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2010 NFL Draft: Defensive Line Breakdown


2010 NFL Draft: Defensive Line Breakdown

By Lance Epstein

The NFL draft is only six days away. Each day leading up to the draft, I will breakdown one of the seven major positions on the field. Those positions are secondary, linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, wide receivers/tight ends, running backs/fullbacks and quarterback.

With each position, I will breakdown the best player at the position, two sleepers, a overrated player, a late-round gem, and the player(s) the Eagles should select.

Today's installment is the third part of the seven part series. I will be breaking down the defensive line position.

While defensive tackle is not the biggest need for the Eagles, they still could use an upgrade and some depth at the position. In the last game of the season against the Cowboys, the Eagles defensive tackles were manhandled and were pushed five yards back on almost every running play. One of the reasons is that they are undersized, so they need to get bigger on the front line.

Former first round pick Mike Patterson is a solid starter, but does not doing anything exceptionally well. Furthermore, he is not very good at getting to the quarterback and in fact he has been replaced on third down due to this problem. Of course, Patterson is still a good starter, but the Eagles probably will covet having a dominating force on the defensive tackle position.

Besides Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley is coming off an average season. He, like Patterson, does not sustain enough pressure on a consistent basis. However, Bunkley has the potential improve, so do not expect him to be going anywhere.

The biggest problem for the Eagles is the depth at the DT position. Trevor Laws was supposed to help in that area when he was drafted in the second round. Unfortunately, he appears to be a bust and saw little action towards end of the year as Antonio Dixon passed him on the depth chart.

At defensive end, Trent Cole is a stud at right defensive end, but the Eagles do not have another every down defensive end. Victor Abiamiri looks to be following in Laws' footsteps as being another Notre Dame product that is a second round bust. Juqua Parker, 32, is a good situational pass rusher and rotational player, but should not be starting.

As for the newly acquired Darryl Tapp, he is a question mark. In his rookie year, he exploded for 7.5 sacks, since then his numbers have dropped off. Additionally, he seems more like a third-down pass rushing specialist. That said, the Eagles think highly of him, so expect him to be the starting left defensive end.

Defensive End:

The Best: Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 266 lbs

Over the last two seasons with the Yellow Jackets, he has transformed into one of the best defensive players in college football. His unique size, athleticism and speed off the edge makes him a perfect fit in a 4-3 defense. While some teams think he can play OLB in a 3-4, he is at his best with his hand on the ground making a play. What makes Morgan the best DE in the draft is the way he uses his hands to shed blockers, has a nice repertoire of moves and his closing speed. The one area where he needs to improve is in the running game. Still, Morgan has the tools to be one of the best defensive ends in the NFL.

The Sleepers:

Corey Wootton, Northwestern, 6-6, 270 lbs

If Wootton did not suffer a torn ACL at the 2008 Alamo Bowl, he would have probably declared for the draft and been a first round pick. Unfortunately, his knee injury affected his draft stock and his production in 2009. This past season his numbers were down, but he still has the tools necessary to be a good prospect. Wootton utilizes his hands and long-arms to move blockers out of the way and get to the quarterback. Also, he is thrives in run support due to his size. In addition, Wooton plays with great instincts and toughness, which makes him a very good player. His injury makes him a red flag player, but he could be a steal in the third round.

Alex Carrington, Arkansas St. 6-5, 285 lbs

Even though Carrington went to a small school, he is the type of player that can make a huge impact at the next level. He has a rare combination of size, strength and speed, which enables him to be an every down player. Most scouts believe he is better suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4, but he has proven over his college career that he can be an affective 4-3 DE. One knock on him is that he does not get off blocks well and needs to improve his arm strength to shed blockers. Yet, if a team develops him right and gives him two seasons, he could be a very nice starter for a long-time.

Overrated:

Everson Griffen, USC, 6-3, 273

While Griffen is a workout warrior, he is not worth the risk. As a sophomore and junior, he was demoted from starter to the bench. In his senior season, he eventually became the starting defensive end for Pete Carroll. The strength in his game is being able to make a play at the point of attack especially in the running game. On the other hand, he does not play with good instinct, gets lost in space and is not an impact player as a pass rusher. Moreover, he does not have a high motor and has a problem with consistency.

Late-Round Gem:

Greg Hardy, Mississippi, 6-4, 281 lbs

Before the 2009 season, Hardy was the number one defensive end in the country. However, he had a horrible 2009 campaign and has seen his draft stock slip all the way to the fifth round. Certainly, some team could reach on him based on his potential, but teams seem to be really down on the once heralded DE. Hardy has great size, athleticism and strength to be a star. When Hardy shows up, he shows up in a big way but that is the big question mark following him. If he ever puts it all together, he could be the best DE in the entire draft.

Player(s) the Eagles Should Take:

Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida, 6-5, 270 lbs

One of the reasons that Pierre-Paul has become a fast riser is because of his great frame, athleticism and strength. He has great anticipation, quickness and speed of the end to be an excellent pass rusher. While he needs to improve against the run, his skill set and ceiling has been compared to Julius Peppers. At the next level, he will work on his technique and adding moves to his collection, but he has a much higher ceiling than any DE in this entire draft.

Brandon Graham, Michigan, 6-1, 270 lbs

Graham was the best player during the Senior Bowl and the practices. He was so good, that he dominated the game and won the MVP award. Most scouts believe he would be better fit for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he has the talent to play as a 4-3 DE as well. He is a thick, short defensive end with amazing athleticism. His initial burst reminds many of Indianapolis Colts' star Dwight Freeney. Additionally, his high motor and character makes him a guaranteed lock for the first round.

Ricky Sapp, Clemson, 6-4, 252

The question with Sapp is whether he is better suited to be in a 3-4 as an OLB or in a 4-3 as DE. Personally, he can do both because he has the athleticism and the potential to be an excellent pass rushing threat. He has nice size at 6-4, but will need to add bulk and strength if he expects to play DE in the NFL and stop the run. Sapp is one of the most competitive players in this draft, so teams know he will bust his tail to make it in this league.

Defensive Tackle:

The Best Ndamukong Suh, 6-5, 307 lbs

This is a very tough decision to name Suh as the best defensive tackle in this draft. Gerald McCoy is very close in talent and even some experts think he is the better prospect. However, go back and watch Suh on tape, he dominated and totally changed the game. He possesses rare size, strength and athleticism for a 307 pounder. Unlike McCoy, Suh can probably be just as good in a 4-3 as in a 3-4. A team that runs a 3-4 would be jumping up and down to get a nose tackle like Suh, who will dominate the game for the next decade. One word that has consistently described Suh is that he is unblockable. Watch the 2009 Holiday Bowl, where he manhandled the Arizona Wildcats even though he was being double-teamed.

The Sleepers:

Earl Mitchell, Arizona, 6-2, 294 lbs

As a two-year starter for the Wildcats, he became the defensive leader for the team and was constantly in the backfield wrecking havoc. Despite being undersized, he uses his athleticism, quick burst and stunts to get to the ball carrier and quarterback. Also, he understands angles very well and can take on double teams. Furthermore, he has the strength in his initial punch to push offensive lineman around. On the other hand, Mitchell is a bit of a project since he originally was a tight end, but if he is put in a 4-3 defense and is allowed to develop, he will be a steal. Interestingly, teams could use him on offense as well since he knows how to play on the offensive side of the ball.

Cam Thomas, North Carolina, 6-3, 330 lbs

Thomas might not be a high selection in this draft, but he has the physical tools to be a good starting caliber DT in the NFL. He has the ideal height and his thick frame allows him to take on multiple blockers. Besides his size, he uses good leverage to virtually make him impossible to move off the line of scrimmage. What makes him very intriguing for a team in the third or fourth round is that he is an effective bull rusher and fires off the ball.

Overrated:

Terrence Cody, Alabama, 6-4, 354 lbs

The man known as "Mt. Cody," has a massive body, which makes him an adequate run stuffer, but not much else. Cody is more likely to eat himself out of the league than be in the league for longer than 2-3 seasons. He does not seem dedicated to the game or keeping himself in good enough shape to not breakdown in the fourth quarter. If Cody could get himself on a good workout regiment, then he might be a decent player. The problem is that once he gets his money, his motivation might go out the window.

Late-Round Gem:

Jay Ross, East Carolina, 6-3, 313 lbs

Ross was a very productive three-year starter for East Carolina. He possesses great size and strength. While he does not have the athleticism scouts look for at defensive tackle, he understands how to use his low center of gravity and be an effective player against the run. Also, he recognizes plays from the start and has the strength to push lineman away to make a play in the backfield. With the right coaching, he could improve his pass rushing skills and be a solid all-around player.

Player(s) the Eagles Should Take:

Houston Lamarr, Texas, 6-3, 303 lbs

Every fan reads that the Eagles are interested in Brian Price, but he is not the best fit for the Eagles. He will struggle against the run in the NFL and might have trouble pressuring the quarterback as well at his size. Lamarr is a thick defender that is just relentless at the point of attack. He can anchor a defensive line and take on double teams as well. His athleticism and size along with his speed, allows him to be an excellent bull rusher. Additionally, he understands the importance of having counter moves. Lamarr would be a fine late second round to early third round pick for the Eagles.


Tomorrow look at the breakdown of the Offensive line...

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