2006 Draft Preview: Defensive Ends

Big, dominant defensive linemen that control the game up front are a premium in the NFL. As a result, players at this position always get drafted much earlier then pundits initially predict. An average of 25 defensive ends are selected every draft and April of 2006 will offer some terrific prospects. The 49ers, who are moving to a 3-4 defensive scheme this fall, may be on the lookout for a top prospect to plug into their new look at end, depending on how players currently in place fare in 2005.

Recent draft history has teams ruing the day they passed up several very talented but undersized defensive ends.   The names of Jevon Kearse and Terrell Suggs immediately come to mind.  Many could make the same mistake with Mathias Kiwanuka of Boston College.  An amazing athlete with tremendous height (6-feet/7-inches) and growth potential, "Kiwi" causes nightmares for opposing coordinators and is the type of defensive player teams game plan around.  Explosive off the snap, Kiwanuka is tough to stop once he gets going and forces the action up the field or out to the sidelines.  He is not just a pass rusher who plays downhill, rather a defender outstanding in pursuit and a front-four player who displays great range on the field.  While he needs to improve his bulk, Kiwanuka will justifiably be one of the draft's initial three picks next April, if not the  first choice of the whole event. 

Northwestern could potentially have another defensive lineman selected in the initial frame for a second consecutive year.  Last April it came in the form of Luis Castillo, who the San Diego Chargers selected late in round one.  2006 could feature pass rushing terror Loren Howard.  Another explosive defender, Howard is tough to stop off the edge and creates a lot of havoc in the opponents' backfield.  Like Kiwanuka, he is an intelligent player also effective in pursuit.  NFL teams will love Howard's warrior mentality and passion for the game.  Undergoing ankle surgery prior to the start of the 2004 season, Howard returned for the second half of the campaign and made an impact.  Best as an end in a conventional defense, his skills will be highly coveted come draft day. 

Parys Haralson of Tennessee could be the next outstanding Volunteer pro prospect on the defensive line.  A tremendous edge rusher, Haralson consistently has opposing quarterbacks on the run with his ability to beat offensive tackles off the snap.  Mildly undersized at 255 pounds, he'll need to bulk up and improve his play in run defense but is a quality prospect. 

Georgia Tech's Eric Henderson is a defender that flashes ability and another who can be a disruptive force.  A quality pass rusher, Henderson has been the focal point of opposing blockers since his sophomore campaign.  He has the tools to make a move up draft boardsm and if NFL scouts see improved consistency from Henderson this season he could be a top-40 selection. 

The Virginia Tech program has been known for developing undersized yet explosive defensive ends and Darryl Tapp is the next in line.  A tremendous competitor with outstanding work ethic, Tapp plays hard for sixty minutes and wears down opponents with his speed and tenacity.  Hampered by a lack of height, the 6-foot-1 Tapp may not be a player for everyone yet will be a first-day selection in next April's draft.  He will also be a prospect who eventually finds a niche at the next level. 

James Wyche of Syracuse is a bit of an enigma.  A superb athlete who flashes dominant skills, NFL scouts feel Wyche is an underachiever to this point and has failed to live up expectations.  When on his game, Wyche is tough to stop and a solid senior campaign would significantly improve his draft stock. 

Manny Lawson of North Carolina State is disruptive force who displays terrific speed off the edge.  Built more like a linebacker (6-4/230), many have compared him to former ACC star Chris Slade and project Lawson to outside linebacker. 

The defensive end position would immeasurably improve should the top underclassmen opt for the draft.  

North Carolina State offers another top prospect.  Mario Williams has a terrific combination of size, speed and growth potential.  Williams displays tremendous skill as both a pass rusher and run defender.  He is top-10 material if he leaves for the NFL after this season. 

Purdue has a pair of future stars in Ray Edwards and Anthony Spencer.  Edwards offers terrific size as well as growth potential and is a developing player who stands out every week.  Spencer is probably a better player right now but does not hold the size potential for the next level. 

Finally, Michigan's LaMarr Woodley is rated very highly and is another tremendous outside linebacker/defensive end who is drawing rave reviews and comparisons to former Maryland Terrapin Shawne Merriman.

Top 25 Defensive Ends
Name School
Mathias Kiwanuka Boston College
Mario Williams* North Carolina State
Loren Howard Northwestern
LaMarr Woodley* Michigan
Manny Lawson North Carolina State
Ray Edwards* Purdue
Parys Haralson Tennessee
Eric Henderson Georgia Tech
Darryl Tapp Virginia Tech
Anthony Spencer* Purdue
James Wyche Syracuse
Stanley McClover* Auburn
Will Thompson Georgia
Johnny Jolly Texas A&M
Moe Thompson x-South Carolina
Devan Long Oregon
Frostee Rucker USC
Victor Adeyanju Indiana
Mitchell Crossley Bowling Green
Mark Anderson* Alabama
Willie Evans Mississippi State
Terrance Royal* South Florida
Clifton Ryan* Michigan State
Julian Jenkins Stanford
Ryan LaCasse Syracuse


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