No matter what team we are discussing in regard to the 2010 NFL Draft, pass rushers will be a topic of conversation. Even the sack leaders of the NFL look to boost the most important part of the defensive side of the football by adding guys that can reach the edge, collapse the pocket, or in some cases, both. Lets take a look at the top five senior pass rushers and their pending draft status’.
* With TCU officially on the National Championship radar, some are finally noticing the kind of talent they have on their defensive squad. If I had to take one senior pass rusher, it is Jerry Hughes (6’3 – 257). While the level of competition is not there on a week in-week out basis, his consistency certainly is. His first few steps are as good as anyone in the country and the technique, especially with his hands and shoulders, has been refined to the point of near perfection. His 19 tackles for loss and 15 sacks in 2008 really put him on the radar and there were rumors he could have surpassed the likes of Brian Orakpo and Aaron Maybin in the 2009 draft. He is on his way to another 12+ sack season and if his workouts are strong, he will likely be the top pass rusher selected in 2010.
* I remember scouting Michigan Tim Jamison last fall when I could not help but notice, a junior at the time, Brandon Graham (6’2 – 263) fly on to the radar over and over again. He has such immense strength at the point of attack and he is constantly tossing away blockers with ease and putting himself where he wants to be. Who did he remind me of? Former Michigan defensive end and current Pittsburgh Steelers’ superstar LaMarr Woodley. The power game that gets him into the opponent’s backfield is unblockable and his 45 tackles for a loss on top of 20 sacks over the past two years is a true testament to that. While his timed speed will not make the combine highlights, he moves fast on the field and can get from the outside shoulder of the tackle all the way down to the center quicker than anybody. I expect his name to be called in the top 15 picks.
* If I had not known that Brian Orakpo was a part of the 2009 draft class, I would have simply believed he changed his number to 2. Sergio Kindle (6’4 – 255) has been playing the role Orakpo filled last year and plays with an awfully similar style. His combination of physical talents may be the best in this senior class when it comes to speed, power, strength, and explosion. However he is currently having a subpar year statistically and that will likely come back to haunt him come April, but his potential as an NFL pass rusher is enormous.
* The Florida defense is loaded with players that will make NFL rosters in 2010. The most overlooked name on that squad however is defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (6’3 – 252). He has the natural athletic ability to beat blockers to the edge but on top of that, his use of leverage and hand placement makes him an incredibly dangerous player. The high sack totals are not there but that has more to do with the abundance of talent around him than anything. He is used in a variety of ways and should be one of the most sought after 3-4 outside linebacker prospects come April.
* There have been some top notch prospects coming out of the Troy football program over the past few years, and the name that will come out of nowhere this winter will be Brandon Lang (6’4 – 256). The explosion I see out of Lang reminds me of Everette Brown, formerly of Florida State and the current up and coming edge rusher opposite Julius Peppers in Carolina. The national exposure has not been there for Lang but in his game against Florida, he looked liked the best defensive player on the field for both sides. He has length in him that is used correctly, keeping blockers separated from his body, making it easier to free up and pursue. He has a lot of raw ability that coaches love to work with and an Osi Umenyiora-type career could be in the future if his dedication in the work room is there.
The final part of this draft report focuses on an underclassman that is expected to forego his senior season and enter the draft a year early. Draft projection at this time of the year can always be tough considering that most if not all juniors have yet to officially declare, however there are some that have a spot in the first round reserved for them.
* There is already a lot of talk surrounding the possibility that a defensive lineman could go number one overall come April. Senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska has been the talk of the draft community the entire season but watch out for a junior defensive end out of Georgia Tech. Derrick Morgan (6’4 – 275) is Mr. Versatility for the Yellow Jackets as he can line up on either side, inside and out and find his way to the quarterback one way or another. The size and strength are there and there simply some guys you look at in uniform and think to yourfself, “this kid was born to play football”. He jumps the snap well with great anticipation, while getting his nearly 280 pound frame moving with such explosion which creates a new line of scrimmage right away. What will attract every team in the NFL however is the ability to play all over the place. He has the strength and power to play on the left side in a 4-3, but also the speed and quickness to play on the right side. In a 3-4, I see him as a LaMarr Woodley type and that versatility will give his grade a huge boost in April.