Who's the Best Defensive End in the 2010 NFL Draft?

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IApril 11, 2010

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 21:  Brandon Graham #55 of the Michigan Wolverines moves to blocks during the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on November 21, 2009 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ohio State won the game 21-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

That’s the question that a lot of people are asking right now as there are several available but it seems that each week the experts flip-flop who they feel will end up being the first defensive end taken in the 2010 NFL Draft. 

Keep in mind, there are two different types of defensive ends.  There is the standard defensive end, a guy who can play in a 4-3 defense and rush the passer on a regular basis and then there are your 3-4 defensive end/linebacker combination players that can not only rush the passer, but play the outside linebacker position as well.

So which players coming in to the 2010 NFL Draft are the best defensive end prospects?  Which ones may end up being true ends and what players will end up being a 3-4 outside linebacker?

Let’s take a quick look at four players considered to be at the top of the 2010 NFL Draft class (for defensive ends) and find out which one is the best and may get drafted first.

Derrick Morgan

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Morgan, out of Georgia Tech, has seen his stock fluctuate a lot in the last month, thanks to some less than stellar performances for scouts, but he still may end up being the first defensive end taken in the 2010 NFL Draft. 

What he brings to the table is great size and strength with a solid first step and nice burst off the line.  He has good closing speed and gains good leverage. 

He is a high-motor player who plays hard on every snap and plays well against both the run and the pass.  He has good range and can play either right or left defensive end.

The downside to Morgan is that he wouldn’t be a good fit in a 3-4 scheme because he doesn’t have the skill, the build or coverage ability to play the outside linebacker position. 

He also needs to work on his hand better and get better at playing in space.  He could also learn how to disengage from blockers much better.

For teams that like 4-3 defensive ends, Morgan is the kind of player that they are looking for. 

He would be an ideal fit in any 4-3 defensive scheme and would have to be drafted by a team like that because he would be a liability at the outside linebacker position.

Sergio Kindle

Scouts are wavering on where Kindle will play when he gets into the NFL.  Some say that he will be an outstanding rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense, while others feel that he can be a natural defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. 

The positive attributes that Kindle has includes great athleticism to go along with great flexibility and plenty of room to grow. 

He moves from sideline to sideline very well and can drop back into coverage as needed.  Kindle also possesses great instincts and gets around the field very well.

On the downside, the biggest issue with Kindle is his inconsistency.  On one play he can be outstanding and on another he can totally disappear. 

He also needs to develop a better repertoire of pass rushing moves especially against the bigger linemen he will face in the NFL. 

Kindle will, at times, struggle to get off of blocks as well and doesn’t play all out all of the time.  He could also play more consistently and play stronger.

Kindle may be much more of a 3-4 pass rushing linebacker than a regular 4-3 defensive end and with his ability to cover backs out of the backfield and drop into coverage as needed this may seal his fate as an outside linebacker. 

Scouts have a lot of questions about Kindle and aren’t quite sure if he has the desire to play and can stay out of trouble, but he is too good of a talent to pass up and so someone will take him in the first round.

Jason Pierre-Paul

Pierre-Paul is another player who scouts are either high on or they aren’t, and not too many people have an idea of where he might end up going in the 2010 NFL Draft.

For some upside, Pierre-Paul has great power, solid quickness off the line, good size, great hands and some decent pass rushing moves. 

He moves well up and down the field as well as laterally and is very athletic.  Pierre-Paul also has great speed and can play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense.

The downside to Pierre-Paul is that he doesn’t play too well against the run and doesn’t play all out (or as aggressive) like some scouts would like to see. 

While Pierre-Paul has good fundamentals, he still needs to gain some experience rushing the passer and will learn a lot in the NFL.  He also needs to work on getting stronger and playing much more consistently.

Pierre-Paul is one of the “wonders” of this draft and is a player that could either be a huge star and a great find for some team or someone that never lives up to the hype and eventually fades away after some time. 

While it may not be seem as if Pierre-Paul has bust potential he is still somewhat of a risk but it will be very hard for a lot of teams to pass him up in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Brandon Graham

Graham’s star has been rising ever since the end of the 2009 college football season and there are many experts out there saying that he could easily go in the middle of the first round in this year’s NFL Draft. 

Graham has a lot of potential and could easily be one of the stars of this draft if he lands with the right team.

The upside to Graham is that he is a strong and intense player never letting up and never stopping when he’s in a game.  He has a set of pass rushing moves that are strong and can transfer over to the NFL with some decent success (early on).

He has played through injuries at times and is one of the tougher players in this draft.  He is fine in pursuit, can play in coverage situations as needed and has a lot of upside.  A great week of practice at the Senior Bowl really helped his draft stock.

The downside to Graham is that he might be restricted to being a 4-3 defensive end as he doesn’t have the ideal skill to play at outside linebacker. 

He is also not as good an athlete as some of the other players at the same position in this draft.  His speed isn’t as good as some of the others and he has shorter arms than scouts would like to see.

He also played on the ground a lot at Michigan and there are some who wonder if he will be able to play standing up in the NFL.

With Graham you have to take a look at his potential rather than what he hasn’t done recently.  If he lands with the right team, he will have a long and successful career but if he gets on with a team that uses a 3-4 defense, he could struggle.  As long as he gets in the right situation, Graham has the potential to be a star.

So who is the best?  When you compare these four players side by side looking for the best defensive end, you have to take Kindle out of the equation because he will most likely be considered a 3-4 outside linebacker. 

Morgan has run hot and cold at times and isn’t as impressive athletically as Pierre-Paul.  Graham has some work to do but has a lot of upside. 

So, perhaps the best defensive end in the draft is Pierre-Paul.  Paul has the athletic ability to play both the outside linebacker and defensive end and could easily have the best career out of all four of these guys.