Good Defensive Line Crop This Year................
April 23, 2012 Deep crop of defensive linemen available in draft
By: Larry Mayer | Last Updated: 4/23/2012 9:46 AM
The following is the sixth of eight position previews in advance of the April 26-28 NFL Draft.
With an abundance of run stuffers and pass rushers available, many NFL analysts believe that defensive linemen could account for nearly one-third of the first-round picks in the draft.
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LSU’s Michael Brockers, Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox and Memphis’ Dontari Poe are widely considered the top tackles.
Brockers is a mammoth third-year sophomore who recorded 54 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss and two sacks in 14 games last season in his only year as a starter at LSU. The 6-5, 322-pounder also had one interception, one forced fumble and a blocked kick in the BCS championship game.
Pro Football Weekly’s 2012 Draft Preview describes Brockers as a “wet-behind-the-ears, extremely long-armed, gigantic plugger capable of stacking the inside or outside in an even or odd front.” The publication also notes that Brockers who could endure an adjustment period due to inexperience and immaturity.
Cox was a three-year contributor and two-year starter at Mississippi State, where he generated 56 tackles, 14½ tackles-for-loss, five sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery last year as a junior.
Predicting that Cox quickly could emerge as a Pro Bowl performer, PFW labels the 6-4, 298-pounder as a “strong, long, quick, athletic, powerful disruptive force who really came on late as a junior and possesses the position and scheme versatility to warrant top-10 consideration.”
Poe started all 12 games last season as a junior at Memphis, compiling 33 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss and one sack. He displayed freakish athletic ability at the Combine, bench-pressing 225 pounds 44 times to lead all participants and running a 4.8 in the 40-yard dash while weighing 346 pounds.
PFW calls Poe a “rare physical specimen capable of playing any type of scheme, but [he] would be most ideally suited on the nose in a 3-4 front.” The publication also notes that he “still needs to learn how to play the game, but [his] upside is off the charts and [he] easily could draw top-10 consideration.”
The consensus top ends in the draft are North Carolina’s Quinton Coples, Syracuse’s Chandler Jones, South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram and Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus.
Coples was a two-year starter at North Carolina, where he registered 59 tackles, 15½ tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks in 2010 and 55 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss and 7½ sacks in 2011.
PFW describes the 6-6, 284-pounder as “a top-10 physical talent who lacks the heart, desire and glass-eating makeup desired in the trenches and must ratchet up the intensity if he wants to play against the big boys in the pros.”
Jones recorded 38 tackles, 7½ tackles-for-loss and 4½ sacks while missing five games last year as a junior at Syracuse with a knee injury he suffered in the season opener. PFW calls the 6-5, 266-pounder a “highly athletic, vine-armed, havoc-wreaking pass rusher with rare dimensions and a developing frame to fill out and become a pass-rushing force.”
Ingram generated 48 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks last year in his lone season as a starter at South Carolina. He scored three touchdowns in 2011, including a 68-yard run on a fake punt. PFW reports that the 6-1½, 264-pounder is a “unique athlete scattered across multiple positions on NFL draft boards, with the potential to line up on the edge or inside, where much of his production comes.” The publication also states that he “emerged as a playmaking force as a senior and will be best schemed rushing the passer.”
Mercilus also was a one-year starter at Illinois, where he compiled monster numbers in 2011. The 6-4, 254-pounder won the Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end after leading the country with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles and topping the Big Ten with 22½ tackles-for-loss.
PFW describes Mercilus as a “very raw, straight-linish, speed/effort pass rusher who might have to be used in [a] specialty role initially before he is ready to handle three-down responsibility.”
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. predicts that nine defensive linemen will be selected in the first round: Ingram (No. 7 to Jacksonville), Poe (No. 9 to Carolina), Coples (No. 12 to Seattle), Cox (No. 15 to Philadelphia), Jones (No. 18 to San Diego), Mercilus (No. 19 to the Bears), Brockers (No. 25 to Denver), USC end Nick Perry (28th to Green Bay) and Cincinnati tackle Derek Wolfe (No. 31 to New England).