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Predraft Rookies - Defensive Ends


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Offense: QB · RB · WR · TE
Defense: FS · SS · CB · ILB · OLB · DE · DT

1. Mario Williams - North Carolina State WolfPack - 6'6" 292 lbs.

Season
Tackles
Asst
Sacks
INTs
FFs
FRs
2005
62
32
14.5
0
2
1
2004
57
44
7
0
0
1
2003
56
34
5
0
2
1

Positives

Freakish physical specimen has prototypical size, speed and strength. Rare measurables. Tested about as well as any DE in combine history. Frankenstein monster combo of power (35 reps) and explosiveness (40.5" vertical & 9'10" broad jump), and a 4.6 is elite speed for a king-sized 290 lb DE with room to fill out. Cartoon-like juxtaposition of DT size and power, a LBs tackling prowess and the burst and suddenness of a CB. Looks the part with long arms. Has the scary power to ragdoll 300+ lb OTs. Good at keeping blockers away from his body and is rarely on the ground. Protean, encompassing talent equally adept at stomping RBs and terrorizing QBs. Has special pass rush instincts, the innate sense of angles to zero in on the target and the athleticism to finish the deal once he gets there. Durable and plays hurt, didn't miss a game in 36 possible starts spanning his abbreviated three year NC State stint. A 21 year old junior who is still somewhat raw and an unfinished product, that could conceivably get a lot better. Despite his relative youth, reportedly mature beyond his years. Student of the game with a positive work ethic. Learning to diagnose... once he does, he will be unstoppable.

Negatives

Not many. Should have been more productive given his sick, off-the-charts measurables. Didn't really dominate until the end of his last season. Finished off his career with a bang (14.5 sacks), but only averaged 5.5 sacks in his two previous years. Sometimes overly relies on his awesome natural talent at the expense of becoming a more accomplished technician, in terms of footwork, hand placement, leverage, etc.

Numbers Game

24 and 62 - 24 of Williams' 62 tackles in his stellar final season were behind the LOS, an astonishing, jaw-dropping percentage.

NFL Comparison

A cross between Julius Peppers and Reggie White

Summary

A prodigy that may be the closest thing to the late Reggie White the draft has produced. Could quickly ascend into the upper echelon of NFL defensive linemen. Has the raw tools to become an elite two way, dual threat as a run stuffer and sack artist. Depending on which scout you ask, he is either the best or second best (after A.J. Hawk) defensive player in the draft. In fact, you could make a compelling case that he is the second best player (after Reggie Bush) in the entire 2006 class... AT ANY POSITION. In a more typical draft class that didn't feature the likes of Bush, Matt Leinart and Vince Young, Williams possesses the once-in-a-decade/generation-type talent that easily could have landed him in the #1 overall slot in more opportune years/drafts. In IDP leagues that weight DL big plays heavily (sacks and FFs), a case could be made for making him the first defensive player off the board. Flashes the unusual knack for a youngster of splitting double teams, the lack of which, many a DEs career has foundered on (vet and rookie). This attribute bodes extremely well for his future. Should not get past the fifth pick (GB), and could easily go a higher.


2. Matthias Kiwanuka - Boston College Eagles - 6'5" 261 lbs.

Season
Tackles
Asst
Sacks
INTs
FFs
FRs
2005
51
34
9.5
0
1
0
2004
67
36
11.5
2
0
0
2003
83
58
11.5
0
1
1
2002
44
27
5
1
1
1

Positives

Tantalizing blend of size and athleticism. Though he doesn't have blazing timed speed, film breakdown reveals above average functional and playing speed on the field, and an impressive closing burst to the QB. Looks like he has the wingspan of a seven footer, which comes in handy for constricting passing lanes, batting down passes and harassing the QB in the pass rush. Will bust out a spin move. Active and alert, runs down plays from the backside. Capable of breaking down in space. Hard hitter with the physical profile and skill set to be a playmaker and generate a lot of FFs. Closes in a hurry in the open field with his long strides (like a Vince Young of 2006 defensive prospects). Has shown the ability to stand up and make plays with three career INTs. Great character... he comes from a distinguished heritage (nephew of Benedicto Kiwanuka, who was elected the first Prime Minister of Uganda, before being assassinated by iconic African despot Idi Amin in 1972). What you want in terms of work ethic, preparation, film study, football IQ and intangibles. Flashed signs of becoming dominant at times during his collegiate career. Could be an ascendant player who is still getting better. Experience associated with being a four year starter is in his favor.

Negatives

High-cut and narrow-framed. DEs that are built like basketball players with skinny legs tend to not anchor very well, get pushed around in the run game and are at a disadvantage bull rushing. Looks stiff and robotic at times. Prone to overrunning plays. Speed a little straight-linish and he doesn't have exceptional lateral agility. Somewhat of a one-trick pony who likes to turn everything outside (that won't cut it in the pros). Like most young defensive linemen, he needs to expand his repertoire of moves and counters (especially inside ones), and to learn how to string them together. Stands up and loses leverage too much. Needs to flatten out more on the edge and make himself small to present less of a target for blockers, as well as use his hands better to disengage (gets wired on to the blocker too much). Washed out of the play too much for such a talented player. Getting so decisively neutralized by D'Brickashaw Ferguson remains an enduring image from the Senior Bowl practices. He didn't have the opportunity to overcome that underwhelming impression at that time as a shoulder injury forced him to sit out the game. He followed that up by failing to distinguish himself at the combine, where he wasn't as fast as advertised (4.73). May be a situational pass rusher at first. Could be a consummate boom-bust pick.

Numbers Game

37.5 - Kiwanuka's sacks during his promising collegiate career, the new benchmark for BC defensive players.

NFL Comparison

A cross between Kalimba Edwards and Jevon Kearse

Summary

Played better as a junior. Had an injury-marred, up-'n-down senior year. Inconsistent final season, with three huge games (against Ball State, N.C State & Maryland) in which he had a total of 9 sacks... with only half a sack in the remaining eight games. His stock has slipped a lot since a lot of preseason accolades. Huge upside potential is nearly matched by comparable downside in a fearful symmetry. Scouts may be reading too much into D'Brickashaw Ferguson's dominance at the Senior Bowl... who has the kind of talent to someday be one of the top 3-5 OTs in the game. Kiwanuka will have the opportunity to redeem himself against a lot of NFL OTs that aren't going to be as good as the consensus #1 OT in 2006. Some scouts think he moves well enough to be converted into a 3-4 OLB in a scheme like the Patriots or Steelers. Played with a debilitating mid-season knee injury in 2005 (had been very durable up to that point in his career), and could be a lot better than he looked. This is a recipe for a draft day steal (whether in the actual draft sense, or for IDP purposes). Scouts and personnel departments will ignore his body of work at their own peril. If he had come out on top as a junior, there was talk that he could have been a top 10-15 pick in the 2005 draft. Could become a monster in the right situation (with a team such as the Jaguars and Lions that have an imposing interior DL presence). With NFL-type, year round weight training, his long arms will help him to control shorter blockers. Upside dictates that he will probably go in the first round. One of only two DEs to carry a blue chip positional grade (with Williams) by respected independent scout Frank Coyle.


3. Tamba Hali - Penn State Nittany Lions - 6'2" 275 lbs.

Season
Tackles
Asst
Sacks
INTs
FFs
FRs
2005
65
27
11
0
1
0
2004
51
29
2
1
1
0
2003
53
23
1
0
0
1
2002
10
5
0
0
0
0

Positives

Extremely high character player who has endured a lot of personal tragedy growing up in Civil War-torn Liberia to get where he is. The kind of player you root for to succeed. He plays the game the way it is supposed to be played. Has great passion for the game and desire to be great. Heart of a champion coupled with a tremendous work ethic. Highly receptive and responsive to coaching. Plays with intensity, urgency and a relentless, nonstop motor. Doesn't give up and refuses to stay blocked. Never stops until the play is over (this guy is the freakin Energizer Bunny). Low center of gravity can make him hard to handle. Flashes double move wiliness. Ultra-disruptive and productive in a big time Div. I program (led Big 10 with 11 sacks and was conference Defensive Player of the Year during 2005 season). Compensates for not being a speed merchant with a very good first step, and above average instincts, run/pass recognition, ability to diagnose and field awareness. Sniffs out and tracks the ball carrier in pursuit. Explodes through ball carriers on contact. Possesses FUNCTIONAL and PLAYING speed/strength. Has a prep hoops background and it shows in his feet, agility and body control. Nice movement skills and change-of-direction. A converted, former DT is a willing run defender. If he doesn't succeed, it won't be for lack of effort. Still learning to play on the outside, he is a fundamentally sound technician. Durable, resilient, competitive, determined and TOUGH!

Negatives

If anything, his stock has plummeted even further than Kiwanuka's in the post-Senior Bowl combine/pro day workout circuit, to the point where now scouts are whispering he could drop out of the first round entirely. Could suffer from tweener-itis... may be too slow to play DE, and too small and lacking in strength to play DT. Ponderous, DT/OL-like 40 times in the 4.8s coupled with nondescript strength numbers (18 reps) is not a recipe for rocketing up the draft board. Short arms are a red flag for a DE. There is a school of thought that his production was more of a reflection of the Penn State scheme freeing him up and leaving him unblocked than due to innate pass rushing talent. Will probably struggle with elite NFL-caliber offensive linemen.

Numbers Game

2 - sacks he put up in the Senior Bowl, in which he looked like one of the best players on the field (the North Team's defensive MVP).

NFL Comparison

A poor man's Terrell Suggs

Summary

His draft stock has been on more of a roller coaster ride than just about any other prospect in the class of 2006. After standing out in the Senior Bowl with a pair of sacks, he followed up an unimpressive combine with a disastrous pro day work out. Scouts at times adhere too rigidly to metric conventions and positional trait blue prints, and not enough to the body of work compiled over a whole career. Recently drafted DE Jared Allen and MLB Lofa Tatupu are emergent superstars for reasons other than eye popping computer numbers. Having excellent character, work ethic, instincts and other intangibles can help surmount and transcend narrow measurables-based criteria. FOOTBALL PLAYERS MAKE PLAYS. Hali is a football player. For those who look, he showed he is much more than a try hard guy during his three years as a starter. Though not without flaws, has a well rounded skill set for a DE.


4. Daryl Tapp - Virginia Tech Hokies - 6'1" 258 lbs.

Season
Tackles
Asst
Sacks
INTs
FFs
FRs
2005
48
27
10
0
3
0
2004
60
26
8.5
1
1
2
2003
58
32
3
0
1
0
2002
21
9
0
0
0
0

Positives

Great first step. A workout fanatic (including cutting edge and state-of-the-art flexibility training). This helps with the hand-to-hand combat that takes place along the LOS as DL do their best to get free to make a play, and OL do their best to prevent that from happening. A throwback who was an inspiration to his teammates and led by example through his dedication, focus and hard work. Outstanding intangibles and an exemplary motor A gamer that consistently gets to the QB. Good timing on stunts and twists. Lack of prototypical height can be turned to his advantage as he has a knack for getting low to run around bigger blockers. Compact and well put together. Strong for his size (27 reps). Very energetic and doesn't stay blocked long. Finds the ball carrier in space and once he wraps up its over. Plays with intensity and urgency. Good football smarts and top intangibles. Fundamentally and technically sound. Better football player than athlete.

Negatives

Severely measurables challenged. Ran a plodding 4.8 and is somewhat undersized. Could be a tweener that ultimately proves too slow to play DE and without sufficient movement skills and change of direction ability to make the transition to LB in the pros. Has overcome limited athleticism and maximized his potential through hard work, but it is unclear if he has the upside left to get much better. Might not have the kind of frame to get much bigger or stronger, which will make it harder for him to hold the POA. Could turn out to be just a situational, "wave"-type rusher at the next level.

Numbers Game

6 - career forced fumbles, Tapp hits like a fist loaded with a roll of quarters.

NFL Comparison

Hugh Douglas

Summary

Another player like Kiwanuka and Hali that plays faster than he times. Track stars don't always make great football players. Reportedly gave elite, blue chip LT Ferguson fits at the Senior Bowl. Should be a day one pick Not as good a prospect as two aforementioned red chip prospects from the 2006 DE class (including IDP leagues). Due to his physical limitations, it is even more important with him than with some of the higher graded DEs that he find the right situation and scheme. May never get DD sacks.


5. Mark Anderson - Alabama Crimson Tide - 6'4" 260 lbs.

Season
Tackles
Asst
Sacks
INTs
FFs
FRs
2005
40
26
7.5
0
1
0
2004
41
23
1.5
0
2
2
2003
48
23
2.5
0
0
0
2002
13
10
2
0
2
1

Positives

Put on a show at the combine, posting among the best in class explosiveness measurables for defensive linemen. His Dominique "Human Highlight Film" Wilkens-like 42" vertical jump was the highest (ahead of consensus #1 DE Mario Williams, and consensus top 2 tweeners/FREAKS Kamerion Wimbley and Manny Lawson), 10'7" broad jump second furthest (behind only Wimbley) and 4.61 tied for third fastest 40 (Lawson clocked a ridiculous, elite CB/WR-like 4.43... Wimbley also turned in a 4.61) at his position. The 42" VJ was the second best among all defensive players (LBs & DBs included). One of the best overall workouts at the combine at any position. Already very strong and has the frame to get bigger and more powerful.

Negatives

Phenomenal athleticism sometimes intersects and overlaps with being a great FOOTBALL PLAYER tangentially, if at all. Needs to bust some more moves.

Numbers Game

0 - the number of DL that put up a higher vertical jump at the combine than this skywalker's 42" sub-orbital launch.

NFL Comparison

Anthony Hargrove with better hops.

Summary

After Williams, all the rest of the DEs have some combination of flaws. One method for separating a cluster of players with similar upside but that didn't distinguish themselves at a high level in college through observable criteria such as tangible production... look for patterns of measurables that correlate with athleticism and explosiveness (than do as much background research as you can to establish as best you can that they aren't catastrophic dorks or underachievers). Anderson is very underrated. He could represent outstanding value in the NFL and emerge as a secret weapon in IDP leagues. May not start right away, but with NFL-caliber positional coaching and technique work, he could have as much upside as any DE in the class, after Williams and Kiwanuka. Opened a lot of eyes at the combine (as well as the Senior Bowl) and the cat may be out of the bag.

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