2010 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Linemen
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Similar to the defensive backs in this class, there’s not a whole lot here by way of pass rushers: you can check out LiveBall’s linebackers rankings for more evidence of this point. Fortunately, the quality and depth of the defensive tackles in this class really, really saves the class quality. If you take either Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy out of this draft, it’s a merely average class, and without the both of them, it’s well below the average.
Still, despite the fact that I’m giving it an above average class grade, there is a lot more bust potential here than pundits are giving it credit for. I’d go as far as saying that the achilles heel of this class is at the DL positions. I’ll also say that it must rock to be Detroit or Tampa Bay, as they are getting two of the surest tackles in recent memory, and are leaving the scraps for the rest of the teams in this class.
Class Strength: Above Average
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska As sure of a thing as McCoy is compared to the rest of the tackles class, Suh is that much more of a sure thing, and on top of everything else, he’s scheme neutral. The best comparable I can think of is Haloti Ngata, but could be THAT good in either a 4-3 or a 3-4. He wouldn’t be a no.1 overall type player every year, but this draft lacks a clear cut no. 1 guy, so Suh gets the nod as best player on my big board.
2. Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma It looks like he’s going to be pidgeonholed into playing a three technique his whole career, but hey, if everything goes right, he’s Kevin Williams. If something goes wrong, he’s still probably Tommie Harris. McCoy is more of a pass rusher than people give him credit for, and there are reasons to take him over the more dominant Suh. At the end of the day, he’s just a very good no. 2 DT in this class.
3. Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State Could play any position on the 3-4 DL, plus both tackle positions in the 4-3. Odrick should be a fringe top ten pick, but because of the quality of tackles at the top of this draft, he’s a fringe top 20 pick. Still, teams anywhere in the first round would be lucky to land a player of his caliber, and though he’s not bust proof, he should have every opportunity to establish himself as a pro bowler.
4. Dan Williams, NT, Tennessee Nose tackle is a thankless job in the NFL…except during the draft when the position is rewarded with inflated draft value and sizable contract dollars to boot. Williams does the nose thing better than anyone in this class: he’s the only nose who figures to be a Jamal Williams styled pass rusher in the draft.
5. Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan Graham reminds me of Andre Carter: he’s going to be a tough match-up for any tackle at the next level. The problem comes if that’s all he ever is: a difficult matchup who never does better than 6 or 7 sacks in a season. You know, Carter turned out pretty alright, and Graham has the advantage of being able to play 3-4 OLB, something that Carter never mastered.
6. Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech Morgan was featured the the Georgia Tech defense the last two years, and earns from me a solid first round grade, and an asterisk for the amount of risk this pick comes with. I’m quite confident that teams who take the first five guys on this list will get the player they think they are getting. With Morgan, I think his production in college might be a bit deceptive. I would wait until I’m out of the big money spots before picking Morgan, to hedge against the risk.
7. Everson Griffen, DE, USC I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more dominant player on tape than Everson Griffen, but then again, if I have, I’m sure he played for USC as well. Once you understand that dominating college quality tackles isn’t the same as matching up against the best the NFL has to offer, I think my use of that high praise for Griffen isn’t inconsistent with this ranking. Lawrence Jackson played the exact same position that Griffen did in Pete Carroll’s defense before Griffen rose to starting level, and he had a very high grade from me, and here we are: trying hard not to overrate every USC player.
8. Tyson Alualu, DL, Cal Alualu actually played 3-4 end in college. Mike Mayock, who loves him even more than I do, suggests that his best position at the next level might not even be in the 3-4, and he’s probably right. This is a tough projection, and due to it’s difficulty, I am not suggesting that Tyson Alualu will be a dominant interior player in the NFL. His worst case scenario looks something like Cory Redding, so with that kind of upside, this is a really nice value pick early in the second round.
9. Corey Wooton, DE, Northwestern Wooten is a player I love way more than anyone else does, in no small part thanks to my miswestern/Chicagoan roots. That just means I get to see him a lot. He does the flashy things on the field for NU, where pretty much no one without the Big Ten Network gets to see him. Add to that the fact that his skill set should make a great transition inside to 3-4 DE, and you have probably the third or fourth best 3-4 lineman in the draft after Suh, Williams, and Odrick.
10. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, DE, Washington I think Te’o-Nesheim is a mid second round value with the potential to be an excellent every down 4-3 rush end at the next level, and even a household name in the NFL a few years down the line. Let’s be honest about that: he’s going to have to meet us halfway if he ever wants to be a household name.
11. Torrell Troup, NT, UCF Troup is an athletic nose that takes up a ton of space, perhaps not really a threat to be a 4 or 5 sack guy from the nose position, but valuable in the middle of a defense (even as a 4-3 nose). He’d be a first round pick if his base was just a little stronger, right now though, he’s a second or third.
12. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida At some point in the second round when I’m predicting Dunlap is still on the board, some team is going to be able to get value on this selection if they can handle the character concerns. I do not know if I would say he has a first round skill set, but he has first round production in college. Can his sack production translate? I think: well enough to make a day-two selection worthwhile.
One of the things I’m really itching to see in the draft is if teams really like Dunlap. The primary television draftniks are universally low on him, with only Mel Kiper showing faith in him as a first round talent. We’ll see how teams feel about a guy who was thought to be a top ten pick when he left early for the draft.
13. Lamarr Houston, DT, Texas He, if not the guy to follow on this list, could be the value pick of the draft among defensive lineman. They both figure to make it through to the second or even the third round because of limited demand for 4-3 tackles: if Detroit and Tampa Bay both take one in the first five picks, that’s about 1/6 of teams with needs at the position who are set for the draft. So as they fall, teams could be on their third or fourth choice of the draft before they choose these two guys with a second round skill set.
14. Brian Price, DT, UCLA Price doesn’t quite measure up to the guys at the top of the draft, but that shouldn’t distract from a skill set that is largely consistent with guys picked in the first round of the draft. He can be a sack artist from the interior, and those guys are usually gone by pick 50. There’s reason to believe that Price will last longer than this on draft day.
15. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, USF I’m not nearly as timid on Pierre-Paul as the guys over at Football Outsiders are, but I’m just not seeing a way that a team can get value on this pick. Normally, my advice towards drafting the kind of player Pierre-Paul is would be: wait until the money value comes down, but as long as execs see him as one of the better pass rushers in this draft, particularly as a better pass rusher than Carlos Dunlap, he’s going to be infamously overprojected. I do like Pierre-Paul’s freakish athleticism at the DE position on the football field, but he doesn’t compare well to the big sack guys, and he’s got almost no potential of becoming a pro bowl performer in the NFL. I want to go on the record saying that I believe he can be a seven or eight year starter, but probably will get bounced from his first job due to limited sack production — which was never promised or even suggested.
I’m not even saying he’s not worth a first rounder in some defenses. Just that someone is going to pay draft value and money for sacks, and they are going to be disappointed. They should be disappointed in themselves.
16. Alex Carrington, DE, Arkansas State His one flaw might be his durability: who knows if his legs can hold up in the pros after playing his college ball in the Sun Belt? He’s a fantastic run defender and a strong pass rusher, and the composition of these skills suggests he has mid to late second round value.
17. Terrence Cody, NT Alabama Cody is a late second round value. He’s got one skill (you can’t move him), and as such is probably a one down player. Luckily for his career, that down is first down, and that makes him an NFL “starter”, which will make his career look a lot better on paper. I believe he’ll probably end up with a 3-4 team, but as a space eater, he’s just as valuable for a 4-3 team as he is in the 3-4. He’s a bit player.
18. Cam Thomas, NT, North Carolina Thomas is more of a traditional two down defensive nose tackle, but he played moveable in the 4-3, so I do doubt his ability to transition to the 3-4 and be a dominant nose. If your team needs someone who could play it, at the very least, you know he has the build to do the job.
19. C.J. Wilson, DE, East Carolina Another excellent 3-4 DE option in this draft, though in Wilson’s case, he might be able to play LE in the 4-3, and if he chooses to shave some pounds off his frame, he could probably even kick outside and be a pass rusher. He’s a third round value, not too different than Jeremy Jarmon of Kentucky, picked with a third rounder by Washington in last year’s Supplemental draft.
20. Linval Joseph, DT, East Carolina A toolzy prospect who has some bad film at ECU, but he flashed the ability to dominate and has a size-speed combination that attracts the attention of executives and scouts alike. He’s not really all that dissimilar to Vince Wilfork coming out of college, except that he’s not so much built to be a nose tackle. Quietly, though, 4-3 interior players are in demand.
21. Jason Worilds, DE, Virginia Tech I have him as an undersized defensive lineman with a good first step, and many other see him as a 3-4 OLB, which I believe is a mistake. He’s a pass rush specialist, which is why he should have his hand in the dirt. The best positive comparable would be Elvis Dumerville, or fellow Hokie Darryl Tapp.
22. Greg Middleton, DE, Indiana The kind of player that this draft doesn’t seem to have any of is the prototypical 4-3 defensive end: a guy who can play the run and the pass well, is between 6’2″ and 6’4″, and anywhere between 258-273 lbs. Brandon Graham is this player. After that, it Te’o-Nesheim, and then a huge dropoff. That dropoff could push Middleton, who does everything pretty well, into the mid rounds on a lot of boards.