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. If the quarterback is the most important player on the field and the guy who protects the quarterback — the left tackle — is the second-most valuable position on the field, then the player who can neutralize both must be No. 3, right? The defensive end position varies from scheme to scheme, but the goal is the same: get pressure on the quarterback. The 2013 class is loaded with different types of players that have one thing in common — they all can rush the passer.
Measurables: Height, Weight, 40-time (if available)
1. Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Measurables: 6-3, 266, 4.83
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 and fellow draft prospect Brandon Jenkins was injured (Week 1), offenses began to focus on him more often, causing his production to slow a bit throughout the season. However, his size, strength and work ethic gives him very little downside when it comes to the next level.
2. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Measurables: 6-4, 250, 4.95
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. He will need to overcome a poor showing in the Combine to work his way back into the top ten but Moore could easily end up the best pass rusher in this class.
3. Dion Jordan, Oregon
Measurables: 6-6, 248, 4.60
Jordan is a very similar prospect to Aldon Smith. Jordan offers the long, rangy frame and versatility, at times standing up in more of an outside linebacker position. And like Smith, he is more of a project than some of the other players at his position. Jordan never really fully utilized his talents to his 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 was Oregon's best defense since the Haloti Ngata era. His numbers at the Combine were predictably gaudy and if he stays focused and committed to his craft, he will be a star in the NFL.
4. Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
Measurables: 6-5, 271, 4.63
The Cougars' defensive lineman boasts a unique combination of size and speed that has scouts excited. He is a raw prospect with much to learn about the end, tackle or outside backer position but he could play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme at a variety of positions. Kyle Van Noy was the BYU defensive lineman who got most of the opposing offensive line's attention but Ansah showed loads of growth in 2012, which was his first season of full-time football. He has admitted to conditioning issues and his Senior Bowl week of practice was subpar. However, his performance in the Senior Bowl itself was dominant, while his Combine showing was eye-opening for a player with so much potential for growth.
5. Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Measurables: 6-4, 241, 4.58
Comparing him to teammate Sam Montgomery is extremely difficult. Mingo is rangier, lankier and a bit more explosive — as his Combine numbers indicate. 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 last season and scouts have fallen in love with his upside. However, his production simply hasn't matched his measurables... yet.
6. Sam Montgomery, LSU
Measurables: 6-3, 262, 4.81
He hasn't been as flashy as some of the other names on this list but his upside is solid. He has a good frame and pedigree to be a consistent NFL starter. He can play both a pure defensive end position as well as the hybrid outside rush backer. He plays much tougher at the point of attack than some of his smaller counterparts at this position as well as his teammate Mingo. He led the Tigers in sacks (7.0) and also finished this past season with 12.0 tackles for a loss for one of the SEC's best defenses. A head-to-head struggle against potential top-ten pick Luke Joeckel is a concern, as is the confirmed rumors of concerns with his effort.
7. Margus Hunt, SMU
Measurables: 6-8, 277, 4.60
The Combine was Hunt's show. He is arguably the biggest player in the draft and posted well above average quickness, speed and agility numbers. He has dominated the line of scrimmage at times while at SMU and will be compared to Aldon Smith much like Dion Jordan. Originally from Estonia, the 25-year old is an elite kick blocker (17 in four years) and will excel on special teams. Hunt should fly up draft boards late in the process.
8. Corey Lemonier, Auburn
Measurables: 6-3, 255, 4.60
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 in 2012. 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 everyone agrees that he possesses massive upside. His motor, size and speed should push him up draft boards as the the process moves along.
9. William Gholston, Michigan State
Measurables: 6-6, 281, 4.96
This is the definition of risk versus reward. Gholston has elite raw talent, size, potential and upside. He is big, long, powerful and productive against both the run and the pass. He can play the true end position or slide inside to tackle. However, he also has been suspended multiple times and has displayed the occasional lack of focus. He posted 50 tackles, 12.0 for a loss along with 3.5 sacks in 2012. 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.
10. Datone Jones, UCLA
Measurables: 6-4, 283, 4.80
Jones has a great frame and a long pedigree of potential. He was an elite recruit who never developed into the star scouts thought he would be... until 2012. He was a part of a horrendous defense at UCLA until Jim Mora showed up on campus. He has all the physical tools and looks the part of an NFL defensive lineman, but his production was below average prior to last fall. Of his career 36.0 tackles for loss, 19.0 came last season while 5.5 of his 12.5 sacks came in 2012 as well. He was fourth on the team in sacks last year behind three other potential future NFL prospects Anthony Barr, Cassius Marsh and Damien Holmes.
11. Tank Carradine, Florida State
Measurables: 6-4, 276
Prior to a major knee injury late in the year, Cornellius "Tank" Carradine had first round written all over him. But his injury has 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 fall before the injury. Health and overall experience are the main concerns for Carradine.
12. Alex Okafor, Texas
Measurables: 6-4, 264
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 and appears best suited for a traditional end position. He isn't overly explosive but plays the game the right way and should be an NFL contributor.
13. John Simon, Ohio State
Measurables: 6-1, 257
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. He is an unquestioned leader and will be one of the strongest players in the league the second he steps on an NFL field. He will be worth the reach.
14. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State
Measurables: 6-2, 251
He is one of the smaller prospects at his position and has a glaring injury to overcome, but Jenkins has plenty of NFL upside. His major foot injury robbed the Noles' rush end of a season to display his skills and talents, but he fits the new hybrid 3-4 scheme too well to be ignored early in this draft.
15. Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky
Measurables: 6-5, 250
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 and learning the subtle nuances of the game are his big question marks.
16. Michael Buchanan, Illinois (6-5, 240)
17. Joe Kruger, Utah (6-6, 269, 4.8)
18. Malliciah Goodman, Clemson (6-4, 276, 4.87)
19. Stansly Maponga, TCU (6-2, 256)
20. Trevardo Williams, UConn (6-1, 241, 4.57)
21. Devin Taylor, South Carolina (6-7, 266, 4.72)
22. Lavar Edwards, LSU (6-4, 277, 4.80)
23. Nathan Williams, Ohio State (6-3, 241, 4.88)
24. Ty Powell, Harding (6-2, 249, 4.64)
25. Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame (6-4, 298)
26. Abry Jones, Georgia (6-3, 313)
27. Quinton Dial, Alabama (6-5, 318)
28. Walter Stewart, Cincinnati (6-4, 246)
29. Armonty Bryant, East Central (6-4, 263, 4.86)
30. Tourek Williams, FIU (6-3, 260, 4.92)
2013 NFL Draft Positional Rankings:
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Tight Ends
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Offensive Tackles
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Guards and Centers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Defensive Tackles