NFL Draft – Defensive End Rankings

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL draft a little less than a month away, I thought it was about time I posted my position rankings. The Bears have far fewer holes than they did at the beginning of the off-season, so it’s feasible that they could really draft any position. You can see what positions I think they will target in my latest mock draft, but Emery has been very unpredictable in his short time running the Bears so your guess is probably as good as mine. Throughout the next month I will list my rankings at each position with some analysis of the players and occasional commentary on whether they would be a good fit for the Bears. If you think my rankings are way off or if I forgot anybody, let me know about it in the comments.

Positions: QB | RB | WR | TE | T | G | C | DT | DE | ILB | OLB | CB | SS | FS

DE Rankings:

1.) Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (6’5, 266): Clowney’s 2013 college season was a disappointment (3 sacks?), but his combination of size, explosiveness, and speed doesn’t come around very often. With some technique improvement, Clowney has all the tools to be a perennial double-digit sack guy wherever he lines up. Draft Projection: 1st round

2.) Kony Ealy, Missouri (6’5, 275): Despite showing elite athleticism on tape, his 40-time and bench press at the combine were mediocre. Where Ealy shined was the 3-cone drill, leading all DEs with a 6.83 time. To put it in perspective, LeSean McCoy, one of the quickest RBs in the NFL, ran a 6.82 in the 3-cone. Ealy is 6 inches taller and 70 pounds heavier than McCoy and basically did the 3-cone in the same time. That is ridiculous. In my opinion the 3-cone is a more relevant drill than the 40 yard dash for projecting defensive lineman. How often do they run straight for 40 yards? The 3-cone measures change of direction ability and short-area quickness, two important factors in beating blocks and getting to the QB. Ealy’s 3-cone time was the best for a DE since 2001 (Kyle Van Bosch) with J.J. Watt having the closest recent time (6.88). A couple of recent Phil Emery additions, DEs David Bass & Cheta Ozougwu, have two of the 10 fastest 3-cone times in the last few years, so Ealy’s elite time may have gotten Emery’s attention. Draft Projection: 1st round

3.) Dee Ford, Auburn, Auburn  (6’2, 243): One of the most explosive pass rushers in the draft. He has some nagging injury concerns that teams that teams will need to vet, he’s a DE/OLB tweener, and has little experience as a stand-up OLB, but he was practically unblockable at the Senior Bowl and could make an impact right away as a disruptive pass rusher from either the DE position or as an OLB in a 3-4. Draft Projection: 1st round

4.) Stephen Tuitt, Notre Dame (6’5, 304): His 2013 season was a disappointment, but he was recovering from a sports hernia. In 2012 Tuitt was a beast and would have been a top 15 pick if he could have entered the draft last year. Tuitt has prototype size for a DE, impressive strength, and polished pass rush moves. He could be a steal if he lasts till the 2nd round. Draft Projection: 1st-2nd round

5.) Scott Crighton, Oregon St (6’3, 273): Has good strength and an impressive burst to generate pressure off the edge. His pass rush technique needs some work but he has the tools to be a double-digit sack guy. Draft Projection: 2nd round

6.) Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech (6’3, 252): Showed plenty of potential as a pass rusher on tape and enough athleticism at the Senior Bowl to eventually play the 3-4 OLB position if needed. Short-term, Attaochu can provide value as a situational pass rusher and eventually become a 3-down player at either DE or OLB. He has a very quick first step and the natural ability to get to the QB. Attaochu ran a blistering 4.58 40-time at his pro day which pretty much insures he won’t make it out of the second round. Draft Projection: 2nd round