In my previous post we found that there is value in 3-4 Defensive ends in the first round (if you can steal them away from those pesky teams that play the 4-3) and some true 3-4 DE talent in the 2nd-4th rounds. In the spirit of that I will try to rank all the 3-4 DE prospects that are projected to go in the third round or higher. Keep in mind that there aren't many colleges that run the 3-4, so the guys in these rankings will be a handful or college DEs who were oversized pass rushers and then a bunch of big, bulky, strong defensive tackles who are not suited for the Nose Tackle position. Also, two of the top players in the draft fit the description of college DT who could play the DE in the pros, but both those guys (Ndauakong Suh and Gerald McCoy) will be gone way to early for any 3-4 team to even get a shot at them, so I'll leave them off. Okay, let's smell some rank:
|Rank||Prospect||College||Height||Weight||Projected Draft Rd.|
|2||Jared Odrick||Penn State
|4||Alex Carrington||Arkansas State||6'5||284||2nd-3rd|
It's an interesting mix of shapes and sizes. Some are just prototypical big and strong guys, like Jared Odrick. Some are tall DEs that have bodies to fill out more like Dunlap, Carrington and Wooten. Some are just about the right size, like Houston, Alualu, Jones and Smith, but better be hard workers because they missing the upside of the previous two groups. And then some are kind of tweeners that may not make it as 3-4 DEs, like Atkins and Mitchell, but have the athleticism to give them a shot over bigger, less athletic guys. I'll go into detail about all the guys after the jump.
1. Carlos Dunlap
Carlos Dunlap is a freak. He's a good enough pass rusher to be be 4-3 DE and big enough to play 4-3 DT and 3-4 DE. He doesn't meet the 3-4 DE prototype, but he's got enough athleticism and a large enough frame that he could thrive there. I liken him to Richard Seymour and he could make a similar impact in the NFL. Or he could be out of the league in a couple of years. There are some character issues with Dunlap including a famous DUI arrest before the SEC Championship game where police officers found him asleep at a green light. He's a big risk, but if enough teams pass on him for that, he could bring the biggest bang for your buck late in the first round. I'd love to take a chance with him, but I'm not sure A.J. is in the mood. His interviews with NFL teams leading up to the draft are going to be really important.
2. Jared Odrick
Odrick, like Dunlap, is another guy with a nice big frame that fits the 3-4 DE position. Unlike Dunlap though, he played DT in college as opposed to DE and that probably makes him a little more prepared for the 3-4 DE position. Odrick started his final 3 years at Penn State and played as a freshman as well. In his final season he had 6 sacks, 41 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss, one blocked field goal, one pass break-up and three quarterback hurries. Those are all solid numbers for a DT. He played in the Senior Bowl and earned some high praise during the practices, especially by those who liked him as a 4-3 DT which is probably his best fit in the NFL (although that doesn't mean he isn't a good fit for the 3-4, obviously). He did have some minor character and injury issues at Penn State. He was arrested for disorderly conduct once after getting in a fight with 4 college kids and he missed some games in 2007 with a broken wrist and then a broken ankle. His best asset as a defensive player is his initial burst where he can engage a blocker quickly and catch him off guard. This can work against him on double teams, but scouts think he can learn to adjust to that.
3. Lamar Houston
Okay, enough with the guys that have character issues, how about a guy where character is a positive? After a drunk driving arrest Houston has turned things around for him. He's a 3 time member of the UT Athletic Director's Honor Roll. He participates in community service and regularly visits patients at Austin's Children's Hospital. He has participated in activities for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and spoke during a program called Smart Girls in 2005 that builds self-esteem in young girls. He's willing to do what it takes for the team to win as he's shown when he's lined up a fullback in the team's short yardage situations. Plays with a wide base and hold ground when teams try to down block on him and can anchor against double teams when plays with sound technique. All of which are excellent characteristics for a 3-4 DE. His motor is also good and he doesn't give up on plays so if that QB stays in the pocket too long Houston will be working hard to pay him a visit.
4. Alex Carrington
This is your fast riser on the list. He wasn't on many teams radars at the start of the 2009 season and only really started to make himself known at the Senior Bowl. He'll have to put on weight to play 3-4 DE, but he's got the kind of big frame to support that so it's not really an issue. One scout compared him to Kendall Langford who is a 3-4 DE for the Miami Dolphins and also came from a school (Hampton) that didn't face strong competition. Carrington red shirted his first year at Arkansas State, then saw time starting in his next season for the Red Wolves. He was a full time starter for his final 3 years there. He was the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and 1st team All Sun Belt conference in 2009 when he tallied 14.5 sacks.
5. Tyson Alualu
I worry a little about Alualu's size, since he not quite as tall as some of the other guys on this list, but is already heavier making me wonder if he's maxed out his ability to get bigger. However, that may not be an issue because the scouting reports say that he does a good job against double teams and that's what really matters. He was also a versatile lineman for the Golden Bears playing both DT and DE, which is good experience for a future 3-4 DE since knowing skillsets for both of those positions can help make you a better player there. He led his team in sacks and tackles-for-loss in 2009, so he's used to being counted on as a playmaker on defense. He's also a family man. He's got 7 sisters and a brother, he's married and he's got a daughter and son already. That family is also a football family with an uncle and two cousins that played college football.
6. Arthur Jones
Jones is a bit of a risky proposition in this year's draft because he's coming back from injury and this is not an isolated incident. This latest one is a torn lateral meniscus that cost him the final 3 games of the season. In early 2009 he tore a pectoral muscle that required surgery to fix. In 2007 he had an ankle injury that forced him out of one game and cost him another. That being said, his talent is elite. He holds ground against double teams, he's an effective bull rusher and he's a powerful tackler. Jones was thought of as a potential first round pick before the latest injury, so a team that takes a risk on him later could be getting a steal. Or they could be getting a big medical bill in the future.
7. Corey Wootton
At first glance Wootton doesn't look like he weighs enough (280 is just a guess, I've seen some places say its as low as 272) to play 3-4 DE. On top of that, he played DE in college. However, multiple scouts see him filling out that 6'6 frame and see his skillset working in the 3-4. I'm a little skeptical. He did have a productive junior season posting 10 sacks, 16 tackles-for-loss and 1 interception for the Wildcats, but those numbers fell of in his senior season with only 4 sacks and 6 tackles-for-loss. It makes me wonder if people are just sold that he won't be a 4-3 DE and are trying to project him to 3-4 as a fallback. There is also the theory that his down 2009 was a result of the torn ACL he suffered at the end of 2008, which sounds similar to what people say about Merriman. He's risky, but he does have talent so he's a bit of a wildcard.
8. Mike Neal
Being a Purdue grad and college football fan, I've seen almost every one of the Neal's games as a Boilermaker. Heck, I've even seen some practices (Go Big Ten Network!). I love the guy, he's got a high motor and can shed blocks. He's difficult to even get a clean block on. However, I actually see him as more of a Warren Sapp type of DT who gets after the passer, but others out there say that he could be a good 3-4 DE. Purdue players do have a history of being 3-4 players. Most of you are familiar with Shaun Phillips, who was a DE at Purdue and moved to OLB with the Chargers. Anthony Spencer of the Cowboys did the same. Roosevelt Colvin was another college DE that found his way to OLB when he joined the Patriots. Akin Ayodele also played DE at Purdue and moved to ILB with the Cowboys and Dolphins. Alex Magee was a 2009 2nd round pick who played DT at Purdue and is now 3-4 DE with the Chiefs (although he didn't crack the starting lineup). Anyway, my point is that I could be wrong and this hustling Boilermaker could be a good DE prospect.
9. Geno Atkins
I talked about Atkins in one of my Senior Bowl posts. He made some big plays in the first have of the actual game after having a pretty solid week. The key thing that people saw from him was his ability to beat the double team. That's key because he wasn't just holding ground, but actually beating it. At the next level he'll have to also learn to control the double team and there's worry that at his size he won't be able to do that. He'll probably never be elite, but he could be a scrappy player and as we saw in my post about DEs, there are starting jobs out there for scrappy role player guys. However, he could just get drafted as a DT -- his better position -- and we'll never know what kind of 3-4 DE he would have been.
10. Vince Oghobaase
This Blue Devil actually has some experience lining up as a DE in a 3 man front. Unfortunately for his draft stock his senior season didn't go so well so that's why with his size and experience he ranks so low. He had a leg injury that cost him 4 games and was inconsistent when he did play totaling only 2.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles-for-loss. His technique needs some work to establish himself against double teams, but his size and athleticism makes scouts think that once he learns that stuff he'll be good. Maybe, playing at a basketball school like Duke hurt his ability to develop properly with a possibly inferior coaching staff. He did start for 4 years in Durham, so he's not lacking for experience.