2015 NFL Draft Rankings: 4-3 Defensive Ends

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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 of 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 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 the versatile players in all three lists.

2015 NFL Draft Position Rankings:

Defense: DT | 3-4 DE | 4-3 DE | 3-4 OLB | OLB | ILB | CB | SS | FS

Offense: C | OG | OT | TE | WR | RB | QB | FB | K | P | RT

2015 Defensive End Rankings:

1.) Dante Fowler Jr, Florida  (6’2 | 261 | 4.78)

Scouting report – Dangerous pass rusher whose stats don’t reflect that impact he had on the Florida defense. Fowler only had 8.5 sacks on the season, but was a consistent presence in opposing backfields and would probably be among the FBS leaders in QB hurries if those numbers were readily available. Florida moved Fowler all over the field and that versatility will boost his draft stock. Fowler was a force against the pass, but really struggled vs the run. His aggressive QB pursuit often left him out of position on draws and play-action and made him basically a one dimensional player. Luckily for Fowler that one dimension is the most important one to NFL GMs. His elite athleticism, non-stop motor, and pass rush ability should get Fowler drafted in the top half of the first round.

Draft grade: 1st round

2.) Alvin Dupree, Kentucky (6’4 | 267 | 4.56)

Scouting report – Has all the tools to be a successful pass rusher in the NFL. Dupree has a quick burst off the line, long arms to maintain separation from O-lineman, good closing speed, the flexibility to lean off the edge, and a variety of pass rush moves. He’s one of the most underrated players in the draft in my opinion and would be a steal if he falls to the 2nd round.

Draft grade: 1st round

3.) Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA (6’4 | 266 | 4.62)

Scouting report – After missing most of 2013 with a hip injury, Odighizuwa came back with a vengeance in 2014. He only had 5 sacks on the season, but UCLA’s scheme had him mostly focused on run support as a 3-4 DE. When he was given a chance to rush the passer, Odighizuwa was a force to be reckoned with. He has very long arms, excellent speed for his size, and flashed raw but impressive pass rush moves. He was consistently disruptive against both the run and pass even if the stats don’t back it up. I think he has the physical tools to become an above average 4-3 DE and could be a steal on day 2.

Draft grade: 1st-2nd round

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

4.) Nate Orchard, Utah (6’3 | 255 | 4.80)

Scouting report – Came out of nowhere with 18.5 sacks for the Utes this season. Orchard is a former wide receiver who has elite change of direction ability, powerful hands, and a variety of pass rush moves. He’s technically sound with a solid understanding of the nuances of playing DE, but his main skill is the ability to get to the QB. Orchard has a very quick first-step and shows the relentless drive that has resulted in 2nd & 3rd effort sacks this year. Despite being undersized, Orchard has been solid against the run and consistently holds his ground against 300+ pound O-linemen. Some scouts see Orchard as an OLB in a 3-4, but he played OLB for Utah early in his college career and wasn’t anywhere near as effective. Orchard has said that he prefers playing with his hand on the ground and his production from the DE position backs it up. He should be able to step in right away and provide value as a pass rush specialist. With some added weight and strength Orchard could become a solid 3-down DE.

Draft grade: 2nd round

5.) Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington (6’3 | 250 | 4.74)

Scouting report – Finished 2nd in FBS with 18.5 sacks on the season. Kikaha uses an explosive first step, good bend around the edge, powerful hands, the ability to change direction without losing speed, and an above average closing burst to get to the QB. Kikaha is a tweener with ideal size for a 3-4 OLB, but he looked so stiff during the combine drills that he may be better off just focusing on being a 4-3 DE. He also has some injury concerns with two ACL injuries in college, but Kikaha has the potential to be a double-digit sack guy in the NFL.

Draft grade: 2nd round

6.) Za’Darius Smith, Kentucky (6’5 | 270 | 4.84)

Scouting report – Good size and a surprisingly quick burst off the line of scrimmage. Smith is very strong, with the ability to control blockers and disengage to stop the run, but is inconsistent with his contain and gap responsibilities. He’s only played football since his senior year of high school, so his technique is understandably raw. Smith is coming off a disappointing senior year production wise (4.5 sacks) but dominated the Shrine Bowl and made a good impression at the Senior Bowl as well to boost his draft stock into the day 2 range. He’s a prototype base end in a 4-3 with the potential to develop into a double-digit sack guy if he improves his technique.

Draft grade: 2nd-3rd round

7.) Marcus Golden, Missouri (6’2 | 255 | 4.90)

Scouting report – Tough player who gives max-effort and has good football instincts. He’s not an elite athlete or explosive off the line, but gets the job done with a combination of strength, pass rush moves, pursuit, and will. Golden is a bit of a tweener; I thought he had a chance to be a 3-4 OLB, but his 4.90 4o-time and stiff performance in the combine drills will limit him to DE in a 4-3 scheme. Golden is strong strong against the run, so it’s possible a 4-3 team drafts Golden and waits a year for him to add weight and get stronger. He was a good special teams player at Missouri which will give him additional value but his combine performance dropped him a round or two.

Draft grade: 3rd-4th round

8.) Trey Flowers, Arkansas (6’3 | 270 | 4.91)

Scouting report – Good size and long powerful arms that allow him to maintain separation from blockers. He’s not very explosive off the ball, but picks up speed quickly and should improve as a pass rusher once he adds a few rush moves. Flowers has been consistent, but hasn’t had more than 6 sacks in a season during his three years as a starter. He is pretty solid against the run with some pass rush ability and has potential to improve. Coming into the combine I thought Flowers was solidly in the 3rd round, but a 4.91 40-time and mediocre showing in the drills may limit him to a 4-3 base end and drop him a round.

Draft grade: 3rd-4th round