2011 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Ends
1. Robert Quinn UNC- Quinn was one of the hottest names coming into this season and is thought to have potential top 5 pick talent. He is a speed rusher who gets after the quarterback as well as any DE in the nation. Unfortunately due to an NCAA investigation, Quinn has yet to suit up for UNC this year. While the expectation is he could become eligible any day now, you never know with the NCAA. Given the investigation it is a near guarantee that he will declare now, but missing time on the football field could slip him out of the Top 5-10 range. Quinn is a dominate pass rusher so even if he were to miss half the season I don’t think it would affect his status too much, but you never can tell.
2. Cameron Heyward Ohio St.- Heyward would have likely have been a top 50 pick last year if he declared and should find his name off the board by the middle of Round 1 in 2011. He is a strong and versatile defensive linemen, who uses that strength to bull rush offensive tackles. While he can play both the 4-3 and 3-4, and even DT on passing downs, Heyward lacks the quickness to be a blind side pass rusher. And might end up best suited as a 3-4 end. A strong year and postseason can move him up, and if he shows a bit more quickness he could challenge Quinn for the top spot on this board.
3. Adrian Clayborn Iowa- Clayborn is very similar to Heyward as his game is built on strength and versatility, but has some questions about his speed. Clayborn is just as dominating of a prospect and should also hear his name called in the 1st round. He is a powerful end, who punishes quarterbacks and running backs alike. Despite being bigger, Clayborn doesn’t always use his size to his advantage with run defense, and he needs to learn to read and react better. He is in the midst of another strong campaign, and is a virtual lock to go in the first round.
4. Allen Bailey Miami- Bailey is a bit of a tweener here so that knocks him down a bit. He can play inside at DT for 4-3 teams if they like quicker, smaller tackles but won’t fit every system. While other 4-3 teams could view him as an end, he lacks the overall speed to get around the tackles. His best fit could be as a 3-4 end, and as such could end up going higher than Heyward and Clayborn. Bailey is probably the best run defending DE in this class, and still does a good job of attacking the quarterback. He shouldn’t get out of the first round, but could be an early target for a 3-4 team.
5. Greg Romeus Pittsburgh- Romeus would have been near the top of this list a few weeks ago but a back injury in week 1, will have him sidelined for the foreseeable future. With Romeus out until probably at least November it is likely he will slip some in this talented draft class. Romeus is a speed rusher, who plays with exceptional strength. While he might not have the pure speed of a Quinn, he is probably a better all-around DE. He handles himself well against the run, and is very good at backside pursuit. Romeus plays instinctive, smart football that helps him get the most out of his talent. The other knock on Romeus outside of his injury, is the fact that he probably is only one dimensional. He is a 4-3 DE only, and doesn’t have the size to kick inside, or play the 3-4 end spot. While it’s not impossible that he could develop into an OLB in a 3-4 scheme it isn’t his forte. My guess is he still holds on to his first round status, but a lot of that will depend on how he comes back and his postseason.
Best of the Rest:
Da’Quan Bowers Clemson- Based on physical ability Bowers could easily be the top pick in this class, based on overall performance and skill set he could fall into the 3rd round. Bowers has the versatility to play any defensive line position except nose tackle, but has yet to show consistency. So far this year he is off to a better start, but he has to keep it up if he wants to go in the first or second round.
Ryan Kerrigan Purdue- Kerrigan is pretty much a 4-3 end which will likely hurt him, but I wouldn’t bet against him switching positions if he needed to. He has a great motor and gets after the passer with the best of them. His stock is moving up and could have him in the mid-first round when next April comes around.