Defensive line class highlighted by versatility

Updated: January 16, 2007, 2:26 PM ET
By Todd McShay | Scouts Inc.

There wasn't much of a middle class when it came to defensive line talent in the 2006 NFL draft. After eight came off the board in the first round, we saw just one defensive lineman (Darryl Tapp, Seahawks) selected in the first two rounds. It seems that next year's crop will provide more depth, but not quite as much elite talent at the top.

INSIDE THE NFL DRAFT
With the college football season under way, NFL scouts are hard at work evaluating prospects for the 2007 draft. Our Scouts Inc. draft specialists are no different. DraftTracker 2007 already is loaded up with in-depth scouting reports on nearly 250 college seniors who are on the NFL's radar, and our guys are filing updates each week as the prospects perform on the field.
• NFL DraftTracker 2007
Defensive ends Quentin Moses (Georgia) and Gaines Adams (Clemson) are atop most boards at this point. Moses is faster and projects as a better pass-rusher in the NFL, while Adams offers a more complete package due to his superior size and strength. Neither would have been a first-round pick in this year's draft but expectations are high after Moses' breakout campaign (20.5 tackles-for-loss and 11.5 sacks) and Adams' torrid finish in 2005 (16 quarterback pressures in final six games).

As is the case with Moses and Adams at defensive end, there is little doubt that Marcus Thomas (Florida) and Quinn Pitcock (Ohio State) are the premier senior defensive tackle prospects so far. Ironically, Thomas and Pitcock share very few similarities in terms of style of play. Thomas is a disruptive force with 18 tackles-for-loss the past two seasons, while Pitcock is valued more for his ability to occupy blockers and free up linebackers to make the big play. Pitcock is more consistent at this point but Thomas has greater upside.

As for the aforementioned depth, there are 11 others who project as possible first-day draft picks from this year's senior class, including Nebraska DE Adam Carriker, Texas DE Tim Crowder, Michigan DE LaMarr Woodley, Notre Dame DE Victor Abiamiri, Miami (Fla.) DL Baraka Atkins, Tennessee DT Justin Harrell, Miami (Fla.) DT Kareem Brown, Arizona State DE Loren Howard, California DT Brandon Mebane, Central Michigan DE Dan Bazuin and Penn State DT Jay Alford. And that's not including the potential early entries like USC DE Lawrence Jackson, Texas DT Frank Okam, Michigan DT Alan Branch and Georgia DE Charles Johnson.

One developing trend to monitor in this year's group is versatility. Atkins, Brown, Howard, Alford, Ray McDonald (Florida) and Derek Landri (Notre Dame) are some of the more talented linemen who can play end and/or tackle, while Moses, Woodley, Bazuin and Larry McSwain (UAB) are among the top hybrid end/outside linebacker types.

Defensive ends Noland Burchette (Virginia Tech) and Anthony Spencer (Purdue) are two physically gifted players who could skyrocket up the draft board with breakout seasons. The same can be said for defensive tackles Brown and Alford. There are also a few talented defensive line prospects attempting to make comebacks in 2006, including Howard, DE Larry Birdine (Oklahoma), and DE Jason Trusnik (Ohio Northern).

Finally, Trusnik and Maine DT Mike DeVito are the most promising small-school defensive line prospects to monitor heading into the 2006 college football season. Trusnik has been a vicious pass-rusher when healthy (18 sacks in 2004), while DeVito displays a promising blend of size, potential and quickness as a one-gap penetrating type.

Top 30 Senior Prospects in 2007 NFL Draft
Rnk Prospect, School Height Weight
1. Quentin Moses, DE, Georgia 6-4 5/8 250
2. Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson 6-4 5/8 261
3. Marcus Thomas, DT, Florida 6-2 3/4 290
4. Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska 6-6 290
5. Quinn Pitcock, DT, Ohio State 6-3 295
6. Tim Crowder, DE, Texas 6-3 270
7. LaMarr Woodley, DE, Michigan 6-1 1/8 269
8. Victor Abiamiri, DE, Notre Dame 6-4 280
9. Baraka Atkins, DL, Miami (Fla.) 6-4 280
10. Justin Harrell, DT, Tennessee 6-4 300
11. Kareem Brown, DT, Miami (Fla.) 6-5 305
12. Loren Howard, DE, Arizona State 6-4 275
13. Brandon Mebane, DT, California 6-0 7/8 300
14. Dan Bazuin, DE, Central Michigan 6-2 1/2 267
15. Jay Alford, DT, Penn State 6-2 285
16. Ray McDonald, DL, Florida 6-2 3/4 276
17. Tank Tyler, DT, N.C. State 6-2 1/4 310
18. Derek Landri, DT, Notre Dame 6-2 3/8 282
19. Brian Robison, DE, Texas 6-2 260
20. Conrad Bolston, DT, Maryland 6-3 1/4 303
21. Larry Birdine, DE, Oklahoma 6-3 260
22. Jay Moore, DE, Nebraska 6-4 270
23. Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville 6-1 7/8 312
24. David Patterson, DT, Ohio State 6-3 285
25. C.J. Ah You, DE, Oklahoma 6-3 1/2 270
26. Keith Jackson, DT, Arkansas 6-0 300
27. Louis Leonard, DT, Fresno State 6-4 3/4 355
28. Joe Cohen, DE, Florida 6-2 1/8 292
29. Noland Burchette, DE, Virginia Tech 6-2 1/8 259

Top 15 Potential Early Entries in 2007 NFL Draft
Rnk Prospect, School Height Weight
1. Lawrence Jackson, DE, USC 6-4 263
2. Fran Okam, DT, Texas 6-4 3/8 317
3. Alan Branch, DT, Michigan 6-5 5/8 325
4. Charles Johnson, DE, Georgia 6-2 275
5. Marcus Harrison, DT,Arkansas 6-3 315
6. Quentin Groves, DE, Auburn 6-2 7/8 252
7. Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC 6-1 289
8. Andre Fluellen, DT, Florida State 6-3 5/8 290
9. DeMario Pressley, DT, Florida State 6-3 5/8 301
10. Red Bryant, DT, Texas A&M 6-3 3/4 321
11. Tommy Blake, DE, TCU 6-3 250
12. Chris Ellis, DE, Virginia Tech 6-4 1/2 254
13. Chris Long, DE, Virginia 6-4 275
14. Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida 6-5 5/8 263
15. Carlton Powell, DT, Virginia Tech 6-1 5/8 298

Day-One Defensive Linemen in 2006 NFL Draft
Rnk Prospect, School Team Round (Overall)
1. Mario Williams, DE, N.C. State Texans First (1)
2. Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon Ravens First (12)
3. Kamerion Wimbley, DE, FSU Browns First (13)
4. Broderick Bunkley, DT, FSU Eagles First (14)
5. Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State Chiefs First (20)
6. Manny Lawson, DE, N.C. State 49ers First (22)
7. John McCargo, DT, N.C. State Bills First (26)
8. Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, Boston College Giants First (32)
9. Darryl Tapp, DE, Virginia Seahawks Second (63)

Three-Year Tally

The following is a graphic representation of the number of defensive linemen (tackles and ends) selected in each round of the previous three NFL drafts. Most NFL teams use this type of chart to study position trends when setting up their respective draft boards each year.

Defensive Tackles
Round 2006 2005 2004 Avg.
1 3 5 3 3.7
2 0 1 2 1
3 2 2 4 2.7
4 4 3 3 3.3
5 3 4 3 3.3
6 7 5 2 5.7
7 4 4 4 4
Total 23 18 21 20.6
Defensive Ends
Round 2006 2005 2004 Avg.
1 5 4 3 4
2 1 2 3 2
3 3 2 2 2.3
4 3 2 4 3
5 5 2 4 3.7
6 2 6 2 3.3
7 5 3 5 4.3
Total 24 21 23 22.7

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