1. Dante Fowler (Florida) | 6-foot-3, 261 pounds
This year’s crop of edge rushers is really hard to rank. There is not a single prospect who is polished in almost every aspect of the game. Fowler is my No. 1 guy because he combines his athleticism with the ability to play in both a 2- and 3-point stance. He’s still raw as a pass rusher – like almost everyone else in this class – but teams will love his violent nature and active hands. Fowler is a top-five pick if you ask me.
2. Vic Beasley (Clemson) | 6-foot-3, 246 pounds
Beasley is an absolute freak of nature, physically. He’s extremely explosive with an elite first step and great bend around the edge. He saw time both standing up and with his hand in the dirt, but it’s likely that he’ll be targeted more by 3-4 defenses. Beasley’s biggest weakness is his inability to shed blocks. Benching 35 reps at the combine is a huge plus for him, but you rarely saw the raw strength on tape.
That spider graph, though...
3. Randy Gregory (Nebraska) | 6-foot-5, 235 pounds
Gregory is an incredibly unpredictable talent, to say the least. On the plus side, teams will love his athleticism, length and quick-twitch movements. On the other hand, it amazes me how rail-thin Gregory is. He’s had plenty of time to add some weight to his frame, but isn’t quite there yet. The recent failed drug test will turn some teams off as well, but regardless, whoever takes a flier on him is going to get a very talented player.
4. Alvin Dupree (Kentucky) | 6-foot-4, 269 pounds
If you ever want to punish yourself, go to Draft Breakdown and watch some tape on Dupree. He is really tough to watch at times, but his combine numbers are no joke. It’ll take a year or two for Dupree to get acclimated to the NFL, but a lot of teams are going to fall in love with his elite athleticism and violent nature on the field.
5. Owamagbe Odighizuwa (UCLA) | 6-foot-3, 267 pounds
Good luck trying to pronounce this guy’s name. Odighizuwa is nothing like the guys above him on this list (aside from being a great athlete). Rather than winning with speed off the edge, he gets by with his brute strength and bull-rush technique. He’s undergone two surgeries on his hip, which can attribute to his stiffness around the edge, and it remains to be seen whether this will be a major issue for him down the road. I could see him playing the 5-technique in a 3-4 system or in a Jason Jones-type role with a 4-3 team.
6. Preston Smith (Mississippi State) | 6-foot-5, 271 pounds
After watching just one half of a Mississippi State football game, it became evident that Smith may be the most versatile defensive lineman in this draft. Within 20 plays, I saw Smith line up in the 0-tech, 3-tech, 5-tech and even 9-technique. He has the speed and flexibility to rush off the edge, as well as the strength to play almost anywhere inside.
7. Shane Ray (Missouri) | 6-foot-3, 245 pounds
I’m a bit lower on Ray than most. He’s a guy who will get you 10 sacks a year with only 20 pressures to go with it. He’s very hit or miss, but when he times the snap perfectly, he’s almost impossible to stop. Ray is a one-trick pony with an excellent speed rush and looks much more athletic on tape than his combine numbers will tell you.
8. Eli Harold (Virginia) | 6-foot-3, 247 pounds
Harold has arguably one of the highest ceilings in this class. Conversely, he also has one of the lowest floors. He’s a true boom or bust player who will likely be limited to playing in a 3-4 scheme as a pass-rushing linebacker. He can be a terror off the edge with great burst off the line and very nice closing speed. Harold tends to get swallowed up versus the run, and I view him as a situational pass rusher at the next level.
9. Lorenzo Mauldin (Louisville) | 6-foot-4, 259 pounds
Mauldin is a below-average pass rusher, but probably the best run-stuffing defensive end in the draft. When his pass rush stalls, he does a really nice job of getting his hands up in the passing lanes, and he batted down eight passes in his career. He’s not an extraordinary athlete, but his story of working hard and overcoming a rough childhood is a big plus for his character.
10. Danielle Hunter (LSU) | 6-foot-5, 252 pounds
Hunter is another one of those raw but athletic prospects who teams will just have to be really patient with. His snap anticipation is very poor, and he was often the last player off the line of scrimmage. He does a nice job of using his hands, but still needs a lot of work on shedding blocks. His value is a lot higher than it should be right now, but I could still see him being a solid player down the road with the right coaching.