2017 NFL Draft Position Review: Defensive Ends

Charlie lays out an overview at the top players from each position for the 2017 NFL Draft. For further information, check out our in-depth analysis of 2017 NFL Draft Prospects by Position.

By Charlie Campbell.
Send Charlie an e-mail here: draftcampbell@gmail.com
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This page was last updated March 23, 2017. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

Position Review: Defensive Ends

Defensive End Class
Early-round talent: A-
Mid-round: B+
Late-round: B
Overall grade: B+

2017 prospects vs 2016
Myles Garrett
Joey Bosa
DeForest Buckner
Taco Charlton
Solomon Thomas
Shaq Lawson
Derek Barnett
Charles Harris
Kevin Dodd
Emmanuel Ogbah
Noah Spence
Chris Wormley
Jihad Ward
Dawuane Smoot
Takkarist McKinley
Carl Nassib

The 2017 NFL Draft has a good group of defensive ends led by a rare prospect in Garrett. He is the heavy favorite to be the No. 1-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and is the best player available. Garrett is the best defensive lineman to come to the NFL since Jadeveon Clowney, and I rate Garrett just a hair behind Clowney. The reason is Clowney is bigger, more physical, just as fast, and a beast against the run. Garrett is smaller than Clowney and not even close to as good as a run defender, but Garrett is probably a more natural pass-rusher than Clowney. Clowney was, and is, a more well-rounded player, thus I would rate Garrett just behind him.

Still, Garrett is a better prospect than any of the top defensive linemen from 2015 - Dante Fowler and Leonard Williams - or 2016 - Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner. After merging the last two classes together, Charlton is just slightly behind Bosa and Buckner as a prospect. Thomas would go higher than Lawson, and Barnett is about equal to Lawson in terms of skill set and college career. Harris is a first-rounder, so he would go ahead of Dodd, Ogbah and Spence. Wormley, Ward and Smoot are all about equal as second-rounders. McKinley is a love-hate prospect around the league and could go lower than expected. He could be close to Nassib as a mid-second-day pick.

After these top eight prospects, there are a lot of other quality defensive ends who will go on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft. That group includes Kansas State's Jordan Willis, Alabama's Tim Williams, Florida State's Demarcus Walker and Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon.

Safest Pick: Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
This was an easy choice, as I think Garrett will be a double-digit sacker and Pro Bowler quickly in his NFL career. There is no doubt that he is a freak athlete. Garrett has ridiculous speed and a developed body with natural strength. He has a tremendous first-step out of his stance. After his get-off, Garrett quickly accelerates to turn the corner. He has the ability to sink his hips and bend around the tackles to get pointed to the quarterback. Garrett has good balance and natural strength to fight off blockers. There are times where he also flashes speed to power and can push offensive tackles into the pocket after getting upfield. Garrett is a just a natural pass-rusher who is perfectly suited to the passing-driven NFL. He should turn into a great NFL player.

Looking back at the previous picks, Fowler is undetermined because an injury robbed him of his rookie season and last year, he was finding his way in the league. Clowney is a Pro Bowler and was dominant in 2016. Werner was drafted into a 3-4, and that was a terrible fit for him. He was a huge bust, so I was way off there.

Previous Picks:
2016: DeForest Buckner
2015: Dante Fowler Jr.
2014: Jadeveon Clowney
2013: Bjoern Werner

Biggest Bust Potential: Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
McKinley stands out to me as having bust potential as some are projecting him to Round 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft. First off, he is undersized as an edge defender at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds. While McKinley is fast and explosive as a high=motor run-and-chase defender, I see a lot of flaws. One, he has no pass-rushing moves. Two, he is extremely tight and stiff as a rusher. Three, he can get destroyed as a run defender. Four, tackles with length give him problems and he will see bigger, longer offensive tackles in the NFL. Sources have also said that McKinley has a shoulder issue plus also is not a slam dunk on the character side. He can be moody and slow to trust. Thus, I think there are a few potential issues that could lead to McKinley being a bust.

Overall, I have a good track record here. It is to early to pass judgement on Dodd after a rookie season in which he had one sack. Odighizuwa has been a disappointment as he has zero sacks over 18 games in his career. Martin has been a disappointment as he has 3.5 sacks in three seasons and is a backup. Mingo was a mega-bust for the Browns.

Previous Picks:
2016: Kevin Dodd
2015: Owa Odighizuwa
2014: Kareem Martin
2013: Barkevious Mingo

Defensive End Rankings by Attributes

Pass Rush:
NFL prototype: J.J. Watt, Texans
  1. Myles Garrett
  2. Taco Charlton
  3. Charles Harris
  4. Derek Barnett
  5. Solomon Thomas
  6. Takkarist McKinley
  7. Dawuane Smoot
  8. Chris Wormley

Recap: The NFL is a passing-driven league, and coaches will tell you that an elite pass-rusher is the most important position on the defensive side of the ball. Unless a team has a defensive tackle like the Bengals' Geno Atkins or Buccaneers' Gerald McCoy, it has to have edge-rushers who can consistently pressure the quarterback.

This was a no-brainer as Garrett is the most natural pass-rusher during the last two years. He has blinding speed off the edge, can beat blockers in a variety of ways, can win lining up in a variety of spots, and is simply a gifted quarterback hunter with rare explosiveness. Garrett could be a player who routinely has sack totals in the mid-teens.

Charlton could be a very good pass-rusher in the NFL. He is fast, athletic, strong to get free of blocks, and has serious quickness to close on the quarterback. Charlton has a ton of upside and could be a Carlos Dunlap-type defensive end in the NFL.

Harris is a fast edge rusher who has an advanced repertoire of moves, including a vicious spin move. He should be a double-digit sacker in the NFL. Barnett set Tennessee's sack record and has real speed alongside a tremendous ability to dip and bend around the corner. He uses his hands and feet at the same time. Barnett is a natural pass-rusher.

Thomas is a good pass-rusher with speed at the point of attack and good strength to shed blockers. He is a bit of a tweener for the NFL, and that could give him some issues with above-average guards and tackles.

McKinley's best skill is rushing the passer. He is fast and explosive on the edge. However, he is very tight, lacks moves, and struggles with long offensive tackles. Thus, his pass rush in the NFL may never match the media hype.

Smoot is quick, athletic and explosive. He is more of a disruptor than a producer in the pass-rush department though. Smoot is the kind of end who will create a lot of pressures but maybe not notch many sacks. Having an elite rusher on the other side would help push his sack numbers up.

Wormley is a sturdy base end who will produce some sacks in the NFL, but he doesn't have elite speed or athleticism to be a big-time sack producer. He will be a tough, reliable serviceable end who annually collects 5-8 sacks and is a tough run defender.

Run Defense:
NFL prototype: Jadeveon Clowney, Texans
  1. Chris Wormley
  2. Taco Charlton
  3. Solomon Thomas
  4. Dawuane Smoot
  5. Myles Garrett
  6. Derek Barnett
  7. Charles Harris
  8. Takkarist McKinley

Recap: Defending the run isn't as in demand as it used to be with NFL coaches, but they still watch it closely when evaluating prospects, plus teams need some tough run defenders at the point of attack. This class features four good run defenders.

Wormley (6-5, 297) is very strong at the point of attack and is tough to move. Teams don't have success running at him, and he should be an asset as a run defender in the NFL. I think he'll be reliable at lining up against right tackles and defending against power running offenses.

Charlton is a good run defender, and in some ways, his run defense has been underrated. He is strong at the point of attack and can shed blocks. He will probably get better and could end up being the most well-rounded defensive end in this class.

Thomas and Smoot are strong at the point of attack. Each does a nice job of holding his ground against downhill runs.

Garrett's run defense was an issue in his first two seasons, but he got better as a junior. He is improving and as his body matures, he will get stronger. In a few years, I think he could turn into an average run defender.

Barnett's run defense was inconsistent. There were times where he was pretty tough, and other times where he was ineffective. Scouts have been critical of his run defense.

Harris does well in pursuit and can disrupt by firing into the backfield; however, he can get washed out in downhill runs coming straight at him and he struggles to shed blocks. McKinley is a vulnerable run defender who can get destroyed in the ground game. His run defense will probably make him only a situational pass-rusher to start his career, and he could be that way for his entire tenure in the league because he is undersized.

NFL prototype: J.J. Watt, Texans
  1. Solomon Thomas
  2. Takkarist McKinley
  3. Chris Wormley
  4. Myles Garrett
  5. Dawuane Smoot
  6. Taco Charlton
  7. Derek Barnett
  8. Charles Harris

Recap: Prospects who show a lack of effort can get knocked quickly by coaches when they start evaluating players. Coaches have zero patience for players who dog it. Conversely, a great motor will help players who may be short on athletic ability. This draft class has a lot of good motors amongst the early round prospects, and there isn't a player in the group who I would say has a bad motor.

homas and McKinley were relentless in 2016, displaying had some of the best motors in college football. Wormley never quit on plays and always gave a great effort. Garrett and Smoot also give good effort. In 2015 and 2014, Garrett's motor was more impressive when he wasn't playing with a leg injury. He seemed to pull up in the chase department during 2016, but that may have been due to the fact that he was hobbling around the field.

Charlton had some toughness question marks, but generally was steady with his motor as a senior. Barnett and Harris had some quiet stretches and other times where they seemed like they were more motivated. I wouldn't say Harris has a terrible motor, but it plays a part in him being inconsistent.

Forcing Fumbles:
NFL prototype: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins
  1. Myles Garrett
  2. Charles Harris
  3. Takkarist McKinley
  4. Derek Barnett
  5. Taco Charlton
  6. Dawuane Smoot
  7. Solomon Thomas
  8. Chris Wormley

Recap: The art of a strip sack is a great equalizer in the NFL. Strip sacks can change games and produce points. Surprisingly, this group wasn't all that impressive in forcing fumbles. Garrett was the best at it in 2015 as he had five forced fumbles. He dropped to two forced fumbles last year, but he clearly has the instincts to go for the strip.

Harris notched two forced fumbles in each of the past two seasons. I think his speed-rush skills could lead to him forcing a steady amount of fumbles in the NFL. McKinely had three forced fumbles last year and showed the inclination to go for the ball.

Barnett recorded two forced fumbles in 2016, one the previous year and zero as a freshman. Considering he had over 30 career sacks, one would think he would have caused more fumbles. Charlton made just one forced fumble last year, but I think he will produce more in the NFL with his speed, strength, and more opportunities going to a passing-driven league. Smoot had two forced fumbles last year, but also suffered from a lack of opportunities. I think Charlton will produce more than him because he will get to the quarterback more than Smoot will in the NFL.

Surprisingly, Thomas had only one forced fumble last year and that was the only one he had in his entire collegiate career. Wormley had only one forced fumble over the past two years and zero as a senior.

NFL prototype: J.J. Watt, Texans
  1. Chris Wormley
  2. Taco Charlton
  3. Solomon Thomas
  4. Dawuane Smoot
  5. Myles Garrett
  6. Derek Barnett
  7. Charles Harris
  8. Takkarist McKinley

Recap: Coaches have told me that the NFL is a big man's game and is trending that way with each passing year. Wormley already has NFL strength and played around 300 pounds. Charlton is also strong at the point of attack and will be a sturdy end in the 270-280-pound range during his career. Thomas is also in the 270s with serious upper body strength to shed blocks. As an end he is strong, but he shouldn't line up at defensive tackle on potential run downs.

Smoot (255) is strong for his size and doesn't get pushed around. Garrett has functional strength in the pass rush, but could stand to get stronger in his base for run defense.

Barnett (259), Harris (253), and McKinley (250) all need to get stronger for the NFL as they could have problems with offensive tackles pushing them around in the ground game.

NFL prototype: Chandler Jones, Cardinals
  1. Myles Garrett
  2. Taco Charlton
  3. Chris Wormley
  4. Solomon Thomas
  5. Dawuane Smoot
  6. Derek Barnett
  7. Charles Harris
  8. Takkarist McKinley

Recap: Defensive coordinators love versatility. Edge defenders who drop in coverage and play in space are in demand. Coaches also like ends who can move inside to tackle on passing downs. This class of edge rushers features a lot of versatility as all eight of these prospects could fit into a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.

Garrett has a lot of versatility. He can play traditional defensive end, 3-4 outside linebacker, and move inside to tackle in passing situations. Along the defensive line, Garrett has versatile size to pick out the weakest offensive lineman and pick on him all day long.

Charlton is long, fast, strong and athletic. He could be a perfect 4-3 end while also fitting as 3-4 outside linebacker and potentially play some five-technique defensive end in a 3-4. Wormley could play end and tackle in a 4-3 scheme. He would be well suited to being a 3-4 end.

Thomas' best fit would come as a 4-3 end, and he could move inside to tackle in passing situations. He might be able to play 3-4 outside linebacker.

Smoot, Barnett, Harris and McKinley all have the ability to play defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker. Playing 3-4 outside linebacker could end up being the best fit for both Harris and McKinley.

NFL prototype: Jadeveon Clowney, Texans
  1. Myles Garrett
  2. Taco Charlton
  3. Charles Harris
  4. Solomon Thomas
  5. Derek Barnett
  6. Dawuane Smoot
  7. Takkarist McKinley
  8. Chris Wormley

Recap: This class of ends has good upside to grow in the NFL. With Garrett's natural talent at such a young age, his best football should be ahead of him. He could be a devastating player in a few years given his rare skill set. Additionally, Garrett has a good work ethic to perfect his craft.

Charlton is a close second as he has ton of athletic upside. He looked like he is just rounding into form in a senior year where he really came on. At 6-foot-6, 277 pounds with speed, strength and athleticism, Charlton could turn into a stud. If he lands with good coaching and positive locker room mentors, look out.

Harris, Thomas and Barnett all have upside to develop in the NFL. They have skill sets that could improve as they age and work with NFL coaches.

From an athletic standpoint, McKinley, Smoot and Wormley may not develop much from their starting points of how they enter the NFL. McKinley was a 1-year wonder as well, so perhaps experience will get more out of him. In terms of their physical skills, this trio doesn't have much room to grow.



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