So far, most of us have debated and thought about drafting Wide Receivers, Quarterbacks, Cornerbacks, or Offensive Tackles in the 1st Round. We have also explored possible options for our second round pick(s). However, I feel like me personally, I don't know much about the upcoming DE/Pass rush specialist class of 2012. While its not a major need because we have capable DEs in Roth (when healthy), Mincey (big motor, occasional playmaker), and some decent rotational contributors in Douzable (surprise!) and John Chick. Having a stud DE would improve the defense even further, provide more depth, help the offense by keeping the game close in the end.
Here are the Pre-Draft Top 6 DEs from 2011: (with current stats and measurements)
Robert Quinn - 6'4 264lbs- STL - Has played 13 games, 5 sacks, 2 passes deflected, 1 kick blocked
Cameron Jordan - 6'4 287lbs - NO - Played in 14 games, 0 sacks, 1 fumble recovered, 4 passes deflected, 2 stuffs
JJ Watt - 6'5 288lbs - HOU - Played in 14 games, 3-4 DE, 42 solo tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 Fumbles recovered, 7 stuffs
Ryan Kerrigan - 6'4 267lbs - WASH - 14 games, 3-4 LB, 7.5 sacks, 37 solo tackles, 4 Forced fumbles, 1 INT, 3 stuffs
Aldon Smith - 6'4 258lbs - SF - 14 games played, 3-4 LB hybrid, 13 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 4 passes deflected
Da'Quan Bowers - 6'3 277lbs - TB - 14 games played, 1.5 sacks, 4 passes deflected, 8 stuffs
2 were moved to LB in a 3-4 Defense - Kerrigan and Aldon Smith
1 was moved to a 3-4 DE - JJ Watt
Full-Time Starters - Bowers (4-3 LDE), JJ Watt (3-4 RDE), Kerrigan (3-4 LOLB), Cam Jordan (4-3 LDE)
Part-Time Starters - Aldon Smith and Robert Quinn (who is behind Chris Long)
Playing well enough to vindicate their pick - I would say 4/6 of them. Bowers and Jordan haven't been great so far
Best DE so far of these 6: It would be Aldon Smith for those in a 3-4 OLB position and Robert Quinn for 4-3 DEs
This Draft class was not bad for DEs, even though the majority of the high picks were switched to 3-4 Defenses. It was unusual in that a lot of these defensive ends fell to later parts of the 1st round. This class was pretty deep and a significant number of DEs were selected in the 1st and 2nd round.
2012 Draft Class
This class is expected to be much, much, much weaker than last years. There is likely going to be no DEs selected in the top 10 and potentially into the top 15. This class could be helped if juniors elect to leave school early, such as Nick Perry of USC, Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, and Brandon Jenkins of FSU, who all have some potential. However, lets stick to the seniors.
the Top 4 Senior DEs are: (Player Evaluation links are from MockingtheDraft.com, Nflmocks,com and other sites)
Of these 4 seniors, Coples looks to go first around the 15-25. He could go in the top 10 but it would be a "reach" in that he gets picked due to the weakness of the DE class. Andre Branch might be a late 1st, definite 2nd round pick. Melvin Ingram depends on which position he'll play, my guess is that he's in the middle of the 2nd round. Vinny Curry is potentially early 2nd round but could fall into the top 5 picks in the 3rd round.
My favorites are Vinny Curry and Andre Branch:
Andre Branch comes from a very good Clemson team. He has good size at 6'5, 265 and should benefit from an NFL workout program. He can get around a LT with his quickness and can make plays around the field. he has pretty good play recognition but need to work at his tackling a little. Also has a decent inside move.
Vinny Curry led the nation in sacks for a couple weeks leading to his name becoming a little more known. he will get attention from 3-4 orientated teams which could push him into the 2nd Round. He gained some weight this season and still looks to be just as quick as before. he's a good tackler and has some moves to help him get to the QB.
Small-School Gene Smith Candidate:
Aston Whiteside - DL - 6'2 285 - Abilene Christian - makes plays in pass rushing, run defense and special teams.
here's a small scouting report on him by nflmocks.com: here