Like many positions in the draft this year, there is no consensus number 1 in the DE class. This isn’t the best sign for teams looking to upgrade one of the most important positions on the field. The position has evolved alongside the evolution of the passing game, as getting pressure on a quarterback is vital if you want to stop the potent passing attacks. The top 5 prospects at the position each offer different things, but all have one goal in mind: to sack the quarterback.
Sam Montgomery, LSU
Montgomery has the size and speed you want in a top DE, and his strength, which was a concern after last season, appears to have been improved in the offseason. Something that needs to be worked on are his steps when rushing the QB. The top DEs make quick movements and can panic a QB, but Montgomery struggles to do this consistently. This is something that can be worked on as he has the speed, if he figures out how to use it effectively he’ll be well on his way to reaching his full potential. One thing that worries me about Montgomery is that he never seems to be that disruptive. Most of the other 2013 DEs I’ve watched are constantly in the QBs face, due to either beating their man or just pushing through. Montgomery has shown glimpses of this but he needs to do it a lot more often if he wants to succeed at the next level.
Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
After rising up draft boards in recent weeks, Damontre Moore looks set to be drafted in the top 10 in April – if he declares. Moore is a fast, hard-hitting playmaker who you love to have on your team and hate to see playing for the opposition. Texas A&M switched to a 4-3 defense this year, and Moore benefited as a result of the move. Any NFL team who run this defense will be lucky to grab him, as he’ll be just as good in the pros. Something that I see from Moore which I don’t see from most of the other DE prospects is solid angles when rushing the QB. Playing at a certain angle could be the difference between shredding a block and frustration. Of course no prospect is perfect, thats why they’re called prospects. Moore’s main flaw: His first step. He needs to be quicker off the line if he wants to be successful against NFL offensive tackles. There have been a number of occasions where huge opportunities to get to the QB have been missed because he is tangling with a tackle who was one step ahead of him.
Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Potential is the key word for the German, who has all the measurables needed to be a top DE. His strength and speed stand out and will make NFL defensive line coaches fall in love with him, add this to his high motor and you have a top 10 pick. The first thing I look for in a DE? Is he disruptive? Oh yes. Werner is always quick off the mark, his first step puts offensive linemen on the back foot usually leading to him providing huge pressure on the Quarterback, which is always a good sign. Techniques are key to playing the DE position to a high level, and due to his rawness he struggles with this. The problem is that his techniques lead to mishaps in run defense, which is the main weak point of his game. As I said he has big time potential, and his work ethic should ensure that he corrects the weaknesses in his game while improving his strong points, there’s no reason why this kid can’t be an elite DE in the NFL someday.
Dion Jordan, Oregon
Jordan is definitely the most exciting prospect in draft this year. He sheds blockers with his insane speed and hits runners hard in the open field. His skill set probably make him a better fit as an Outside Linebacker, and I actually think that will end up as his primary position in the NFL, but he’s just as much of a headache playing DE as he is playing OLB. The main problem with Jordan when he lines up as a Defensive End is that he can’t get up to the speed that he gets up to when pass rushing from the OLB position, which isn’t helped by his lack of moves. Still, he’s 6ft 7 and has blazing wheels, which adds up to a huge ceiling, any team that takes him will not regret it.
Barkevious Mingo, LSU
While Sam Montgomery added bulk to his frame to ensure that he should be primary a Defensive End in the NFL, Barkevious Mingo seems to have failed to do so, which leads most draftniks to believe that he’ll be an Outside Linebacker in the NFL. His first step added with his speed and athleticism show why Les Miles likes him playing DE, but that doesn’t get you too far in the NFL without the strength to fight through blockers, which Mingo hasn’t been great at in college. While with some prospects you’d say that he needs to add some bulk, the worry with Mingo is that his main strengths would be impacted by this. There’s no doubt that he has huge potential, whether his future is at DE or OLB, but his lack of production this year will probably lead to him falling out of the top 10 unless he excels in the offseason workouts.
All these guys should be great in the NFL, but who is the best? In my opinion Damontre Moore is the best DE in this year’s class. He’s the most consistently disruptive pass rusher, and I honestly think that if he can sort his first step out he’ll be an elite DE for many years to come. What makes him stand out from the others is that he is the most pro-ready, and that he seems to have found his place, whereas most of the others either just have huge potential or concerns about playing DE or OLB.
My top 5:
1) Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
2) Bjoern Werner, Florida State
3) Sam Montgomery, LSU
4) Dion Jordan, Oregon
5) Barkevious Mingo, LSU