March 20, 2016 - Greg Gabriel
The Top Five 4-3 Defensive Ends in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Like with the 3-4 defensive ends there are some quality 4-3 defensive ends who also have the positional versatility to be able to play on their feet in a 3-4 as an outside linebacker. Having the athleticism and versatility to play more than one position enhances their value come draft weekend, Joey Bosa – Ohio State Bosa will most likely be a top five selection come April 28th. He is easily the best 4-3 defensive end on the board and is one of those players with scheme versatility. Right now, Bosa stands about 6’5 – 275. He could easily get to 285+ and play as a 5 technique in a 3-4. At his present size and athletic ability he is the most dominant 4-3 end available and he showed at his pro day that he could easily drop in to coverage if used as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Regardless of where he plays and in what scheme, on passing downs his hand will be in the dirt and he will be rushing the passer. Bosa had 26 career sacks and is regarded as one of the best pass rushers in this draft. Others have compared him to J.J. Watt. If he can get to 285 and keep his speed and athleticism, I am one who believes he can be a similar type player. Bosa has no rea weaknesses and can be a force versus the run or pass game. Shaq Lawson – Clemson The last few years, Clemson has been loaded with excellent defensive linemen and because of that players like Lawson and teammate Kevin Dodd had to wait their turn to be the front line players. It showed this year as Lawson went form 3.5 sacks in 2014 to 12.5 in 2015. Lawson has an exceptionally quick first step, very good hand use and the bend and flexibility to be a very difficult person to block on passing downs. He also has the instincts and quick reactions to be a force versus the run. At his present size and speed (6027 – 267 - 4.70) he can also play OLB in a 3-4. The only negative I see right now is that it was recently reported that Lawson has to return to Indianapolis in early April for the medical rechecks because of a shoulder injury. Granted he played with the injury all season, but if it is a problem whereas he needs surgery, he could drop a little on draft night. Right now he looks like a solid top 10 selection. Kevin Dodd – Clemson Like Lawson, Dodd is a player who really came on during the 2015 college season. By the end of the season, he was one of the most dominant outside players in the country. Dodd finished the season with 62 total tackles and 12 sacks! At 6’5 – 272 – 4.80, Dodd has the frame to get bigger and stronger and the athleticism to play in any scheme. He is best suited to play as a 4-3 defensive end but he can easily get up to 280+ and play as a 5 tech and he can also standup as a 3-4 OLB. Being that Doss is an early entrée into the draft he has a lot of upside and has the told to be a dominant NFL play. I can see Dodd getting drafted somewhere between the 10 and 20 slots. Noah Spence – Eastern Kentucky After a very strong season at Eastern Kentucky and with a dominant week at the Senior Bowl, many were anticipating Spence’s workout at the Combine. The wind came out of the sails there as Spence did not run nearly as fast as people thought he would. He ran 4.80 at Indy and then came back a week later at the Eastern Kentucky Pro Day to run a 4.77. Scouts and coaches were estimating that he would run in the high 4.6’s to low 4.7’s. Regardless of his timed speed, Spence is one of the better edge pass rushers in this draft and he can also play the run extremely well. He is strong and explosive and quick to find the ball. What hurts Spence besides his average speed is his off field issues. He has tested positive on multiple occasions and that got him booted from Ohio State and then he got ticked for a DUI while at Eastern Kentucky. It’s those issues that make Spence a bit of a wild card during the draft. Talent says round one, the issues may drop him a little. Like the others, Spence has the versatility to play up or down in either defensive scheme. Bronson Kaufusi – BYU One of the most physically impressive specimens at the Combine was BYU’s Kaufusi. He stands 6’6 – 285, runs a 4.85 and has 34 1/2” arms. All his measurable tests at Indy were as good as any at the defensive end position. Kaufusi came on strong in 2015 with 64 total tackles and 11 sacks. He has experience playing both linebacker and defensive end. With his size and upside, I see him as either a left end in a 4-3 or either end in a 3-4. He is strong at the point, can shed and finds the ball. If there is a fault it’s that he doesn’t make as many plays as he probably should. Still with his natural physical talent, he most likely will get drafted in the second round. There aren’t many plays as physically gifted as Kaufusi. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe