NFL Draft 2011: Top 5 DEs

Patriots Insider's resident Draft expert James Christensen begins his look at the 2011 Draft class with his third in a series of Top 5 lists. These are the best fit choices at the defensive end position for the Patriots.

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Perhaps one of the more intriguing things about our look at the top five 3-4 defensive ends in the 2011 NFL Draft for the New England Patriots are some of the names that aren't there.

Adrian Clayborn? Not enough bulk. Nick Fairley? Better suited for a penetrating 1-gap system. Others don't fit the bill due to some other flaw in their technique or build.

A holding 3-4 defensive end like the Patriots employ is a tough commodity to come by in the college ranks, but these five players come reasonably close to fitting the parameters set forth by Bill Belichick: strength, size, and the ability to command a double team.

With Ty Warren, Mike Wright, Gerard Warren, and Myron Pryor all facing uncertain futures due to contract or injury issues, the 3-4 DE position is certainly one that the Patriots will take a long look at.

Marcell Dareus, Alabama
This Nick Saban product might be the most complete prospect coming out this year at the 3-4 DE position. He has the strength to stay stout against the run, while being explosive and quick enough to be a threat while rushing the passer.
Dareus has experience playing multiple positions at Alabama, including the 5-technique position at both the RDE and LDE positions.

Dareus reacts to the snap very quickly, sheds single blockers with ease, and can anchor versus a double team - all things that a great 3-4 end needs to do to be successful at the next level.

While we have Dareus rated as a "Top 5 Prospect", it is very plausible to see him falling into trade-up range for the Patriots if there is a run on skill position players early.

J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
If you haven't watched any Wisconsin football this year, or just saw some of the gaudy offensive numbers put up by the Badgers, watch this guy during their bowl game against TCU.

Watt is an absolute animal that plays with a motor that just won't quit and truly has a knack for making plays when his team needs it. He blocks field goals, extra points, makes tackles for loss, sacks the quarterback, he really does it all.
We currently have Watt going to the Patriots with the 32nd pick of the 1st round, of our 2011 NFL Mock Draft, which might be a bit of a reach for the underclassmen from Madison.

He isn't a natural pass-rush specialist, but what he lacks in talent he makes up for in strength, determination, and sheer effort. This is the type of guy you want on your team.

Cameron Jordan, Cal
Tackling is a fundamental of football. Cameron Jordan knows how to tackle. In order to show off his tackling skills, Jordan has developed quite the array of moves and counters to disengage himself from blockers and get to the ball carrier.

While he does excel against the run with his tackling and strength, he can improve on his pass-rushing. Staying under control would help him immensely at the next level. Some of the quicker NFL tackles will be able to stay with him and use his momentum to take him right out of the play.

With Jordan's physical skills and talent, the Patriots coaching should be confident in being able to coach him up in these areas. His experience in a 3-4 system will already put him ahead of the game.

Jordan will be a hot commodity with so many teams interested in running the 3-4 defense, so the Patriots will have to pounce early - probably within the first 20-25 picks.

Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
Heyward is a football player - and with a last name like that, you better be. This Buckeye is 6'6" with a 290 pound build that he carries very well, as you can see by his non-stop motor.

What Heyward does well, very well. He can really pressure the quarterback with a solid bull-rush.That said, he certainly could improve the other facets of his game, most notably, his rush moves and attention to the run.

If Heyward grows and can get coached up on how to stay focused on his responsibilities, he has all the ability in the world to become a force in a 1-gap or 2-gap defense. Belichick will love the fact that he can play in any set for all three downs.
Heyward should be available during the bottom-half of the first round, while he does have a chance of being a top 15 pick.

Jared Crick, Nebraska
Crick is a prospect that burst onto the scene by lining up next to some guy named Suh. He stayed there by having a good senior season showcasing some decent rush moves and an ability to stop the run while at times taking on multiple blockers.
This Cornhusker is going to be 2011's Jared Odrick, a guy that doesn't get a lot of publicity, but is a solid football player that will end up going in the first 50 picks. Crick can play inside in the 4-3 or outside in the 3-4, so multiple teams will be looking his direction come spring.

Bonus: Stephen Paea & Allen Bailey
Both Paea and Bailey are intriguing prospects that get discounted for one reason, Paea's build and Bailey's inability to stay on the field.

That said, Paea's superhuman strength and Bailey's explosiveness are such that make you stand up and take notice. Each could be a Tyson Alualu (riser) or a Carlos Dunlap (faller).

James Christensen's scouting updates will appear here on throughout the year. James is the publisher of, an independent website dedicated to covering the NFL Draft and college prospects with professional potential.

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