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2013 Draft Preview: Defensive Linemen

Posted Apr 19, 2013

Two foreign-born prospects drawing lots of interest from scouts.


Among the six defensive linemen with first-round draft grades, two names have stood out, especially after making waves at the NFL Scouting Combine, and they are Brigham Young’s Ezekiel Ansah and Florida State’s Bjoern Werner. Neither defensive end was born in the United States, yet they are about to live the American dream thanks to perceived upside as edge rushers.

Those NFL teams needing help on the interior are becoming enamored with Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins because of their quick feet and strength at the point of attack. Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan is the tallest of the top prospects and could give Ansah and Werner a run for their money six days from now. There is not much of a drop-off behind these five among defensive linemen, making this one of the deepest areas of the draft class.

BREAKING DOWN TOP DEFENSIVE LINEMEN PROSPECTS
(In Alphabetical Order)


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Ezekiel Ansah, a native of Africa, has instinctively drawn comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants when he was drafted out of the University of South Florida because of his freakish athleticism, but he has even less experience in the game. He really began to open eyes among NFL scouts, GMs and coaches at the Senior Bowl and had a solid Combine, running a 4.63 in the 40-yard dash. Nobody questions his quickness, length and strength and he has a business like demeanor about him, which makes him coachable at the next level and looked good during position drills at BYU’s Pro Day last month. Even though he ran track before switching to football, Ansah admittedly gets fatigued easily, a possible concern. He still should be one of the first defensive linemen taken next week after racking up 35 tackles (27 solo) and 4.5 sacks as a senior.

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NFL Network’s draft expert Mike Mayock considers Sharrif Floyd the No. 2 overall prospect in his class regardless of position and he appears to have all the measurables. An ankle injury suffered at the Combine prevented Floyd from being able to participate in Florida’s Pro Day last month but he held his own personal workout 10 days later and did not disappoint. Floyd dominated as a junior last year with 46 tackles (29 solo), three sacks and 13 tackles for loss and his back-story, having survived a rough childhood in Philadelphia, has earned him even more points in the overall evaluation. His athleticism and natural pass rushing skills are unique for a tackle of his size and he is a solid run stopper with the ability to thrive in either a 3-4 defensive alignment or a 4-3. Floyd has the capability to make an immediate impact as a rookie..

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Johnathan Hankins was given quite the workload with the Buckeyes, averaging close to 70 snaps per game for head coach Urban Meyer. His numbers actually dropped from his sophomore season in 2011, when he recorded three sacks, 67 tackles (35 solo) and 11 tackles for loss, as he managed just one sack and 55 tackles (32 solo) and four tackles for loss last season. Hankins still earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and is more of a pure run stopper in the middle but capable of occupying blockers in passing situations to open up lanes for the edge rushers. If he were to go to a team with a 4-3 scheme in place he’d be a better fit as a 3-technique, which us why he grades out lower than Floyd. Hankins might have been trumped by Utah’s Star Loutelei had it not been for Loutelei’s medical issue.

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A shoulder injury suffered in Oregon’s 35-17 win over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl forced Dion Jordan to miss the Senior Bowl and have to undergo offseason surgery. He actually scored on a two-point conversion run in that game, showing off his athleticism, and then came back with a strong outing in Indianapolis. Jordan’s 4.60 in the 40-yard dash tied for the third fastest among defensive ends and his leap of 10 feet, 2 inches in the broad jump tied for fourth and he had the procedure done on his shoulder shortly after, missing Oregon’s Pro Day. Some see him as an outside linebacker at the next level and his 12.5 sacks over his last two seasons certainly stand out from a pass rushing standpoint, but his large frame and long reach will be hard to ignore for those looking for a defensive end.

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Bjoern Werner became a football fan in his native Germany after going to NFL Europe games to watch the Berlin Thunder and playing flag football for the Berlin Adler. He fell in love with the sport and excelled as an exchange student at in high school at Salisbury, Ct., then continued to impress at FSU. Last year, Werner racked up 13 sacks and 42 tackles (18 for loss) for the Seminoles as a junior and his stock continues to rise thanks to a solid performance in position drills at FSU’s Pro Day. His skill set is similar to that of St. Louis’ Chris Long, who was chosen with the second overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, in terms of being an active pass rushing end that also can be effective against the run. Werner’s upside appears limitless and his attitude and performance in interviews certainly helped.

OTHER TOP DEFENSIVE LINEMEN PROSPECTS AT A GLANCE

Datone Jones 
Defensive End
6-4, 283
UCLA

Star Loutelei  
Defensive Tackle
6-2, 311
Utah

Damonte Moore
Defensive End
6-4, 250
Texas A&M

Alex Okafor 
Defensive End
6-4, 264
Texas

Sheldon Richardson 
Defensive Tackle
6-2, 294
Missouri