2016 NFL Draft Position Review: Defensive Ends

Charlie lays out an overview at the top players from each position for the 2016 NFL Draft. For further information, check out our in-depth analysis of 2016 NFL Draft Prospects by Position.

By Charlie Campbell.
Send Charlie an e-mail here: [email protected]
Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.

This page was last updated April 1, 2016. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

Position Review: Defensive Ends

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

2016 prospects vs 2015
DeForest Buckner
Joey Bosa
Dante Fowler Jr.
Arik Armstead
Shaq Lawson
Bud Dupree
Shane Ray
Kevin Dodd
Noah Spence
Emmanuel Ogbah
Mario Edwards Jr.
Preston Smith
Nate Orchard
Shilique Calhoun
Markus Golden
Carl Nassib

This is a very interesting comparison to me. In my opinion, backed up by speaking with team sources, Bosa and Buckner are better prospects than Dante Fowler Jr. was a year ago. However, Bosa and Buckner may not go as high as Fowler did in the 2015 NFL Draft. Sources said that if Bosa had been in that draft, he would have been the pick over Fowler, so I do believe that Bosa and Buckner are the better prospects.

After those players, Lawson could go in the teens and 20s like Armstead, Dupree and Ray did last year. Dodd, Spence and Ogbah could be late first-rounders and go ahead of where Edwards went in the 2015 NFL Draft. Smith, Orchard and Golden were second-round picks last year, and Calhoun could go in the same range. Nassib might as well or slip to the third round similar to Giants third-rounder Owa Odighizuwa.

Safest Pick: DeForest Buckner, Oregon
There are a lot of attributes that should make Buckner a safe pick to be a success in the NFL. At 6-foot-7, 290 pounds, he has speed off the edge with the size and strength to battle offensive tackles. Buckner can win with power or speed. Also teams really like him off the field, as he has a passion for football and a work ethic. Buckner looks like a safe bet to be a good run defender who is a solid contributor in the pass rush.

Looking back at the previous picks, Fowler is undetermined because an injury robbed him of his rookie season. Clowney played really well for the Texans in 2015, and if he can stay healthy in 2016, he could explode. Werner was drafted into a 3-4, which was a terrible fit for him. That pick was a bust for Indianapolis as Werner has been released, so I was off there, but I think his career could have been different if he had been drafted into a 4-3 defense.

2015 Pick: Dante Fowler Jr.
2014 Pick: Jadeveon Clowney
2013 Pick: Bjoern Werner

Biggest Bust Potential: Kevin Dodd, Clemson
It was hard to make a pick for this selection, and I don’t like this selection. I don’t see a player screaming bust at me, but I have to pick one. Dodd is the most questionable to me though for a few reasons. He was a 1-year wonder at Clemson with a lot of his production coming in the final games of the season. One would think that Dodd (6-5, 277) would have done more against weaker ACC competition during the regular season. Aside from that, Dodd is a tight defensive end. He does not have versatility for a 3-4 and as a left end in a 4-3, he could get worn down by right tackles. Sources say Dodd has limited pass-rushing moves and needs development. Since I have to pick one, I think Dodd has the most flaws, which could lead to him being a bust.

Looking at the past years, Odighizuwa played in only four games last season so it is way to early to pass judgement on him. Martin has been a disappointment as he has 2.5 sacks in two seasons with just four games started. Thus far, Mingo has been a bust for the Browns.

2015 Pick: Owa Odighizuwa
2014 Pick: Kareem Martin
2013 Pick: Barkevious Mingo

Defensive End Rankings by Attributes

Pass Rush:
NFL prototype: J.J. Watt, Texans
  1. Noah Spence
  2. Joey Bosa
  3. Emmanuel Ogbah
  4. Shaq Lawson
  5. Carl Nassib
  6. Shilique Calhoun
  7. DeForest Buckner
  8. Kevin Dodd

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 hard to rank because all eight of these prospects are skilled at getting after the quarterback. Spence could be the most natural pass-rusher in the 2016 NFL Draft. He flashed pass rush over his brief time at Ohio State, Eastern Kentucky, and the Senior Bowl. Spence is a quick edge rusher who is very skilled at dodging blockers to get after the quarterback. The 6-foot-2, 254-pounder needs to improve his functional strength to shed when blockers get a hold of him.

Bosa should be a solid pass-rusher in the NFL. He is strong to get free of blocks and has enough quickness to turn the corner. Many have overrated Bosa as he isn’t a blinding speed rusher or overpowering. He looks like a safe bet to turn into a reliable edge rusher like Ryan Kerrigan.

I almost went with Ogbah first because he has the most steady sack production over the last two years with 11 in 2014 and 13 in 2015. However, his play and effort were inconsistent. He is a good athlete and has some variety in pass-rushing moves. Oghab has strong hands uses them to slap blockers away. He also has developed a rip move and bull rush. For the next level, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ogbah is a double-digit sacker. Some teams are down on him though.

Lawson is a productive pass-rusher who had 12.5 sacks last year. Sources view Lawson as a smooth pass-rusher who has some natural pass-rushing skills for the pros. He showed some variety in moves with a spin move, a bull rush and a speed rush, plus he gave a second effort to get after the signal-caller. Lawson can fight his way through blocks and close on the quarterback. The junior is not an explosive speed rusher or a twitchy athlete like former teammate Vic Beasley, but is effective at getting after the quarterback. Some teams think that Lawson will be more of a 7-9 sack edge rusher in the NFL and not an elite quarterback hunter.

Nassib led college football in sacks last year with 15.5. He is strong with quickness to close. However, his skill set is not all that special for the NFL. Calhoun improved his pass-rushing skills as a senior. He has speed off the edge, but at 251 pounds, he’s undersized as a NFL defensive end.

Buckner and Dodd are getting short-changed here somewhat. Buckner had 9.5 sacks last year in a scheme that is notorious for not letting edge rushers go after the quarterback. He has pass-rushing skills and should be a solid contributor as a pro. Buckner probably will move inside to rush over tackles in passing situations.

Dodd had 12 sacks last year, a lot of which came late in the year. He is ranked last because he needs to develop more pass-rushing moves for the NFL. He also is a tight rusher who could be limited to only going against right tackles.

Run Defense:
NFL prototype: J.J. Watt, Texans
  1. DeForest Buckner
  2. Joey Bosa
  3. Carl Nassib
  4. Kevin Dodd
  5. Shaq Lawson
  6. Emmanuel Ogbah
  7. Noah Spence
  8. Shilique Calhoun

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. This class features a lot of good run defenders.

Buckner is very strong at the point of attack and is tough to move. He can get to runs in and out of his gap. 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 lining up against right tackles and defending power running offenses. Buckner had 76 tackles last year, which is an impressive total for a defensive lineman and leads all of these players.

Bosa 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. Bosa saw extra blocking attention, but over the past yearsm he was a tough run defender.

Nassib and Dodd are strong at the point of attack and do a nice job of holding their ground against downhill runs.

Lawson and Ogbah are all tough run defenders and very similar. They can set the edge, are strong to fight off blocks, hold their ground and get in on tackles. Lawson lacks some length for going against offensive tackles, while Ogbah is inconsistent. Thus, they’re behind the top four.

Spence 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. Calhoun also is undersized.

NFL prototype: J.J. Watt, Texans
  1. DeForest Buckner
  2. Carl Nassib
  3. Shaq Lawson
  4. Joey Bosa
  5. Kevin Dodd
  6. Noah Spence
  7. Shilique Calhoun
  8. Emmanuel Ogbah

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.

Last year, Buckner and Nassib were relentless, showing off some of the best motors in college football. Nassib never quit on plays and was always around the ball. Lawson and Bosa also give good effort. They don’t quit and fight hard every snap. Dodd and Spence have steady motors as well.

Calhoun generally has a good motor, but there were occasions where it looked like he cooled down. Sources with teams said that as well. They believed it was because he was playing too many snaps and not rotating enough.

Ogbah had some quiet stretches and other times where he seemed like he was more motivated. I wouldn’t say he has a terrible motor, but it plays a part in him being inconsistent.

Forcing Fumbles:
NFL prototype: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins
  1. Carl Nassib
  2. Noah Spence
  3. Emmanuel Ogbah
  4. Joey Bosa
  5. Shilique Calhoun
  6. Shaq Lawson
  7. Kevin Dodd
  8. DeForest Buckner

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 was unimpressive in forcing fumbles. Nassib was the best at it in 2015 and there wasn’t even a close second. He had six forced fumbles and showed good instincts to go for the strip while securing the sack.

Spence and Ogbah each produced three forced fumbles last year. They were solid, but they could stand to improve considering the amount of hits they put on quarterbacks.

Surprisingly Bosa, Calhoun, Lawson and Dodd each only had one forced fumble last year; Buckner had zero. They all have room for improvement. Bosa did have four forced fumbles in 2014, when he had more sacks.

NFL prototype: J.J. Watt, Texans
  1. DeForest Buckner
  2. Joey Bosa
  3. Carl Nassib
  4. Emmanuel Ogbah
  5. Kevin Dodd
  6. Shaq Lawson
  7. Shilique Calhoun
  8. Noah Spence

Recap: Coaches have told me that the NFL is a big man’s game and is trending that way with each passing year. Buckner already has NFL strength and played not far from 300 pounds, but he could end up playing there in his NFL career. There is upside with Buckner to be a powerful defender who pushes linemen with bull rushes and the strength to toss blockers aside.

It is hard to rate the next five players because they all have power. There is no doubt that Bosa, Nassib, Ogbah, Dodd and Lawson can beat tackles with the strength to shed them away. They all have upper body power to slap hands away from them.

Both Calhoun and Spence will need to add power for the next level. Especially Spence, as he can struggle to shed blocks. Calhoun is a touch lighter, but he has more functional strength than Spence.

NFL prototype: Julius Peppers, Packers
  1. DeForest Buckner
  2. Joey Bosa
  3. Shaq Lawson
  4. Noah Spence
  5. Shilique Calhoun
  6. Emmanuel Ogbah
  7. Carl Nassib
  8. Kevin Dodd

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.

Buckner has a lot of versatility. He can play traditional defensive end, 3-4 end and move inside to tackle in passing situations. Along the defensive line, Buckner has versatile size to play a variety of techniques.

Bosa, Lawson, Spence and Calhoun all have the ability to play defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker. Spence and Calhoun are behind the others because size issues could lead to them only being situational ends in a 4-3 defense until they develop as pros.

Ogbah, Nassib and Dodd have the body types to be 4-3 ends. Ogbah did some lining up as a tackle and dropping into coverage in college. If he were to be drafted into a 3-4 system, he should drop some weight to play a standup linebacker. Dodd and Nassib look limited to being 4-3 ends.

NFL prototype: Jadeveon Clowney, Texans
  1. DeForest Buckner
  2. Emmanuel Ogbah
  3. Shaq Lawson
  4. Joey Bosa
  5. Noah Spence
  6. Shilique Calhoun
  7. Kevin Dodd
  8. Carl Nassib

Recap: This class of ends has good upside to grow in the NFL. With Buckner’s natural talent, his best football should be ahead of him. He could be a very special player in a few years with his rare skill set. Plus, Buckner has good character to work hard at his craft.

As Ogbah and Lawson showed at the combine, they have athletic potential to grow. Each one has some upside to get better at the NFL level. Bosa is similar to the top three, but isn’t quite as explosive or athletic.

Spence and Calhoun have some upside to develop in the NFL. They have skill sets that can get better as they age and work with NFL coaches, especially as they get stronger in a NFL strength and conditioning program.

Athletically, Dodd and Nassib may not develop much from their starting points of how they enter the NFL. They both were 1-year wonders, so perhaps experience will get more out of them, but in terms of their physical skills, they don’t have much room to grow.

Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 21

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

NFL Picks - Feb. 12