The 2011 crop of defensive ends may be the deepest group of the entire class and as many as eight players at the position could be off the board after day one. There is plenty of talent to be had for every defense this April, regardless of scheme.
The cream of the crop is North Carolina's Robert Quinn, a
ferocious pass rusher who was one of many Tar Heels defenders
surrounded by scandal. Quinn was suspended for the entire 2010 season,
but would've received a lot more attention as a candidate for the top
overall pick had he played. Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers finally lived up
to his billing this past year after arriving as the highest-rated
recruit in school history. The Tigers standout led the nation in
sacks, but a knee injury has raised red flags about his durability.
Cameron Jordan of California and J.J. Watt of Wisconsin are bigger
ends who both play the game with relentless effort and passion. Both
fit best as five-technique defensive ends in a 3-4 alignment.
Conversely, Missouri's Aldon Smith and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan played
as defensive ends in 4-3 schemes in college, but could see a
transition to 3-4 outside linebacker in their future.
The elite group is rounded out by two Big Ten standouts, and as
you would expect coming from the power conference, both are stout
against the run. Iowa's Adrian Clayborn is versatile enough to play
strongside end in a 4-3 scheme, as well as five-technique defensive
end in a 3-4 alignment. Cameron Heyward of Ohio State is the perfect
fit as a five-technique, but could also find a home along the interior
of a four-man front.
Defensive ends highlight 2011 draft class
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