Positional Analysis: Defensive End

Last year rookie defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers made big impacts in the NFL. Only one is getting the blue chip label this year, but there are plenty of intriguing DE prospects for the Cowboys to look at in the early and middle rounds.

COWBOYS DEFENSIVE ENDS – Greg Ellis, Ebenezer Ekuban, Peppi Zellner, Demetric Evans, Kevin DeRonde, Derrius Monroe, Colston Weatherington

COWBOYS DRAFT EXPECTATIONS – It almost goes without saying that the Cowboys will be looking for help on the defensive line in this year's draft. Starting ends Greg Ellis and Ebenezer Ekuban are in the final years of their contracts and everyone else appears to be of the "I'm a short-term solution guy" variety.

Terrell Suggs would be an ideal candidate as a defensive end, but as it stands now, the Cowboys will likely be heading in a different direction with the #5 pick. That leaves the second, third, and fourth rounds as the best bets for bringing in additional help at defensive end.

The Cowboys haven't exactly had the most success in trying to draft defensive ends, but this year, they'll need to turn things around in that department if this team is going to start consistently getting pressure on the quarterback.

THE CLASS OF '03 – Last year, four defensive ends went in the first round, including the top two defensive rookies of the year – Julius Peppers and Dwight Freeney – and three more went in the second round. Those numbers could be met or surpassed this year, with Terrell Suggs leading the way. As many as four or five first rounders and as many as seven or eight DEs could be gone by the time the Vikings are on the clock in the third round, and a dozen gone by the time the second day begins. It's a strong class, but one that will likely be primarily depleted by the end of the first round or early in the second.

FIRST ROUNDERS

Terrell Suggs, Arizona State, 6-3, 262 –
Third-year junior who was a high school All-American as a running back…Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and three-time All-Pac 10 selection…In three years as a starter, had 159 tackles, 63-1/2 tackles for a loss and 44 sacks…Has 24 sacks last year to lead the country… Won the Lombardi Trophy – given to the best defensive lineman in the country – the Nagurski Award for the best defensive player and the Ted Hendricks Award for the best DE…Only 20 years old…Surprisingly good run-stopping DE despite lack of ideal size…Viewed as a better rush DE than Julius Pepper was, and Peppers was the No. 2 overall pick last year…Chases down QBs with lightning speed for the position…Seen by some is strictly a pass rusher who would a NFL liability as a run stopper…Had a disappointing individual workout in late March…Did not work out at the Combine, but in his individual workout did just 19 reps with 225 pounds. PROJECTION: A fearless pass rusher, would be an ideal fit in a 3-4 defense like Houston runs, but doesn't have any experience at LB. Despite poor workout numbers, should be off the board before the Vikings pick at No. 7, going to either Houston, Chicago or Arizona.

Jerome McDougle, Miami, 6-2, 264 – Fifth-year senior who transferred to Miami from junior college…Played two years as a starter, recording 112 tackles, 28-1/2 for a loss and 14 sacks…The younger brother of Detroit first-round pick Stockar McDougle…Good bulk for an outside rusher…Excellent quickness at the snap…An every-down DE who is adept at both stopping the run and the pass…Faced constant double teams with offensive linemen and tight ends…Still viewed as raw with just two years of top competition…Has been compared to Hugh Douglas…Shorter than expected when measured after the season…Didn't lift at the Combine, but had a 34-inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: Questions remain whether he can be an every-down DE in the NFL, but his speed off the edge is rare and, with so many teams looking to improve sack numbers, he will go in the first round and likely won't make it past Denver at No. 20 if he's still on the board.

Chris Kelsay, Nebraska, 6-4, 273 – Fourth-year senior who was a three-year starter…Full-time starter only one year, compiling 55 tackles, 17 for a loss and five sacks…Had shoulder surgery after 2001 season and missed five games with a hamstring injury last year…Team leader and captain…Good combination of size and speed to become an every-down DE in the NFL…Doesn't have monster size or flashy speed, so he will have to improve his technique against top NFL OTs to succeed…36-1/2 inch vertical jump…Injury history a big question mark – only played one full year and did so hurt much of the time…Did 23 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: Injury history is a concern, but impressed a lot of scouts at the Combine and at the Senior Bowl, which likely elevated his stock into the first round.

Michael Haynes, Penn State, 6-4, 281 – Fifth-year senior who came to Penn State as a fullback…Didn't become a full-time starter until 2001…Had a monster senior year in which he recorded 80 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss and 15 sacks, as well as forcing seven fumbles…Has good upper body strength to hold his own as both a pass rusher and run defender…Needs to keep building on senior season, which may have taken the "raw" tag away…Did 23 reps at the Combine and dropped .1 seconds off his Combine 40 time of 4.88 when he held an individual workout in late March. PROJECTION: Some think he has the ability to be the second DE off the board. He will be the third-rated DE on VU's final draft board out next week, but some still question his lack of explosive speed. He helped his stock a lot at the Senior Bowl. But he benefited from some offensive line coaches focusing on teammate Jimmy Kennedy.

SECOND/THIRD ROUNDERS

DeWayne White, Louisville, 6-2, 273 –
Fourth-year junior…All-state running back and basketball player in Alabama…Freshman All-American…In three years as a starter, he had 195 tackles, 55-1/2 for a loss and a school record 37-1/2 sacks…Two-time All-Conference USA selection…Played through a broken hand much of his sophomore season and played with a high ankle sprain last year, displaying a toughness not often seen…Very quick off the line and has been compared with a young Bruce Smith…Isn't as tall as most coaches want their DEs to be…Did 22 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: Wasn't as good last year as he was in 2001, but played with an injury that would have sidelined other players. If he connects with the right line coach, he could become a force. Has a chance to slide into the first round, but more likely will go early in the second round.

Tyler Brayton, Colorado, 6-6, 277 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who played both tackle and end for the Buffaloes…In two years starting, he had 106 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and 11-1/2 sacks…All-Big 12 last year and team defensive MVP…A very disciplined player who always gives top effort – on game day on the practice field and lifting weights…Never gives up on plays…Was praised for leadership qualities by his coaches…Doesn't have ideal DE speed off the edge…Has a lean physique that hasn't allowed him to build up the bulk to be a top DT…Did 25 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: Made a big impression at the Senior Bowl by willingly doing whatever coaches asked of him. Is viewed as something of a DL ‘tweener, but many scouts believe he can be molded into a top NFL DE if he improves his technique. Likely to go somewhere in the middle of the second round.

Cory Redding, Texas, 6-4, 279 – Fourth-year senior who was a high school All-American and USA Today Defensive player of the year as a high school senior…A three-year starter who was a two-time All-Big 12 selection…In three years as a starter, posted 179 tackles, 65 tackles for a loss and 20 sacks…Has been extremely durable – never missing a game since becoming a starter…Has added 30 pounds since coming to college, and scouts believe he can added 10-20 more pounds…Good bull rusher…Can drop into short pass coverage when needed…Has good closing speed on ball carriers and QBs…Is not effective in recognition of misdirection or fakes and often takes himself out of plays…Did 24 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: If he adds more weight, he may be moved inside to maximize on his strengths. He's a player many coaches would love to have because of his love of the game. He will be a solid pick in the middle to end of the second round.

Shurron Pierson, South Florida, 6-2, 243 – Third-year sophomore who was academically ineligible his first year…Two-year starter…Recorded 72 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss and 18 sacks…Weight room warrior who can bench press 475 pounds and squat 600 pounds…Has a fantastic vertical jump for a DE – checking in at 39 inches at the Combine…Explosive out of the blocks, he's seen as one of the best pure pass rushers in the draft…Has limited experience against top-flight competition and is viewed by some as a one-trick pony who only goes for sacks…Some see his NFL future at linebacker, but he's never played the position at the college level…Did not lift at the Combine. PROJECTION: A ‘tweener who could be best suited for LB work, he will likely slip into the third round, but could develop into something special – especially in a defense that utilizes the 3-4.

Kindal Moorehead, Alabama, 6-3, 285 – Fifth-year senior who was a high school All-American…Spurned home state Tennessee Vols because of a dearth of defensive tackles already enrolled and became a starter as a freshman at ‘Bama…Tore his right Achilles tendon and sat out 2000 season…Came back to start full-time the last two years, recording 95 tackles, 10 for a loss and 14-1/2 sacks – including nine sacks last year…Three-time ALL-SEC…Has excellent power and size…Very strong stopping the run…Good lower body strength…Doesn't have the pure speed to be consistent sackmaster in the NFL…Did 22 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: Some SEC scouts don't believe he has ever fully recovered from the Achilles injury and will likely enjoy more success in the NFL if he is moved inside. The questions about his declining stock will almost surely drop him into the third round, if not the second day.

Alonzo Jackson, Florida State, 6-4, 266 – Fourth-year senior and two-year starter…All-ACC last year…In two years as a starter, he recorded 70 tackles, 24 for a loss and 16 sacks – 11 of those coming last year…Long arms make him tough to control…Excellent burst off the ball…Has the speed to beat anchor OTs around the corner…Good athlete with 37-inch vertical jump…Doesn't have lower body strength scouts want for a run stopping DE…Not a great tackler…Doesn't have good upper body strength, as evidenced by doing just 14 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: A good speed rusher, he may be better suited as a OLB in a 3-4 scheme. A team looking for a designated rusher might take him on the third round, but he could remain undrafted for a long time because of his bad Combine numbers.

Clint Mitchell, Florida, 6-7, 257 – Fourth-year junior…Brother Jeff Mitchell is a center for Carolina…Started all but six of his 26 career games played with the Gators…Suspended twice in 2001 for rules violations…In only full season as a starter, he had 78 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and two sacks…Very tall and imposing…Can still add bulk, which would give a coach the option to move him inside…Excellent run/pass recognition skills…Student of the game who studies opposing OTs…Is bulky or strong enough to be a top-notch NFL DE right now…Did only 16 reps at the Combine, which didn't help his stock. PROJECTION: The almost universal opinion (other than his) is that Mitchell would have been better served going back to Florida for his senior season. He has plenty of good upside, but there are questions whether a team will use a first-day pick on him because of the questions that he brings with him. If he lasts until the fourth round, he will get taken early and might be a project type the Vikings would consider.

Antwan Peek, Cincinnati, 6-3, 246 – Fifth-year senior who was recruited as a wide receiver and defensive back coming out of high school…Missed second year with a separated shoulder…Two-time All-Conference USA as a starting DE…A three-year starter, over the past two seasons, he had 150 tackles, 44 for a loss and 18-1/2 sacks…Has added about 20 pounds the last 18 months…Extremely tough and works extremely hard…Very fast off the snap and is viewed as a sack specialist at the next level…Excellent special teamer, he blocked five kicks the last two years…Vastly undersized for a NFL DE…Did 21 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: Ideally, he projects to an outside linebacker in the NFL in a 3-4 system or possibly in a 4-3. He's a tremendous athlete, which adds stars to his name on War Room bio sheets and has a 39-inch vertical jump that can't be taught. But his downside is pretty strong – projecting to a position he never played in high school or college – which makes him a developmental work in progress and drops him into the third round.

Kenny King, Alabama, 6-3, 281 – Fourth-year senior who became a starter as a true freshman…Played considerable time at both DE and nose tackle…Missed time in both 2000 and 2002 with shoulder and neck injuries…Despite missing considerable time, finished his career with 188 tackles, 26 tackles for a loss and 11-1/2 sacks…Has experience at both tackle and end and could find himself as a swing man in a 4-3 defense…Bench presses 425 pounds and squats 600 pounds…Has improved his technique, but still had his best overall tackle numbers as a freshman…Good upper body strength with all the swim, club and rip moves needed for NFL defensive lineman…Excellent tackler who likes to lay big hits on the guy with the ball…Inconsistent from game to game…Did an impressive 35 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: A Catch-22 ‘tweener, he doesn't have the speed to be a top NFL DE or currently have the bulk to be an imposing DT. However, his upper body strength is noteworthy and, if the right coach gets a hold of him, he could be a steal late in the third round or early on the second day.

DAY TWO PROSPECTS

Calvin Pace, Wake Forest, 6-4, 269 –
Fifth-year senior who played quarterback and linebacker in high school...Has added almost 50 pounds since joining the Demon Deacons…Three-year starter who had 184 tackles, 52 tackles for a loss and 37 sacks – tackle numbers that got better each year…Broke his fibula during the regular season's final game last year…Very quick off the snap…Had more tackles for a loss than highly-touted Wake Forest DE Michael McCray, who was a high pick of the Ravens…Doesn't have great workout numbers, but losing nothing when he puts pads on – which is rare for defensive linemen who tend to slow up when padded up…Doesn't have great size or speed for a DE…Tends to wear down, which makes some think he may not be an every-down player ever…Didn't lift at the Combine,,,Some think Pace could be as good as McCrary was coming out of Wake Forest, while others think he will be a player who teases you with maximum effort on one series and nothing the next. Viewed as a risky pick with a chance for greatness, he could well jump ahead of some the players listed above and go in the third round. The one player in this position draft that has the biggest boom-bust potential, which should slide him into Day 2.

Tully Banta-Cain, Cal, 6-2, 264 – Fifth-year senior…Came to Cal as a linebacker and moved to DE as a redshirt sophomore…Three-year starter who had 97 tackles, 52 for a loss and 26-1/2 sacks, including 13 last year…Numbers in all three stat categories went up each year…Solid pass rusher with good corner speed…Excellent initial quickness out of the blocks…Good upper body strength…Excellent closing speed…Doesn't have size to be a every-down DE in the NFL…Improved his stock in post-season all-star games…Did 25 reps at the Combine…May end up being pigeon-holed in a 3-4 defense, since many teams don't think he has the size to be a full-time DE or the fluidity to be a LB in a 4-3 defense, which will likely drop him out of the third round and into the second day of the draft.

Andrew Williams, Miami, 6-2, 263 – Fourth-year senior who spent two years at junior college in Mississippi…Two-year starter when healthy enough to play and recorded 67 tackles, 13 for a loss and six sacks…Missed time with a knee injury in 2001 and a dislocated kneecap in the spring practice before last season…Has good speed, both with a good initial move and closing speed…Very good change-of-direction skills…Viewed as a very raw prospect who has baggage with his multiple knee injuries…Doesn't have good lower body strength…Did 29 reps at the Combine…A player who was overshadowed by DE teammate Jerome McDougle, a lot of scouts got to see him with Miami which, if they saw him at the right time, could be enough to get them to take a chance on him in the middle rounds. He's a crapshoot player – some think he's got all the tools to develop into a solid NFL player, while others see him as a project who won't go before the fourth or fifth round at best.

Antonio Garay, Boston College, 6-3, 295 – Fifth-year senior…Top college wrestler who advanced to NCAA National Tournament…Played as a true freshman and sophomore before missing 2000 with an ankle injury…Sustained a serious neck injury in 2001 that required surgery…Played early in his career with Viking DT Chris Hovan…Broke his right ankle last year…Can play both tackle or end and could be dominating as an end in a 3-4 alignment…Has good bulk…Always seems to be around the ball…Is adept at both stuffing the run and going after the passer…Some teams think he won't pass a team physical because of his numerous injuries…Did not work out at the Combine because of a left ankle injury…Scouts are divided on his prospects, because some think he could have been a second- or third-round talent, but missing 24 games in the last three years is enough to scare off enough teams that he won't even be on some lists and will probably be a late-round gamble pick at best.

Jimmy Wilkerson, Oklahoma, 6-3, 270 – Third-year junior…Played linebacker as a freshman before moving to DE in 2001…In two years at defensive end, he had 114 tackles, 30 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks…Ran a 4.89 40 at the Combine, but in individual workouts got it down to 4.73…Good agility…Doesn't have great field strength…Did 29 reps at the Combine…Another player who would have benefited a lot from staying at Oklahoma for another year, with this year's crop of DEs, he likely will have to settle for being a late-round pick at best.

CowboysHQ Top Stories