1. Myles Garrett – Texas A%M: The NFL loves Quarterbacks, Offensive Tackles and pass rushers the most when it comes to drafting players. Garrett is a pass rusher and at 6-5, 265 he has the athletic ability to play Outside Linebacker in the 3-4 defense in the NFL. Garrett had 59 total tackles in 2015 with 19 1/2 of those for loss and 12 1/2 Quarterback sacks. That was following a true freshman season that saw him make 11 1/2 Quarterback sacks. Garrett is a freak of nature with great strength, size and speed, but he is especially gifted with quickness. He can beat even the best Left Tackles and sack the Quarterback including Alabama’s Cam Robinson. Unlike Robinson, Garrett will keep himself clean and out of trouble.
2. Carl Lawson – Auburn: When healthy, Lawson gives Offensive Linemen fits, just ask Laremy
Tunsil from Ole Miss. Lawson has battled injury problems throughout his time at Auburn, but he is a talent when he is able to play. Last year, he only played in 7 games and totaled 17 tackles with 3 tackles for loss and a Quarterback sack. Not exactly numbers that make you think of JJ Watt, or scare anyone. But, the 6-2, 260 Lawson really can play when on the field.
3. Solomon Thomas – Stanford: Out of necessity, Thomas played Nose Guard last year. Thomas is stout, very quick and he is ripped to the max. He’s outstanding against either the run, or the pass.I wrote about Thomas here previously: King Solomon
Moving out closer to the edge will open up things for Thomas to show his athletic ability. Thomas was undersized as a nose man, and he is much better suited for the outside. Even as an undersized
Nose Guard, teams had a hard time moving him out of the way. He had 39 total tackles and 10 1/2 tackles for loss and 3 1/2 Quarterback sacks. Those numbers should all go up next season when he’s playing at Defensive End. To further demonstrate Solomon Thomas’ physical talent, he also returned a fumble 34 yards for a Touchdown. Thomas is ripped and could be an early draft pick.
4. Derek Barnett – Tennessee: Volunteer sack master. He came in as a true freshman with the mighty class of 2014 and started instantly and just sacked Quarterbacks. He had 10 as a true freshman and 10 as a sophomore. He’s not a prototypical Defensive End being about 6-3, 260 but Barnett has a motor that never stops. He was third on the team in total tackles which is always good for a player that’s not a Linebacker. On the 2015 season, he had 69 total tackles and 12 1/2 tackles for loss along with the 10 Quarterback sacks. His presence was also felt by an additional 7 Quarterback hurries. Barnett, from Nashville, is a talented guy that could make an outstanding Outside Linebacker in an NFL system.
5. Tyquan Lewis – Ohio State: In spite of Joey Bosa on the other side of the line, Lewis led the Buckeyes in sacks last season with 8. He was also 6th on the team in tackles with 54 and 14 of those were for loss. The Buckeyes lost a lot of talent on both sides off the ball, but Lewis is a talent at 6-4, 260 and a team leader. Don’t feel sorry for the Buckeyes, in spite of big losses they also return Lewis, Sam Hubbard at the other Defensive End and Nick Bosa coming in as well. Nick Bosa is almost a mirror image of his brother Joey. Lewis, from Tarboro, North Carolina returns for his junior year with some quickness off of the edge and the talent to greatly improve his sack total from 2015.
6. DeMarcus Walker – Florida State: 6-3, 280 Defensive End Walker is borderline huge at 6-3, 280, but he has thee athletic ability to play Linebacker. Walker was among the team leaders in tackles with 59 and he had 15 1/2 tackles for loss. Walker led the Seminoles in Quarterback sacks with 10
1/2. Walker is a senior in 2016 and decided to return to school for his senior season. His best game last season came in their bowl game when the team lost embarrassingly to the Houston Cougars. Walker should be helped this season by the emergence of a now healthy Josh Sweat at the other Defensive End.
7. Sam Hubbard – Ohio State: Hubbard was a surprise last year for the Buckeyes when he spelled Joey Bosa. Sam Hubbard
Hubbard is a talented athlete with some speed and quickness off the edge. He was a Lacrosse player in high school and was going to Notre Dame to play that sport when Urban Meyer saw him and offered a scholarship. In relief duty, Hubbard used his 6-5, 265 body to register 28 tackles with 8 for loss and 6 1/2 Quarterback sacks. He also forced a fumble, and intercepted a pass. As a true freshman, Hubbard was a Safety and he redshirted. Last season was his redshirt freshman year and he has a bright future.
8. Devonte Fields – Louisville: The talented Fields began his college playing days at suddenly powerhouse TCU and he started as a true freshman. He got into some trouble and transferred to Junior College before signing with Louisville. Fields could be considered an Outside Linebacker or a Defensive End, He was a Defensive End at TCU and now an Outside Linebacker at Louisville in a 3-4 base defense. Regardless off character issues, Fields can play and proved it a year ago by totaling 64 tackles and 22 1/2 tackles for loss. He also excelled as a pass rusher and totaled 11 Quarterback sacks. Fields is 6-4, 245 approximately, and probably figures for an Outside Linebacker in the NFL.
9. Deatrich Wise – Arkansas:The Hogs have improved on both sides of the ball in recent years. Wise is a part of the defensive improvement and at 6-5, 275, he is more of the prototype at Defensive
End.The Carrollton, Texas native is tough off of the edge and he had 8 Quarterback sacks a year ago with 10 1/2 tackles for loss. He also finished with 31 tackles and 3 fumbles forced. He returns for his senior season for what should be an even better Arkansas football team.
10. Isaac Rochell – Notre Dame: Fighting Irish beast against the run in 2015. His sack numbers must improve for the 2016 season as he moves into his senior season. Rochell is around 6-3, 285 and he totaled 63 tackles last year with 7 and 1/2 tackles for loss. He only had 1 Quarterback sack, but he did have 7 Quarterback hurries. The McDonough, Georgia native is poised to have a huge break out season in 2016.
11. Charles Harris – Missouri: In recent years the Missouri Tigers have been known for defensive linemen and especially Defensive Ends. Charles Harris and Walter Brady are the most recent talents getting pressure on the Quarterbacks. But the Tigers, under new coaching, have switched to the 3-4 defense and will use their ends differently than before. Harris is 6-3, 255 but used his size and quickness to total 56 tackles and 18 1/2 of those tackles for loss. He had 7 Quarterback sacks and hurried the Quarterback 10 more times.
12. Daeshon Hall – Texas A%M: Hall benefits by being on the other side of the line from Myles Garrett, but he is a talent in his own right. Hall is a legit 6-6, 260 and teamed up with Garrett to form one of the best set of Ends in the country. Totaling 54 tackles, Hall also had 14 1/2 tackles for loss and 7 Quarterback sacks. If teams scheme too much for Myles Garrett, Daeshon Hall will sneak up on them.
13. Walter Brady – Missouri: Teamed up with Charles Harris a year ago to form another solid Missouri Defensive End tandem. Brady is not huge at 6-3, 255, but he brings quickness off the edge and he had 40 tackles a year ago with 12 1/2 of those for loss and 7 Quarterback sacks. He hurried the Quarterback an additional 7 times and even found time to pick off a pass.
14. Al-Quadin Muhammad – Miami: I believe by the end of the year, Muhammad will be rated much higher than this. Irvington, New Jersey product Muhammad is 6-3, 260 and possesses a level of quickness that few do his size. He accounted for 54 total tackles as a sophomore and had 8 1/2 tackles for loss and 5 Quarterback sacks. His numbers should be better in 2016 with a new and improved coaching staff.
After I posted this, Muhammad was dismissed from the team. Too bad
15. Lewis Neal – LSU: Super strong and super quick, Neal is pretty short but he’s still a talent. At 6-1, 265, or so, he’s not your prototypical Defensive End but he’s such a workout warrior and such a productive player I did include him here. He was 4th on the team in tackles last season with 48 and he produced 8 Quarterback sacks and 9 1/2 tackles for loss and 8 more Quarterback hurries. With an additional 6 passes broken up, Neal is a very productive Defensive Lineman even without the tall frame. The Tigers are going to a 3-4 defense this year with new Defensive Coordinator Dave Arranda in charge and they should be improved over last season.
16. Taco Charlton – Michigan: Taco Charlton has always been on the All Name Team, but he’s been potentially a top player for a long time. Last season, the 6-6, 275 Charlton totaled up 30 tackles with
8 1/2 tackles for loss and 5 1/2 Quarterback sacks. He was also in the Quarterbacks’ faces a few more times. In my opinion, the entire Michigan defense will be much improved under new Defensive Coordinator Don Brown with Greg Mattison as the Defensive Line coach still. Other than the Ohio State game, this defense was already really good. Charlton with tough inside players like Ryan Glasgow, Bryan Mone, Matthew Godin, and Maurice Hurst Jr, plus Chris Wormley, super star true freshman Rashan Gary and other young players like Carlo Kemp this unit is deep and tough. Charlton may not even start when all is said and done, but he will contribute and be a good player for them.
17. Rashan Gary – Michigan: Believe me, I am not a Michigan homer. Gary is just that good and will be an immediate impact player. He is too big, too fast, too strong and too talented to not be in the opponents backfield from day one. Greg Mattison, the one time Michigan Defensive Coordinator and now Defensive Line coach has already said publicly that Gary will start. Gary
There’s always a chance that anyone could be a bust, but Gary is a freak of nature and his athletic ability is off the charts. I was skeptical of him at first, but I saw him in several games and he appears much better than previous talents like Robert Nkemdiche that have been rated so highly.
18. Ken Ekanem – Virginia Tech: Slightly undersized but tough Defensive End. Ekanem is about 6-3, 250 and he has teamed with Dadi Nicolas to form a dangerous duo at Defensive End the past few seasons for the Hokies. Nicolas has moved on, as has long time Hokie coach Frank Beamer, but Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster remains. As long as Bud Foster is in Blacksburg, I believe the Hokies will produce solid defensive players like Ekanem. Ken Ekanem was actually more productive as a sophomore than he was last season, but he should bounce back this year. He has 10 1/2 Quarterback sacks as a sophomore, but only 4 1/2 this past season. He has the ability to wreck havoc on an opposing Quarterback at any moment.
19. Austin Bryant – Clemson: Fractured his foot and will miss early playing time which could be
bad news for not only him but for the Clemson defense. Top Defensive Tackle Christian Wilkins may move out to Defensive End to fill in. As a freshman Defensive End in 2015, Bryant backed up tremendous talents in Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd who were both early picks in this past NFL Draft. Bryant is a talent in his own right and the 6-4, 265 sophomore proved that by posting 23 tackles and 2 tackles for loss, plus 1 1/2 Quarterback sacks in limited playing time. Bryant’s playing time will be limited again with the injury, but expect great things out of him later on in the season and the following year before he leaves for the NFL, also.
20. Garrett Sickels – Penn State: The Nittany Lions have a lot of returnees on both sides of the ball and at most every position, except for one. The Defensive Line lost 3 out of 4 starters and everyone but Sickels. Last year’s sack sensation Carl Nassib has moved on to the NFL after starting only one year at Penn State which I think was a travesty and a waste of top talent. Sickels is pretty good in his own right totaling 36 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss and 3 Quarterback sacks, plus returning a fumble for 36 yards. Sickels will have to step up and provide the numbers and the leadership from the Defensive Line next season if the Nittany Lions are to be competitive.
21. Bryan Cox Jr – Florida: Really aggressive defensive lineman that is better against the run than the pass, probably, at this point. The 6-3, 265 senior was yet another very solid recruit out of St Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale and his father played Linebacker for the Dolphins. Cox could and maybe should be rated much higher on this list. My problems are lack of length and lack of many Quarterback sacks, but he is good enough to make the list of the nation’s best Defensive Ends. Supposedly, he is a leader on the Gator defense. Cox was among the tackle leaders for the Gators with 45 and he had 10 1/2 tackles for loss.
Clelin Ferrell – Clemson: Clemson just keeps reloading in the Defensive Line.
Marquis Haynes – Ole Miss: He would be rated highly, but he’s more of a Linebacker.
Jordan Willis – Kansas State: Wildcat sack man.
Josh Carraway – TCU: 9 sacks a year ago for the Frogs.
Jaylon Ferguson – Louisiana Tech: Keep an eye on Ferguson in the future.
Andrew Trumbetti – Notre Dame: Slated to be the starter at one end and potential is there.
DaShawn Hand – Alabama: Up and coming defender could rise to the top
Chad Thomas – Miami: Watch for the Hurricanes Defensive Line this year.
Henry Mondeaux – Oregon: New Defensive Coordinator could improve Ducks.
JoJo Wicker – Arizona State: Young star in the making.
Derek McCartney – Colorado: Coach McCartney’s grand son.
CeCe Jefferson – Florida: Big time recruit and now big time player.
Josh Sweat – Florida State: Can be one of the best in time.
Trey Hendrickson – Florida Atlantic: 13 sacks a year ago.
JT Jones – Miami Ohio: 9 sacks as a junior.
This is a position that will change as sack numbers rise during the year.