Compare and Contrast: DEs

NFL Scouting's Michael DiJulio analyzes the defensive ends, a group that could be in play in Round 1 as the Packers have to prepare for the free agent departure of Cullen Jenkins.

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 the first round. 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 futures.

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.


Simply put, this class is one of the deepest in recent memory. With eight possible first-round picks at the position, how could it warrant anything other than an A?

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