Scouting the DE prospects

As part of our series previewing the NFL draft, we examine the top prospects at every position. This installment features the defensive ends.

Overall class strength: N.C. State's Mario Williams is a big-time prospect, but it's not a great year for defensive ends, particularly after a couple of once-hot prospects saw their stock drop after poor postseason showings. What this class has a lot of are undersized pass-rushing specialists.

The best: Mario Williams, N.C. State; Kamerion Wimbley, Florida State; Manny Lawson, N.C. State.

The next wave: DE Tamba Hali, Penn State; Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College; Ray Edwards, Purdue; Victor Adenyaju, Indiana.

Possible sleepers: Chris Gocong, Cal Poly; Jason Hatcher, Grambling; Darrell Adams, Villanova.

First-round projections: Williams, Wimbley, Lawson.

Quick hits: Williams has been compared to former North Carolina star Julius Peppers, the second overall pick in the 2002 draft. ... Hali and Kiwanuka once were considered sure first-round picks, but now project as either late-first-round or second-round selections. ... Their drop, however, is nothing compared to that of Louisville's Elvis Dumervil, who led the NCAA with 20 sacks last season but ran very poor times this spring. ... On the flip side, Lawson has seen his stock skyrocket after a tremendous Pro Day workout.

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