This is the time of year for lists. Everybody’s got one. Top 10, 15, 50, 250, people want to see incoming rookies ranked to either justify their own thoughts, or to tell the writer how wrong they are.
Now, who would I be if I didn’t give the people what they wanted? So let’s get into my Top 10 pre-combine defensive ends, going from 10 down to Number 1.
10. Kylie Fitts, Utah: He had an outstanding week at the Senior Bowl, but his in-season tape leaves something to be desired. Utah asked him to do some weird things so maybe he finds a better fit at the next level.
Positives: Playing the run is his best trait.
Negatives: Needs to get off blocks better.
9. Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama: He has a classic 3-4 defensive end’s body and the offensive line always moves back with his initial punch. I don’t know if he’ll generate a ton of IDP points, but he’ll be a nice piece for an NFL team.
Positives: Plenty of power.
Negatives: Needs to hold the point of attack better.
8. Arden Key, LSU: He has some off-field issues including going MIA from his team for four months over the summer, but he’s a talented player. His best fit would be in a Melvin Ingram-type role.
Positives: He’s got all the athletic talent in the world.
Negatives: His desire doesn’t always match that talent.
7. Chad Thomas, Miami: He was a three-year starter for the Hurricanes and has one of the best get-offs in college football.
Positives: Good hand fighter.
Negatives: Needs to work on his footwork.
6. Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State: He has a wide body and is a classic 4-3 defensive end, though the Buckeyes had him slide up and down the line.
Positives: High motor and good run defender.
Negatives: Could use improvement in getting off blocks.
5. Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio: If you watch more than a couple of minutes of the Senior Bowl coverage on NFLNetwork, you heard the announcers talk about Davenport and his raw potential. He is just that, raw. He plays with very good power and if given to the right coaching staff (looking at you Dallas), he could really take off.
Positives: Power and athleticism.
Negatives: He needs polish. Simple concepts can still confuse him.
4. Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest: He won’t participate in the combine or his pro day, but his tape is solid. He is more pass rusher than run stopper and has an assortment of moves that he can pull out.
Positives: He shines brightest when the lights are biggest.
Negatives: The injury situation will hurt his draft stock. His recovery will be important where you will pick him in rookie drafts.
3. Harold Landry, Boston College: He’s missed a lot of time with injuries, but when he’s on the field it’s easy to see why the NFL scouts is in love with him. Landry is a speed rusher with a good bend and runs the arc well.
Positives: His highs are very high. He makes explosive plays.
Negatives: The injuries are a concern. He needs to stay on the field to maximize his talents.
2. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State: He’s technically sound and plays both the run and pass pretty well. Hubbard is a very good hand fighter and was when Joey Bosa received a suspension his senior year, it was a young Hubbard that the Buckeyes called on to fill the spot.
Positives: Good power rusher and hand fighter.
Negatives: Ohio State asked him to drop for reasons beyond me. He is strictly a 4-3 defensive end.
1. Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State: No surprises here. Chubb is a clean prospect on and off the field. He has power, speed, and a nasty streak. He plays the run equally as well as he chases down quarterbacks. Chubb should be the first rookie defensive end off the board in all formats.
Positives: He converts speed to power extremely well. He also has one of the highest motor for a superstar defensive linemen I have ever seen.
Negatives: Uhhhh…his hand fighting could be better, but it’s still above average.
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