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2011 NFL Draft Predictions – Defensive End Rankings

2011 NFL Draft Coverage – DE Preview

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The NFL draft moves to primetime for the second time in 2011. The first round will be in PRIMETIME, and is scheduled to take place Thursday, April 28, 2011; the second and third rounds on Friday, April 29; and the final four rounds on Saturday, April 30, 2011.

The Panthers with the worst record for 2010 have the right to the 1st pick in 2011. Note: A provision in the current NFLPA-CBA ensures that this draft will still take place even with the current labor dispute.

Defensive End Rankings

Note: Von Miller, of Texas A&M, could be rated as either a defensive end or an outside linebacker; due to the depth of defensive line prospects in the Draft, I will consider Miller a LB.

DA’QUAN BOWERS, Clemson
6”3, 280 lbs

Bowers has tremendous potential as a dynamic NFL defensive end. However, he has struggled with inconsistency in his career; it is difficult to hide reels of poor tape he has from Clemson. He has also had to overcome a knee injury, which is an eyebrow-raiser (though not like it was 10-20 years ago). It is nice to have all the physical skill in the world, but Bowers needs to prove he can put it all together. With as much talent as he has, though, some team will grab him in the Top 10.

May remind you of: Julius Peppers, Bears

ROBERT QUINN, North Carolina
6”4, 265 lbs

Quinn didn’t let scouts down at the Combine per se, but he didn’t blow them away like some (notably draft guru Mike Mayock) predicted. Still, Quinn possesses speed off the edge and carries all the traits of a special athlete. He could also play rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. In 2009, as a sophomore, Quinn had 19 TFLs and 11 sacks. He is one of several Tar Heels that project as a great pro football player. Quinn should be off the board between Picks 7 and 15 of the first round.

May remind you of: Terrell Suggs, Ravens

CAMERON JORDAN, California
6”4, 287 lbs

Jordan had an excellent Combine and he’s one of several players that ought to be gone in the mid-first round of the Draft. With his size, he has the ability to play either end or DT. Considering he goes at almost 290 lbs, his 40-time of 4.71 was highly impressive. In addition to a strong Combine, Jordan was virtually unblockable during Senior Bowl practices. Also, playing at DT this year at Cal, he amassed 12.5 TFLs and 5.5 sacks. He is a supreme talent and in a more shallow year for defensive lineman, he’d likely grade even higher.

May remind you of: Trent Cole, Eagles

ALDON SMITH, Missouri
6”4, 263 lbs

It’s crazy that these first four players (and perhaps one more) at this position could be off the board in the first 15-20 picks of the first round. Mizzou’s Smith joins several players that can fill a pass-rushing need, an area always in demand for teams. Smith has raw athleticism and can carve around you in any number of ways, which should mask the time he missed this season due to injury. Players as athletic as Smith at DE don’t hang around long in the first round.

May remind you of: John Abraham, Falcons

RYAN KERRIGAN, Purdue
6”4, 255 lbs

Kerrigan rates a blue-collar, high-motor player with outstanding intelligence and leadership capabilities. He doesn’t have the raw speed and quickness that some of the other players that will get drafted above him, but he is a nasty throwback player that will wrap a ballcarrier, always work to get better and instinctively be in position for the big play. He was the unquestioned leader of the Boilermakers this season. His season of 26 TFLs and 12.5 sacks for the Boilers was most impressive, and he constantly got better in his time at Purdue.

May remind you of: Aaron Kampman, Jaguars (Many people have made this comparison, but it is right on the money)

J.J. WATT, Wisconsin
6”6, 292 lbs

Watt may be on the board near the 20th pick of the first round only because there are so many other options and certain teams that need to fit specific pressing needs. Certainly, a team could fall in love with Watt and select him earlier. Watt is a beast, and essentially was the Badgers defense in 2010. He has decent speed for a man his size and excels at beating offensive tackles with power moves. He plays with leverage, bull-rushes well and even when he doesn’t get to an opposing QB, he will disrupt a play. Despite the glut of defensive lineman, Watt will be gone somewhere in Round 1.

May remind you of: Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lions

Honorable Mention: ADRIAN CLAYBORN, Iowa Joining several great prospects at DE from the Big Ten Conference this season, Clayborn is solid top to bottom, but he doesn’t have a dynamic aspect to his game. He had more hype as a junior last season.

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