Scouting the Draft: Top 5 Defensive Ends

Scout's draft experts rank the Top 5 defensive ends entering the 2014 NFL draft complete with each player's strengths, weaknesses and what pro their play most closely resembles.

Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

Strengths

Clowney's official 40-time was clocked in at 4.53 seconds which was faster than 26 wide Receivers. Yes, I said 26 wide receivers. Keep in mind Clowney is a towering 6-foot-5 266 pounds defensive end. His 40 yard time is absolutely astronomical, setting the bar for Defensive Lineman running the 40. Clowney, often regarded as the best defensive prospect since Julius Peppers of the 2002 Draft, ran .15 seconds faster than "The Freak of Nature" Peppers himself. Adding to the fact that Clowney came in 14 pounds leaner than during the season, he also is now the record holder for a defensive lineman running a 40. When superimposing Manziel's impressive 4.68 40 time over Clowney's, Clowney left Johnny Football in the dust. In the age of the duel threat quarterback, Clowney's burst off the line can provide immediate relief to times troubled with facing mobile quarterbacks. If anything, it's safe to say Johnny Manziel won't be evading Clowney anywhere in the near future. With 40 times similar to the likes of Michael Vick, Colin Kaepernick, and Robert Griffin, his endless motor along with his quick burst will have the potential to be viewed as a QB killer. He also has as good as a burst off the line as anyone in recent memory. It almost looks as though he's jumping the snap as he gets off so quickly. He's also a very creative pass rusher, which is a rarity for athletes of Clowney's nature. He has an array of moves, and has a spin move similar to Dwight Freeney.

Weaknesses

His 2012 season was a much more enjoyable tape than his 2013 campaign. Some wonder if he had a lack of motivation or if teams adjusted to his play. He does take some plays off, and that may scare some teams away. However, it can't go unnoticed that the man is a physical phenomenon, with unparalleled athleticism, proven skill, and a variety of pass rush moves. Clowney is as safe as a pick as you can find in this draft class.

2. Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State

Strengths

Lawrence is a volatile athlete on and off the field. His play reeks havoc with exceptional awareness and understanding of the game. In the college game you see a lot of pass rushers playing like a chicken with their head cut off. Not Lawrence however, as he has great instincts and a nose for the football. He's an overall technician fundamentally, playing with an old school pad level as low as you'll see. He has great hands as well and uses them to get by lineman consistently. His swim move however, is where he makes his living, achieving multiple sacks this past season on that move alone. He has a ton of motor as well, as someone who is relentless, and along with his acceleration, is tough to block. By far his best attribute is his balance however. He has an agile frame, and a flexible lower body that helps him change directions with ease.

Weaknesses

He's an all around great pass rusher, and most of his biggest issues will come from off the field more than anything. Lawrence had multiple suspensions on different occasions this past season for unspecified reasons, as Boise State chose to keep it in house. That's a major red flag for a player that only has two years of Division 1 football experience. He also comes off the ball a bit slow, and the pro game is so fast that it may be hard to break off lineman when you're coming off the ball slow. Also, a bit too reliant on his swim move. NFL coaches watch more tape than anyone, and can learn to control Lawrence once they take the swim move out of his game. Also, needs to improve overall strength. Lawrence is a very promising prospect, and has a lot of natural "Leo" skills made for the 3-4 Rusher position. If he adds some variety to his pass rush moves as well as adds some muscle in the weight room, Lawrence can be an annoyance for opposing Quarterbacks at the next level.

3. Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech

Weaknesses

In three years Attaochu could be on his way to a pro bowl. Attaouchu's athleticism is off the charts. If Clowney wasn't in this class, Attaouchu would be getting the freak hype that Clowney currently is. But he's so much more than an athlete. He's a hard nosed football player, and a good one at that. He's well-versed against the run, and has a natural nose for finding where the ball is. It's a rarity in today's game to find a prospect that matches his athleticism with legitimate football skills. Attaochu is a rare breed. His burst off the snap is also excellent, and in a matter of seconds he jumped off the screen.

Weaknesses

You can stand him up, put his hand in the dirt, or even play him inside, and he will find a way to get through the teeth of the offensive line. There does lie the question to see which is his true position at the pro level. Maybe too small for a defensive end, and has questionable hips for OLB in a 3-4. No matter the position, Attaochu is a great prospect with the ability to dominate the league. He must first learn how to convert his raw speed into power to do so, however.

4.) Dee Ford, Auburn

Strengths

Dee Ford possesses a high motor that really jumps off the screen. He combines his high motor with a great burst off the line, making him extremely difficult to block in the collegiate level. He's an animal off the edge, playing with relentless aggression. He's a very tough, emotional player, and a joy to watch as well, as he plays 110%.

Weaknesses

He doesn't have a ton of pass rush moves however, so I'm skeptical to see how well his bull rush can get by in the NFL game. He's also a tad undersized, so it brings into question what position he is at the next level. He did however play Linebacker at times in college, so he can definitely play in the 3-4 as an OLB, and honestly, I'd say that's his best fit with his motor and ability to play off the edge. He's also a pretty good player in coverage, and can really set the edge for a defense in the run game. I don't see him ever producing 15 sack seasons, but I do see a really solid player in his game

5.) Marcus Smith, Louisville

Strengths

Smith hones a burst that makes him unguardable at times. He also has great balance that helps him get to the passer with ease. He's the type of player that just needs to pin his ears back and get to the passer. He's a gambler, and with his burst he can get away with it. He's very quick, and would be best with a creative coordinator who can concentrate on his pass rushing skills.

Weaknesses

Hi ability to set the edge is questionable because he does get too wide at times, and misses some gaps in the run game. He goes outside a bit too much, and that also can hurt his stock, as NFL QB's are smart enough to step up into the pocket. Smith is an ideal fit as a pure pass rusher. He may not wow you with his measurables, but he is a very sound football player with underrated quickness.

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