In a pass-happy NFL, not only do teams look to find the next big thing at quarterback, defenses try to do whatever they can to prevent those young quarterbacks from succeeding. As a result, pass-rushing defensive ends are always in demand. Unfortunately, in a draft year when there is a ton of depth at a lot of positions, defensive end isn't one of them. There are only two locks to go in the first half of the first round and while there may be a half dozen or so DEs coming off the board by the end of the second round, it isn't a very deep class and the number of difference-making defensive ends to come out of this year's draft isn't expected to produce an overabundance of quality ends. As a result, the top ones will likely get picked through quickly before the well runs dry.
VIKINGS DEFENSIVE ENDS – Jared Allen
, Brian Robison
, Everson Griffen
, D'Aundre Reed, George Johnson
VIKINGS NEED –
There is always a need for depth, but the Vikings have talented starters and solid backups already on the roster. Barring a player falling to them that they view as a steal at that point in the draft, it wouldn't be a shocker to see the Vikings go late into the draft without taking any defensive ends.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Ezekiel Ansah, BYU, 6-5¼, 271 –
Fourth-year senior…Spent his freshman season at BYU on the track team and didn't play football…A one-year starter who had 62 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, nine passes batted down and one forced fumble…Was born and raised in Ghana…Came to BYU on an academic scholarship…Was named MVP at the Senior Bowl…Has a rare combination of size, power and athletic ability…Has very long arms and uses them well to shed blockers…Is huge and has a body that can add more muscle and bulk strength…Has good burst off the line…Closes quickly and takes long steps…Has excellent change-of-direction speed…Is very raw in terms of playing experience…Is already 24 years old…Didn't have good sack production as a starter…Is often a half-step slow off the snap…Doesn't have a variety of pass-rush moves…Tries to make too many plays around the edge and loops too far…Is not overly stout in run defense…Ran a 4.62-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 34½-inch vertical jump and a 9-10 broad jump. PROJECTION:
Much like Jason Pierre-Paul
came out of nowhere to become a first-round pick, Ansah's meteoric climb up the draft charts has taken him from being a first-round prospect to being a top-five blue-chipper. He is the fastest-riser on the board and likely won't make it out of the top five picks.
Barkevious Mingo, LSU, 6-4¼, 241 –
Fourth-year junior…While a lineup regular, he started just 16 of 40 career games…Finished his career with 119 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, 11 batted passes, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries…Didn't start playing football until his junior year of high school…Has tremendous size and long arms…Has a body that can add 10-20 pounds of muscle and bulk without sacrificing speed…Very fast off the snap and can blow by offensive tackles…Viewed as a player with limitless upside potential…Is relentless in pass pursuit and never quits on a play…Is surprisingly solid in run support…Is currently viewed as too skinny to be an every-down DE and may be better suited to be an OLB in a 3-4 defense – a position he has never played…Is very raw, having only played football for five years and started just 16 college games…Didn't post ideal sack numbers for an elite pass rusher…Slows down when forced to change direction…Has got by on speed alone and doesn't have a variety of pass-rush moves developed yet…Chose not to lift at the combine, but ran a 4.53 40 with a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-8 broad jump. PROJECTION:
Viewed as an ideal edge-rush specialist, Mingo could fit in at DE in a 4-3 scheme or at OLB in a 3-4 without being viewed as a classic 'tweener. Given the need for pass rushers in the NFL, he won't last long – likely coming off the board in the first half of the first round.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Bjoern Werner, Florida State, 6-3¼, 266 –
Third-year junior…A two-year starter who had 79 tackles 29 tackles for a loss, 20 sacks, 16 passes batted and three fumble recoveries in that span…Raised in Germany, he didn't start playing football until his junior year of high school…Was a finalist for the Nagurski Award, given to college football's best defensive player, in 2012…Is married…Has excellent burst off the snap…Uses his hands well to keep blockers away from his body…Times his jumps well to bat down passes…Has a motor that doesn't wind down…Strong run stopper…Plays a little too high and opens himself up to getting blockers into his body…Doesn't have prototype height or arm length for the next level…Slows down considerably when forced to stop-and-start in his pass rush…Doesn't have great side-to-side shuffling ability…Is not a speed rusher and needs to fight to get to the quarterback…Ran a disappointing 4.83 40 at the combine with 25 reps of 225 pounds, a 31-inch vertical jump and a 9-3 broad jump. PROJECTION:
Werner is the top left DE in the draft and has the ability to get pass-rush production. The shine is off of him since the combine, where he came in as a blue-chip pick. Now it appears he will fall into the final third of the first round.
Margus Hunt, SMU, 6-8¼, 277 –
Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 104 tackles, 25.5 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks and two forced fumbles in that span…Born and raised in Estonia…Was an elite track athlete who won gold medals in both the discus and the shot put at the Junior World Championships in China…Has had surgery on both knees and his left shoulder…Holds the NCAA record for blocked kicks with 17…Enormous size and long arms…A very hard-nosed player who works hard on every play…Has a good burst off the line…Has excellent upper body strength and is an elite bull rusher capable of pushing offensive tackles backward…Times his jumps well to bat down passes and block field goals and extra points…Is still learning the game and doesn't have a natural football I.Q. or instincts…Inconsistent in his production – looks great one game and much more pedestrian the next…Plays a little too tall and offensive tackles can get under his pads…Is 26 years old, which, in itself may be enough to scare off some teams…Despite being tall, batted down just 17 passes in 41 games…Ran a 4.60 40 at the combine with a whopping 38 reps, a 34½-inch vertical jump and a 10-1 broad jump. PROJECTION:
Hunt is a fast-rising prospect who has ideal size and a big upside. Teams like New England and Baltimore might have an interest in him late in the first round.
Datone Jones, UCLA, 6-4, 283 –
Fifth-year senior…Was granted a medical redshirt in 2010 with a broken right foot…Started 43 of 51 career games, posting 148 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries…Very versatile, capable of being a five-technique defensive end or defensive tackle…Has an explosive first step that gets offensive tackles on their heels…Has exceptional hand strength and smacks the arms of offensive tackles away from his body…Has a variety of pass-rush moves to get into gaps…Has excellent awareness and locates the ball quickly…Has good anchor strength to set the edge and disrupt the run game…Doesn't have long arms and NFL linemen will find it easier to get into his body than he is used to…Doesn't have the speed to be a right defensive end…Inconsistent effort from game to game or series to series…Wears down late in games…Ran a 4.80 40 at the combine with 29 reps, a 31½-inch vertical jump and a 9-4 broad jump. PROJECTION:
A 'tweener type who will likely have to commit to one position, he is likely best fit as a run-stopper in a 3-4 scheme in which his explosiveness can be best utilized. Some scouts give him a first-round grade, but he is much more likely to remain on the board until the second round.
Damontre Moore, Texas A&M, 6-4½, 250 –
Third-year senior…Two-year starter who had 157 tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss, 21 sacks and five forced fumbles in that span…Took over for Von Miller
when he left for the Denver Broncos…An All-American in 2012 and a finalist for the Hendricks Award, given to college football's best defensive end…Consistently the first player moving on the snap…Incredible production in two years as a starter…Has room to add additional muscle and bulk strength…Makes a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage…Closes the gap on the man with the ball in a hurry and has good closing speed…Gets moved too easily when offensive linemen get their hands on him…Inconsistent focus and intensity…Doesn't have a variety of pass-rush moves…Gets engulfed by elite O-linemen…Played in a system that inflated some of his tackle numbers…Ran a brutal 4.87 40 at the combine with just 12 reps, a 35½-inch vertical jump and a 9-6 broad jump. PROJECTION:
Only 20 years old, he has a lot of time to improve his game. However, he has been one of the fallers in terms of draft stock in the weeks since his dismal combine showing. Once thought to be a lock for the first round, it seems as though he will fall into the second round. The longer he lasts, the bigger a value pick he becomes.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Sam Montgomery, LSU, 6-3¼, 262 –
Fourth-year junior…Two-year starter who had 86 tackles, 26.5 tackles for a loss, 17 sacks and three forced fumbles in that span…Tore his right ACL during the 2010 season and required surgery…Extremely good upper body strength…Has exceptional burst off the snap and the speed to turn the edge on his pass rush and closes fast…Has good lateral agility and can reach the sideline on sweeps…Is able to back up defenders and shed blocks…Plays with a high motor and seems to enjoy the one-on-one battles…Takes short, choppy steps that will get him caught by NFL O-tackles…Not instinctive in predicting snap counts and is often still in stance when everyone else takes a first step…Doesn't have a shocking hand punch and needs a lot of refinement in his hand work…Is kind of a one-trick pony when it comes to his pass rush…Did not lift at the combine due to a pectoral injury, but ran a 4.68 40 with a 34½-inch vertical jump and a 10-2 broad jump. PROJECTION:
A candidate to be an immediate left defensive end starter, some have questioned his commitment. If teams doing their due diligence buy into that, he will remain on the board well into Round 2.
Alex Okafor, Texas, 6-4½, 264 –
Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 156 tackles, 36 tackles for a loss, 22 sacks and eight forced fumbles in the span…Has very good upper body strength and bulls offensive linemen around…Uses his hands effectively and chops the arms away of blockers…Has the overall anchor strength to stand up his end of the line on running plays…Plays with awareness and adjusts quickly to where the ball is…Dominated his drills at the Senior Bowl…Motor revs high at all times…Does not have agility to shuffle and slide too often…Doesn't have elite burst off the snap…Gets frustrated at times and loses focus…Has stiff hips and slows almost to a stop when having to change direction more than a step or two…Too often comes off the snap high and allows good hand punchers to get an early chip on him…Got a medical exclusion at the combine due to a hip injury, but did the weightlifting portion – completing 21 reps of 225 pounds. PROJECTION:
A player with some sack ability, his place is on the left side of the line in a 4-3 defense – which pigeonholes him a little bit and will likely drop him deep into the second round or the third.
Tank Carradine, Florida State, 6-4¼, 276 –
Fourth-year senior…Spent his first two seasons at Butler (Kan.) Community College, where he was named JUCO Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 after leading the small-college world with 16 sacks…Started 11 of 25 games at FSU…A one-year starter who exploded on the scene with 80 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks…His season ended with a torn right ACL in November that required surgery…Has ideal size…Gives his all on every play and never quits, often chasing plays down the line to the other side of the field…Has quick feet and the flexibility to get the corner on the speed rush…Has great explosion off the snap…Is able to quickly sidestep blockers and get to the ball…Very raw in terms of actual playing time at the major college level…Got overpowered at times by mauling, nasty offensive tackles…Doesn't have an array of pass rush moves and needs to learn how to swim and counter…Committed far too many penalties…Doesn't use his hands to his best advantage…Didn't run or jump at the combine while recuperating from ACL surgery, but completed 28 reps of 225 pounds. PROJECTION:
The jury is out on Carradine. To some, he is viewed as a big upside player who could be considered as early as the end of the first round. We see him more as a third-round type prospect because not only is he a one-year wonder, he's coming off major knee surgery. Some teams will be afraid to touch him, but all he needs is one interested team to come earlier than we have him ranked.
William Gholston, Michigan State, 6-6¼, 281 –
Third-year junior…Two-year starter who recorded 129 tackles with 29 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks and 12 passes batted down in that span…The cousin of 2008 first-round pick Vernon Gholston
…Had shoulder surgery after his freshman season…Has a monstrous prototype physique and looks like a classic five-technique end in a 3-4 defense…Plays with a mean streak, so much so he got suspended for a game last year for a pair of violent plays…Has good push off the snap and holds up his end of the line in the run game…Pushes offensive linemen backward consistently…Has good field awareness and times jumps well to deflect or bat down passes…Finishes tackles…Is overaggressive and takes himself out of far too many plays…Gets fooled too often with misdirection and doesn't maintain his edge…Runs hot and cold and gets frustrated easily…Depends on power to be successful in his pass rush…Has maturity/character issues…Ran a 4.93 40 at the combine with 23 reps, a 28½-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump. PROJECTION:
If you went just on the eyeball test or his highlight reel, you would swear he's a first-round pick. But he needs to end up in the right situation or could be as big a draft bust as his cousin – the anti-bloodline theory. He has the talent to be an NFL starter but is volatile and could be a headache some teams just don't want. As a result, he will likely fall into the third round.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Lavar Edwards, LSU, 6-4, 277
Maliciah Goodman, Clemson, 6-3¾, 276
Brandon Jenkins, Florida State, 6-2½, 251
Joe Kruger, Utah, 6-6¼, 269
Corey Lemonier, Auburn, 6-3½, 255
Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame, 6-3¾, 298
Jared Smith, New Hampshire, 6-3½, 302
Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky, 6-4½, 250
Damion Square, Alabama, 6-2¼, 293
Devin Taylor, South Carolina, 6-7, 266
Trevardo Williams, U-Conn, 6-1¼, 241
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.