Niners positional draft analysis: DEs

It takes a special breed of lineman to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, and one in particular in this year's draft goes by the name of Mario Williams. The 49ers can dream that the North Carolina State stud will fall to them on Saturday, but they'll be keeping their eyes open for much-needed help at the position later in the process. Here's a look at how SF shapes up at DE entering draft weekend, along with an in-depth individual examination of the top DEs available in the college lottery.

DEFENSIVE ENDS ON 49ERS ROSTER: Bryant Young, Marques Douglas, Scott Scharff (NFL Europe).

49ERS FIVE-YEAR REPORT: Total DEs drafted – 3. Still on roster – 0. First-round picks – Andre Carter (2001). Highest pick – Carter, No. 7 overall selection in first round of 2001 draft.

2006 POSITIONAL DRAFT NEED: Young and Douglas formed an adequate pair of bookends in the team's first try in more than a decade at transitioning to a 3-4 scheme. But the pass rush from those two edge positions became almost nonexistent after Young – who had a NFL-high eight sacks at midseason – was hurt in November and never recorded another sack the rest of the way. Young was a four-time All-Pro at tackle in the team's previous traditional 4-3 set, but he made a smooth transition outside in 12th NFL season, and the 49ers would like to think he has at least another season left at top-shelf performance. They better hope he does, because the 49ers are scrambling to both find and replace edge players in their new system, and ends are unique in that they must be big enough to hold up against the run but also swift and agile enough to provide some heat on passing downs. The 49ers would certainly like to add one of these types of players in the draft and likely will do so at some point, but the impact players at the position will be off the board quickly and the team more realistically will have a shot at some tweener types that could easily transition to outside linebacker in the 3-4. Scharff showed some promise and will compete for a roster spot, but he's a backup type of player. However, he's the only backup on the roster as of today – and he isn't even with the team right now, since he's playing in NFL Europe – which means the 49ers must get busy in bringing in some reinforcements here, whether they come through the draft this weekend or after that on the open market.

POSITION OVERVIEW: The big name this year is Williams, who is in a class by himself with respect to a pure defensive end pass rusher in this year's draft. What team wouldn't love to have him? He could go as high as No. 2 in the first round and likely will be off the board when the 49ers select at No. 6. But the DE position has been transformed in recent years to include what are called ‘tweeners – a hybrid of a pass-rushing DE and outside linebacker. These players include guys like Kamerion Wimbley and Manny Lawson, who increase the value of the position. But there is a chance that only one or two DEs other than Williams will go in the first round – making for some value selections in the middle rounds.


Mario Williams, North Carolina State, 6-6½, 295: Third-year junior who graduated high school a semester early and worked out with the Wolfpack defense during spring practice of 2003…Three-year starter who made 36 career starts…Finished his career with 175 tackles, 52 tackles for a loss, 25.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries…Has enormous wingspan, which lets him stay away from offensive tackles and be a force in both the passing and rushing game…Very quick off the snap and had 14.5 of his 25.5 career sacks last year…Excellent speed to close in on the player with the ball…A true NFL defensive end, he could end up at 305-310 pounds and not lose any of his speed…Big hitter…Needs to work more on his pass-rush technique…Doesn't play with the same intensity on every down and has been accused of taking a play or two off at times…Tends to run around blockers instead of initiating contact…Ran a 4.66 40 at the Combine with 35 reps of 225 pounds, a whopping 40½ inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump at the Combine.
Projection: Williams is a dominant player who would be the No. 1 overall pick in many seasons. But this year he could go as early as No. 2 if New Orleans stays in that spot or as late as No. 4 to the Jets if the two teams don't swing a deal.


Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College, 6-5¾, 261: Fifth-year senior…Comes from a political family – his grandfather was the first prime minister of Uganda in 1961 before Idi Amin came to power…Came to B.C. primarily because they were recruiting his high school teammate Jeremy Trueblood…Three-year starter who had 201 tackles, 58 tackles for a loss and 32.5 sacks in that span…Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a junior…Had a right knee injury that made his senior season the least productive as a starter…Good playing strength, despite having a pathetic 17 reps at the Combine…Has good straight-line speed on bull rushes…Good closing speed on quarterbacks…Has multiple rush moves…Intelligent player who spend a lot of time in film study…Will struggle against top-end physical OTs…A little slow in initial burst off the snap…Was made to look very bad at the Senior Bowl when lined up against D'Brickashaw Ferguson in one-on-one drills…Didn't face top competition on a consistent basis…Ran a 4.70 40 at the Combine, with 17 reps, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump.
Projection: His stock has slipped with sub-par performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine, but he has many of the prized commodities teams are looking for in pass rush DEs. He has many of the same upside credentials that Erasmus James had coming out last year and it might be difficult for some of the playoff teams to keep him out of the first round – although he might slip to the Packers early in the second round.

Tamba Hali, Penn State, 6-2¾, 263: Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who spent his first two years as a defensive tackle before moving outside…In his two years as a DE, he had 116 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks – 11 of those coming in 2005…A great draft story for the team that gets him, he grew up in Liberia and fled the country at age 10 due to a bloody civil war that left thousands dead each year…Has good explosion off the snap…Has a body that can add 15-20 pounds more without losing any of his speed…Has versatility as a starter at both the DE and DT positions in the big-time program at PSU…Makes a lot of tackles and doesn't give up on plays…Is a little too short for NFL prototype defensive ends…Will struggle with bull rush vs. NFL offensive linemen…Doesn't have the size or strength to be an every-down rush defensive end or the pure speed to be pass rushing DE…Had a poor showing at the Combine with a 4.86 40, 18 reps of 225 pounds a 29½-inch vertical jump and a 8-10 broad jump – all among the lowest of the top-tier defensive ends that tested.
Projection: Hali is a player who has the ability to add strength and bulk and be a productive defensive end in the NFL, but he is going to take time and some teams may decide he doesn't fit in their system and greatly devalue him. He'll go somewhere in the second round, but could be a player that slips through the cracks on draft day and is a value pick later in the round.

Manny Lawson, North Carolina State, 6-5¼, 241: Fourth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 108 tackles, 31.5 tackles for a loss, 17.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries in that span…In 2003 and 2004, he ran track for NC State, competing in the hurdles, long jump, triple jump and 4x100 relay team…A strong special teams player who had three blocked punts as a true freshman and two more as a sophomore…A ‘tweener type that some will see as a defensive end in a 4-3 alignment or a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme…Extremely good speed for a defensive end and has drawn scout comparisons to Jason Taylor of the Dolphins, who was a third-round pick and became a Pro Bowl defensive end…Good leaper who can bat down passes…Excellent closing burst for sacks…Brings the versatility of playing both the linebacker spot and DE…Doesn't have ideal bulk or strength and is viewed of being too skinny…Got more than his share of one-on-one matchups because Mario Williams was lined up on the other side…Needs to improve lower-body strength to compete with NFL OTs that will have almost 100 pounds on him…Ran a lightning-fast 4.43 40 at the Combine with 23 reps, a 39½ inch vertical jump, a 10-4 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 28.
Projection: A ‘tweener in every sense of the word, he'll have to be a player that fits in a specific scheme with a well-defined role. While we have him rated as a second-round prospect, his showing at the Combine, much like Troy Williamson's last year, will impress enough teams that he won't make it out of the first round – making him a bit of a reach, but with huge upside.

Darryl Tapp, Virginia Tech, 6-1¾, 256: Fourth-year senior…Didn't become a full-time starter until his junior year…In his final two seasons, he played in all 26 games, recording 108 tackles, 31 tackles for a loss, 18.5 sacks and four forced fumbles…Good burst off the snap…Doesn't take plays off…Beat D'Brickashaw Ferguson for two sacks at the Senior Bowl…Has good hand punch to get OTs on their heels…Very good closing speed on the quarterback…Disruptive, gets in the backfield and blows up plays…Makes tackles in the open field and has good awareness for taking the proper angles…Lines up very wide for an NFL DE and won't have that luxury at the next level…Doesn't have the height or pure speed to be an effective bull rusher…Needs to get stronger…Doesn't look to have the speed to be a linebacker in a pure 3-4 alignment…Ran a 4.81 40 at the Combine with 27 reps of 225 pounds with a 33-inch vertical jump and a 9-1 broad jump.
Projection: Unlike Lawson, Tapp seems destined to play defensive end. He is a fierce competitor, which is something coaches and scouts look for, so he has a good chance of coming off the board somewhere in the second round.

Mark Anderson, Alabama, 6-4¼, 255: Fifth-year senior who moved from defensive end to linebacker after tearing cartilage in his right knee as a redshirt that needed surgery to repair…Moved to right defensive end as a junior and started the final 24 games of his career, recording 81 tackles, 25 tackles for a loss and nine sacks – 7.5 of those coming as a senior…Has a wide wingspan to keep offensive linemen off of him…Good burst off the snap…Very good speed for a man his size…Chases down plays going away from him and has closing burst…Good tackler in the open field…Needs to improve his bulk strength and lower-body strength…Doesn't have the power to be a consistent run-stuffing RDE in the NFL…Gets caught out of position and gets tangled up in the garbage too often…Doesn't have a variety of pass rush moves…Ran a 4.61 40 at the Combine with 20 reps, an impressive 42-inch vertical jump and a 10-7 broad jump.
Projection: He needs work on building his strength, but Anderson is a player that teams running a one-gap defense will give a long look to. He has a chance to go off late in the second round or perhaps the third. He improved his stock immensely at the Combine and the Senior Bowl and will be a player to watch on draft day.


Parys Haralson, Tennessee, 6-0¾, 248: Fourth-year senior and two-time captain…Became a starter three games into his sophomore season and started 33 of his next 34 games…In his time as a starter, he had 132 tackles, 44.5 tackles for a loss and 20 sacks – 15.5 of those coming in his last two years…In the last two seasons, he had five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries…Plays every down to the whistle…Has a good initial burst off the line…Has excellent speed coming off the edge…Jumps the snap count very well…Blows by most offensive linemen without getting redirected…Chases down a lot of plays…Has a good punch on swim moves…Is undersized for the NFL and will have trouble getting any bigger…Doesn't hold his position on running plays as well as he should…If O-linemen get their hands on him, he can be neutralized and thrown around…Didn't show enough speed at the Combine to make coaches believe he could make a smooth transition to rush linebacker at the next level in a 3-4 defense…Ran a 4.70 40 at the Combine with 24 reps, a 34½ inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump.
Projection: Haralson will be a difficult call. He has all the ability in the world to be a Lance Johnstone-type blitzing DE, but his likelihood of never being anything but a designated pass rusher will likely drop to the end of the second round or, more likely, into the third.

Victor Adeyanju, Indiana, 6-4¼, 274: Fifth-year senior who grew up in Nigeria and missed most of senior year of high school with a broken leg…Became a starter three games into his college career and started 43 straight games to end his career at left D-end…Came on in his final two seasons, recording 87 tackles, 21.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery…Good combination of size and strength…Has long arms and strong upper body to keep offensive linemen from getting into his body…Has power rush skills and good closing burst on QBs…Excellent tackler who wraps up and rarely lets a ball carrier get away…Plays a little too high and is easily directed by good tackles…Doesn't always take good angles in pursuit…Is a victim of his own aggression on screen plays, where he's out of position too often and doesn't make the right read…A one-trick pony in his pass-rush repertoire…Ran a 4.85 40 at the Combine with 22 reps of 225 pounds, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 9-4 broad jump.
Projection: He improved every year of college and has the notice of many teams. He needs a lot of refinement, but could be an ideal fit as an end in a 3-4 alignment. His downsides are significant, so he'll be a guy that will likely be on the board late into Day One of the draft.

James Wyche, Syracuse, 6-5½, 262: Fifth-year senior…Started seven games as a freshman and all 35 games his final three years…As a full-time starter, he had 163 tackles, 25.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks…Has long arms to push away offensive linemen…Lunch-pail worker who chases down plays and never gives up on any play throughout the game…Very good upper body strength to hold his ground on running plays…Has multiple pass rush moves and can be a speed rusher…Played well at the East-West Shrine Game and during the week of practice…Doesn't have great lower-body strength and will need to improve on that at the next level…Needs to be more physical…Ran a 4.63 40 at the Combine with 27 reps, a 33-inch vertical jump, a 10-0 broad jump and a woeful Wonderlic score of 10.
Projection: Still very raw and will require a lot of tutoring to be anything more than a backup and special teams player. He impressed scouts with his speed at the Combine, but will need to improve on his physical game. Likely to go off the board early on Day Two.

Elvis Dumervil, Louisville, 5-11½, 257: Fourth-year senior who had a whopping 30 sacks in his senior year of high school…Two-year starter who had 117 tackles, 34.5 tackles for a loss, 30 sacks and 12 forced fumbles…Led the country in sacks (20) as a senior as well as an amazing 11 forced fumbles…Is arguably the best pass rusher in the Class of '06…Had a strong Senior Bowl game after struggling much of the week…Has very good upper-body strength…Has long arms for a short body and gets his hands on a lot of passes…Has an excellent rip move when he gets to a quarterback, which helps cause so many fumbles…His size is an enormous red flag and will get swallowed up and spit out by offensive tackles when they get a hold on him…Relies too much on speed rush and will get pushed to the outside too often and too easily…Has no experience playing standing up as a 3-4 linebacker…Ran a 4.75 40 at the Combine with 30 reps – opting not to jump.
Projection: A ‘tweener in a bad way, Dumervil doesn't have the speed and athleticism to be a linebacker or the size to be an every-down DE. He will likely become a designated pass rusher for the interim as a team tries to work on his skills to make him a linebacker in a 3-4 system. Both will take time, which should drop into the fourth round or thereabouts.

Ray Edwards, Purdue, 6-4¾, 273: Third-year junior…Full-time starter as a sophomore, registering 45 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and eight sacks…Started just six of 11 games as a junior, with 28-11-5.5 numbers…Has prototype size and can succeed in both a 4-3 alignment as a DE or a 3-4 system as an OLB…Has good burst off the snap and closes quickly…Isn't a thick defensive end, but did very well in run assignments…Is a solid chase-down player, who tracks plays down on the other side and doesn't get caught up with interior blockers because he takes good angles…Must add lower-body strength…Won't be as successful at the next level vs. the run…Not dedicated to the practice field, film study or the weight room…Will pout when he's double-teamed and gets frustrated easily…Was viewed as hard to coach and lost interest when he was yanked from the starting lineup…Will give up on some plays that go to the other side of the field…Ran a 4.81 40 at the Combine with 30 reps of 225 pounds, a 39-inch vertical jump and a 9-6 broad jump.
Projection: Has all the traits of a top-notch DE, but his immaturity and mental mistakes decrease his value greatly. He has the ability to be a solid pro, but any team taking him will be taking a risk-reward pick – which for most teams is too high a price to take in the first round. He'll likely be a mid-round pick in the second day of the draft that, if he gets his head together, could be one of the steals of the draft.

Stanley McClover, Auburn, 6-2½, 258: Third-year junior who had 28 sacks as a high school senior…A partial qualifier in 2003 who could practice but not play in games…He never became a full-time starter – starting just nine of 24 career games, but still had 66 tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss, 15.5 sacks and five forced fumbles…Has speed to match defensive ends in the Class of '06…Lines up on the wide side and beats a lot of offensive tackles without being touched…Has the body type that can add 15-20 pounds…Shoots the gaps effectively vs. the run…Has very good athleticism, including a 39-inch vertical jump…Doesn't have enough experience and likely cost himself untold thousands of dollars by coming out a year early…Is smaller than some NFL linebackers, much less defensive ends…Tends to avoid contact rather than taking on blockers…Doesn't give full effort on plays that don't come his way…Isn't stout vs. the run…Doesn't have great upper body strength and had a disappointing lifting session at the Combine…Ran a 4.63 40 at the Combine with 19 reps, a 39-inch vertical jump and a 9-6 broad jump.
Projection: Has the physical tools to be an effective player, but is very raw – nine college starts just isn't enough to make the jump to the NFL. Had he stayed in school another year and learned how to improve his game, he would easily have been a first-day prospect and potentially a high second-rounder. But, despite his upside, he's going to need a lot of refining and too many scouts aren't convinced he's willing to put in that kind of effort. Unless some team sees something they really like and he fills an immediate need, he'll likely remain on the board until the middle of Day Two of the draft.


Charles Bennett, Clemson, 6-3¾, 258
Barry Cofield, Northwestern, 6-3, 303
Chris Gocong, Cal Poly, 6-2¼, 263
Brent Hawkins, Illinois State, 6-2, 241
Eric Henderson, Georgia Tech, 6-2, 261
Julian Jenkins, Stanford, 6-3¾, 275
Melvin Oliver, LSU, 6-2½, 279
Frostee Rucker, USC, 6-3¼, 261

John Holler of contributed to this report

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