There doesn’t appear to be a Julius Peppers type of stud out there this year and many of the top prospects have legit questions still to answer about their pro potential due largely to inconsistency or size issues. However, there are some highly productive pass rushers with some skills defending the run available, though gauging how many potential 1st round picks will come from amongst the group is difficult right now.
Probably the best known of the prospects is junior entry Terrell Suggs (Arizona State) who this year set a new NCAA record by registering an amazing 24 sacks, 6 FF’s and 31.5 TFL’s from his RDE spot on the way to winning the Lombardi Award. Obviously, he can rush the passer with aplomb – though as a sophomore he looked to be more a devastating speed rusher than a guy with an arsenal of moves – but it is worth noting that he didn’t play against a single OLT rated as a pro prospect this entire season! I haven’t seen enough of him this year to comment on any improvements made against the run but can tell you his play in the games I saw in 2000 was shocking, chopped down frequently by cut blocks and driven wide out of almost every play caught playing too far up field! Listed on the official ASU site as being 6’3” and 251lb’s, he could end up being projected to OLB in the 3-4 or used as a situational pass rusher until he bulks up. That said, the NFL pays a lot of money for pass rushers and the surprise top 15 selection last year of Dwight Freeney (taken 11th overall by the Colts) gives an indicator of how high he could go even if he does turn out to be a one dimensional player.
Jerome McDougle (Miami, Fla) who I saw numerous times in 2001 and have also already reviewed tapes of his performance against Florida & Boston College from 2002. A productive LDE in college – 7 sacks, 13.5 TFL’s as a senior – I’m not sure at 6’1½” and 264lb’s that he has the size to stay there and may need to switch to the other side of the line in the pro’s. As an outside pass rusher he is smooth, gets up the field quickly, uses his hands well to separate, can turn the corner and can consistently get to the passer but I have some doubts about his ability to play the run.
In college, he wasn’t asked to take on blocks at the point of attack and anchor so much as to attack the up field edge and then swoop back to the ball if it was ran inside. While he showed the burst to do, I believe that the NFL’s bigger more agile RT’s will be able to cut him off from the play and open holes inside of him. Considering the struggles of Kenny Holmes at the point of attack in the Giants system, I’m not sure he would be a good fit either though he does look a certain 1st round pick…
Michael Haynes (Penn State) has the size at 6’3¼” and 274lb’s to be a factor in the running game as a pro and has improved markedly as a pass rusher this year registering 15 sacks with 7 FF’s! – and has shown the versatility to operate from both ends of the line of scrimmage. Early reports from the Senior Bowl suggest that he has enhanced his stock a little over the practice week by giving some of the better tackles present trouble but then the Big Ten always has good OT’s and he’s been battling them for years! Some teams may question how he would play if not besides a dominant DT but I feel that is disrespecting the progress he’s made and with GM Ernie Accorsi’s links to PSU well established, he’s a prospect I’ll be looking at closely as a potential 1st round pick for the Giants.
One of the few junior DE’s to enter the draft was Dewayne White (Louisville). 37.5 sacks in 38 career games show that he can get to the passer consistently but he entered coming off his least productive season (10.5 sacks, 57 tackles and 15.5 TFL’s) and that worries me a little as he may have levelled off. However, there is some suggestion that the lack of a quality player at the opposite end may have had much to do with this. I saw him earlier in the year in a game against Cincinnati played in a downpour and he showed the versatility to move up and down the line. My first impressions were that he looks more a 3-4 DE type (looks and is listed at 6’3”, 280lb’s), lacking the pure explosion around the corner I’d expect to see from a blind-side pass rusher in the 4-3. I’ll be watching him up against top competition at some point in the near future but can’t really offer more info on him at this point other than to say that the NFL advised him he was likely to be a late 1st/early 2nd round pick before he chose to enter early.
Cory Redding (Texas) has almost perfect size – estimated at 6’5”, 270lb’s – for LDE and has at times shown the strength to take on blocks at the point of attack or bull rush his opponent back to the QB, the quickness to get around blocks to the outside, enough flexibility to make the inside move. I say ‘at times’ because Redding rated as one of the biggest underachievers amongst the known talent headed into his senior season having played non-descript football in many games and only showing flashes of his ability in others. I’m not casting judgement on him until I see him for myself this year as 76 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 24 TFL’s and 4 FF’s as a senior suggests he may have become more consistent in his overall level of play, especially in big games.
Kindal Moorehead (Alabama) 6’1 ¾”, 288lb’s was the most productive pass rusher on an excellent Crimson Tide line this past season racking up 9 sacks and adding 54 tackles inc. 5 TFL’s from his LDE spot. The big knock on him has always been ‘how much he wants it’ and even this year reports suggest that he underachieved at the beginning of the season, playing too high against the run and not giving good effort on every play. That to me sounds like the quintessential ‘boom or bust’ selection but I’m willing to give him a good look.
Antwan Peek (Cincinnati) has earned some attention from scouts and he impressed me in the game against Louisville the only time I’ve ever seen him play though he did let his emotions get the better of him at times and he played a little out of control. He lined up at both end spots, got consistently good pass rush pressure off the corner and played the run extremely well both at him and in protecting the flanks.
His size is that of a ‘tweener (listed on the official university website at 6’2”, 245lb’s) and will be an issue come the draft as teams will have to decide whether he is an OLB or under-sized DE. I think OLB but he needs to prove in drills at the Combine that he has the ability to play in space and react in coverage to convince. That said, he would look awfully tempting to a team using a 3-4 and in need of a pass rushing OLB as he does nothing but make plays, notching up 100 tackles inc. 22 TFL’s and 6.5 sacks as well as forcing 7 fumbles, returning 2 for TD’s and blocking 2 kicks this past season alone!
Aaron Hunt (Texas Tech) is another player I haven’t seen at all but reports from the East-West game where he weighed in at a respectable 6’2” and 266lb’s suggest he is a solid pass rusher but tagged a ‘straight-liner’. The school sack record holder with 34 sacks, 9 of which came this year along with 109 tackles inc. 19.5 TFL’s. The combine and workouts will be important for him to disprove the ‘tag’ as flexibility rather than just speed is required to beat the NFL’s better OT’s.
Antonio Garay (Boston College) had been projected in some quarters heading into the season as a 1st round draft pick and was on his way to a fast start (5 sacks and 7.5 TFL’s in the first 6 games) before a broken ankle ended his season early. There are also still medical concerns about the neck injury that ended his previous year and required surgery. Going by size alone, at an estimated 6’4”, 290lb’s he appears best suited to 3-4 DE and that, together with his medical history, should drop him down the charts considerably. The Combine and/or personal workouts will prove a huge factor in where he projects now.
Despite playing mostly DT during his career, I believe that Tyler Brayton (Colorado) projects better outside in the pro ranks as he is not believed to have much growth potential left in his 6’5½”, 269lb frame. I’ve seen quite a bit of him last year and watched intently against Oklahoma earlier this season but think he may be one of those ‘tweener types that will take a few years to put it together though he could play a role as an interior pass rusher whilst developing. Right now, he doesn’t really have the quickness to play DE or the size/strength to play DT in the pro ranks but he awas productive in college – notched 62 tackles inc. 7 sacks and 4 TFL’s with 4 FF’s this season – and worth a look. He saw action both inside and out during the East-West game and continued at both spots when moving onto the Senior Bowl but reports from different sites have given conflicting information as to his progress.
Kenny King (Alabama) has been used at DT by the Crimson Tide but at just 6’2½” 278lb’s he will be moved to DE as a pro where he can take advantage of his quickness off the ball that allowed him to knife his way into the backfield on his way to 3 sacks, 2 FF’s and 7TFL’s against the big interior linemen this past season. Again, he’s on my viewing list.
Nick Eason (Clemson) is another player I’ve never seen as Clemson’s lack of pro prospects the last few years have stopped me wanting to watch their games! At 6’2¾”, 295lb’s he has nice size and he turned in a solid senior season starting all 12 games and producing 62 tackles, 9 TFL’s and 7 sacks but there are questions surrounding how hard he plays and also a history of injuries. I’ll only get the one viewing of him (the Senior Bowl) so anyone with insight on him is welcome to share the info on the message board.
Calvin Pace (Wake Forest) consistently produced from his LDE spot (8 sacks, 22 TFL’s with 2 blocked kicks) but broke his leg in the season finale and missed his teams Bowl game. He did return for the Senior Bowl but may have attempted to come back too soon and was forced off the roster by injury. At 6’3½” and 253lb’s he may be a little undersized but his injury may have cost him some weight. He isn’t a player I will likely ever see play now so anyone who has viewed him is encouraged to share the info!
Chris Kelsay (Nebraska) is a collegiate LDE who lacks the pure size and strength to anchor against the run and who has been trampled over by strong straight-ahead rushing attacks at times in big games. That said, he does show the quickness around the corner on the pass rush and has been taught excellent technique to allow him to get the most out of what he has physically and athletically. This year, he missed some time with a hamstring problem He weighed in at 6’4”, 270lb’s during Senior Bowl practices, but was tried out a little at LB also. He definitely isn’t as good a prospect as recent Husker DE’s like Mike Rucker and Grant Wistrom but I think he’ll be able to make it in a specialist pass rushing role and as depth.
A trio of Hurricane ends Jamaal Green, Cornelius Green and Andrew Williams (all Miami, Fla) all saw considerable action this year in what was virtually an 8 man rotation on the DL and between them did a fine job rushing the passer with Jamaal the starting RDE backed by Williams whilst C. Green filled in as a starter for the suspended McDougle for the opener then took a backseat to him. At the Senior Bowl, both J. Green and Williams measured in virtually identical in size to McDougle at 6’1 ¾” and around the 260-265lb mark (do Miami clone them?) and C. Green looks to be about the same size.
Of the three, Jamaal was the most productive this term, logging 9 sacks while Cornelius chipped in with 6 (though he missed the last 2 games with a knee injury) and Williams logged 4. Jamaal Green, a local product from Camden, NJ also appears to have the most pro potential, though he lacks the strength to hold the point of attack and is deficient against the run, often getting knocked off the ball to the outside away from the play. Teams looking for specialist pass rushers on the second day of the draft could do a lot worse than to take one of these three.
Shante Orr (Michigan) entered the draft early after missing a couple of games this season – including the game I attended against Minnesota – with an injury but he either has or is about to graduate and wanted to move on with his life now. A little shorter and lighter than is ideal for the position at 6’1”, 250lb’s, he showed good explosion around the corner and surprising toughness against the straight ahead run (10 TFL’s and 6 sacks this season). He is another who could project to OLB in the 3-4 but I think he has the body-type to add more weight and stay at DE. He was projected only as a 6th round pick by the NFL Draft Advisory Committee but teams watching him on film may take a liking to him and consider him worthy of a pick a round or so earlier.
Clint Mitchell (Florida) entered the draft early but teams may stay away from him due to character concerns (suspended all ’01 season). Studying him against Miami when he played in a rotation, he appeared a bit ‘leggy’ (listed at 6’7” and 253lb’s) and more than a little herky-jerky in his movements. I’m not sure what to make of him to be honest but will look at a few Florida tapes to get a better idea though statistically he doesn’t appear to stand out.
Again, there are sure to be prospects that could spark some interest that I see on games tapes so will list them and my thoughts on them as I go.