Tuesday, April 19, 2005

2005 NFL Draft coverage - Defensive line

We'll combine the ends and tackles into one huge posting. I'm still on track to get everything done before the draft, though it could get a bit hairy later in the week. I will work hard to get all the previews up before the 49ers (or whoever they trade the pick to) are on the clock.

Defensive tackles
Top dogs
1. Travis Johnson, Florida State. Johnson is an impressive prospect with good size, good athleticism, and great explosiveness. He has the potential to be disruptive both against the run and the pass, and he could be a force if his motor is running. The problem? His motor isn't always running. Johnson was accused of sexual assault in college (charges were dropped), and he turned a lot of coaches off with his demeanor at FSU's pro day. Johnson will still be the first player off the board at this position. Projected: 1st round.

2. Luis Castillo, Northwestern. Castillo has built his profile recently, showing a willingness to do what it takes to get better. Unfortunately, "what it takes" apparently included taking an illegal steroid to help heal an elbow injury before the scouting combine. Luckily for Castillo, this is a weak class, and his athletic upside and willingness to own up to the steroid use in a letter sent to all 32 teams last week will only help him. If GMs are down enough on Johnson because of the attitude problems at his pro day, Castillo could still be the first tackle picked. Projected: 1st or 2nd round.

3. Mike Patterson, Southern California. Explosive one-gap tackle who can get up the field and disrupt the play in the backfield. He's undersized at just a shade under six feet tall, but his quickness and smarts help make up for it. While his size is a concern, he's a good character guy and team leader. In a class full of character risks at the top, Patterson and teammate Shaun Cody are rare breeds. I think Patterson is a bit more explosive than Cody, and worthy of a second-round pick. Projected: 2nd round.

Ronald Fields, Mississippi State. Fields isn't as explosive as the top players in this class, but he still has the look of a first-day pick who might surprise a few people. Fields is a pure nose tackle who might get up the field a few times, but is mainly a force at the point of attack. He holds up well in the trenches, and can move blockers around. Fields is limited as an athlete, but has a chance to be a force in the NFL against the run, especially if he can add a few pounds. Projected: 3rd or 4th round.

Anttaj Hawthorne, Wisconsin. Solid athlete who is strong at the point of attack and shows good pass-rush moves from the interior. Locates the ball well and is capable of making big plays. Hawthorne had an uneven senior season, however, with questionable effort at times, and it seemed he regressed a bit as the season wore on. He didn't help his own cause with a positive marijuana test at the combine, but his stock was already dropping before word of that test came out because of bad workouts. Projected: 4th round.

Other notables
Shaun Cody, Southern California - 2nd round
Atiyyah Ellison, Missouri - 2nd or 3rd round
Jonathan Babineaux, Iowa - 2nd or 3rd round
Darrell Shropshire, South Carolina - 4th round
C.J. Mosley, Missouri - 4th round
Jason Jefferson, Wisconsin - 4th or 5th round
Albert Means, Memphis - 6th round

Defensive ends
Top dogs
1. David Pollack, Georgia. Pollack does everything right. He plays hard every snap, has great technique, is active with his hands and does a good job of slapping away blocks, and he has great football instincts. He's stronger than he might look and won't get pushed around by anyone. The knocks on him are his size, his measured quickness (he plays quicker on the field than he runs on a track), and a perceived lack of a position. Pollack can play defensive end in the NFL, and he's the best football player at that position available in this draft. Projected: 1st round.

2. Erasmus James, Wisconsin. After a very good senior season where he bounced back from a hip injury that ruined 2003, James is one of the top defensive ends available in this draft. He answered questions about his durability by quickly rebounding from a leg injury suffered on a controversial block against Purdue. James plays both the run and pass well, working hard to hold his ground at the point of attack while showing an impressive array of pass-rush moves. James still has room to grow, but is good enough to be the second end selected. Projected: 1st round.

3. Marcus Spears, Louisiana State. The biggest of the defensive end prospects, Spears flashes good athleticism and excellent power. He can play both tackle and end, but he appears to be a better fit at defensive end. He's not quick, but he plays a fundamentally strong game, and he will use his long arms to bat down passes when he can't get to the quarterback. Spears had knee surgery that caused him to miss the combine, but he should be fine, and he grades out as one of the best all-around defensive line prospects. Projected: 1st round.

Jonathan Welsh, Wisconsin. Not a typical defensive end, the undersized Welsh has displayed enough speed and playmaking ability to be drafted by a team looking for a situational pass-rusher. His acceleration and explosiveness are impressive, and he shows a good array of pass-rush moves. He has a good work ethic and was durable in college. Scouts knock Welsh because of his small frame, but someone will be able to find playing time for him, as he is capable of being a playmaker in the pass rush. Projected: 4th or 5th round.

Jovan Haye, Vanderbilt. Haye is okay, and is one of few big defensive ends on the board, but his lack of athletic ability will knock him down a bit. Haye is stout against the run and shows some good pass-rush moves. But he's not overly athletic, and he has trouble disengaging from blockers. He has some quickness, but he is too hesitant at times. Haye will continue to improve as he gains experience (he didn't play on the defensive line until college), and he has teased enough ability to get himself drafted on the first day.Projected: 3rd round.

Other notables
Dan Cody, Oklahoma - 1st round
Matt Roth, Iowa - 1st or 2nd round
Justin Tuck, Notre Dame - 2nd round
Chris Canty, Virginia - 2nd or 3rd round
George Gause, South Carolina - 3rd or 4th round
Jonathan Goddard, Marshall - 4th or 5th round
Vincent Burns, Kentucky - 5th or 6th round
Bill Swancutt, Oregon State - 5th or 6th round

No comments: