Top 10 Defensive Linemen in the NFL Draft

April 6, 2011 at 9:04 am Leave a comment

The defensive line is the strongest group in the 2011 NFL Draft. Most prognosticators have first round grades on all of the players listed below.  There could be a run at the end of the first round, as there seems to be each year, on defensive linemen. The following are my rankings, not projections. See also: Top Ten WRs &  Top Ten RBs.

1. Marcell Dareus: The more I watch of him, the more I like.  Versatile DT who aligned in many different positions along the DL at Alabama.  He is thirty pounds heavier than Fairley but his 10-yard split at the combine was faster. You might remember that it was Dareus who knocked Colt McCoy out of the BCS title game in 2009. Stout at the point of attack and strong lower body. You can’t help but to cheer for Dareus who lost his father at the age of 6 and declared early so that he could provide for his mother and 6 siblings.

2. Nick Fairley: He dominated in the SEC this past season, at times making it look too easy against tough competition. Fairley has outstanding quickness and a variety of pass rush moves, none more effective than the old fashion bullrush.  While some are concerned that Fairley plays a little dirty, I like DL who have that mean streak.  The problem GMs have with Fairley is he only produced at the major college level for one season. In addition, many DTs over the years have been busts. Nevertheless, he is a game-changer in the NFL.

3. Robert Quinn: Quinn is the number one pass rusher in the Draft despite not playing in a single game last season.  He didn’t play because he was involved with an agent (which tells you the kid made a bad decision and he’s very good).  His speed is phenomenal, headlined by a great burst off the line.  He plays low, has good rip and spin moves.  A possible small cause for concern is that he has a brain tumor (diagnosed in high school-told he wasn’t going to play again).

4. Adrian Clayborn: I really fell for Clayborn in 2009 as his strength in stopping the run and rushing the passer was a joy to watch.  He is a violent pass rusher, good with his hands and reasonable burst for a guy his size. His aggression can get the rest of him at times and he can over-pursue or get washed down the line. Not the biggest guy in the Draft.  Can split the double-team and strong tackler. Didn’t have a strong 2010 season.

5. Ryan Kerrigan: The former Purdue DE is rising up Draft Boards because he might be the safest pick among the second tier of the group.  He plays like a madman with a high motor, which is his greatest asset.  Great with hands, can shed blocks well although struggles in double teams. Had 12.5 sacks and 26 tackles for a loss in 2010.  Ran faster than expected at the combine.  Struggles a bit inside, needs more moves as he was able to rip & dip or bullrush much of the time.

6. Aldon Smith:Really quick off the ball and has violent hands.  Attributes quick hands to MMA training and boxing he has done in the past.  Explosive athlete. Can align and rush from multiple positions.  Needs to add bulk, potential to put on 20+ lbs. Showed his toughness in 2010 by missing only three games after fracturing his fibula. Certainly room to grow.

7. Cameron Jordan:  One of the highest “risers” in anticipation for the 2011 NFL Draft, he has put together some great workouts.  Jordan is going to become another NFL players from Cal.  Father was an NFL TE.  Can play in the 4-3 or 3-4.  Decent passing rushing moves and pass a good first step.  A little inconsistent and doesn’t play low enough considering his size (6’4 287).

8. Da’Quan Bowers: Great size and a very good pass rusher.  Finally lived up to potential in 2010 by recording 25 TFL and 15 sacks.  Bowers was a force for the Clemson Tigers but he never did anything great when I was watching a game. He is struggling his knee issues in the pre-Draft process and disappointed during his Pro Day. He plays too high and some have said he gives up on plays.

9. JJ Watt: Relentless competitor who has decent speed for a guy his size (4.8 for a guy 6’5).  Tendency to give up contain and misread plays. Has a mean streak. Can play 3-4 or 4-3. Not very experienced, former TE from Central Michigan.

10. Cameron Heyward: The son of former NFL fb Ironhead Heyward is a versatile and balanced defensive linemen.  For some reason there isn’t much buzz surrounding him, probably because it has been known for 2+ years that the kid would be a top prospect for the NFL. Stays low, good technique.   Inconsistencies in the big games might keep him out of the first round.


The Next Ten

  • Muhammad Wilkerson
  • Corey Liuget
  • Phil Taylor
  • Stephen Paea
  • Jabaal Sheard
  • Christain Ballard
  • Marvin Austin
  • Allen Bailey
  • Kenrick Ellis
  • Drake Nevis

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