Ranking Top 28 Defensive Linemen

Why settle for a dozen guys slotted into 4-3 when you can get 28 players projected into Green Bay's 3-4 scheme. There are at least seven first-round picks but a pretty significant drop-off after the top prospects.

Defensive End:

1. Star Lotulelei, Utah (6-3, 311): Our Best in Class.

2. Margus Hunt, SMU (6-8, 277): Earned all-conference accolades all four seasons. He was a first-teamer as a senior, when he finished with eight sacks, 11.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. Five more pressures were turned into interceptions. He was MVP of the Hawaii Bowl with two sacks, two forced fumbles and a safety. His career was a block party. He set NCAA records with 17 career blocks, including a record seven as a freshman. A native of Karksi-Nuia, Estonia, Hunt won the shot and discus at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing. He was the first junior to sweep those events, and he holds the world junior record in the discus. He went to SMU to compete in track and field but turned to football after the track program was shut down. "Margus Hunt is a guy I really like," a scout said. "He's a five-technique in line with J.J. Watt's position. The Texans play a 3-4 but a lot of times they'll get him matched up on a guard and he's beating those guys like a drum. What you're doing is you're putting a superior athlete against a guard. Hunt, I think he falls in that line. He likely will be there and it will be interesting to see if the Packers take a swing at him. He's a Packers type of guy: high-character kid, going to work his (butt) off. Pretty much everything is in front of him. He's a damned good player as it is." Blew up at the Combine with a 4.60, 34.5-inch vertical and 38 reps on the bench. He'll be a 26-year-old rookie. "It's like going to a storage auction and they pop it open and there's a 61 Rolls Royce with only 100 miles on it. Yeah, the car's 50 years old but look at the mileage," Thomas said.

3. Tank Carradine, Florida State (6-4, 276): He's one of the most interesting prospects in the draft — and also one of the fast risers. A first-year starter, he finished second in the ACC with 11 sacks to earn first-team all-ACC honors. Carradine's senior season ended with a torn ACL in the second-to-last game of the regular season. Because of the knee, most scouts expected this to be a redshirt season. Instead, he had a monster pro day on Saturday. He's now a sure-fire first-round pick — potentially to Pittsburgh, Minnesota or San Francisco. "He's a hell of a player and there's no way he'll be there for you," a scout said. "I could see San Francisco moving up to get him. What in the hell do they need 14 picks for? They didn't have a rookie get on the field last year." While some teams running the 3-4 view him as an outside linebacker, the Packers see him as an end, according to a source. Put up 28 reps at Combine and 32 at pro day. "To me, he's the strongest man in this draft," Thomas said. "My God, this guy is better than anyone from Florida State — sorry, Bjoern Werner. If he was in Minnesota and they used him as an under-tackle, they'd have the second coming of John Randle. He's going to be that good. Could he play as a 3-4 defensive end? Definitely, because I liken him to Richard Seymour."

4. Datone Jones, UCLA (6-4, 283): Three-year starter and respected team leader. He was second-team all-conference as a senior, when he tallied 62 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 19 tackles for losses. He forced two fumbles, blocked two kicks and even caught a touchdown pass. Tallied 36.5 TFLs for his career, most by a Bruins defender in a decade. Had big week at the Senior Bowl. "I like him, I don't like him; I like him, I don't like him," Thomas said. "I like him as an edge rusher, I don't like him when he has to bull rush. When he has to work in-line, he gets tied up too much because he leaves his chest exposed." Said another scout who thought he'd be in the mix for Green Bay at 26: "Datone Jones is pretty damned good. He's just so explosive." Added a third scout: "When you watch him on film, he took too many downs off for my liking. He fits the mold of what you guys have played with with your five-techniques. He's got some good movement to him. He can create a rush and is stout against the run. The place where he really shined was the Senior Bowl. He really came on. I would be be surprised if you guys took him at 26. He's a solid player. Top-of-the-second to mid-second kind of pick."

5. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina (6-3, 313): Big senior season with six sacks and 13.5 tackles for losses and was named first-team all-ACC. Williams played only one season of football in high school and went to class two or three times a week. Not even his father having the police take his son to school helped, as Williams was kicked out of school a few weeks later for poor attendance. Williams, checking in at 370 pounds, showed up at the Coffeyville Community College, even after the coach said he didn't want to see him. No character concerns whatsoever. "He's very good as a bull rusher," Thomas said. "He uses his hands very well and I love the low pad level that he plays at. The thing that I like about him is he slides well laterally. I need a guy that has lateral agility because moving down the line is critical."

6. Kawann Short, Purdue (6-3, 299): Led the Boilermakers with seven sacks, 15 tackles for losses and four blocked kicks. He was all-Big Ten for the third consecutive season and a second-team All-American as a senior. Short credited the Redskins' Ryan Kerrigan and the Packers' Mike Neal for getting his career on track after arriving at Purdue overweight. "Kawann is a kid you really have to light a fire under," Thomas said. Scouts didn't like how Short refused to workout at the Combine or at Purdue's pro day. "Give me a break," a scout said. "I put him on a talent level with Fairley up in Detroit but the same thing with Fairley, the knock on him was trying to get him motivated. It's going to be the problem with Kawaan Short, too." At his personal pro day, he ran in 5.08 with 29 reps on the bench. "Did he play hard all the time? No," a scout said. "But sometimes, you understand. He's not going to be on the field 70 snaps a game in the NFL."

7. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (6-3, 294): Our Overrated

Led the team or was among the leaders with four sacks, 10.5 tackles for losses, three forced fumbles and one blocked kick. His 75 tackles led all SEC defensive tackles. He was suspended for one game for a violation of team rules. A five-star recruit but had academic issues and shoulder problems and didn't do a thing until his senior season. Thomas called him the best talent in the defensive line class but a "locker room lawyer" who has "a lot of growing up to do off the field." If not for those issues, he'd be no worse than a top-10 pick. "Richardson, a lot of people are high on him but I'm kind of the low guy," a scout said. "I have some issues with his his play. He does some amazing things chasing plays down in space. I honestly thought he was going to run a 4.70 but he ran a 4.95. That surprised me. When a guy gets a hand on him, he's not very strong. I didn't like him but there are a lot of guys that have a lot of love for him." Measured in at 6-2 5/8, to be exact, and projects more to a 4-3 tackle.

8. Nicholas Williams, Samford (6-5, 309): Two-year starter, was first-team all-Southern Conference as a senior with seven sacks, eight tackles for losses and a blocked kick. Because he had focused on basketball, he played only one year of football in high school so was lightly recruited. Had a big Scouting Combine with 4.94 in the 40, 28 reps on the bench and a 33-inch vertical. That was the best vertical of any player in the draft weighing more than Hunt's 277 pounds. "If you want a 3-4 defensive end and you're not taking one in the first round, who's left among the guys who are tall and athletic?" asked a scout.

9. Lawrence Okoye, Great Britain (6-5, 308): Okoye, 21, reached the finals in the discus at the Sydney Olympics, finishing 12th. He came to the United States for warm-weather training and decided to give the NFL a shot by applying for the regional combine in Atlanta. Then, at the Super Regional Combine in Dallas, the former rugby player ran a 4.78 with a 35-inch vertical and 38 reps on the bench, and looked good in defensive line drills. So, rather than enter law school, he's eyeing the NFL. "This kid is the ultimate sleeper. Either he bombs out and puts his focus on the 2016 Olympics or maybe you get a Hall of Famer," a scout said.

10. William Gholston, Michigan State (6-6, 281): In three seasons, Gholston had 142 tackles, including 30 tackles for losses and 10 sacks. Gholston ranks 10th in Spartans history in TFLs, and was second-team all-Big Ten with 13 tackles for losses and 4.5 sacks this year. A cousin, Vernon Gholston, was the Jets' first-round pick in 2008. The last name is quite a stigma, considering Vernon Gholston was such a bust. "I like ‘Too Tall.' I think a lot of people are missing the boat on him," Thomas said. "He's a 4-3 end. He's just too tall to play a 3-4."

11. Joe Kruger, Utah (6-6, 269): Posted six sacks, eight tackles for losses and two forced fumbles in 2012 to earn all-Pac-12 honorable mention. His brother, Paul, won a Super Bowl ring as a key contributor to Baltimore's defense. His brother-in-law, Tony Bergstrom, is an offensive lineman for the Raiders. His father played at Oregon State. A brother, Dave, played with Kruger at Utah. "I'm telling you, he'll be up to 290 in a year and you'll have a hell of a player," one scout said. That opinion is not universally shared. Dave Kruger (6-5, 300) just wrapped up his senior season and was a three-year starter and is considered an undrafted prospect.

12. Abry Jones, Georgia (6-3, 313): Playing end in Georgia's 3-4 scheme, Jones tallied four sacks and seven tackles for losses as a junior. Rather than a big senior campaign, he was shut down after seven games with ankle surgery and didn't record a sack or TFL. He tried to return for the bowl game but was unable to play. He put up 30 reps at the Combine and ran in 5.15 at the pro day. "You like his quickness off the ball and his hustle," a scout said. "He's better than Jarius Wynn, though they'll go in about the same spot, if you want a comparison."

13. William Campbell, Michigan (6-5, 311): The former top recruit finally broke into the starting lineup as a senior, with 44 tackles, including 1.5 TFLs and one sack., to earn honorable mention all-Big Ten. Put up 35 reps with 5.15 clocking at pro day. In 2010, moved to offensive line for second half of season, though he didn't see any action in games, before going back to defense for 2011.

14. Montori Hughes, Tennessee-Martin (6-4, 329): Spent his first two seasons at Tennessee before getting into academic trouble and various violations of team rules. At UTM, Hughes started seven games as a junior before posting 42 tackles, 8.5 tackles for losses and four sacks as a senior. Hughes was a standout during Senior Bowl week with his quickness off the ball and brute strength when he kept his pads low. While at Tennessee, then-coach Lane Kiffin compared him to Albert Haynesworth. That turned out to be apt comparison, as scouts have major questions about his character. "Stay away from the guy," Thomas said. Said another scout, "With his talent — I'm talking pure, physical talent — you might consider him at the end of the second. Me, I wouldn't grab him until the sixth. Someone will take him sooner, though it won't be Ted." Ran 5.23 with an underwhelming 22 reps on the bench.

15. Bennie Logan, LSU (6-2, 309): Logan, an outstanding run stopper and high-effort player, tallied two sacks, 5.5 tackles for losses, one forced fumble and two blocked kicks in 2012 before declaring for the draft. He wore No. 18; since 2003, No. 18 has gone to the player who best represents what it means to be a Tiger. "This guy's strong now," a scout said. "He's got really long arms (34 inches) yet put up (30) on the bench. He was a set-up guy and let the linebackers get all the pub. Because he can't rush the passer, I see him in five (fifth round)."

16. Josh Boyd, Mississippi State (6-3, 310): Tallied 33 tackles, including 2.5 for losses and 1.5 sacks, as a senior. That was off from his junior season, when he had 51 tackles, eight for losses and 4.5 sacks while playing alongside 2012 top pick Fletcher Cox. Ran 5.14 with 32 reps at the Combine but needs to play with better leverage to use that strength. He's another fifth-round target.

17. Jared Smith, New Hampshire (6-3, 303): An FCS All-American with four sacks, nine tackles for losses, three blocked kicks and two forced fumbles. A three-year starter, he finished with 12.5 sacks and 26 tackles for losses. Ran 5.08 with 28 reps at the Combine. "He spent a lot of time on the other side of the line of scrimmage," a scout said. "That's not going to happen in the NFL but the guy's got a heck of a motor. He'll give you what he's got for his 15 or 20 snaps."

18. A.J. Francis, Maryland (6-5, 309): Super-smart, high-effort defensive lineman was honorable-mention all-ACC with 43 tackles, including four sacks and nine tackles for losses, and added three fumble recoveries and three blocked kicks. Patriots, Ravens and Texans have shown tons of interest. Ran 5.19 with 24 reps at pro day.

19. Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame (6-4, 298): The graduate student tore his ACL in the BCS Championship Game. He ended his career with a flourish with six sacks, 8.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. That ran his four-year total to 12 sacks and 22 tackles for losses. He missed the second half of the 2011 season with a detached MCL, and back-to-back knee injuries tend to send scouts running the other way. "If I didn't need him to play and I had 10, 12 picks, I'd take him in a heartbeat and put him on IR."

20. Cody Larsen, Southern Utah (6-4, 302): Larsen made a name for himself with 40 reps on the bench and a 5.06 clocking at his pro day. He was a Division II All-American with 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles for losses. The four-year starter had 18.5 sacks for his career. Still, he's considered a late-round pick or free agent because of the bad competition. "He's a Ted kind of guy," a scout said.

21. Quinton Dial, Alabama (6-5, 318): Registered 21 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for losses as senior. Dial's most noteworthy play was his crushing block on Georgia's Aaron Murray after the quarterback threw a game-turning interception in the SEC title game. He was not penalized or suspended. He needed surgery on his left toe and has not tested for scouts. Strong and long-armed but is slow off the ball and has had difficulty getting off blocks.

Nose tackle

1. Jesse Williams, Alabama (6-3, 323): Nose tackle in the Tide's 3-4 defense who anchored the nation's best run defense. He tallied 36 tackles, 2.5 for losses, one sack and a blocked kick. He also played frequently as a short-yardage fullback. He can bench press 600 pounds .. A native of Brisbane, Australia, Williams grew up playing basketball and rugby before giving football a try when he was 15. He was discovered by the defensive coordinator at Arizona Western junior college, Jerry Dominguez, while he was teaching fundamentals to players like Williams on the Australian junior national team. "He's a traditional nose tackle in a 3-4 defense," a scout said. "He doesn't have a whole lot of pass rush value. He's not like B.J. Raji, who's going to stay on the field for all three downs. B.J. is more athletic than Jesse. He could go late second but those big guys tend to go fast." Added Thomas: "I look at Jesse Williams, especially in a 3-4 defense, you've got the second coming of J.J. Watt. Look at J.J.: Everybody was saying he lacks experience and all of this, but I've got to go with the athlete. This freaking kid lifts the weight room, this kid runs a 4.9. He's just starting to learn how to play the game. Would I play him outside in a 3-4 at defensive end? Hell, yes. Would I play him inside as a nose guard? He bench presses 610 pounds. I could use him anywhere across that defensive line."

2. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State (6-3, 320): Had a monster 2001 with three sacks and 14 tackles for losses. He was a preseason All-American entering 2012 and wound up first-team all-conference by posting one sack and five TFLs. Scouts' opinions are mixed. "I think Hankins might be one of the most overrated players in the draft," Thomas said. Two others, however, thought he might be a consideration for Green Bay at No. 26. "He didn't run as well as people thought he should (5.31 at Combine). Ted, he doesn't worry about that stuff. He's worried about what he's doing on film. If he's productive on film, he's going to take him. Hankins is very instinctive. He's a guy that really didn't leave the field and he's playing at 330 pounds. Out of 80 snaps in a game, he's playing 60 to 65. Sometimes, you'll see him coast a little but but I'm not going to beat him up for it because in the NFL, where the average game is only about 65 plays, he's only going to play 35 snaps. For 35 snaps, you're damned right I'm going to take him."

3. Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern (6-1, 335): Our Sleeper

4. John Jenkins, Georgia (6-4, 346): The massive but light-footed Jenkins had 50 tackles, one sack and two tackles for losses as a senior to earn second-team all-SEC honors. "I don't like John Jenkins at all and I don't like (Kwame) Geathers," Thomas said. "These are two ball-players that just mailed it in this year. How in the hell are you 360-freaking pounds and you end up having teams gain 360 yards a game against you? Could he play in a 3-4? If somebody's behind him kicking him in the (butt) every play, yeah." Said another scout, "You watch him hustling and running at the Senior Bowl and you wonder where that was all season."

5. T.J. Barnes, Georgia Tech (6-6, 369): Three-year backup before getting his shot as a senior. Among his 28 tackles were five for losses and 1.5 sacks. His father played at Auburn, as did cousin Fred Baxter, who played tight end in the NFL for 11 seasons. His brother, Beau Reliford, played at Florida State and spent time with the Redskins. Not only is he mammoth in terms of weight, but he has 34 7/8-inch arms to hold off blockers. Interviewed with Packers at Combine.

6. Cory Grissom, South Florida (6-1, 306): Started all 40 games the final three seasons of his career. He had career highs of 2.5 sacks and seven tackles for losses as a senior, when he was second-team all-Big East despite breaking his ankle in spring practice. For his career, he tallied five sacks and 16.5 TFLs. Of his 91 career tackles in the run game, runners averaged 0.05 yards per carry with 18 tackles for losses. Grissom moves pretty well due to his background in basketball. Not tall but has good arm length. Put up 22 reps on the bench. Low center of gravity and long arms give him a chance as a rotational nose tackle.

7. Kwame Geathers, Georgia (6-5, 342): Geathers (6-6, 355) tallied 40 tackles, including five tackles for losses and one sack, plus a blocked field goal in 2012. He started eight games in his three seasons. Football is a family affair. Brothers Robert Geathers and Clifton Geathers play for the Cincinnati Bengals (he just completed his ninth season) and Indianapolis Colts (he just completed his second season), respectively. His father, Robert, was a third-round pick by Buffalo in 1981. His uncle, "Jumpy" Geathers, played 13 seasons in the NFL. Interviewed with Packers at Combine.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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