Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft, held April 25-27, won’t be any different.
Today, we rank college football's best defensive end prospects:
1. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M (6-4, 250, Jr.)
Versatility is the name of the game for Moore. He can play outside linebacker like a Jarvis Jones in a 3-4 scheme, can play either weakside or strongside end in a traditional 4-3 and could even slide inside on passing downs to get more pressure on the quarterback. He was moved from outside backer to true end for the 2012 season and his burst off of the edge helped him become a disruptive force. He finished with 80 total tackles, 12.5 sacks, 20.0 tackles for a loss, two blocked kicks and a forced fumble. And he did it against the SEC instead of the Big 12 this fall. Few players in this class are better pure pass rushers.
2. Sam Montgomery, LSU (6-5, 260, Jr.)
He hasn't been as flashy as some of the other names on this list but his upside is huge. He has a perfect frame and pedigree to be an elite NFL player. He has great size for a pure end and plays much tougher at the point of attack than some of his smaller counterparts at this position. He led the Tigers in sacks (7.0) in 2012 and finished with 12.0 tackles for a loss for one of the SEC's best defenses. A struggle against potential first-rounder Luke Joeckel might hurt his stock though.
3. Bjoern Werner, Florida State (6-4, 255, Jr.)
A small recruit from a small school in Connecticut, Werner developed into one of the best defensive players on a great defense. He posted 40 tackles, 18.0 tackles for a loss and led the ACC in sacks with 13.0 — three of which came against the Florida Gators. Once counterpart Brandon Jenkins was injured (Week 1), offenses began to focus on him more often, causing his production to slow a bit throughout the season (he had four sacks against Murray State in the season opener). However, his size, strength and work ethic gives him little downside when it comes to the next level.
4. Barkevious Mingo, LSU (6-5, 240, Jr.)
Comparing him to teammate Montgomery is extremely difficult. Mingo is rangier, lankier and a bit more explosive. But he isn't as fundamentally sound or as strong at the point of attack. He may be a better fit as a rush outside backer in a 3-4 whereas Montgomery could play in either scheme. His 2012 season was quieter than expected for LSU, as he finished with 33 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and just 4.0 sacks. He did pressure the QB 12 times this season and his upside alone will make him an intriguing name to follow leading up to the draft in April.
5. Corey Lemonier, Auburn (6-4, 240, Jr.)
The talented edge rusher might be the only bright spot on an otherwise worthless 2012 Auburn squad. This is partly why he failed to build on a huge sophomore season in 2011 (47 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks). He finished with just 34 tackles, 5.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks last fall. Yet, he has 25 quarterback hurries over the last two seasons and his raw potential is still elite. He has great size and athletic ability and scouts will love what they see from him in terms of upside. He should still grade out as a first-round pick.
6. William Gholston, Michigan State (6-6, 275, Jr.)
This is the definition of risk versus reward. Gholston has elite raw talent, potential and upside. He is big, long, powerful and productive against both the run and the pass. But he also has been suspended multiple times and has a demonstrated a lack of focus on occasion. This past season, he posted 50 tackles, 12.0 for a loss and just 3.5 sacks without the help of his 2011 running mate, current Green Bay Packer Jerel Worthy. He could play anywhere along the line and in any scheme — if scouts can figure out a way to keep him focused, out of trouble and how to maximize his potential.
7. Dion Jordan, Oregon (6-6, 245, Sr.)
Jordan is a very similar prospect to that of Gholston with a few small differences. Jordan offers more versatility, at times standing up in more of an outside linebacker position. But like Gholston, he never really utilized his talents to the fullest potential. That said, 2012 was his best season as he posted 44 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks for what many believe is Oregon's best defense since Haloti Ngata was a Duck. He forced three fumbles this fall and graded out very well at the Combine thanks to his freakish natural athletic ability and raw size.
8. Ezekiel Ansah, BYU (6-5, 270, Sr.)
The Cougars' big defensive lineman boasts a unique combination of size and speed that already have scouts and other draft analysts excited. He is a raw prospect with much to learn about the end, tackle or outside backer position. He could play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme at a variety of positions. Kyle Van Noy got most of the offensive line attention for the Cougars, but Ansah showed loads of growth in 2012. He posted 57 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. In a deep end class, Ansah could very well end up as a first-round selection.
9. Tank Carradine, Florida State (6-4, 255, Sr.)
Prior to a major knee injury late in the year, Cornellius "Tank" Carradine had first round written all over him. But his injury will hurt his stock and some team could get a steal should he fall too far past the first day. He posted 80 tackles, 13.0 tackles for a loss and 11.0 sacks in 11 games this past season before the injury.
10. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (6-5, 245, Jr.)
His father, Jim, has had this prospect well-coached and well-prepared his entire young career. He is as fundamentally sound as someone of his age and experience can be. He knows the position and has very little downside on the NFL level. But a torn pectoral muscle ended his junior season after just five games. He had 21 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss and 4.0 sacks to start the season and his loss was a big part of Texas' struggles on defense in Big 12 play. If he can prove he's healthy, his stock should sky rocket.
11. Alex Okafor, Texas (6-5, 260, Sr.)
A slightly bigger version of Jeffcoat, Okafor is a prototypical end prospect. He posted 46 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, 8.0 sacks and three forced fumbles as a senior.
12. John Simon, Ohio State (6-2, 260, Sr.)
One of the strongest, hardest workers in this class will have to overcome his obvious lack of size and speed. He registered 44 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss and led the Big Ten in sacks with 9.0 last season.
13. Morgan Breslin, USC (6-2, 250, Jr.)
In one short season at USC, Breslin made a huge impact. He finished second in the league in sacks (12.0) and had 53 total tackles to go with 18.0 tackles for a loss.
14. Will Sutton, Arizona State (6-2, 270, Jr.)
The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year is undersized and constantly banged up, but he is a disruptive force to be reckoned with. He finished with 58 tackles, a league-leading 20.0 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Could play end or tackle.
15. Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky (6-5, 250, Sr.)
He missed two games but still led the nation in sacks per game (1.25). He had 38 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks as well as a 75-yard INT returned for a TD. The level of competition he faced as a Hilltopper will be his big question mark moving forward.
Best of the Rest:
16. Malliciah Goodman, Clemson (6-4, 280, Sr.)
17. Michael Buchanan, Illinois (6-5, 240, Sr.)
18. Scott Crichton, Oregon State (6-3, 265, rSo.)
19. Datone Jones, UCLA (6-4, 275, Sr.)
20. Devin Taylor, South Carolina (6-7, 270, Sr.)
21. Dominique Easley, Florida (6-2, 280, Jr.)
22. Kareem Martin, North Carolina (6-6, 260, Jr.)
23. Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame (6-3, 300, Sr.)
24. Stansly Maponga, TCU (6-2, 265, Jr.)
25. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State (6-3, 260, Sr.)
26. James Gayle, Virginia Tech (6-4, 270, Jr.)
27. Margus Hunt, SMU (6-7, 280, Sr.)
28. Lavar Edwards, LSU (6-4, 260, Sr.)
29. Wes Horton, USC (6-5, 260, Sr.)
30. Cameron Meredith, Nebraska (6-4, 265, Sr.)
Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Running Backs
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Safeties
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Tackles
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Wide Receivers
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Offensive Tackles
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Inside Linebackers
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Cornerbacks
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Guards and Centers
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Outside Linebackers
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Quarterbacks
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Ends