Here are the rankings for the 2014 NFL Draft as far as pass rushers are concerned, both from an even front and as a stand up rusher. Included are only the players I have broken down this year.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina - The only concern for me with Clowney is the medical. As long as doctors are satisfied the bone spurs are not a long term problem, he is the best prospect in the draft.
2. Kony Ealy, Missouri - In terms of physical tools, Ealy has it all from length, speed, quickness and strength as well as a terrific motor. He has been more successful rushing from the inside, but he has a ton of potential as a traditional outside rusher.
3. DeMarcus Lawrence, Boise State - Lawrence is an outstanding end when it comes to stacking and shedding and for what the Broncos asked him to do, he would typically do that before he went and rushed the passer. He does a great job of playing behind his hand, holding up against the run, but can also be a terror coming off of the edge to rush the passer.
4. Scott Crichton, Oregon State - The past two years, Crichton has played two halves of a great defensive end. As a sophomore, he played far more with power, using a great bull rush and collapsing the pocket. As a junior, he used more quickness and beat opponents with speed. If he can combine those two years and become a complete player, he can be an outstanding player.
5. Trent Murphy, Stanford - Murphy is a player where he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. He is more built to play outside linebacker currently, but for me, he is a far more natural defensive end. Murphy just needs his leg strength to catch up with his upper body to fully realize what he can be. Nevertheless, with his hand in the dirt, he is fantastic coming off of the edge, winning with speed as well as mixing in power.
6. Kareem Martin, North Carolina - Martin is physically impressive and shows a good amount of explosiveness as well as raw power. He has shown the ability to contribute against the run and can rush the passer effectively. The second half of his senior year is where he played his best football and if that carries over into the NFL, he could be the next big time Carolina rusher.
7. Aaron Lynch, South Florida - Lynch needs to put on weight and just get stronger to play as a base end, but he can certainly do it. His length and burst off of the edge is impressive for playing defensive end.
8. Chris Smith, Arkansas - Smith is short, but has long arms and knows how to make the most of them. He plays low to the ground, uses his leverage and is able to keep opponents out of his body as he works around the arc to get to the quarterback. Smith needs to get better with his overall stamina.
9. Will Clarke, West Virginia - Clarke has great burst up the field and his length makes it so he can work his way around the edge. He needs to do a better job embracing his power and playing against the run, but he has the tools to become a successful player at the next level.
10. George Uko, USC - Uko does his best work, especially rushing the passer inside, but his size may force him to be a base end initially. In that respect, he can play the run or rush the passer, but could also be used to kick inside in rushing situations to get more speed on the field.
1. Khalil Mack, Buffalo - There just does not seem to be anything he cannot do. He is the man when it comes to rush backers in this class, but he has experience at defensive end and inside linebacker as well.
2. Kyle Van Noy, BYU - Van Noy is the type of player a team finds a spot to play. He is criticized for being too small, but he has just been outstanding when it comes to production. His instincts are fantastic, he can rush the passer, drop into coverage and play the run. Van Noy was also a standout performer at the Reese’s Senior Bowl and often looked like the best player for his group.
3. Anthony Barr, UCLA – Barr will go earlier than maybe he should, because he is a terrific athlete with a ton of potential. He is still learning how to play the position, but his tendency to attack inside as a pass rusher first gives him a unique and effective rushing style. Barr is also a natural in coverage. He struggles with playing with leverage and will get knocked off of his feet as a result and his run instincts are abysmal at this point. The biggest concern with Barr is that he really did not improve at all as a senior.
4. DeMarcus Lawrence, Boise State - Lawrence is at his best with his hand on the ground but his base skill set and athleticism should be able to translate effectively to the 3-4 as well.
5. Marcus Smith, Louisville - Smith was a star in Louisville’s scheme and was perfect for what they asked him to do. He has more weight on him than some other edge rushers and can drop into pass coverage. A inconspicuous week at the Senior Bowl could cause people to question how good Smith was as opposed to how much the scheme did for him, but he has a lot of tools and talent to succeed at the next level.
6. Dee Ford, Auburn - Ford was a dynamic pass rusher that really fit well in Auburn’s defensive scheme and had a tremendous week down in Mobile as a pass rusher. What could hurt Ford is his play against the run as well as some small medical concerns that turned up at the Scouting Combine.
7. Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech - Attaochu is a speed rusher with agility that can bend around the edge and get to the quarterback. He is also able to fill the role of being a run and chase linebacker, but does struggle when opponents run directly at him and force him to try to anchor against the run. Playing more strictly as a defensive end as a senior forced him to improve with taking on and shedding blocks.
8. Aaron Lynch, South Florida - On raw talent and his tape, Lynch warrants a second round pick. The problem is the year he took off from football to transfer to South Florida, he really took off from football, so he basically lost a year of development, physically and maybe more by virtue of not training. The scary part is that Lynch can be so good while basically being at a physical disadvantage. If he can get back to where he should be and in the right situation, he could be a big time player.
9. Trevor Reilly, Utah - Reilly has a ton of athleticism and glides around the field like a basketball player. He is really impressive in how he drops and covers the passing game as well as his speed up the field to rush the passer. The issue with Reilly that he is too often unwilling to take on blocks directly because he plays too high and tends to be a finesse player as a result.
10. Shaquil Barrett, Colorado State - Barrett really blossomed in his senior year and had a breakout performance against Alabama which was just the start of his season. He is a natural pass rusher that really understands how to take the best path to getting into the backfield, using power as well as quickness and varying his moves to keep opponents off balance.
11. Jonathan Newsome, Ball State - A big time sleeper for me, he has a tremendous amount of athleticism and speed to attack off the edge. He gave Morgan Moses some difficulties when they faced off and while he offers next to nothing against the run at this point, he is a really exciting, pure pass rushing prospect in the same mold as Bruce Irvin.
12. Chris Smith, Arkansas - In addition to the fact that Smith can play end, he can and does have experience as an outside linebacker. For teams that like shorter pass rushers with long arms, Smith is a great fit.
13. Michael Sam, Missouri - Sam is able to get after the passer with quickness and a terrific motor. He does not have great length or obvious power or speed, but he has been successful. He may not get drafted, but he should be able to make a roster and impress in camp.
14. Carl Braford, Arizona State - Bradford is a high motor guy with some athleticism and he was extremely productive for the Sun Devils. For the NFL, he lacks length and could have a difficult time getting around blockers in the NFL. In the running game, Bradford really struggles in terms of reads and instincts.
15. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas - Jeffcoat is physically outstanding, but has absolutely no clue what to do as far as fundamentals or technique. From his first step to how he takes on blocks, he looks like a freshman in terms of development. At this point, teams have to find a position for Jeffcoat.