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2021 NFL Draft Rankings – Defensive Ends

The 2020 Draft saw a sharp decrease in the number of defensive linemen taken in the first and second rounds of the draft. There was 10 defensive lineman taken with the first 64 picks a year ago. 2019 saw 11 in the first round alone. Look for 2021 to be closer to last year's total.

With the challenges that COVID brought to this football season, it hit the defensive line prospects hard. A number of players near the top of the preseason board elected to sit out due to COVID or came back midway through the season after conferences became willing to play full schedules.

There is tremendous talent available but many of the top prospects are young and not as proven as many of the prospects we have seen in years prior. Teams will be hesitant and cautious when looking at this area on the football field. Gregory Rousseau looks like the top defensive end available but there is currently no clear-cut #2 prospect.

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2021 NFL Draft Rankings – Defensive Ends

1. Greg Rousseau - Miami (6-5, 260)
2. Carlos Basham Jr. - Wake Forest (6-4, 280)
3. Jaelan Phillips - Miami (6-4, 260)
4. Patrick Jones II - Pitt (6-4, 265)
5. Jayson Oweh - Penn State (6-5, 255)
6. Kwity Paye - Michigan (6-3, 275)
7. Victor Dimukeje - duke (6-2, 265)
8. Jordan Smith - UAB (6-6, 255)
9. Dayo Odeyingbo - Vanderbilt (6-4, 270)
10. Joe Tryon - Washington (6-5, 260)
11. Rashad Weaver - Pitt (6-4, 270)
13. Tarron Jackson - Coastal Carolina (6-2, 255)
13. Payton Turner - Houston (6-5, 270)
14. Ronnie Perkins - Oklahoma (6-3, 250)
15. Malcolm Koonce - Buffalo (6-3, 250)
16. William Bradley-King - Baylor (6-3, 255)
17. Joshua Kaindoe - Florida State (6-6, 265)
18. Wyatt Hubert - Kansas State (6-2, 265)
19. Jonathon Cooper - Ohio State (6-3, 255)
20. Elerson G. Smith - Northern Iowa (6-6, 260)
21. Malik Herring - Georgia (6-3, 280)
22. Janarius Robinson - Florida State (6-5, 265)
23. Osa Odighizuwa - UCLA (6-2, 285)
24. Isaiahh Loudermilk - Wisconsin (6-5, 295)
25. Eli Howard - Texas Tech (6-3, 275)

 

The Top-10 Defensive Ends

Let's take a look at a few of the top-10 defensive ends:

Carlos Basham Jr. is a little lower on many boards but we have him solidly at #2 behind Gregory Rousseau. Basham is not going to jump out at you because the first thing most people look for is sacks and putting constant pressure on the quarterback. Basham has shown he can bring down opposing signal-callers, he registered 11.0 sacks in 2019 and 5.0 in an-injury shorted season in 2020. Basham excels however at being a well-rounded defender. He plays the run extremely well and will not just bullrush a quarterback and become a liability in run defense.

Basham moves well for a prospect his size and the use of his hands and gaining leverage are what makes him elite. Basham can impose his will on lineman without relying solely on brute strength. He shows a good base and flexibility while possessing the instincts to play with mobile quarterbacks. The uncanniness Basham shows in his decision-making is reminiscent of a young Richard Seymour.

The explosive first step is not there and this is a trait that many of the high draft picks in years past have. The lack of explosion off the snap and not being a pure pass rusher could ultimately cost him a spot in the first round. If teams do their homework they know they have a cerebral future Pro Bowler on their hands that will drive opposing offensive coordinators crazy. There were slight bouts on inconsistency on film but he shows the silliness to engage inside or sweep along the edge. Size may allow him to play a smaller defensive tackle role in some 4-3 formations.

As rounded as Carlos Basham is, Patrick Jones II. is not. If you are going to be a one-trick pony at the next level, you better be good at getting after the quarterback, and Jones excelled in this area.

Fellow Pitt Panther Rashad Weaver was seen as the better prospect as early as the middle of last season. Many felt Jones was the benefactor of teams paying too much attention to Weaver but Jones has shown he is the better pass-rushing specialist. Part of what makes Jones so dangerous is his ability to close on quarterbacks. Jones is cognizant of the football and is hell-bent on getting strip sacks and creating a turnover.

Jones was not asked to drop into coverage often at Pitt and his play recognition skills are a little slower as a result. We could see Jones drafted by a contending team near the end of the first round and used exclusively as a third-down pass rusher. Jones has a variety of moves and is as strong with his lower body as he is up top. This keeps opposing blockers guessing and makes obtaining leverage a tough chore.

 

The Rest of the Defensive Ends

A couple of defensive ends I have outside the top-10 that should make a mark in the right situation:

Tarron Jackson seems to be the definition of a developmental prospect at the defensive end with a huge ceiling. Jackson has been just shy of 10 sacks in each of his last two seasons at Coastal Carolina but it looks like he has room to grow and is just scratching the surface of his potential. Jackson is not a smaller prospect and his trim look at the Senior Bowl where he plated at 262 pounds looked natural. Jackson will need to improve his footwork at the next level and play with better balance. He is a sure tackler, when Jackson starts to wrap you up, it's over and his technique is sound.

Stamina looked to be a concern. At the next level, if Jackson is used as a situational player, it should increase his value and production. What I like most is that Jackson can stand up or put his hands into the ground and be effective. Injuries seemed to linger with him earlier in his career. Jackson stayed relatively healthy in his final two campaigns at Coastal Carolina.

Teams will have a decision to make when it comes to Wyatt Hubert. Will Hubert be taught to be a true defensive end and use his natural and honed pass-rushing skills? Will he be relied upon as an outside linebacker due to spending most of his time in the upright position at Kansas State? The problem I see in having him become a true linebacker is his lack of coverage skills and simply trying to rely on his athleticism to stay with receivers. Play to Hubert's strengths and allow him to add some muscle and bulk up and become a defensive end.

Hubert shows an excellent motor and great pursuit with fluid hip movement allowing for superior lateral motion. When chasing a play downfield, Hubert shows good instincts and takes solid pursuit angles. Needless to say, Hubert will need to work on his upper body strength at the next level. His overall athleticism could allow him to make his mark on special teams as a rookie while he continues to improve as a lineman.



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