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2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Line

By: Robert Davis

The 2013 NFL Draft will likely be remembered for having many talented defensive linemen enter the NFL at the same time. There will be elite talent and quality depth available at both defensive tackle and defensive end.

The defensive end ranks is headed at the moment by Texas AM junior Damontre Moore. An explosive athlete that is a force off the edge, Moore brings a lot of versatility to the field. He has extensive experience standing up in a 3-4 alignment but has blown up this season playing with his hand down. That experience should help with the adjustment to the NFL and will have him near the top of every teams board, no matter what defensive scheme they run. Moore will need to add more weight to play in a 4-3 alignment, but has the frame to do so without losing any speed. He shows an impressive burst and closing speed, but also has the agility to change directions and play in space. He is a tough kid that will also take on blocks and make plays against the run. Moore's big play ability off the edge and ability to play in any scheme make him a potential top five pick in April.

DE RANKINGS
  1. Dion Jordan, Oregon
  2. Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
  3. Bjoern Werner, Florida St.
  4. Damontre Moore, Texas AM
  5. Barkevious Mingo, LSU
  6. Sam Montgomery, LSU
  7. Corey Lemonier, Auburn
  8. Datone Jones, UCLA
  9. Margus Hunt, SMU
  10. Cornelius Carradine, Florida St.

Barkevious Mingo of LSU may be the best physical specimen available on draft day. He is a phenomenal athlete, with great speed, and the long arms to prevent defenders from getting into his body. Few front seven defenders are as smooth as Mingo is in motion. Nobody has as much potential as Mingo in this draft. There are some questions with his game, however. Mingo is on the lean side, and must add weight to maximize his ability. At this point, Mingo projects as more of a 3-4 OLB, but some added bulk will give him the ability to play in a four man front. He doesn't dominate the game the way his physical tools suggest he should. He's still growing into his body and his game is still developing, so whoever drafts him will be drafting him based on his potential, not his production to date. Mingo will likely blow up the workout circuit and should hear his name called in the first half of the first round should he declare.

Florida State's Bjoern Werner is the top senior available at the DE position. He is a true 4-3 defensive end that has the ability to play the run as well as he plays the pass. Werner isn't a freak athlete like Moore or Mingo, but he is a solid athlete, that uses a quick first step and solid quickness to beat the blocker and apply pressure. He doesn't have elite closing speed, but he has enough to consistently get to the quarterback and impact the play. His ability against the run is what makes him different than most of the other top DE's available. Werner has impressive natural strength and shows the ability to consistently get off blocks to make the tackle. He plays with some attitude and will battle until the whistle. Werner may never lead the league in sacks but he is a well rounded end that will be in high demand on draft day.

Sam Montgomery doesn't get as much hype as his teammate, Mingo, but is a fine prospect in his own right. In fact, Montgomery is a better football player at the moment. He isn't quite the physical specimen Mingo is, but he is a much more polished and well rounded player. Montgomery is a legitimate 4-3 end, with a solid frame and the strength to hold his ground at the point of attack. He takes on blocks well, disengages, and is very active in run support. He is also a good athlete, with the quickness and closing speed to make plays in the backfield. Montgomery plays with a mean streak and is a complete end prospect that won't last long on draft day.

Oregon's Dion Jordan is another end with immense potential. He has a tremendous frame: Tall and lean, with very long arms. He might be a little too lean at the moment, but he has a frame that will remind you of Jason Pierre-Paul coming out. His long arms and natural strength make him better against the run than his thin build suggests right now. Jordan's upside is built around his athleticism though. He is a great athlete, with good change of direction ability and closing speed. Jordan should be able to play in any defensive scheme. He will have to add weight to line up with his hand down, but that shouldn't be a problem. His athleticism will allow him to stand up and play for teams that run a 3-4. Jordan is a bit raw and may need a little time to develop his game, but his versatility and pass rush potential make him a first round prospect.

Auburn's Corey Lemonier is another one of the DE/OLB tweeners potentially available for this year's draft. He has a great first step and can wreak havoc in the backfield with his ability to consistently get upfield. He doesn't have great speed, but it's good enough to close on the QB and chase some plays down from behind. Lemonier plays with a physical style you don't see in many tweener prospects. He is stronger than his size indicates and he relishes the contact along the line. He is more of a true 4-3 end that could use some more bulk, but he also has the natural athleticism to stand up to play in a 3-4. Workouts will dictate where he goes, but he looks like a borderline first rounder on the field.

BYU's Ezekial Ansah is one of the more intriguing players in the draft. This is just his third season playing football, and his ascent has been amazing. Originally from Ghana, Ansah participated in track and had never played football when he came to the United States in 2008. He is an absolute freak physically: 6'6 275 with tremendous athleticism, agility, and speed. He is definitely raw on the field, but his natural tools jump out at you on the field. He projects as an end right now, but really could play a number of roles in the NFL. His speed and athleticism project to OLB. His size now says DE. In a couple years, he could be a 300lb DT or 5 technique. Ansah is a bright kid with every physical tool you could want. He is the definition of a project but the sky is the limit.

Potential day two names to remember: Alex Okafor(Texas), Michael Buchanon(Illinois), Datone Jones(UCLA), Kapron Lewis-Moore(Notre Dame), Brandon Jenkins(Florida St.)

DT RANKINGS
  1. Star Lotulelei, Utah
  2. Sharrif Floyd, Florida
  3. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
  4. Jonathan Hankins, Ohio St.
  5. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
  6. Jonathan Jenkins, Georgia
  7. Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern St.
  8. Kawann Short, Purdue
  9. Jesse Williams, Alabama
  10. Bennie Logan, LSU

The defensive tackle position is just as loaded as the DE spot. Utah's Star Lotulelei is the marquee name inside, and he is arguably the top player in the draft overall. He is an absolute load in the middle. Lotulelei has great size(6'4 320), is powerful at the point of attack, and has a great burst off the ball. He is hard to contain because of his blend of power and athleticism. He can drive offensive lineman into the backfield with brute strength, or use his quickness and athleticism to get into the backfield and bring down the QB. His presence alone can change an entire defense, and he likely will hear his name called in the top five on draft day.

Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins would be the top interior lineman available in most drafts. He is an immovable object in the middle of the defensive line. He's got the wide body( 6'3 330) and natural strength to clog running lanes up the middle by himself. He is the classic run stopper/nose tackle type that isn't going to get after the QB very often, but he will upgrade a teams run defense immediately. The top ten is a possibility for Hankins, but he seems like a safe bet for the top 20.

Sylvester Williams of North Carolina has one of the better back stories among draft prospects. He played just one year of high school football, and chose to get a job out of high school instead of going to school. He ended up walking on at the junior college level, earned a scholarship to UNC, and is now a first round prospect for the NFL draft. Williams isn't quite as big as Lotulelei or Hankins, but he's still a force against the run. He is very strong and shows the ability to take on double teams, and still make the play. Williams is also a good athlete, showing the quickness to fire off the ball and get initial penetration into the backfield to disrupt the action. He's a tough kid and you have to admire the perseverance he has shown to get to the point he is at now.

Sheldon Richardson of Missouri is the playmaker of the top tier of defensive tackles. Most guys vying for a spot in the first round are 320lbs+ and are run stoppers first. Richardson thrives at getting up the field and disrupting the action. He is a great athlete with fantastic quickness and agility for an interior lineman. He has a knack for shooting gaps and breaking up plays. He has the athleticism, agility, and speed to make plays all along the line of scrimmage. Richardson is a solid against the run, but he isn't the space eater most of the other prospects are. He can take on a block and make a play, but powerful guards can drive him off the ball, and he is neutralized by double teams. Richardson was a big time recruit that signed with Missouri in 2009 but ended up at the Junior College level before signing with Missouri again in 2011. He could be a force for teams looking to get more penetration from their interior line, and he is the type of athletic talent that could continue to rise as the draft approaches.

Georgia's Johnathan Jenkins is one massive individual. He is well over 350lbs, and simply cannot be moved off the line. It's pretty obvious what his strength is: stopping the run. He's not just a big body that stands in the middle of the line though. Jenkins isn't going to provide much as a pass rusher, but he can get up field on occasion with surprising quickness for a man his size. He is the classic nose tackle, and any team looking for an anchor for their 3-4 defense will look very closely at Jenkins in the last third of the first round.

Purdue's Kawann Short is another interior lineman to watch as a potential first rounder. Short is as talented as some of the guys ahead of him, but doesn't put it together on a snap to snap basis like the rest do. He is a solid athlete that moves well in short bursts, and has some ability to get up the field. He has a wide body can can clog running lanes as well. The issue with Short though is doing it every play. One play he'll knock the blocker back on his heels and make a play in the backfield. The next, he's flat on his back. When motivated, Short can get up the field and disrupt the action or take on multiple blockers and control gaps. The talent is there to be taken in the first round, but he may slide to the second with the depth of the position and questions about his ability to consistently play up to his talent level.

More day two names to watch: Jesse Williams(Alabama), Shariff Floyd(Florida, Jr), Bennie Logan(LSU, Jr), Akeem Spence(Illinois, Jr).

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