2015 NFL Draft Rankings: 3-4 Defensive End

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The 2015 NFL season is officially over, so it’s time to ramp up the NFL draft coverage here at BGO. I will be ranking the top draft prospects and at every position over the next few months as well as updating my mock drafts every couple weeks. If you have any issues with my rankings, feel free to let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

I’ve split up last years defensive end category into 3-4 DE, 4-3 DEs, and 3-4 OLBs. Defensive end in a 3-4 is a vastly different position than DE in a 4-3 , it’s actually closer to a 4-3 DT, so I’ve separated the positions accordingly. To keep from repeating versatile players in multiple lists, I’ve placed them in what I think is their best position and usually mention something about their versatility to play other positions in the scouting report. Plenty of DTs can play DE in a 3-4, most DEs can slide inside to play DT on passing downs, and some 4-3 DEs can play OLB in a 3-4. It would make these lists too extensive to list all players in all three lists.

2015 NFL Draft Position Rankings:

DT | 3-4 DE | DE | 3-4 OLB | OLB | ILB | CB | SS | FS | C | OG | OT | TE | WR | RB | QB | FB | K | P | RT

2015 3-4 Defensive End Rankings:

1.) Arik Armstead, Oregon (6’7 | 296 | 4.97) 

Scouting report – Massive human who hasn’t played up to his immense physical potential in college, but has unlimited upside. A former 2-sport star at Oregon, Armstead quit basketball this season to focus on football and improved significantly. He is hard to move off the line of scrimmage and has the potential to be a force against the run at the next level as a 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT. Despite not putting up big tackle or sack numbers, Armstead’s combination of size, athleticism, power, and ridiculous wingspan make him an intriguing prospect with the ability to dominate and should get him drafted sometime in the first two rounds.

Projection: 1st-2nd round

2.) Mario Edwards Jr, Florida St (6’3 | 294 | 4.88)

Scouting report – Inconsistent player who has the talent to be one of the top defensive lineman in the draft, but hasn’t figured out how to use his elite strength and athleticism to dominate. Edwards flashes the strength to drive blockers into the backfield, the quickness to beat blockers off the snap, and the closing speed to chase down any QB, but none of those things happen as often as they should. Regardless of his sporadic play, Edwards’ upside will get him drafted no later than the 2nd round. He’s an ideal 5-tech DE and if he could ever put his considerable skills together he could be a force to be reckoned with.

Projection: 1st-2nd round.

3.) Preston Smith, Mississippi St (6’5 | 270 | 4.92)

Scouting report – Not flashy, but a solid defensive end prospect who can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 and be a good run stuffer with a half dozen sacks per year. Smith has very long arms, big hands, and the functional strength to hold the point of attack off the edge. He uses his long arms and powerful hands to control blockers at the line of scrimmage and can provide a pass rush, just not the explosive edge rushing that 4-3 teams covet. Smith also has shown the ability to move inside on passing downs and generate pressure up the middle. He was consistently impressive during Senior Bowl practices and is one of the safer day 2 picks in the draft.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round  

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

4.) Henry Anderson, Stanford (6’6 | 287 | 5.06)

Scouting report – Well-rounded 3-4 prospect who holds up well against the run while generating consistent pressure on the QB. Anderson is never going to lead the league in sacks, but he has the potential to get close to double-digit sacks, while playing the run well, and getting his hands up in passing lanes. A safe pick who at worst will be a rotational 5-tech, but has the potential to develop into a quality starter.

Projection: 3rd-4th round

5.) Cedric Reed, Texas (6’6 | 271 | 4.81)

Scouting report – Looks the part with NFL size and athleticism, but his production didn’t match up to his abilities during his senior year. Maybe he took his foot off the gas a little on a bad team to preserve his health for the NFL. Reed finished the year with just 5.5 sacks after a 10 sack, 17.5 TFL junior season.  Reed would have gone a round or two higher if he would have entered the draft last year, so a team could get a steal in the middle rounds. He was occasionally dominant as in his 3 sack, 12 tackle game against West Virginia, but too often was a non-factor. The size, strength, and talent is there for Reed to be a solid NFL player at either the 3-4 or 4-3 DE position, but he needs to answer questions about his motor and improve his pass rush technique. Reed is a high-upside mid round pick right now with the potential to develop into an all-around force at DE.

Projection: 3rd-4th round