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Lions’ 2010 NFL Draft Needs: Defensive End

 

Even with the addition of Kyle Vanden Bosch, the Lions still need to address the defensive end position.  Cliff Avril has shown flashes of pass rush ability, but he hasn’t shown he is able to hold up against the run.  Jason Hunter and Jared DeVries are solid rotational players, but they don’t scare anybody.

The Lions have very specific types of players that they look for at defensive end because of the way they align their front four.  The Lions play their tackles over each guard and then line the ends up wide of the offensive tackles.

The Lions like to contain the run on the edges and funneling running backs into the middle of the field.  The defensive ends need to be big and physical to set the edge against the tackles and tight ends.  In the passing game, the positioning is beneficial to the ends since the wider split gives them a better angle at the quarterback.  

Not all the defensive end prospects have the build or the size to succeed as an every down ldefensive end in the Lions’ scheme.  The prototypical player will have long arms, weigh between 260-280 lbs and preferably over 6-3.  This eliminates a lot of the OLB/DE tweeners high in the draft since they would have to be situational pass rushers.

I think there is a slight chance that the Lions might be considering Derrick Morgan with the second overall pick, but it’s a bit of a long shot.  Here are my defensive end rankings:

First rounders:

  1. Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech – If he were more consistantly explosive he would be a stronger candidate to go to the Lions.  He has the prototypical end build, a never-ending motor and has shown tons of potential, but he was only a two year starter.  He is young, just turned 21, so he has time to grow into the position.  Has the tools to eventually become a dominant player.
  2. Jason Pierre-Paul, USF – Very raw and inexperienced, but he plays hard and has freakish athleticism.  Tall with long arms, he has great burst off the line and he is a high effort player.  Needs technique work and will have a bit of a learning curve as he transitions to the NFL.  Played at three different schools in his three year career because he struggled academically, and only started a handful of games at USF.  Big boom or bust guy, but great intangibles and character.
  3. Brandon Graham, Michigan – Doesn’t fit the prototypical build for a defensive end in the Lions’ defense, but he plays harder than anybody I have seen.  He’s only 6-1 and he isn’t an elite athlete.  While those would be weaknesses for some players, Graham turns them into strengths.  He understands how to use his low center of gravity to his advantage to get into the tackles’ frames and set them up for a variety of moves.  He holds up against the run with leverage and great lower body strength.  He will take some time to adjust to the NFL though.

These player should come off the board in the late first to early third rounds:

  1. Everson Griffen, USC – Griffen has all the physical attributes to be a top 15 pick, but effort and consistency have been issues for him.  He had a good offseason so far and has impressed at the combine and his pro day showing a great work ethic to prepare for those events.  However, is it because he wants a pay day or because he realizes he needs to give max effort to succeed?
  2. Carlos Dunlap, Florida – Dunlap is in almost the same situation as Griffen except he also has some character concerns.  He ‘s a better athlete and more explosive than Griffen, and he has dominated in the best conference in college football.
  3. Corey Wootton, Northwestern – Great size and length allows Wootton to dominate coming off the edge.  Has the quickness and explosion to be an excellent pass rusher, while also possessing the strength and leverage to hold up against the run.  Was considered an elite prospect until a serious knee injury in 2008.  Wasn’t the same player in 2009, and there are some concerns that he may not be the same player as before the injury. 
  4. Austen Lane, Murray St – Small school end proved that he belonged at the Senior Bowl.  He displayed better technique than expected and has really impressed scouts during the draft process.  He needs to add lower body strength to hold up against the run, but he has great upper body strength and uses it well.  He will take some time to get accustomed to the jump in competition, but he has the ability to be a contributor in the NFL.
  5. Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech – A smaller pass rusher in the mold of a Cliff Avril.  He is a high hustle player with excellent agility and quickness, but he needs to add strength to be an every down player or move to OLB in a 3-4.  I think he could be a good situational rusher for the Lions and give them the flexibility to play some 3-4.
  6. Greg Hardy, Mississippi – Another player that has all the tools, but never harnessed them.  He has struggled with injuries and inconsistency in his career.  He is not known for his work ethic or drive, but he has elite talent.  If the Lions feel they can push the right buttons with him, he could be a steal.

These players are options in the mid to late third round and through the fifth:

  1. Brandon Lang, Troy – Lang is the latest in line of defensive ends from Troy following Osi Umenyiora and DeMarcus Ware.  He is a natural pass rusher and very instinctive, but doesn’t have the lower leg strength to hold up once the tackle locks onto him.  He has intriguing potential and good athleticism and was very productive in college.
  2. Alex Carrington, Arkansas St – Has the size and strength to hold up in the running game and was a productive pass rusher in college.  He will need to develop better technique to be a pass rusher threat in the NFL though.  He doesn’t have elite quickness or acceleration, but he could really develop into a solid player.
  3. Jermaine Cunningham, Florida – OLB/DE tweener that played end in college.  Has good burst and athleticism, but he’ll need to bulk up to be a full time end in the NFL.  He’s more likely destined to be an OLB in the 3-4, but there is just something I like about him.
  4. CJ Wilson, East Carolina – Good size and athleticism, needs to improve on functional strength and shedding blocks.  He is a high effort player with the ability to contribute on special teams while he learns the pro game.
  5. George Johnson, Rutgers – Explosive and athletic prospect needs to add bulk and work on technique.  He uses his hands well at times and had good production in a college scheme that had him taking up space rather than attacking.

Normally I would shy away from players with reputations for being lazy or inconsistent, but I can’t imagine a player that defensive line coach Kris Kocurek couldn’t get the best of.  One observer at the Senior Bowl said that Kocurek was so animated and fired up on the field during practice that he was looking for a helmet and pads to get out and hit somebody.  This is a deep draft for defensive lineman, both ends and tackles, and I would like to see the Lions address both positions.  If they are not able to trade down in the second or third rounds they may not have the opportunity to address the end position until the seventh round.


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