2011 NFL Draft Player Rankings | Defensive Ends
Many of the players in our defensive end rankings are fits for a 4-3 defensive end, and a 3-4 outside linebacker. Generally, outside linebackers are pure pass rushers, who are quick, able to contain, and athletic enough to drop back in coverage at times.
4-3 defensive ends are often a little bit stronger and are more of a force against the run, but there are also elite pass rushing defensive ends, like Dwight Freeney for the Indianapolis Colts.
A great pass rusher is critical to any team trying to make a playoff run. If you can’t pressure the opposing quarterback, your defense will wear down quickly as the opposing team will continue to get first downs, and move the ball down the field. The lack of a great pass rusher can also hurt the secondary.
NFL Soup presents the Top Defensive End prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft.
1) Marcell Dareus- Alabama*- 6’3 1/8 319
Talk about a dominant big man up front, Marcel Dareus is a prototype 3-4 defensive end at the next level. He already plays the position at Alabama and is an impact player. He eats up blockers, and is very strong, often forcing double teams. He moves well laterally, and is a force against the run. With a lot of teams running a 3-4 in the NFL, Dareus will be coveted heavily.
Projection: Top 10
2) Da’Quan Bowers- Clemson*- 6’3 3/8 280
Bowers is one of the most athletic 280+ pound players in the NCAA. He’s strong enough for a bull rush on an offensive tackle, and he’s quick enough to get around the edge. He’s strictly a 4-3 defensive end. I do question his ability to play in space, which is why 3-4 outside linebacker is a bit of a reach. Bowers is very tough against the run, and is one of the best penetrators in the nation.
3) Cameron Jordan- California- 6’4 1/8 287
Jordan is a guy who could easily be a first round pick, as he has loads of potential as a penetrator in the NFL. He’s played defensive tackle and defensive end at Cal, and has excelled doing both. He’s a strong, bull rusher who can rip through even the better offensive lineman to get into the backfield. He moves well laterally, and could be an option to play as a 3-4 defensive end.
4) Aldon Smith- Missouri**- 6’4 1/4 263
Smith may not come out this year, but he has been a force as a pass rusher in Missouri. Smith is very quick, and has a great move to the outside, utilizing his speed to get around the edge and force pressure on the quarterback. He could afford to get stronger, and plays a bit stiff at times. He’s very raw, which is why he should stay in school for another season. He could be a dominant 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level and has plenty of room to grow.
5) J.J. Watt- Wisconsin*- 6’5 5/8 290
Watt is a bullying defensive end who really has made a big impact in the run for the Badgers in 2010. He’s not a bad pass rusher, and does a great job getting his arms in the air to bat balls down. Watt is very strong, and gets a good jump off of the ball. For a big guy, he moves down the line well, but is best in forcing double teams. He’s an ideal 3-4 defensive end prospect at the next level.
6) Robert Quinn- North Carolina*- 6’4 265
It’s hard to say if Quinn will come out after not playing a down in 2010 thanks to the Player/Agent scandal with North Carolina. However, there is no questioning his physical ability. The 6’5 270 pound defensive end has an excellent motor and ACC offensive lineman have had trouble stopping his speed rush. Quinn is one of the most athletic prospects for 2011, and he could really make some noise in the NFL with a little more strength. He looks to be an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker candidate, especially if he can improve in coverage.
7) Ryan Kerrigan- Purdue- 6’3 7/8 267
Kerrigan is a pass rushing defensive end who uses his strength and his quickness off of the ball to penetrate the backfield. His athleticism makes him somewhat limited in coverage, which is why his best fit is probably in a 4-3. He plays a lot like former Purdue defender Ray Edwards who is now a stud for the Vikings. He does very well in contain, and gets a good push against the run.
8) Cameron Heyward- Ohio State- 6’5 294
The son of the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, Cameron is a big bodied run stuffer with some pass rush ability. His best fit at the next level is as a 3-4 defensive end. Like Cam Jordan, he’s played defensive tackle, and end in his career at Ohio State and has been a force in the run game. He moves well in pursuit of the quarterback, doing a great job in contain on the edge. Heyward could be a first round pick, but his stock has slipped as he hasn’t been as dominant in 2010.
9 ) Adrian Clayborn- Iowa- 6’2 5/8 281
Clayborn is another quick defensive end who really does well shooting down the line making a play on runners going the opposite direction. He’s very stout against the run, and does a great job of slapping the tackle’s hands down and getting a good push against the pass. He moves well laterally, but needs work on wrapping up and finishing plays, often trying to make arm tackles. He could be a good fit playing a five technique at the next level with a little more strength.
10) Jabaal Sheard- Pittsburgh- 6’2 7/8 264
Sheard could be the next Kamerion Wimbley, Derrick Harvey, or Tyson Alualu, as guys who come out of nowhere to become first round picks. Sheard is a big, agile defensive end who has the athleticism to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Sheard is solid against the run, and while he lacks a great inside, move, he does well using his hands to get off of the block. He’s a pure pass rusher who has the ability to make a huge impact immediately.
11) Brooks Reed – Arizona- 6’2 1/2 263
Reed is one of the big time workout warriors in the 2011 NFL Draft. He’s very strong, and very fast for a 260 pound defensive end. He has the athleticism to make the transition to the 3-4 as an outside linebacker at the next level, but his strength, and bull rushing pass rush ability makes him ideal for the 4-3. Reed is one of the hardest working athletes in the nation.
Projection: 1st- 2nd
12) Cliff Matthews- South Carolina- 6’3 1/2 257
Matthews is a very quick pass rusher, who uses his hands well to get to the quarterback. He’s got the speed around the edge to beat even the best offensive tackles and makes for a nice 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. He could afford to get a bit stronger and add an inside move when rushing the passer, but he has the athleticism to make the transition and be somewhat effective in coverage as well.
13) Allen Bailey- Miami (Fl.)- 6’3 285
You’ll see Bailey a bit higher on many other lists, but I question his ability to stop the run. Bailey is a very good pass rusher as a 4-3 defensive end. Despite his size, he lacks the strength to be a true 3-4 defensive end, and should stick to a 4-3 scheme. He’s athletic for a guy his size and gets a good push in the pass game. He could easily move into the first round, but he needs to get a bit stronger at the point of attack and get off of the snap a bit faster.
Projection: 3rd- 4th
14) Steven Friday- Virginia Tech- 6’4 250
Friday is one of the pass rushers that I think is going to rise the most in this draft. He’s a pure edge rusher with good bull rushing ability, as well as quickness to get to the outside. He’s decent against the run, but should be able to make the transition to 3-4 as well.
15) Ugo Chinasa- Oklahoma State- 6’4 7/8 264
Chinasa is a rising prospect with excellent size and ability. While his productino has never been stunning at Oklahoma State, Chinasa has done a fantastic job overall in rushing the quarterback, and keeping contain to help shut down the run.
16) Karl Klug- Iowa- 6’3 275
Klug is a bit sleeper at defensive tackle. He’s a very strong, run stuffing tackle who has the size and strength to make the transition to the 5 technique in a 3-4 defensive scheme playing in a 2 gap system.
17) Sam Acho- Texas- 6’1 5/8 262
Sam Acho (bless you) is a stronger defensive end who can rush the pass rusher effectively. He’s an excellent penetrator, often disrupting the backfield. He’s not the quickest defender, and he’s best suited as a 4-3 defensive end due to being a bit stronger, and more effective against the run. Acho is a very solid pass rusher and has a nice inside move getting off of the snap quickly.
18) Greg Romeus- Pittsburgh- 6’5 264
Romeus is a top notch pass rush specialist who is talented enough to be a first round pick. Unfortunately, his stock will fall a bit after having two major injuries in 2010, playing in only two games with a back injury, which required surgery, and most recently a torn ACL.
19) Rick Elmore- Arizona- 6’4 1/2 255
Elmore is a pure pass rushing defensive end. Poor athleticism makes a 3-4 outside linebacker position a bad choice, but a situational pass rusher to start his career could do him wonders. High upside.
20) Pernell McPhee- Mississippi State- 6’2 5/8 278
McPhee is a big, strong defensive end who does a great job in run support. He does well in penetration, sometimes forcing a double team. With a bit of bulk, he could be a very stout 3-4 defensive end.
21) D’Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona- 6’3 7/8 261
Reed is an experienced defensive end who’s strength allows him to play well against the run. Pass rushing skills are average at best, and he’s not much of a penetrating end, but he does well keeping contain.
22) Ryan Winterswyk- Boise State- 6’4 1/8 268
Winterswyk has been a crucial part of a successful Boise State defensive line. He is a stronger pass rusher who is best suited to play in a 4-3 as a defensive end. He’s very stout against the run, and is an above average pass rusher.
23) Eddie Jones- Texas- 6’3 260
Jones is a stronger pass rusher who excels more against the run. He’s not the most athletic player, but has good upside as a 4-3 defensive end. He could use some work dropping in coverage, but he won’t be required to do that much in the NFL.
24) Markus White- Florida State- 6’3 1/2 266
I like White a lot. He’s a sleeper 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level with good speed and athleticism. He could afford to bulk up a bit and become a bigger run stuffer if he wants to succeed in the 4-3. White is a bit of a raw prospect.
25) Craig Marshall- South Florida- 6’4 265
Marshall is a sleeper 3-4 outside linebacker prospect. He gets off of the ball well, but lacks the strength to get off of blockers, often having to use his quickness to get around the corner.
26) Scott Solomon- Rice- 6’3 270
Solomon is a bigger, stronger defensive end that can shut down the run. He’s a penetrator the can disrupt the backfield. Solomon has lined up at defensive tackle and defensive end for the Rice Owls.
27) Pierre Allen- Nebraska- 6’4 273
Allen’s calling is as a 4-3 weak side defensive end. He’s strong at the point of attack, and can shut down the run. He lacks the speed and athleticism to make the transformation to the 3-4.
28) Jake Laptad- Kansas- 6’4 260
Laptad is a pure pass rusher who is also quite strong against the run. He could make a change to the 3-4, but he’s a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end, keeping contain, and using his strength to penetrate the offensive line.
29) Kentrell Lockett- Ole Miss- 6’5 260
30) Alex Albright- Boston College- 6’5 251
31) B.J. Williams- San Diego State- 6’3 252
32) Jonathan Freeny- Rutgers- 6’3 250
33) DeQuin Evans- Kentucky- 6’2 256
34) Bryant Turner- UAB- 6’2 260
35) Lazarius Levingston- LSU- 6’3 1/2 292
36) Michael Goggans- Auburn- 6’3 261
37) Mario Addison- Troy- 6’3 254
38) Bruce Miller- Central Florida- 6’1 3/8 254
39) Wayne Daniels- TCU- 6’0 1/4 260
40) Zane Parr- Virginia- 6’6 280
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