2016 Defensive End Class is Deep and Talented

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Strongest Position

Teams are hoping they can find another JJ Watt at defensive end. Getty Images

If quarterbacks are the stars of the offense in football, then defensive ends are the glory hounds on defense.

A good pass-rusher out there on the edge, highly visible, is a highly valued commodity, almost as much as a quarterback. They're disruptors, destroyers, agitators and low-down wreckers. A great defensive end can control a football game as much as a great quarterback.

A good pass-rusher who can also stop the run is a must-have, if one is available.

Everybody wants a JJ Watt, a Robert Quinn, even a Mario Williams. Some of the most illustrious names in pro football were defensive ends: Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Jack Youngblood, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, "Mean" Joe Greene.

Defensive end position is one of the strongest positions in this year's 2016 NFL draft, which starts April 28. Here, in my opinion, are the top five prospects.

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5 - Kevin Dodd, Clemson, 6-5, 280

Kevin Dodd makes a tackle for Clemson. Getty Images

 

Dodd formed one half of a dream defensive end combo with teammate Shaq Lawson.

Lawson has been on pro scouts' radar for some time, but Dodd is a bit of a Johnny-come-lately, a fast-rising star among those NFL teams looking for a stellar edge rusher.

He had 12.5 sacks for the Tigers, a stat which puts him among the very elite in college football for 1015. He has a deadly quick first step, an edge most college defenders couldn't cope with. That first step is something that can't be taught and it comes naturally to Dodd.

He also has the talent to go inside or out on his path to the quarterback. He has the quickness to play on the edge and the strength to bull his way inside.

The problem – if it is a problem – is his lack of production in earlier seasons in South Carolina. Scouts are a little mystified by this. Is he a one-year wonder or is he just beginning to find his talent?

Still, his strong work ethic could make up for some of those doubts. He can learn the game at the pro level.

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4 - Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State, 6-4, 273

Emmanuel Ogbah rushes the passer. Getty Images

 

Ogbah had a very impressive 12.5 sacks for the Cowboys last year, but it was his showing at the NFL Combine that caused him to shoot up draft boards like a meteor.

His time in the 40-yard-dash, 4.63 seconds, was the best in the combine at his position. So was his vertical leap and broad jump. His pure athletic ability stunned a lot of NFL people.

He impressed scouts with his straight-line speed and long arms, and they also like his relentless pursuit, his determined attitude in wanting to get to the quarterback every time.

If he can learn some technique in the pros, he could turn into a devastating pass-rusher.

The problem is one of inconsistency. Ogbah can look like a pro on one play and a dog on the next. When he does put forth maximum effort, he can overwhelm blockers with ease.

He also needs a little schooling on the finer aspects of the game, such as in recognizing developing plays and making the correct reaction.

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3 - Shaq Lawson, Clemson, 6-3, 269

Shaq Lawson is one of two great Clemson defensive ends. Getty Images

 

With Lawson and Dodd on each end of Clemson's defensive line, it's a wonder opposing quarterbacks got the nerve to even take a snap.

These two guys were a huge factor in Clemson's undefeated season in 2015.

Lawson has an NFL-ready body, with huge legs that enable him to drive offensive linemen backward. He can knock people over to get to the quarterback, and he has a great spin move developed already. He is as good against the run as he is rushing the passer, maybe better.

He played standing up for the Tigers, which would make him ideal for pro teams using the 4-3 scheme, though he is versatile enough to plug in almost any defensive scheme.

He's tough, smart and has the sort of mean attitude the pros look for. Lawson started slowly for Clemson, with 7.5 sacks his first two years, then blossomed as a quarterback hounder with 12.5 sacks last year, his only year as a full-time starter.

He will need to improve his stamina at the pro level, and he does have an irritating tendency to take a break during play every now and then.

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2 - DeForest Buckner, Oregon, 6-7, 287

DeForest Buckner stayed in college an extra year to hone his skills. Getty Images

 

Buckner almost went pro last year but decided to return for his junior campaign and it's a good thing for him he did. He made a lot of headway in improving his draft status, racking up 10.5 sacks, more than twice his sophomore total.

Buckner isn't considered a pure speed-rusher, but he is quick enough and knows how to combine strength and technique to get to the quarterback. He's also adept at stuffing the run and can chase down running backs outside.

Some analysts say steer clear of Buckner because of former Oregon defender Dion Jordan. Remember him? He went No. 3 overall and was a bust.

That's pretty stupid. Buckner is bigger, with a large frame and long arms. He led the Pac-10 in sacks with 10.5 his last year with the Ducks. He's a totally different kind of player than Jordan.

Buckner is frequently compared to Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals.

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1 - Joey Bosa Ohio State, 6-5, 269

Joey Bosa impressed scouts at the NFL Combine. Getty Images

 

If somebody doesn't snatch Joey Bosa with one of the top 10 picks, I'll eat my Harley helmet. Both his father and uncle were first-round NFL draft picks and the hard-hitting Buckeye will almost surely follow their lead.

He's a bully against the run and he always seems to be disrupting some team's backfield. He's big, strong and quick. He's aggressive - sometimes too aggressive. He knows how to use his hands and he's smart enough and flexible enough to play in either the 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.

The knock on him right now is that he possibly won't get any better than he already is. That's because his senior season was a bit of a comedown from his previous, star-studded years.

Bosa was a freshman All-American and a first-team All-American as a sophomore when he was also the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, but he only had five sacks this past season.

That's partly because he was a marked man, being double- and triple-teamed often.

With the Greg Hardy situation so volatile, the Dallas Cowboys are taking a hard look at Bosa with their fourth pick.

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McDonald, Tim. "2016 Defensive End Class is Deep and Talented." ThoughtCo, Apr. 14, 2016, thoughtco.com/defensive-end-class-deep-talented-4027852. McDonald, Tim. (2016, April 14). 2016 Defensive End Class is Deep and Talented. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/defensive-end-class-deep-talented-4027852 McDonald, Tim. "2016 Defensive End Class is Deep and Talented." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/defensive-end-class-deep-talented-4027852 (accessed October 23, 2017).