2010 NFL Draft Watch: Defensive Ends

(Note: This is the continuation of a series of articles looking in-depth at each position category in the 2010 NFL Draft.  All players will be evaluated based on their fit in the Broncos' scheme and quality of player preference)


Defensive tackles (part 1)

Defensive tackles (part 2)

The defensive end position is a unique animal.  I am tempted to separate out the "true" defensive ends (i.e., those who will play on the line in a typical defensive formation) from the "tweeners" or "hybrids" (i.e., those who will play either linebacker or situational role-player).  However, I have promised myself -- and you -- that I will Keep It Simple, Stupid.  So, I'll just assume that the premises are well-understood, and dive right in.

It might be helpful to read Emmit Smith's excellent article on the responsibilities of OLBs/DEs in the Bronco's scheme.  For another defensive line analysis, see Vortex7's post HERE.  Finally, I am indebted to PredominantlyOrange for generously allowing me access to the War Room information.

Alex Carrington 5 stars 5-tech LDG
CJ Wilson 4.5 stars 5-tech LDG
Austen Lane 4.5 stars 5-tech RDG
Corey Wooten 3.5 stars 5-tech RDG
Carlos Dunlap 2.5 stars 5-tech RDG
Derrick Morgan 4.5 stars LDE
Everson Griffen 1.5 stars LDE
George Selvie 4.5 stars RDE
Brandon Graham 4 stars RDE
Jermaine Cunningham 3 stars RDE
Brandon Lang 3 stars RDE
Jason Worilds 2.5 stars RDE
Jason Pierre-Paul 2 stars RDE
Willie Young 2 stars RDE
Rahim Alem 2 stars RDE
Greg Hardy 1.5 stars RDE
Lindsey Witten 1.5 stars RDE

Derrick Morgan  (6-4, 272 lbs)  Georgia Tech

1st round 5-star prospect



Most draft sites have a consensus that this guy is best in a 4-3 scheme.  And I'll be honest, I usually stopped reading then.  However, like Brian Price, the phrase "best fits in a 4-3 scheme" does not mutually exclude "can do well as a 3-4 end"  So I looked deeper and found tidbits like these:

Was moved around throughout every game. Played end on both sides, even saw time inside the guard. The quickness off the snap and consistent technique allows him to excel at any spot along the defensive line. Even has the explosion to play standing up in a 3-4 scheme.

Morgan is by far the most versatile defensive end in this draft class, but the talent is right there to match it.... With that said, it is rare to come by such a talented prospect that understands the importance of technique and work ethic  [NewEraScouting]

 With his natural talent, work ethic, and willingness to be coached, he has elite potential.  Also, he is "excellent" against the run, according to the War Room (especially our version that asks DEs to contain the edges):

Does a good job of tying up and stringing out the play on outside runs to his side. Keeps play inside of him when that is his responsibility and can disengage and make tackles. On misdirection plays back to his side, shows good athleticism changing directions and exploding back toward the near sideline to track down running back before he can turn the corner.

I'm going to spend a bit more time and space on Morgan than I will with the other guys, to reiterate a point.  The Denver Broncos run an amoeba version of the 3-4, one that flashes 4-3 and 5-2 looks.  Yes, Mike Nolan is gone, but that was a personal issue (wanting to be closer to home) that had nothing to do with McDaniels' preference.  Given his prediliction for versatile players and a versatile offense, it is no stretch to assume the defense will be the same and we will continue with our current scheme.

This is why you simply cannot look at a prospect, see he projects to a 4-3, and write him off (as I did).  The Broncos organization has made it clear that they want versatile players with good football IQ and good instincts.  When you understand that, you understand that pretty much everyone is a "role player" of one sort or another.  Think of it this way: when you're drafting Broncos-style, you're not spending a draft pick on a promise of statistics or playing time -- you're spending it on a player.

So here's the bottom line: Morgan is a fantastic player who has great potential and a very polished game right now (he even looks good dropping back into coverage).  He is an excellent fit for the kind of player we want, and a good fit for our defensive scheme when you really look closely at what that scheme is.  I see him projecting to a role at LDE, providing a great pass-rush opposite Doom while also being stout vs. the run.



Brandon Graham  (6-1, 263 lbs)  Michigan

2nd round 5-star prospect



The MVP of the Senior Bowl has greatly helped his draft stock by his performance.  He now is more of a late first-round prospect.   He certainly has the production for it, with a frightening 26 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks.  He is in the same mold as Dumervil -- undersized with superior strength.

Very disruptive pass rusher. Usually occupied two blockers and can beat double teams. Very strong, especially in the lower body, and will break through double teams. Was very good in run support for the Wolverines and only got pushed back on double teams.

Draftbreakdown also says he has "Good overall football IQ with good awareness."  NFLdraftscout notes that he drops into coverage "easily" and has "some fluidity in space".  As a finishing touch...

Brings full effort from the first quarter to the fourth... Stepped up his role as a senior from leading by example and becoming a vocal leader who encourages and gets after teammates

This guy is a fantastic fit for the Broncos' player profile and a pretty good fit for their scheme (he is mostly used to a 3-point stance instead of a standup rush role) at RDE, but would work well at LDE also.



Corey Wooten  (6-6, 280 lbs)  Northwestern

2nd round 5-star prospect



Wooten is a difficult prospect to evaluate.  He is a work in progress against the run, with weak lateral agility and less-than-desirable strength.  Also, he is entirely unproven dropping into coverage.  In my opinion, he fits best on the interior at 5-tech RDG, but he needs about 10-20 lbs. more bulk.  However, he is a quality player in the locker room:

Team Most Valuable Player in 2008 was a locker room and on-field leader on defense again as a senior. Coaches like his work ethic, especially during his recent injury rehabilitation.  []

The best part is that his instincts are already in place and he can be taught better technique:

Diagnostic skills are elite. Not a lot of wasted motion and gets himself into strong initial position. Gets the most out of his overall skills on a consistent basis. Works to the whistle on every play [Scouts, Inc.]

Definitely a project that we should avoid overpaying for.



George Selvie  (6-5, 247 lbs)  South Florida

3rd round 4-star prospect



Which version of him are we referring to?  The Selvie who got 14 sacks in 2007 and then 8 the next two seasons combined?  I'll be honest -- he sounds mighty interesting:

Works hard throughout the game, no matter how often he's double-teamed. Played through pain during most of 2008. Team leader who charges up his teammates with big plays on the field.  []

Scouts, Inc. describes him as a "leader who loves the game" and who gives "outstanding effort".  The most fascinating review comes from Sideline Scouting:

Really makes plays all over the field, great motor
-Good run stopper
-Looks comfortable dropping into coverage
-Such a humble athlete, has worked hard to get where he is

Honestly, if I'm Selvie I'm praying the Broncos select me.  In a 5-2, he gets to use all his strengths (i.e., superb first step, play with his hand down) and isn't forced into a full-time coverage role.  He would be a great backup for Dumervil at RDE, which would allow us to rotate Ayers to LDE, where I feel he is a better fit anyway.



Jermaine Cunningham  (6-3, 252 lbs)  Florida

3rd round 4-star prospect



First the good:

He hustles every single play and has a great heart. He’s a great leader on the football field [FootballFanSpot] 

Cunningham is a high-effort player that leads by example [NewEraScouting]

He has experience at both ends, and playing standing up and from a 3-point stance.  He also has been a solid special teams tackler while at Florida.

Unfortunately, he is a suspect quality against the run -- his number of tackles has decreased every year -- since he lacks adequate strength to shed blocks and effectively wrap up.  His instincts are also questionable in this area.  These deficiencies are offset somewhat by some very Bronco-esque qualities:

Shows good lateral agility to control the edge. Understands his role in containment... Developed a knack for knocking the ball loose as a junior due to active hands. []

Ultimately, he is a solid backup RDE who needs to improve his strength and develop his instincts.



Alex Carrington  (6-5, 284 lbs)  Arkansas State

3rd-4th round 4-star prospect



I'll be up-front: I want this guy to end up in Orange and Blue in the worst way.  And if you were man-crushing on Tyson Jackson last year, you need to jump on the bandwagon.  He had 41 tackles, 14.5 for a loss, and 9 sacks his senior season.  Still, this was in the Sun Belt Conference -- not particularly known for its high level of competition.  Before you are scared off, however, know that he dominated in the Senior Bowl vs. elite competition.

While his quickness is not ideal off the snap, his strength is very impressive and he absolutely does not give ground.  He is a superb run-stuffer:

His best area. Has the length and strength to hold up at the point of attack. Locks-out with the tackle and has the lateral agility and balance to work his way toward the sideline, stringing out the sweep. Instinctive, physical run defender that rarely loses contain  []

This means that he is a best fit as a 5-tech LDG for the Broncos.  He graduated with a 3.52 GPA in Psychology and plans to return to grad school after his football career and become a clinical psychologist, so you know he's intelligent.  In case you needed more proof, he has logged significant time on special teams.



Brandon Lang  (6-4, 260 lbs)  Troy

3rd-4th round 4-star prospect


via calls him a "natural pass rusher with a feel for lanes, good hand technique and a high football IQ."  Indeed, one of the most commonly noted facets of his game is how good his technique is when he is engaged: multiple polished pass-rush moves, low pad level, good hands.  Also, he has had ample opportunity to drop into coverage and has developed a good feel for reading the QB's eyes.  Draft Countdown says he has "Excellent feet --- Fluid hips and has shown the ability to drop into coverage --- Active with a fantastic motor."

With that being said, there are some Bronco-centric red flags.  First of all, he initially signed with Georgia but was declared academically ineligible and was forced to go to Troy instead after a year of junior college.  Second, not only is run defense not his strong suit, he has an unfortunate tendency to overpursue and not contain the edge.  This will have to be scrubbed out of him.

Ultimately, he is an RDE who could contribute right away in passing situations, but will need to have a good deal of work done before he is ready to assist in run support.



Austen Lane  (6-6, 267 lbs)  Murray State

3rd-4th round 4-star prospect



If we miss out on Alex Carrington, then this is the guy I'm targeting.  Sideline Scouting says this about him:

-Very instinctive, always around the ball

-Versatile, good pass catcher so he could be a #3 TE (think Connor Barwin)
-On-the-field leader, high motor
-Could add another 15 pounds without losing any speed

He has ideal size, but would need to put on some weight -- preferably muscle mass -- before he is quite ready to play every down at DG in the Broncos' scheme.  He had an astonishing 22 tackles for a loss in 2008, so it is clear he has strong talent at getting in the opponent's backfield.  He is good in pass coverage, but will need to get stronger before he can really contribute in run support.  I like this summary the best:

He is a great athlete with elite initial quickness and an explosive first step; has excellent speed (4.59). Is fluid and agile when turning the corner and he has good closing burst to the quarterback. With great passion for rushing the passer, Lane is an intelligent player and has good feel for the game

His best fit right now is as an RDG, but he has a nearly limitless ceiling.



C.J. Wilson  (6-3, 284 lbs)  East Carolina

3rd-4th round 4-star prospect



One thing is certain: the later rounds are going to offer several gems for the Broncos.  Wilson is definitely one of them.  His height isn't ideal, but he uses every bit of his 284 lbs when engaged, keeping his pads low and using a very effective bull rush to collapse the pocket.

Disciplined defender who understands containment responsibilities. Keeps his head up and quickly locates the ball. Good effort in pursuit laterally and downfield []

The mantra of "disciplined defender" is repeated by several sites, as are raves for his NFL-ready fundamentals and tackling technique.  Scouts, Inc. notes that his awareness extends to the pass as well, getting his hands in the air in time to block the pass.  Finally:

Plays with an edge and works from the snap until the whistle.

There are some concerns about academics, since he had to sit out his freshmen fall semester.  Still, he is a great fit for the Broncos in every other way, projecting as an excellent LDG






Carlos Dunlap  (6-6, 290 lbs)  Florida

1st round 5-star prospect

Let the argument begin.  It's difficult to distill Dunlap into a few sentences, so I'll just assume you all know the basics: perfect height/weight, amazing speed, very strong, with an NFL-ready technique and a nearly limitless ceiling.  His closest NFL comparison is Mario Williams, drafted 1st overall in 2006.  He also got a DUI 3 days before the SEC Championship game, was suspended then reinstated for the Sugar Bowl, and has lingering questions surrounding his on-field work ethic.  He is perfect fit in our scheme as a RDG.

Got it?  Now the conclusion: if Josh McDaniels takes him at 10/11, I'll be ecstatic.  I'll also be terrified.  I'll also be utterly befuddled, because it will go against the grain of everything he says he wants in a player: team-first, hard worker, good football IQ.  Dunlap is a pure physical talent and will require a firm hand on the reins to do anything of value -- but Josh McDaniels and his mentor Bill Belichick are the BEST at that: Marshall and Moss are exhibits A and B.  That being said, with what information I have I simply can't pull the trigger and say that Dunlap is a good fit for the Broncos.  Besides, if Undead Al doesn't take Taylor Mays, he'll go with Dunlap instead.



Jason Pierre-Paul  (6-6, 265 lbs)  South Florida

1st-2nd round 5-star prospect

From a freakish athlete with character and motor/drive issues, we turn to another freakish athlete with academic and experience issues.  No questions about Pierre-Paul's on-field effort, but you have to wonder about a guy's football IQ when he failed to get into USF because of academics, went to junior college, transferred to another junior college, and then had one year against so-so competition in the Big East.  He is only capable of being an RDE for the Broncos, and while his effort is admirable vs. the run, he is raw at best in this area and is a complete unknown in pass coverage. 



Everson Griffen  (6-3, 278 lbs)  Southern California

1st-2nd round 5-star prospect

A prospect with great measurables and plenty of experience as a starter.  He even has experience dropping into coverage, and he projects best as an LDE for the Broncos.  But, the common complaint aginst him is this:

He's got some character issues and some real issues about effort.  You see it in the mental parts of his game.  He doesn't anticipate well, doesn't read plays well, and just looks a little lost out there[DraftBoardInsider]

This is why despite his obvious talent and versatility, he has never dominated the competition on the field.  Even as an LDE, due to his poor awareness he wouldn't be a good fit for us because our guys are asked less to make the big play or big hit and more to make the sure tackle for little or no gain.



Greg Hardy  (6-4, 279 lbs)  Mississippi

2nd round 5-star prospect

Hardy has been in the national conversation for best pass-rusher in the country for... well, as long as he's been in college.  He has good size, great bulk, excellent agility, and lots of strength.  Unfortunately, he has red flags of the most serious variety if you're a Bronco fan:

Was benched during 2008 South Carolina game for a lack of effort. Was suspended two games in 2007 for violating team rules. Notoriously inconsistent worker [Scouts, Inc.]

He is also poor at dropping back into coverage and only adequate in run support.  For these reasons, his best fit for us is as a 5-tech RDG, but that's not a great fit either.  It's disappointing.



Jason Worilds  (6-2, 252 lbs)  Viginia Tech

3rd round 4-star prospect

Will most definitely be an RDE for the Broncos if he does get drafted by the Orange and Blue.  There are definitely some things to like: he has significant time as a special teams gunner with great speed (4.49) who puts in lots of time in the weight room.  He plays with a nastiness and intensity that opposing quarterbacks fear.  Still, he is entirely unproven in pass coverage, is a liability vs. the run, and is mostly a pass-rushing specialist.  I have some lingering doubts about his character -- he entered the draft a year early, despite a poor showing by Virginia Tech and a disappointing junior campaign, surprising his coaches with his last-minute decision.  I certainly wouldn't give anything more than a 4th rounder for him, but his special teams ability and willingness to work hard warrant a flier on his natural talent



Willie Young  (6-5, 251 lbs)  North Carolina State

3rd round 4-star prospect

Like Worilds, he is undersized and is best as a pass-rushing OLB (an RDE for the Broncos).  Also like Worilds, he is a liability against the run, although he is better able to set the edge on outside running plays.  Unfortunately, he has neither the special-teams ability nor weight room drive of Worilds.  Without a doubt, he is a seasoned player: he has played in every game he's been on the team for in college, and a 3-year starter.  The problem with that is that he has only marginally improved each year and is now 24 years old.  His upside is limited.  Finally, there is this note:

An admitted free spirit who reportedly struggled initially adjusting to the coaching staff's old-school mentality, he was benched last season due to inconsistent effort and undisciplined play []

Still, he was voted a team captain in 2009.  A fair prospect, but no one to get excited over.



Rahim Alem  (6-3, 260 lbs)  LSU

4th round 4-star prospect

Well, he showed a lot of promise playing opposite Tyson Jackson in 2008, but did little in 2009.  That, coupled with his lack of playing time in years prior, seems to speak to him being a one-year wonder that benefitted mostly from his supporting cast.  Still, he is described as "Relentless in pursuit of the ball carrier" and "Explosive, plays fast and dangerous, goes all out on every play" (Sideline Scouting).  His run skills are mostly effort, but he lacks the strength to really be a factor in this area.  Right now, he is a pass-rushing specialist only, at RDE.



Lindsey Witten  (6-5, 248 lbs)  Connecticut

4th round 4-star prospect

A prospect with good size but less-than-ideal bulk, Witten has improved every season he's been on the field.  He had a great senior season, finishing with 11.5 sacks.  He has great speed and quickness at getting around the edge and into the backfield.  However, he projects as an OLB in the NFL -- a RDE in the Broncos' scheme.  Due to limited playing time (his senior season was his first one as a starter) and limited exposure to elite competition (did not make a huge impact in the East-West Shrine game), his game only has one facet right now: speed rushing the passer.  Granted, he does that plenty well enough -- coupled with his natural physical tools -- to warrant late-round or free agency consideration.  At this point, however, he is a project that will sit for at least two seasons.



Some quick final thoughts: It should be clear from the large amount of sub-3-star guys that the defensive end position is fraught with risk in terms of player evaluation.  It should also be clear from the large amount of 4-star-plus guys that this is a deep draft class with lots of potential, particularly a few notables in the later rounds.  Of course, much of the success of an evaluation like this depends on our roster and team goals.  Do we resign Dumervil?  If we do, do we use him as a situational rusher or an every-down guy?  Does Robert Ayers rotate to the strong side or does he stay on the weakside backing up Doom?  With Jarvis Moss still on the roster, is it even necessary to use a late-round flier on a pure pass-rusher?  There is a lot of "Dove Valley Stuff" that affects how accurate an analysis like this is.  Still, it is the best I can do with the information I have.  We'll see if it passes muster when the dust settles.  Enjoy!

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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