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Pre-Combine Draft Rankings Collection: DE

When I did the ranking collection for the OLBs I referenced the confusion surrounding the draft. I focused mainly on the internal confusion surrounding the Chargers needs. The other confusion that exists concerns the prospects in this draft. At OLB you could see a fairly clear hierarchy where if you knew nothing else you could say that they should end up picked in the order: Miller, Quinn, Smith, Ayers, Kerrigan, Houston. At DE you can't say anything with that kind of assuredness without immediately second guessing yourself 6 seconds later.

The other confusion here is that many of these "DEs" either played DE in the 4-3 or played DT in college. The Chargers (and any other 3-4 team) would be moving them to the 3-4. Most of the rankings take that into account and try to include a player's versatility as part of the ranking. However, the Chargers won't be ranking a player any higher because they can play both 3-4 DE and 4-3 DT, so the home team's rankings may be quite different.

Here's the wide array of opinions you get when you ask people to ranking the DEs:

Player Nat'l Football Post Scouts (ESPN) Mel Kiper, Jr Draft Countdown Walter Football Mocking The Draft CBS Sports (Fox Sports) DraftAce
Da'Quan Bowers 11 1 2 5 4 3 3 2
Marcell Dareus 17 7 8 4 7 6 5 8 10
Cameron Jordan 14 20
17 12
J.J. Watt
20 16
18 9
Adrian Clayborn 24 15
Cameron Heyward 23
31 >25 23 25 16 30 9 8
Corey Liuget 67 14
Muhammad Wilkerson 64 23 19 >32 31 34 42 29 36

One thing that seems somewhat clear is that Bowers and Dareus are out of reach for the Chargers. I suppose there's a chance they slip, especially if some of top 10 focus their energies on overdrafting QBs, but it's not likely.

Then you have this next tier of guys with mixed reviews. Cameron Jordan is very talented and might even be able to play OLB if some GM were crazy enough. Some could see him slipping into the top 10 like his former teammate Tyson Alualu. Hard to say if he'll be there for the Chargers, but he seems like a solid find if he is.

J.J. Watt had an impressive 2010 season and did so playing as a larger than average pass rushing DE for the Wisconsin Badgers' 4-3 defense. He could convert to a 3-4 with some extra weight and some redirection of his talent. But, would scouts rank him as high if he did?

Adrian Clayborn was on everyone's radar going into the 2010 season and he did enough to keep him in the first round mix. Like Watt he's played DE in the 4-3, but is big enough to believe he could go to the 3-4. His quickness at the snap could be a huge asset if he could use it to take on double teams and maybe he becomes a pass rushing threat from the position that the Chargers have never had.

Liuget played DT at Illinois and his disruptive capabilities, high motor and stoutness against the run would all translate well to 3-4 DE. His ranking is suffering from the fact that he declared early and scouts haven't seen enough to believe that he can do it all over the long haul. I'm becoming a believer.

Wilkerson was also a DT, but it was at Temple where many didn't get to see him regularly. Plus, he left school early so he wasn't on peoples' radar at the start of the season. It seems that the ESPN guys (Mel Kiper and Scouts, Inc) have probably seen a little more of him and like what they see.  He's a wildcard in this process.