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2008 NFL Draft - Ranking The Defensive Ends

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 12, 2008


CFN ranks the top 35 prospects with the deep sleeper and most overrated and underrated players.

2008 NFL Draft Position Rankings
The Defensive Ends

Rankings & Breakdowns
Top 50 Players - 1 to 25 |
Top 50 Players - 26 to 50 | Quarterbacks
Running Backs |
Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Offensive Tackles  
Offensive Guards |
Centers | Defensive Ends | Defensive Tackles    
Linebackers |
Safeties | Cornerbacks | Punters & Kickers  

By Pete Fiutak

The Class Is ... Tremendous. Chris Long, Vernon Gholston, Phillip Merling and Derrick Harvey are just a few that could be really special, and there's a load of good prospects able to work with. There's a lot to be excited about.

The Best Value Pick Will Be ... Lawrence Jackson, USC

Most Underrated ... Jason Jones, Eastern Michigan

Most Overrated ... Derrick Harvey, Florida

The Deep, Deep Sleeper Is .. Marcus Dixon, Hampton

THE FRANCHISE

1. Vernon Gholston, DE Ohio State
It's all about the motor. If Gholston has the fire lit under him and goes full-tilt all the time, he's the best defensive player in the draft and he could be the best overall talent available. The question will be his game-in-game-out consistency. Oh sure, when it's Monday Night Football and the spotlight is on, he'll blow up and come up with the game needed to make a big splash and create a Pro Bowl buzz, but will he show up for that non-descript 1:00 early November game against Buffalo? Versatile enough to be used as an outside linebacker and more than strong enough to be an every down end, he can do it all for a defense and when he's on, he'll be unstoppable. He has safety athleticism and proved at the Combine he's as strong as any offensive lineman. While he's not the sure thing Chris Long is, there's a much, much bigger upside.
CFN Projection: Top Ten Overall

2. Chris Long, DE Virginia
Motor, motor, motor, motor, motor. A natural pass rusher, Long is a tremendous all-around end who can get into the backfield any time he wants to and is a playmaker against the run. Even when nothing seems to be happening, he finds a way to make a play on sheer drive and desire. He got stuffed in the Gator Bowl loss to Texas Tech and there's a question about just how good he'll be against the elite tackles. He'll dominate from time to time at the NFL level when going against average linemen, but he'll likely be erased by the top OTs. There's no real downside; he'll be a sure-thing starter for the next ten years, but is there any upside? Unlike Vernon Gholston, Phillip Merling or Calais Campbell, what you see with Long might be exactly what you get. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
CFN Projection: Top Ten Overall


3.
Phillip Merling, DE Clemson
The upside is limitless if a coaching staff is willing to be patient and will work with him on becoming a more refined pass rusher. He's great at getting to the quarterback and creating pressure, but he needs to become a better closer, which likely would've happened if he had stayed for his senior season. With excellent size, he can be a near-perfect end in a 4-3 and has the quickness to grow into a top pass rusher in a 3-4. Always working and always on, he never dogs a play and is always going full-tilt. While he was hurt and wasn't able to work out as expected this off-season, that only got some teams excited about the possibility to get him on the cheap. There's no real downside, and he could become special in a few years.
CFN Projection: First Round

POTENTIAL NFL STARTERS

4. Derrick Harvey, DE Florida
While he looks like a pass rusher and has the athleticism and ability to become a top end, he still has to tap into his talent. Very strong and good against the run, he's not going to get moved around by the stronger tackles. The problem is his résumé. While he was good at Florida, he wasn't as dominant as he should've been and was far more hype than production when it was time to become the main man. While he was a good college player, there's a chance he could be much better pro talent after a little more coaching and a little more time in the weight room. There's an upside to him, but it's not quite as limitless as Phillip Merling or Vernon Gholston.
CFN Projection: First Round


5.
Calais Campbell, DE Miami
Potentially the boom or bust pick in the draft, Campbell has freakish size at close to 6-8 and 290 pounds. While he's not fast, he's a good athlete who has functional football speed with the ability to chase down ball-carriers. Ultra-productive, did it all his sophomore year with a whopping 84 tackles and 20.5 tackles for loss, and while his numbers dipped a bit last year, he still had a nice season. However, he's raw. He disappeared at times against the better tackles and he has to learn how to play like the biggest, baddest end around. Don't expect a Pro Bowl rookie season, but by year three he could end up being the best defensive lineman in this draft.
CFN Projection: Late First Round To Early Second Round


6.
Lawrence Jackson, DE USC
In this draft, Jackson is a poor man's Vernon Gholston. A little bit bigger than the former Ohio State star but not quite as fast, he's a versatile defender who could project as an outside linebacker in the right system. Unlike Gholston, there's room to beef up with another ten pounds of muscle. A decent pass rusher, but not an elite one quite yet, he needs a fire lit under him to become a top-shelf closer. He was good at USC and was certainly a good producer for four years, but he didn't blossom into the superstar All-American that he should've.
CFN Projection: Second Round


7.
Jeremy Thompson, DE/LB Wake Forest
One of the faster ends in the draft, the 6-4, 265-pound former Demon Deacon has the athleticism and the potential to blossom in the right system. He's not going to be a top-shelf pass rusher and there's a big, screaming question mark about his durability, he has shown enough of a flash to project as a nice starter who does well as a cog in the system. He'll never be a star, but he should be a productive starter as long as he can stay healthy.
CFN Projection: Late Second Round To Early Third Round


BEST OF THE REST

8. Chris Ellis, DE Virginia Tech
Potentially a good No. 3 end who shines in a rotation, Ellis has good strength against the run and nice speed. However, he has major character issues and he'll need to be taken under the wing of a mentor right away. He has the potential to grow into a creative pass rusher who can fit into any system, but he'll have to fight through what seems to be an ongoing shoulder issue and he has to have the right attitude from day one.

CFN Projection: Third Round


9. Shawn Crable, DE/LB Michigan
An ultra-productive linebacker last year with 90 tackles and 7.5 sacks, he's a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end as a pro. Undersized for a lineman at around 6-5 and 245 pounds, he makes up for it with tremendous athleticism and good strength for his size. His money will be made in the weight-room. With room on his frame for another 15 pounds of muscle, he could bulk up and grow into a pass rushing end and could become a poor man's Terrell Suggs.

CFN Projection: Fourth Round


10. Jason Jones, DE/DT Eastern Michigan
An interesting prospect who could pay off big with a little time, Jones was a quick, undersized tackle at EMU who was great at getting into the backfield. He's actually more of an oversized end at 6-5 and 275 pounds with excellent speed and versatility. If he wants it and will work for it, he'll have the chance to grow into a steady starter.

CFN Projection: Late Third Round To Early Fourth Round


11.
Ken Iwebema, DE Iowa
Iwebema was on the fast track to becoming an All-American and a top pro prospect after a promising sophomore season, but he got hurt and never lived up to his potential. While he has decent size at 6-4 and 274 pounds, he doesn't have an NFL burst and he didn't progress enough as a sacker to offer much hope that he'll grow into one as a pro. He's strong and he'll do a lot of things that don't show up on a stat sheet, but he has work to do to become a regular starter.
CFN Projection: Third Round


12. Darrell Robertson, DE/LB Georgia Tech
A much of a linebacker prospect as an end, the 255-pound Yellow Jacket
is a good athlete who could bulk up a bit and become a specialist. He plays faster than he actually is has enough potential to be used in a variety of ways. He needs to be more physical and he has to get bigger, but there's plenty of upside.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round


13. Chris Harrington, DE Texas A&M
A baller. Tough against the run, productive throughout his Aggie career, and a strong all-around player, Harrington was a good leader who always has his motor running and is always going to give 100%. He simply doesn't have NFL pass rushing skills and is too small to be worked into a tackle. He'll work his way on to a roster, but he's not going to be a regular starter.  

CFN Projection: Sixth Round


14. Louis Holmes, DE Arizona
At 6-3 and 265 pounds, Holmes is a good-sized end with nice speed and excellent toughness. He's not a natural pass rusher and is way too inconsistent. While he's a willing tackler, he's just not very good at it. He's a bit of a project who has to work hard on doing the little things right and has to be willing to work to make himself a player. 

CFN Projection: Sixth Round


15. Chase Ortiz, DE TCU
A terrific college player who did a little bit of everything for the Horned Frog front, he's going to have a hard time finding a spot in the pros. He works hard and doesn't take a play off, but he's only 6-2 and 249 pounds and isn't athletic enough to grow into a reliable outside linebacker. He'll have to grow into a dependable backup.

CFN Projection: Sixth Round


16. Kendall Langford, DE/DT Hampton
An oversized end at 287 pounds, he could end up sitting inside or playing in a 4-3 scheme. Really strong and really tough, he does a little of everything and can be molded into whatever defense he plays in. However, he needs a lot of work and a lot of time. There almost no refined technique whatsoever and he'll need a ton of coaching and a lot of time. With his tools, the potential is there for big things if given the chance.

CFN Projection: Fifth Round


17. Bryan Smith, DE/LB McNeese State
Extremely athletic and a terrific pass rusher at the lower level, Smith cranked out 24 sacks in the last two years
and is great at making every tackle. He's not really a linebacker, but at only 6-2 and 231 pounds, he's not an end. Despite his lack of size, he'll be a fun toy for a defensive coordinator to play with.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round


18. Wallace Gilberry, DE Alabama
While he has good size for en end, he's not quick enough to be a consistent pass rusher and is way too small to work on the inside. He wasn't nearly as productive as he should've been, even though he has good work habits and tried hard from day one. Unable to get into the backfield often enough, he'll have problems finding an NFL role. 

CFN Projection: Sixth Round


19. Marcus Dixon, DE/DT Hampton
Very big and very tough, the 294-pounder could be a quick tackle or a huge end in a 4-3. Off some draft boards because of time spent in jail from a highly publicized rape case, character isn't the problem it's being made out to be. He was stuck in an ugly, politicized court case that tried to make him out to be a monster he most certainly isn't. On the field, he originally signed with Vanderbilt before the problems, and he turned out to be a great player at Hampton. He needs time in the weight-room, but at his size he could become a tremendous all-around lineman if given time.

CFN Projection: Sixth Round


20. Adamm Oliver, DE Georgia Tech
The effort is there, but the NFL talent and the pro body aren't. Even so, he was a productive player for Georgia Tech who would be a much better prospect if he wasn't coming off a torn ACL. All-around quickness and athleticism was a question to begin with, and the knee injury isn't going to help. He has a high-motor and is tough enough to battle back, but it'll be hard to find a niche.

CFN Projection: Sixth Round


21. Trevor Scott, DE Buffalo
The former tight end is making himself into a good end. At close to 6-5 and 256 pounds, he has a frame that could support a lot more weight, and he's just scratching the surface on what he can become. He tries his tail off and is more than happy to work on becoming as good as he can possibly become, but he's far from being an NFL defensive end. He needs to get a lot stronger and a little bigger. 

CFN Projection: Sixth Round


22. Martail Burnett, DE Utah
A tremendous athlete who started out his career as a safety before beefing up and turning into a nice end. At 6-2 and 257 pounds, he's not big and he doesn't have much room to get bigger. He needs a lot of work on his technique and he has to get stronger and even more refined, but there's a huge upside if someone gives him time to develop.

CFN Projection: Sixth Round To Seventh Round


23. Alex Hall, DE St. Augustine's
The former tight end has a ton of potential if he gets into an NFL weight-room and if he has a coach looking to spend the time to work on the basic skills. At 6-5 and 219 pounds, he has a lot of room to get bigger and stronger, but he's a very quick producer, at least at the lower level, who has to turn himself into a harder worker. Basically, he has to become a gym rat.

CFN Projection: Sixth Round 

24. Dorian Smith, DE Oregon State
Smith produced well over the last two years for the Beavers after coming in from the JUCO ranks, but he's very short , not consistent, and has a hard time staying healthy. He's not an every-down player and will have to carve out a niche for himself as a pass rushing specialist. The problem is that he's not a special pass rusher; he doesn't do any one thing really well.

CFN Projection: Sixth Round


25.
Tommy Blake, DE TCU
Considered a sure-thing first round pick, and possibly even a top ten caliber player, before a tragic set of circumstances from a bout with anxiety and depression. he's trying to regain his reputation and his talent. When he was fine, he was a breathtaking blend of speed, size, and ability. He was a superstar in the making and is worth a flier, but he needs to lose a lot of weight, has to get into shape, and has to show that he's really able to be a player again.

CFN Projection:
Sixth Round

26. Johnny Dingle, DE West Virginia
For some reason, height seems to matter to NFL types when it comes to ends. Dingle is under 6-2, but he's 265 pounds with good speed and excellent quickness. He's just not fast enough to become a pro pass rusher and he's too small to be a decent tackle. Old, at 25 when he comes to camp, and after a few lousy off-season workouts including a disastrous Combine, he needs to work hard to make a team. 

CFN Projection: Sixth Round

ON THE RADAR

27. Bryan Mattison, DE Iowa
28. Hilee Taylor, DE/LB North Carolina
29. Brandon Miller, DE Georgia
30. Joe Clermond, DE Pitt
31. Andy Studebaker, DE Wheaton
32. Rob Jackson, DE Kansas State
33. Jeremy Geathers, DE UNLV
34. Casper Brinkley, DE/LB South Carolina
35. Angelo Craig, DE Cincinnati