ESPN ranks the defensive lineman
By Len Pasquarelli
Here is how ESPN.com rates the top 12 defensive lineman prospects in the draft:
[img]http://espn.starwave.com/media/ncf/2003/1115/photo/g_smith_hi.jpg[/img][font=verdana, arial, geneva][size=1][color=#666666][b]Will Smith, right, led the way for Ohio State's defense.[/b][/color][/size][/font][b]DE [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7352"][color=#00009b]Will Smith[/color][/url][/b] (Ohio State)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-2 ¾, 275 pounds, 4.58 in the 40, and 30 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] Nearly bypassed senior season to enter draft last year, after helping lead Buckeyes to national championship, but changed mind and stayed in school. Played in 51 games and started 37, finishing with 167 tackles, 47 tackles for losses, 21 sacks and 42 pressures. Ranks No. 5 in school history in sacks and tackles for losses.
[b]Upside:[/b] Terrific two-way player, anchors nicely against the run, possesses innate pass-rush instincts. Has lined up at both end spots. Explosive first step can carry him into the backfield and he is a disruptive player. Uses his hands well to grab and throw and is also an accomplished bull-rusher. More athletic than he first appears. Goes strong through the gaps. Good burst over a short area, relentless worker, won't get knocked off his feet.
[b]Downside:[/b] Short arms, doesn't extend particularly well at times, and will stay engaged a little longer than you want. Plays tall, a habit that started when he began occasionally aligning in two-point stance, and will lose momentum. Despite pursuit skills, doesn't always work back to the ball.
[b]The dish:[/b] Top-flight prospect who has added about 15 pounds over the past year and figures to be off the board by halfway through the first round.
[b]DT [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7477"][color=#00009b]Tommie Harris[/color][/url][/b] (Oklahoma)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-2½, 295 pounds, 4.78 in the 40, and 29 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] Won the Lombardi Award in 2003. Three-year starter, opened in last 37 games of his career for Sooners, and had 94 tackles, nine sacks and 49 pressures. Of his 94 tackles, 33 were for losses.
[b]Upside:[/b] Quick off the ball and has the kind of explosiveness that allows him to get through the gaps and occasionally split the double-team block. Active player who uses his hands well and can get off blocks. Explosive strength, especially in his legs, has a low charge with excellent pad level. More than just a closed-space defender, will pursue and play down the line, chases a lot of sweeps. Nice body control and change of direction skills. Has ability to compress the pocket.
[b]Downside:[/b] Not nearly as big as teams like their tackles now. Short arms. More a "flash" player, who goes hard in spurts, then disappears for stretches. Not a strong bull-rusher, so has to beat blockers with first foray, and doesn't have a very broad repertoire, needs to develop more than just the spin-counter move at which he excels.
[b]The dish:[/b] Almost certainly the first tackle off the board and, depending on team needs, could be the first defensive lineman period. Some teams, because of his lack of size, see him as better suited to playing end in a 3-4 front.
[b]DE [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7351"][color=#00009b]Kenechi Udeze[/color][/url][/b] (Southern California)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-2 7/8, 281 pounds, 4.77 in the 40, and 25 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] All-Pac-10 in final two seasons and named the conference defensive player of the year in 2003. Thirty-six starts in 37 appearances, concluded career with 135 tackles, 51 of them for losses, and 28 sacks. Had 16½ sacks in 2003. Name means "God's love will always be with me," in Nigerian.
[b]Upside:[/b] When he's really on his game, can absolutely jolt blockers with first contact, stop them in their tracks. An attacking player who likes to initiate the contact. Long arms and very strong hands. Good athlete who bends at knees, nice flexibility, takes good pursuit angles. Generally holds up at point of attack. Non-stop motor, will make lots of plays with second effort, after it seems he is out of the action.
[b]Downside:[/b] Former defensive tackle who lost 80-plus pounds, sometimes still plays like an interior defender, and is often a step slow off the ball. Has trouble locating the ball at times, allows himself to stay blocked, and will run himself out of some plays. For a guy who had so many sacks, not very explosive in his first move, and still needs to develop some variety in his rush techniques.
[b]The dish:[/b] Former fat kid, showed great diligence in getting himself into shape, and will be rewarded with a spot in the top half of the first round. Given some quickness liabilities, might be best suited to playing strong-side end at NFL level.
[b]DT [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7478"][color=#00009b]Vince Wilfork[/color][/url][/b] (Miami)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-1¼, 323 pounds, 5.08 in the 40, and 36 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] Was semifinalist for Lombardi Award and Bednarik Award in 2003. A unanimous All-Big East choice last season. Nicknamed "Baby Sapp," for comparisons to NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Played mostly in tackle rotation and didn't become full-time starter until 2003. Had 148 tackles, 14 sacks and 42 pressures.
[b]Upside:[/b] Even after shedding 20 pounds of extra tonnage, still a widebody with a huge butt, the kind of interior "space eater" for whom every defensive coordinator is looking. Thick body, natural strength, especially through the legs. Plays low, anchors at the point of attack, will command double team and still control it. Simply eats up blockers. Strong tackler and, when he penetrates, won't whiff on a runner. Pretty good lateral movement.
[b]Downside:[/b] A little short and, even with weight loss, a big belly. Will have to demonstrate he can control his weight, because stamina has been a problem in the past. Needs to use hands better to disengage, and has to work on locating the football and not just parrying with blockers. A closed-area defender who will get off-balance on occasion, plays too much on the ground.
[b]The dish:[/b] Coordinators kill for this kind of "anchor" defender and, while his tackle totals will never be very high, he should be a big-timer if he stays in the 320-pound range.
[b]DT [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7479"][color=#00009b]Randy Starks[/color][/url][/b] (Maryland)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-3 3/8, 314 pounds, 5.16 in the 40, and 27 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] Member of the "Iron Terp" club for accomplishments in weight room during his career. Posted 201 tackles, including 166 in last two seasons, 34 tackles for losses, 17½ sacks and 31 pressures.
[b]Upside:[/b] Huge frame, thick through the legs, long arms and strong hands. Better athlete than he first appears and moves well laterally. Good combination of power and agility. Pretty good knee-bender, keeps his pads under him, getting much better at playing with leverage. Holds his ground and, when he is really cranked up, will merit double-team blocking. Can work his way back to the ball. All-around tools.
[b]Downside:[/b] Played a lot of end in 3-4 front, so still a bit raw inside, will have to learn to get through the traffic. Not nearly as explosive as another former Terp, current [url="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=car"][color=#00009b]Carolina Panthers[/color][/url] star Kris Jenkins, and loses momentum when he gets too high. Will have to penetrate more, muscle his way through gaps, learn to squeeze his body through the tiny spaces to get to the ball.
[b]The dish:[/b] Overall game still needs refinement, must learn some of the inside nuances, but still a quality prospect who could be off the board in the second half of the first round and no later than the early second round.
[b]DE [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7353"][color=#00009b]Antwan Odom[/color][/url][/b] (Alabama)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-5 ¾, 274 pounds, 4.72 in the 40, and 21 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] His 21 sacks rank as third-most in Crimson Tide history for defensive linemen. Had 98 tackles and 40 pressures, forced four fumbles and was also a standout special teams player, with two blocked kicks.
[b]Upside:[/b] Long and lean, can probably add 10-15 pounds once he gets into an NFL weight program, and it wouldn't hurt his quickness. Looks like a prototype weak-side end. Gets upfield, can "corner" back to the pocket, changes direction well and chases down plays. Nice body control for redirecting. Long arms, can reach over tackles to get to passer, and will bat down a lot of passes.
[b]Downside:[/b] Because he is so slender, can get overpowered, especially versus the run. While there is some discernable "twitch" to his game, not explosively quick, and that is compounded by problems disengaging from blocks. Plays high, has to learn to drop his shoulder more and make himself "small" when trying to attack the pocket.
[b]The dish:[/b] In a draft where there are so few viable ends, will get pushed up a tad higher than he should, and could sneak into bottom of first round. Too many tools, too much long-term upside, to ignore.
[b]DT [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7483"][color=#00009b]Dwan Edwards[/color][/url][/b] (Oregon State)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-2 ¾, 297 pounds, 5.12 in the 40, and 28 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] Two-time all-conference performer, with 159 tackles, including 30 for losses, and 12½ sacks. Three-year class president in high school and graduated college with a degree in Business Administration.
[b]Upside:[/b] Three-year starter showed marked improvement as senior. Better instincts than some of the tackle prospects rated ahead of him. Big chest and really thick all over. Short arms but seems to know how to extend, get into blockers, lock on and redirect. Pure power player who doesn't get knocked off feet, is surprisingly agile, and will battle for every inch of real estate. Big motor and likes to compete. Decent bull-rusher but still needs more counter moves.
[b]Downside:[/b] Not a great athlete. More an anchor-type tackle than a penetrator. Could use better change of direction skills and won't chase down many plays outside the end. Will get his pads too high at times and then he is apt to be stymied.
[b]The dish:[/b] Plays more like a 310-pounder at times, in that he is stronger than he looks, but doesn't move much outside the box. Still, it's notable he got more productive every year of his college career, and he's a solid second-round prospect.
[b]DT [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7482"][color=#00009b]Marcus Tubbs[/color][/url][/b] (Texas)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-4, 321 pounds, 5.13 in the 40, and 29 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] Three-year starter who appeared in 48 games and started 37 of them, notching 207 tackles, 15½ sacks and 65 pressures. Had 41 tackles for losses.
[b]Upside:[/b] Impressive frame, long and stacked, moves well for a man with his overall size. Better muscle definition than the tackles rated ahead of him. Has always been productive and plays big in big games. Strong hands and can jar a blocker with initial contact. Plays square and moves well laterally. Deceptive athleticism and penetration skills.
[b]Downside:[/b] His quickness is largely straight-line, and he only flashes pursuit ability. Is susceptible to low blocks, because he is cut so high, and must protect his legs better than he did in college. Not a very polished pass rusher.
[b]The dish:[/b] Some teams still regard him as a potential first-rounder, but we see him more as a sure second-stanza selection. Might project best to nose tackle.
[b]DT [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7490"][color=#00009b]Terry "Tank" Johnson[/color][/url][/b] (Washington)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-2 ¾, 304 pounds, 4.74 in the 40, and 31 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] Former prep volleyball player who was originally recruited as a tight end. Started in 23 of 36 appearances and totaled 164 tackles and 15 sacks. Had 10 sacks and 64 tackles in senior season.
[b]Upside:[/b] Good athlete with a quick first step. Really blossomed in postseason and opened lots of eyes at the East-West game and the combine workouts. Has natural ability to slant through gaps, get into backfield, disrupt flow. Surprisingly good pass rush moves, can spin off blocks, find the ball and get to quarterback.
[b]Downside:[/b] Not very stout, physically or competitively, and must continue to press himself to get better. An up-and-down career, didn't even play that well as a senior, then seemed to find motivation in all-star games. Plays high and gets ridden out of the action. Lacks focus and will disappear for long stretches.
[b]The dish:[/b] A "buyer beware" player who could be top-notch or just a tease. Someone will be too tempted to not let him slip beyond the second round.
[b]DT [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7481"][color=#00009b]Darnell Dockett[/color][/url][/b] (Florida State)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-3 3/8, 297 pounds, 5.03 in the 40, and 26 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] Named twice to all-conference team and was the ACC defensive player of the year for 2003. Had 64 tackles for losses and that broke Seminoles career record held by NCAA Hall of Fame member Ron Simmons. Four-year starter, appeared in 49 games and totaled 247 tackles, 10½ sacks and 68 pressures.
[b]Upside:[/b] Real physical specimen, good body mass, but could get even bigger. Naturally strong and explosive off the ball. When he hits the gap, he's getting through, and is going to wreak havoc. Excellent knee-bender, comes off low, makes himself difficult to block. Terrific motor and will chase the ball to the sideline. Can dominate for long stretches. Has played both inside and outside, might be good fit as a 3-4 end.
[b]Downside:[/b] Lots of past off-field issues and has allowed his emotions to get better of him in some contests. Has been ejected from games and suspended from squad. Durability is also a bit of a concern. Sometimes will quit on a play if he doesn't make something happen with his initial surge. Just starting to develop as a pass rusher and needs to make more progress in that area.
[b]The dish:[/b] Seems to have his off-field situation under control now but some teams are wary and doing extensive background checks. Too much talent to waste. Should be no worse than second-rounder but, in some scenarios, might sneak into first round.
[b]DE [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7360"][color=#00009b]Jason Babin[/color][/url][/b] (Western Michigan)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-2 5/8, 260 pounds, 4.64 in the 40, and 28 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] Two-year starter, recorded 209 of his 299 tackles his last two seasons, finished career with 38 sacks, including 15 each in 2002-2003. Broke school sack mark held by former NFL defensive end Joel Smeenge. Also played some fullback, lining up mostly as a blocker in Power-I formation, and carried three times for 35 yards.
[b]Upside:[/b] Excellent athlete and superb desire-type defender. Huge motor. Flexible and quick and can chase down plays all over the field. Watch him on tape and he consistently gets up off the mat to get back into the play. Plays low and, when coming off the edge, corners nicely and closes on the pocket. Some solid pass rush moves and has learned to use his hands.
[b]Downside:[/b] Needs more size in general. Can't stack and anchor yet against the run. Will not consistently defeat blocks. Needs to develop some counter moves. Stand around some when he doesn't get into play with initial charge.
[b]The dish:[/b] Lack of size could make him situational player at outset of his career. But one of best pure rushers in talent pool and too good to pass in the second round.
[b]DT [url="http://proxy.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft04/tracker/player?id=7488"][color=#00009b]Matthias Askew[/color][/url][/b] (Michigan State)
[b]Vital statistics:[/b] 6-feet-5 3/8, 308 pounds, 5.23 in the 40, and 20 "reps" on the bench press.
[b]Numbers game:[/b] Late-bloomer, started only 1½ seasons, but made most of his playing time, with 144 tackles, including 18½ for losses, seven sacks and 24 pressures.
[b]Upside:[/b] Not very thick, but a huge, long frame, can easily add more bulk. Prototype size for the 3-4 end position. Good natural strength and in-line agility. Has begun to flash some pass rush ability.
[b]Downside:[/b] Very raw and lacks functional football strength, will get knocked off the ball, manhandled at point of attack. Plays tall and doesn't get off blocks. Lacks sustained speed and gives up on some plays.
[b]The dish:[/b] Showed improvement in 2003 and has too much long-term potential not to be chosen on the first day.
[i]Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.[/i]
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