Thursday, April 6, 2017

2017 Defensive End Rankings

1) Solomon Thomas, Stanford Cardinals
Career Stats: 98 tackles, 12 sacks, 24.5 TFL
Height: 6'3          Weight: 273
40 Yard Dash: 4.69 Seconds
Bench: 30 reps

Despite having a spectacular season, there was very little hype around the Stanford prospect. After his bowl game against North Carolina, the whole draft community was scouring the internet trying to find as much information about Thomas. Solomon Thomas is a true defensive end. He has the size at 6’3” and 273 pounds, and strength to match up against any offensive tackle but then has the ability to kick inside on passing downs to give his team the versatility to keep offenses on their heels. His burst off the line is a thing of beauty as he can catch offensive linemen off guard with his deceptively quick speed. And as shown by his three cone drill, 6.95 seconds, the former Cardinal can bend the edge and knock down running backs and quarterbacks in the backfield. While his sack numbers may indicate a lack of production, he was actually quite the team player by playing a lot of defensive tackle and eating up two blockers to allow his team to get the best matchups. I love how well he carries his weight. This can definitely be attributed to the amount of boxing he has recently picked up. This newfound love of that sport also helped with his hand fighting on offensive linemen. The young 21 year old is a smart and intuitive player on the field. I have been saying for months that Thomas is going to be a top ten lock, the rest of the league has finally caught up and agreed and he could easily go as high as 2 to the San Francisco 49ers.

Stat to Know - 6.95: Thomas's three cone drill time. He had the fourth fastest time at the combine for defensive lineman despite being at least twenty pounds heavier than the three guys ahead of him.

2) Derek Barnett, Tennessee Volunteers
Career Stats: 198 tackles, 33 sacks, 52 TFL
Height: 6'3          Weight: 259
40 Yard Dash: 4.88 Seconds
Bench: DNP

Some say that stats can lie. Box score watching is a term used by others. Production doesn’t lie. Derek Barnett is a prime example of that. Barnett is the ONLY SEC player in the history of the conference to have 10 plus sacks in three seasons. That is an incredible feat that very few players get the opportunity to have. It shows that he gets the game, even when he was a young 19 year old player and with each passing year, his talent has grown. Reggie White used to hold the Tennessee all time sack record, until Barnett broke it. For those who don't know who Reggie White is, he played 15 years in the NFL and retired as the all time sacks leader with 198. I am definitely not saying Barnett is Reggie White but he did fill some pretty big shoes while at Tennessee. He is able to get low and bend under left tackles with great closing ability to whomever holds the ball. He may not be as athletic as Myles Garrett but if you watch him cover Texas A&M’s wide receiver and NFL prospect, Josh Reynolds (4.52 forty yard dash), your mouth will drop. Barnett is a great hand fighter when offensive lineman try putting their hands on him. Making adjustments is part of the college and NFL game and Barnett realizes situations during games and adapts to it. His multitude of pass rushing moves is a great start (bull rush, spin move, fake spin) and will only get better with refinement and practice. This Tennessee Vol is exactly what you look for in an NFL prospect. A combination of ability AND production.

Stat to Know - 33: Derek Barnett had one more sack than NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White had at the University of Tennessee.

3) DeMarcus Walker, Florida State Seminoles
Career Stats: 179 tackles, 27 sacks, 41.5 TFL
Height: 6'4          Weight: 280
40 Yard Dash: 4.76 Seconds

Bench: 18 reps 

Walker is another player, like Derek Barnett, that has the production to backup his high NFL upside. His stats speak for themselves. In the last two seasons, 33.5 tackles for loss, 25 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and 1 interception! Walker makes a living in the backfield as noted by those tackles for loss. Players like this need to be on your team as a pure disruptor with very good instincts. They can find ways to disrupt the passing game by going around defensive ends or ruining the running game by going straight up the gut and cutting off running backs in the backfield. I love that he still has the wherewithal to see a screen play develop and not get sucked in too much and start booking it to where the ball is going. Players can't just pin their ears back and only go after the quarterback and and Walker knows that. The swim move he implements is a thing of beauty. He does a fantastic job of sucking in the offensive linemen and gets them leaning to one side and then cuts and swims inside, blowing by the blocker. Sometimes he uses the swim move a little too often but it can be extremely effective. His motor can be a little bit of an issue but he was used quite a bit while at Florida State. In the NFL, he would be part of a rotation of defensive linemen to keep him and the other defensive linemen fresh. I think he would best be suited at being a strong side defensive end and then kicking inside on pass rush downs. Then he can use his burst and array of pass rush moves against slower guards to disrupt plays in the middle of the line. Walker shows plenty of emotion during the game and he isn't afraid to get into his teammates faces and be the leader that they need. When he sees a wide open quarterback, he kicks it into overdrive and manhandles offensive linemen out of the way to close in on the sack, then finishes strong. I would like to see more hand usage out of the Florida State defensive end. Too many times I see a guard or tackle get their hands on him and he can't shake them. He could be a true game changer if he put forth the same aggressiveness every time when he sees an opportunity at hitting the quarterback. Walker could be a real difference maker on a defensive line.

4) Taco Charlton, Michigan Wolverines
Career Stats: 91 tackles, 19 sacks, 28 TFL
Height: 6'6          Weight: 277
40 Yard Dash: 4.92 Seconds
Bench: 25 reps 

The draft community has some weird affection for Taco Charlton. Yes he does many things well, but inconsistency and motivation isn’t easy to fix. What you are buying Taco for is his potential, a word that makes many teams picking in the top 15 shudder. He is slow off the line and gets constantly gets manhandled one on one by offensive lineman. I realize he was playing through an ankle injury his senior year but he started one game his sophomore year and three his junior year. Charlton was playing around elite defenders as well that helped create room for him to make plays. You would think that less attention on him would garner more disruptive plays at his position. Then the consistency aspect comes into play. He has some plays where he looks like a future pro bowl player. He sizes up the offensive tackle, fakes a move inside, bends around the corner and spin moves around the blocker, leading him to drill the quarterback. Then you say, “Where was that every play”. It’s mind boggling at times. Was the ankle injury really holding him back that much? Time will tell. The former Wolverine needs to play with more grit but with getting to the quarterback such a priority, Charlton will find his name called much sooner than I would think. Finding a way to get him to give maximum effort every play will be key but his potential is there.

Stat to Know - 15: Number of games that Taco Charlton started in his Michigan career.

5) Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova Wildcats
Career Stats: 105 tackles, 22 sacks, 37.5 TFL
Height: 6'7          Weight: 289
40 Yard Dash: 4.83 Seconds
Bench: 23 reps 

One of my favorite player’s in this years draft is the small school defensive end from Villanova. Tanoh Kpassagnon may be one of the smartest players off the field coming out this year. He was a double major in accounting and finance and is the son of a chemical engineer and an economist. He is a very raw player though. Starting out as a tight end in 2012, he eventually switched to the other side of the ball in 2015. Two years playing the position is not a lot of time to work on your craft but he is another small school prospect with incredible upside. Kpassagnon has the makeup to be a full time defensive end once he gets the proper coaching. NFL scouts have to find out if he truly loves football though but one has to assume so. He was a captain of his team and played through a plethora of injuries. His ability to get underneath the pads of offensive linemen and put them on skates, controlling their every movement, will be tougher in the NFL as opposed to Division 1 AA. But after a year of playing in the NFL, his intellect will allow him to fully immerse himself into the game. He may not be that great edge bender, 15 sack a year player but he is able to play in multiple defenses and play them well. Kpassagnon needs to refine his technique, specifically when he tries to overpower offensive linemen and allows them to put their hands on him. He needs to do a better job of fighting them off, but I think he will he will adapt well to what NFL defenses need him to do. His upside is tremendous once he puts it all together.

Stat to Know - 84.5: Number in inches that is Kpassagnon's wingspan.

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