or explode through a spin move forces defenses to account for him every snap. 

      Overall


    90/100

    Missouri was a train wreck on offense this season, but Harris and the defense made the Tigers a team opponents feared playing. He's the latest in a long line of great Missouri defensive ends, having learned under the four players listed earlier. He's only a redshirt sophomore, too, which means he might return next season. If he does, he will be an All-America favorite.

5. Jonathan Bullard, Florida

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "Florida needed someone to step up and say, 'This is my defensive line. My defensive front. I'm owning it,' and Bullard did that. That allowed [defensive coordinator] Geoff Collins to get creative with how he used his pieces." 

    —Barrett Sallee

     

      Pass Rush


    43/50

    Jonathan Bullard is not a natural pass-rusher. He struggled before this season but committed himself to improving as a senior. The results were immediately encouraging: After posting 2.5 sacks as a junior, he accumulated three in his first three games and 6.5 total in 2015. He won't beat many tackles off the edge, but he can get into the backfield with power. 

      Run Defense


    39/40

    Speaking of Bullard's power: It's insane. He's built like a defensive tackle (6'3", 283 lbs), which makes him too much for most tackles to handle. He drives blockers off their anchors and plugs gaps on almost every single rushing play, but he also has sneaky quickness to disrupt behind the line of scrimmage. His 11 non-sack tackles for loss set the tone for Florida's run defense.   

      Motor


    9/10

    Bullard attacks the offense like a bull in a china shop. He's in great shape for a player his size, which allows him to maintain energy and mount pressure on opposing linemen. He also played his tail off against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, posting eight tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. That's nice to see from a lineman on such a big stage.

      Overall


    91/100

    After losing Dante Fowler Jr. to the NFL draft last offseason, Florida needed a new star to emerge. Bullard came to the rescue, emerged as a leader and played like an All-American. Even when Florida's offense failed to produce, Bullard and the defense kept things close. He might be the nation's best run-stopper. 

4. Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "This kid is strong, and he is quick, both of which help him get to the quarterback. He is still working out his technique and consistency, but when he's on, he's as disruptive as anyone in the country."

    —Michael Felder

     

      Pass Rush


    47/50

    Emmanuel Ogbah led the Big 12 with 13 sacks this season. He finished second in the conference with 11 sacks last season, giving him 24 sacks in two years. Those numbers reflect what Ogbah shows on tape: an explosive first step and the ability to keep tackles off balance. He's scary when he gets "that look" in his eyes.     

      Run Defense


    36/40

    Ogbah has improved in run support, progressing to the point where it is more of a strength than a weakness. He's stocky but chiseled (6'4", 275 lbs) and able to drive defenders back and set the edge. He's also able to knife through small holes and make tackles in the backfield. The only thing he lacks is a consistent willingness to plug interior holes. He needs to do more for his linebackers.  

      Motor


    8/10

    Ogbah shows great flashes but doesn't always sustain them. He earns this grade because those flashes are remarkable—again, we'll refer to "that look"—but every once in a while, he disappears. Bellicose linemen who initiate the action can slow him. Based on Ogbah's ceiling, that should never be the case. 

      Overall


    91/100

    Oklahoma State did not have a playoff-quality defense. The only thing keeping it afloat, and the main reason it stayed alive so long in the playoff race, was its star defensive end. Ogbah broke out at the start of last season with a pair of sacks against Florida State. When he reaches the level he showed against Jameis Winston—which he has more often than he hasn't—he's one of the best defensive players in America.

3. DeForest Buckner, Oregon

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    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "Perfect 3-4 defensive end. He locks up blockers, gets out to the quarterback, and he's selfless. He'll do anything that's asked of him, and I love that."

    —Matt Miller

     

      Pass Rush


    46/50

    DeForest Buckner is the best interior pass-rusher in America. He technically plays end but has the size (6'7", 300 lbs) and strength of a tackle, which puts offensive linemen into lose-lose scenarios. No matter which direction they force him, he has the brute force and technique to knock them back. He collapses the pocket from all directions and posted 9.5 sacks in 12 games.  

      Run Defense


    37/40

    Buckner is productive for a big guy. Five-technique ends are supposed to do the little things that don't show up on the box score, but Buckner posted 81 tackles in 2014 and 76 tackles in 2015. He does that in addition to the little things: occupying blockers, clogging gaps and freeing up teammates to make plays. All things told, he's a beast against the run.

      Motor


    8/10

    Buckner works hard and takes no prisoners. He was always held in contrast to former teammate Arik Armstead, a first-round NFL draft pick in 2015, who has similar tools and upside but only sometimes showed up ready to play. Buckner's mental makeup is on par with his physical dominance. That's what makes him such a special player. 

      Overall


    91/100

    If not for Oregon's leaky back seven, which weighs down the Ducks' defensive numbers, Buckner would have earned more attention. He's improved each year in Eugene, which is scary considering how well he played before 2015. He's a likely top-15 draft pick who deserves to be considered for All-America teams. 

2. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "He's sort of received the [Jadeveon] Clowney treatment. Teams have run plays away from him, and as a result, his teammate Daeshon Hall has had a monster season. But still, this guy is a freak."

    —Barrett Sallee

     

      Pass Rush


    47/50

    Myles Garrett is a terrifying pass-rusher. He fires off the ball as if shot from a cannon and has speed to turn the corner on anyone. He also has the size (6'5", 262 lbs) and length to evade a blocker who gets a hand on him. His 11.5 sacks in 2014 were a SEC freshman record, and he matched that total as a sophomore.

      Run Defense


    36/40

    Coming out of high school, Garrett was billed as a college-ready pass-rusher who needed work against the run. That first part has proved true, but that second part undersold him. Garrett has worked his tail off to improve against the run, where he competes on every down and uses his frame to impact all facets of support. He's still a better pass-rusher than run defender, but the distinction between those skills has grown blurry.

      Motor


    8/10

    Garrett sets the tone for a defense that sorely needs tone-setting. Despite his lofty recruiting pedigree—only Leonard Fournette ranked higher on 247Sports' composite rankings—he's willing to do the dirty work all game. His only real demerit is when he posts most of his numbers. He feasts on nonconference opponents and fades, at times, during SEC action, which shines a curious light on his motor.

      Overall


    91/100

    It hasn't always translated to team success, but Garrett has been a monster in College Station. He has exceeded the hype by a comfortable margin. The only real challenge left for him is to prove he can play for a conference title contender. In that regard, his career feels a lot like that of Vernon Hargreaves III at Florida. Hopefully, his junior season goes as well.

1. Joey Bosa, Ohio State

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

      B/R Expert Scouting

    "He's the ultimate three-down player. Strength, agility, he's long, he knows how to use his hands, he knows how to attack and counter. There's nothing he can't do."

    —Matt Miller

     

      Pass Rush


    46/50

    The key to Ohio State's pass rush is how opponents block Joey Bosa. He is always accounted for and frequently double-teamed, which frees up Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard and Adolphus Washington to make plays. So while Bosa posted only five sacks this season, he was still among the nation's top pass-rushers. He just sometimes played an indirect role.

      Run Defense


    38/40

    A quintessential 7-technique with NFL size (6'6", 275 lbs) and strength, Bosa dominates in all facets of run defense. He could hold his own in a 3-4 defense if necessary, but playing in Ohio State's 4-3, with two defensive tackles clogging space beside him, makes him close to unblockable. He can power his man into the backfield or dart past him for a tackle for loss. He had 11 non-sack TFLs this season.

      Motor


    9/10

    Bosa has a nonstop motor and plays with a childlike energy. It's rare for an athlete this talented—and make no mistake, he's a freak—to play with such a chip on his shoulder, like he's trying to prove people wrong. He sets the tone for everything the Buckeyes do.

      Overall


    93/100

    Bosa posted fine numbers this season, but "fine" greatly undersells his impact. Pro Football Focus, which graded him as the second-best player in college football, recorded 21 QB hits and 41 QB hurries to go with his more "traditional" stats. Considering he missed the Virginia Tech game on suspension, those numbers are off the charts. Come to think of it, everything Bosa does is off the charts.