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Top De Prospects


MayorWest13
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Alex Okafor

Overview

Like many Texas players, Okafor signed as one of the more highly regarded prep prospects in the country and saw immediate playing time, registering 22 tackles, including two tackles for loss and a forced fumble while serving as a backup defensive end and special teamer.

Despite his size, Okafor was moved inside to defensive tackle as a sophomore. Although this transition didn't help his stat-line (30 tackles, four tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, FF), it did force Okafor to improve his strength, hand usage and ability to keep his feet in traffic. Those are skills he used to great effectiveness in a breakout 2011 campaign back at defensive end in which he earned consensus First Team All-Big 12 honors by the league's coaches and an All-American nod by the AFCA with 58 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, eight sacks and two forced fumbles.

In today's NFL, defensive ends are largely graded on their ability to wreak havoc on the quarterback. Okafor does not possess the elite explosiveness off the snap that generally warrants top 20 consideration, but his physicality and hand usage are top notch.

Despite being the obvious focus of every opponent's blocking scheme since talented teammate Jackson Jeffcoat was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, Okafor earned First Team All-Big 12 accolades for the second consecutive season. He finished his Longhorn career in style with an five tackles for loss (including 4.5 sacks) to help beat Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl.

Analysis

Okafor is a good athlete capable of improving his sack total in 2012, but his most impressive attribute is his power. Okafor can knock opponents onto their heels on his way to the quarterback and also sets the edge nicely as a run defender. Okafor's ability to make plays against the run and pass makes him arguably the most well-rounded senior defensive end in the country.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGo3BVi_7Do

Dion Jordan

Overview

Jordan signed with Oregon as a highly regarded prep tight end and only made the switch to the defensive side of the ball in the spring of 2010.

As a reserve defensive end for the Ducks in 2010 Jordan registered 33 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

To take advantage of his unique combination of burst off the snap and length, Oregon created a hybrid role for Jordan in 2011, lining him up as a stand-up pass rusher and moving him around to find favorable matchups. Demonstrating surprising fluidity for such a tall player, Jordan exploded for 13 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, each of which led the team, earning First Team all-conference honors from Pac-12 coaches.

In 2012, Jordan showcased his versatility to the nation against Arizona State, lining up on the line of scrimmage as a stand-up defensive end, in the box as a linebacker or in the slot, covering inside receivers. Yes - in the slot on receivers, a spot usually reserved for defensive backs.

Rarely asked to play with his hand in the dirt as a traditional defensive end, Oregon helped protect Jordan as a run-defender as he lacks the bulk to consistently set the edge against 300 pound behemoths. Jordan's long arms and vision, however, allow him to disengage from most blockers quickly and he plays with a high-revving motor, often pursuing the ball-carrier yards downfield.

Jordan's extraordinary physical tools will likely land him in the first round, now the question is how high?

Analysis

Jordan has rare athleticism for his size, showing loose hips and smooth footwork to move naturally in any direction. He looks like a basketball small forward in football pads with fluid athleticism for a player with his height and length.

Listed at 6-7 and 240 pounds, Jordan needs to continue to add weight and fill out his frame, lacking much of a power element to his game. But as a pass rusher, he has a quick first step with acceleration to beat blockers and flatten out to close on the quarterback.

Jordan doesn't have the heaviest hands, but he's extremely quick with his mitts, making it tough for blockers to combat them. There are some questions about where his natural position is at the next level, but any creative defensive coordinator will be able to utilize Jordan's impressive blend of size and speed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UwVrBRruEk

Sam Montgomery

Overview

While some talent evaluators rate his linemates Barkevious Mingo and Bennie Logan as the better NFL prospects at this point, Montgomery has actually been the Tigers' most productive defensive lineman over their respective career. Add to this fact that he certainly looks the part of an NFL star at a chiseled 6-5, 260 pounds and possessing eye-popping straight-line speed and it is easy to see why Montgomery ranks among the more intriguing pass rushers in the country.

All may not be as it appears for Montgomery, however. While strong and fast, Montgomery is also a bit stiff in the hips, lacking the change of direction skills that some believe are critical to a pass rusher's success in the NFL. Montgomery also lacks burst off the snap, negating somewhat his impressive speed.

Nevertheless, Montgomery has been productive throughout his career. He signed with LSU as a highly regarded recruit in 2009 but was redshirted as a freshman. While he missed most of the next season with the knee injury, Montgomery certainly flashed the playmaking ability to leave LSU fans excited about his potential, racking up an impressive 18 tackles, including six tackles for loss and two sacks in only five games. A year later, he led the team in sacks (nine) and finished second in tackles for loss (13.5), accomplishing this feat despite typically facing the opponent's best blocker (left tackle) and coming off a 2010 campaign in which he missed the final eight games with a torn ACL in his right knee.

Montgomery reportedly worked very hard to improve upon his redshirt sophomore season's totals, adding 30 pounds of muscle while maintaining his jaw-dropping athleticism. He once again led LSU's defensive linemen in tackles for loss (12) and sacks (seven) in 2012, but finished with "just" 32 tackles overall in his redshirt junior season.

Possessing the length and speed to find a niche in every NFL defense, Montgomery certainly is intriguing. However, considering the relative struggles experienced from other highly touted LSU defensive linemen in the NFL, NFL teams should exercise some caution when projecting Montgomery into the league.

Analysis

Strengths: Certainly looks the part. Possesses a lanky frame with long arms and plenty of room for additional muscle mass, especially considering his terrific speed. Flashes a quick burst off the snap and accelerates very smoothly for a man of his size, demonstrating the ability to track down elusive ball-carriers from behind. Plays with good strength and typically is able to hold up nicely at the point of attack, stringing off-tackle runs to the sideline with solid containment integrity. High effort defender who seems to enjoy the physicality and competition of the game. Showed a great deal of work ethic in coming back bigger, stronger and faster after sustaining a serious knee injury in 2010.

Weaknesses: Too often is slow off the snap, ranking, in fact, as the final player to react off the ball much of the time. Struggles a bit to disengage from blocks when he's initially contained. Flashes a quick spin back to the inside but otherwise is a bit reliant on his speed and bull rushes. He does not possess elite flexibility to dip under the reach of talented pass protectors and while possessing long, strong arms doesn't consistently keep his hands working to break free. Too often he's locked up and doesn't break until the ball has passed him. Struggles changing directions due to stiffness in his hips and can be left in the dust by elusive ball-carriers who see him coming. Reacts late to cut blocks and too often is negated by them.

Margus Hunt

Overview

The NFL loves upside, and few prospects possess more of it than Hunt, a gold medal-winning track and field athlete and native of Estonia who has only been playing football since 2009.

Possessing an extraordinary combination of size and explosiveness, Hunt became the first junior athlete to ever win both the shot put and discus gold medals the same year, accomplishing both feats at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing. He moved to Dallas to train with SMU's world-renowned track and field coach Dave Wollman just in time to see the university drop the program. Rather than move again, Hunt elected to try football.

The game didn't initially come easy to Hunt. Despite playing in 13 games in 2009, he recorded just eight total tackles. He nearly doubled the SMU record, however, by blocking an eye-popping seven kicks in his first season, coming within one of tying the NCAA single-season record. Hunt blocked three more kicks in 2010 and saw his production jump in every other category, as well, notching 45 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in his second year of playing.

Though Hunt's stops behind the line of scrimmage would rise as a junior (7.5, including 3.0 sacks) and senior (11.5 including 8.0 sacks), Hunt's ascent hasn't been as consistent as scouts might have envisioned after his first two years. The 45 overall tackles he posted as a sophomore remain his single-season career high.

Characterized by CBS' Bruce Feldman as the biggest athletic "freak" in college football, Hunt possesses the extraordinary upside to warrant early consideration. After four years in the game, however, he remains a better athlete than football player, and ranks as one of the bigger boom-or-bust prospects of the 2013 draft.

Analysis

STRENGTHS: Certainly looks the part. Possesses a long, tapered build with room for additional muscle mass. Boasts a surprisingly quick first step and gains ground efficiently due to his long strides. Closes quickly on the ballcarrier due and can provide a thump on arrival.

Naturally powerful defender who can simply bull-rush his opponent deep into the pocket. Big, strong and reasonably active hands to fight through blockers' attempts at grasping a hold of him. Good hand-eye coordination and times his leaps well to aid in his kick-blocking prowess. Has emerged as a player the offense must account for on virtually every snap and yet remains a better athlete than football player, which speaks to his exciting upside.

WEAKNESSES: Highly inconsistent. Has a tendency to make a splashy play and then disappear for long periods of the game. Struggles with pad level and can get blown off the ball against the run because he loses the leverage battle.

Like a lot of taller defensive ends, Hunt is stiff in his upper body and he struggles to re-direct when attempting to break down and tackle agile ball-carriers. Can be eluded and has a tendency to lunge at ball-carriers as a result, leading to some ugly whiffs.

Doesn't get his hands into passing windows as much as he should considering his height and kick-blocking prowess. Has only seven passes defended in 53 games. Inconsistent effort in downfield pursuit.

Ezekiel Ansah

Overview

A native of Ghana who signed on with BYU as a member of the track team and with aspirations of one day turning his unique combination of size and athleticism into a chance at the NBA, Ansah entered the 2012 season completely off the radar of NFL scouts.

It isn't difficult to understand why. Ansah had only joined the BYU football team two years earlier and entered his senior season with zero career starts and just 10 total tackles.

Fast-forward a year and Ansah is routinely mentioned as the hottest NFL prospect in the country and a legitimate first-round contender, perhaps even a very high pick.

Playing in all 13 games (but starting just nine of them), Ansah registered 62 tackles in 2012, including 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Ansah likely would have registered more sacks (he had team-high eight quarterback pressures) if not for the Cougars boasting another terrific pass rusher in junior outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy (13.5 sacks).

Taking full advantage of Ansah's ability to create mismatches, the BYU staff moved him all over the field in 2012, lining up as an stand-up rush linebacker (left, right and middle), a classic defensive end (left, right) and even as a nose guard, at times.

A creative NFL defensive coordinator will likely find Ansah's versatility, size and power similarly useful

Analysis

STRENGTHS: Rare combination of size, athleticism and natural power. Has a long, well-distributed frame with room for additional muscle mass without a significant loss of quickness. Flashes an explosive initial punch to the offensive lineman to gain space.

Possesses rare balance that allows him to maintain his feet despite taking long-strides that gobble up space between he and the quarterback with surprising speed. Balance and surprising lateral agility is also evident in changing directions. Has good -- not great -- strength but very good natural explosiveness to bull rush his opponent into the pocket.

Slips off blocks when the ball-carrier is near, latching on with his long arms and big hands for the drag-down tackle. Seemed to improve nearly game to game in 2012, especially when it came to locating the football. Began to sniff out screens and draws as the season wore on, demonstrating good awareness and hustle to complement his physical traits. Already shows excellent recognition and use of hands in pass defense, getting his hands up to knock down nine passes in 2012.

Possesses significant untapped potential and is an ascending talent whose best football is ahead of him.

WEAKNESSES: Lacks elite first-step quickness off the snap. Relies too much on his speed, size and an explosive first punch to shock his opponent with his initial surge, struggling to break free if the blocker grabs a hold of Ansah's jersey or chest plate.

Must learn to chop with his hands most consistently and powerfully to break free once engaged. Allows his pad level to rise and can be pushed back in the running game. Has only played football since 2010 and has just one season as a starter.

Datone Jones

Overview

Jones caught the imagination of UCLA coaches early in his career, appearing in 10 games (and starting two) as a true freshman (15 tackles). As a sophomore, he registered 30 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss and four sacks while opponents focused their attention on the disruptive Brian Price and Akeem Ayers.

Rather than have his career take off in 2010 as hoped by the UCLA faithful, Jones was lost for the entire season after breaking his right foot in fall camp.

He racked up 41 tackles and led UCLA in both tackles for loss (6.5) and sacks (three) in 2011 while starting all 14 games and splitting time between tackle and defensive end. Jones' numbers were frankly disappointing considering he had flashed the skill-set to be one of the Pac-12's more dangerous defensive linemen.

While Jones saw more time outside in 2012 as the Bruins transitioned to a 3-4, he continued to move up and down the line and developed into a true impact player. He finished the season with 62 tackles - 19 of which went for losses to go along with 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a safety. He even blocked a kick.

With so many NFL clubs incorporating hybrid fronts, a versatile and battle-tested defender with Jones' size and athleticism could earn a surprisingly high grade. His scheme versatility will make him an attractive prospect for hybrid defenses like in New England.

Analysis

STRENGTHS: Versatile, has started at tackle and at defensive end. Has the combination of bulk, strength and athleticism to handle the end position. Thickly-built frame with broad shoulders and has packed on as much muscle as possible to his body. He is extremely active with a quick first step and explosive closing burst, attacking blockers with power and speed. Good short-area burst off the edge, and wins with strength and quickness at the point of attack. Load to handle because he is so relentless, making offenses plan for him on every snap. Adds value as a potential impact player blocking kicks on the field-goal unit.

WEAKNESSES: Versatility can also be a detriment, as it's difficult to classify his best position. While he has a striking physique, Jones isn't the biggest or strongest of the highly-rated defensive linemen in this class.

Edited by MayorWest13
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Both Ansah and Hunt are struggling this week at the Senior Bowl, however, both are physical freaks, and will, most likely, blow up at the combine, much like Dontari Poe in 2012. In the end, I expect both to go middle of the 1st, based, almost entirely on perceived untapped potential, which should, hopefully, push somebody like Okafor down to our pick.

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We would be wise to sign the best available vet pass rusher, and draft the best explosive pass rusher in round 1 or 2

The DL has been neglected far too long. 3 playoff losses, 3 unqualified DL

The pass rush is entirely dependent upon 34 year old always fighting injuries Abe, him getting injured in week 17 was some kind of sick highlighting of this fact

Not only do we need an actual pass rusher to compliment him, we need to start developing someone to replace him

Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora should both be available

The Colts brilliantly switched to a 3-4, moving their 2 good defenders from DE to OLB. Freeney had his worst year. He wants back in a 4-3 and what better place. He and Abe will destroy QBs on third down

Osi was on the bench behind JPP and Tuck and doesnt consider himself a bench player. He wants out and would be motivated to come here and be an every down leader, possibly more of a factor in run D than Freeney.

Then we can draft the best available pass rusher to learn from 2 of the best in the game

DT is also a very glaring need, we need an actual run stopper. Jerry will probably be cut and Walker is a FA. There are a ton of quality FA DTs, I could see us signing a starter to a multi year deal, and also signing another to a 1 year prove it deal

DE Osi, ROOKIE

DT Randy Starks, Sammie Lee Hill

DT Babineaux, Peters

DE Abe, Biermann

DE Freeney, ROOKIE

DT Terrance Knighton, Glenn Dorsey

DT Babineaux, Peters

DE Abe, Biermann

We can't go into next season with this unqualified DL

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I don't see Vance not being re-signed. Guy was great for us this year in limited playing time. Jerry yeah i agree he should be gone, but Vance is staying. He won't require a big contract at all.

Absolutely agree.. He has been good in limited snaps. Cutting ties with Jerry, and picking up another DT in draft or FA should be a must.

Anybody know what getting rid of Jerry would cost us?

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Both Ansah and Hunt are struggling this week at the Senior Bowl, however, both are physical freaks, and will, most likely, blow up at the combine, much like Dontari Poe in 2012. In the end, I expect both to go middle of the 1st, based, almost entirely on perceived untapped potential, which should, hopefully, push somebody like Okafor down to our pick.

Exactly, the rawness is the issue. I saw two of Ansah's games and I didn't understand what all the hype was about. Sure, he does look the part, but he didn't have a burst to me. Hunt I watched a couple of times, I think he has gone from a relatively unknown to a top 100 player. He seems to have the speed rush and nothing else. Then I find out he will be 26 and I'm like why waste the time as the window is too small for my taste.

Okafor has been ultra productive, but he is not a speed rusher. He is not going to sniff 4.6 in the 40. I’m even wondering if 4.7 is in the cards. He is not a speed rusher and at 261 he is small for the LDE. Yeah he can add more weight, but will 10 extra pounds make him even slower? Just too many questions for a team like Atlanta in my mind who need a #1 & #2 type passrusher.

Most of the guys we will pick from will have type of issue. The workouts will be big for all.

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I'm not against drafting a DE early, but I still think our priority should be clearing space and making a push to sign Avril or Osi. Of all the DEs drafted in the last 4 or so years how many came in and had the expected impact early on? I'm all for developing a guy but we need someone who can come in and help pressure the QB immediately. Hard to say who is going to be that next Orakpo, Smith or Watt and would that guy be sitting there for the picking at 30?

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I'm not against drafting a DE early, but I still think our priority should be clearing space and making a push to sign Avril or Osi. Of all the DEs drafted in the last 4 or so years how many came in and had the expected impact early on? I'm all for developing a guy but we need someone who can come in and help pressure the QB immediately. Hard to say who is going to be that next Orakpo, Smith or Watt and would that guy be sitting there for the picking at 30?

I hear you, but this is by far the deepest group of DEs in a real long time. And that's what the Falcons need. I'm all for making a run at Osi, but not Avril. Avril has Ray Edwards written all over him.

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I hope that Okafor falls to the Falcons.

If the Falcons decide to pickup a 2nd pass rusher later in the draft then Brandon Jenkins from FSU would be great because he more than likely would have been a 1st rounder as well if he wouldn't had gotten injured during the first game of the 2012 football season.

Edited by DawnOfThemBirds
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From what I've seen of Hunt and Ansah, I'm not impressed. Sure they are physical specimens, that look and act the part, but game tape never lies and what I've seen were less than stellar. Both were getting stonewalled at the point of attack and looked lost at times.

Okafor, though, looks every bit the real deal.

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