The Underclassmen: The Defensive Linemen

With the Scouting Combine just a few weeks away, and the Senior Bowl in the rear-view mirror, it's time for Seahawks.NET to continue with Draft Editor Scott Eklund's multi-part series about those underclassmen who have declared for the draft. In Part 4, Scott profiles the defensive linemen.

Miami DE Calais Campbell When you talk about prototypical defensive ends, Campbell is it. He’s huge (6-8, 280) and he runs very well for a man his size. He’s very intense and loves to get after the quarterback – 19 sacks in three years including 10.5 as a sophomore in 2006. With pass-rushers becoming more and more important to combat the quick passing schemes many offenses are employing, Campbell projects as a mid to late first round selection at this point.

NFL Comparison: Houston DE Mario Williams

Quarterback Omar Haugabook #17 of the Troy Trojans is hit as he throws by linebacker Dustin Doe #32 and defensive end Derrick Harvey #91 of the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 8, 2007 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Florida DE Derrick Harvey – Very explosive and could end up being the best athlete available at the defensive end position. Harvey possesses an incredibly quick first step and he dips his shoulder well as he tries to get around the offensive tackle. He needs to work a bit on his strength, but he held his own against the run in 2007 and could prove to be an excellent selection in the middle of round one.

NFL Comparison: Dallas DE/LB DeMarcus Ware

Ohio State DE Vernon Gohlston – Gohlston burst onto the scene as a full-time starter in 2006 with 8.5 sacks and was named second team All-Big 10 that year. This year, teams doubled him on almost every play and sent backs and tight ends to his side to slow him down so he didn’t put up the big numbers expected, but he improved as an overall defensive end and he still has his tremendous strength and speed to get around the edge at the next level. Should go in the mid first round, depending on how he tests during workouts.

NFL Comparison – Washington DE Andre Carter

Clemson DE Phillip Merling Probably could have used another season at Clemson, but there’s no denying Merling can play ball and get after the quarterback. He needs to play better against the run and that’s a direct result of him playing too high at times, allowing offensive linemen to get into his pads and force him off the ball. He’s got a quick first step though and he’s got the size to be a great bull-rusher in the future. Merling also uses his hands very well. Late second-rounder at this point, but testing could move him up a bit.

NFL Comparison – New York Giants DE Justin Tuck

West Virginia DE Johnny Dingle It wasn’t a huge surprise when Dingle declared for the draft, but he could have used another season of experience before he decided to go pro. He’s got an excellent motor and he’s got the ability to knife in to make plays in the opponents’ backfield. He isn’t overly explosive, but he still managed to post 19 tackles-for-loss and nine sacks while leading the Mountaineers in both categories. Projects as a mid-rounder at this point, but if he tests well, he could move into the second round.

NFL Comparison: Tennessee DE Kyle Vanden Bosch

Florida State DT Latroy Guion – One of the more talented interior defensive linemen in the country this past season, Guion will have to overcome his off-field issues in order to be selected where his talent warrants. He was one of two dozen players who were ruled ineligible for the Seminoles’ bowl game at the end of December because of a cheating scandal that was uncovered by investigators and with his playing status tenuous it makes sense Guion opted to go pro. When he’s on the field, Guion has few peers when it comes to quickness and the ability to find the ball. He isn’t a great pass-rusher, but he has enough athleticism to improve in that area and he’s very good at shooting gaps and causing problems in the backfield. I expect Guion to end up being a second-day steal for someone, but with good testing numbers at the combine and if he interviews well, he could move up into being a first-day selection.

NFL Comparison – Buffalo DT Larry Triplett

Auburn DT Pat SimsSims ended up being one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the country this past season and he was named All-SEC after posting 37 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. He’s explosive, he uses his hands well and he has excellent athleticism so he can run down plays that aren’t in his area. He has trouble shedding blockers and he can play high at times, allowing offensive linemen to move him off the ball, but he’s a great prospect who should go sometime in the either the late first or early second round.

NFL Comparison – New England DT Ty Warren

Other articles by Scott Eklund in this series:

The Underclassmen: The Running Backs

The Underclassmen: The Receivers

The Underclassmen: The Linemen/Tight Ends Top Stories