Leading up to April's NFL Draft, Andrew O'Brien will be bringing you positional breakdowns, mock drafts, and more. Here's a look at some of the top defensive lineman who could be available for the Eagles:
The defensive line is incredibly stacked with prospects in the 2013 NFL draft. The first round could easily see one-third of the picks be on the line, with teams able to address their needs of a pass-rushing defensive end or run-stopping nose tackle. It’s going to be a question of preference for a lot of line-needy teams: Would they rather have a huge tackle to plug the 3-4, an agile, versatile tackle or end for the 4-3 or a hybrid defensive end/rush linebacker who can terrorize quarterbacks? Luckily, they’ll have their pick from several players in each category. Some quarterback-needy teams may even try to see how well these guys can throw.
Here’s a look at the top prospects along the defensive line:
THE TOP PROSPECTS
Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah (6-4, 320 lbs.)
Lotulelei is big enough to anchor a 3-4 defense as the nose guard and agile enough to play defensive tackle, and perhaps even defensive end, in the 4-3. After a senior season in which he registered 11 tackles for loss and five sacks, the former Ute should be able to step in right away and play in the NFL.
Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M (6-4, 248 lbs.)
Moore replaced some guy named Von Miller at Texas A&M and picked up where the now-Denver Broncos Pro Bowler left off. He played as both a 3-4 rush linebacker and a 4-3 defensive end and is similar to San Francisco’s Aldon Smith. With 80 tackles, 12.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss, Moore could be the first defensive lineman off the board.
Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State (6-4, 255 lbs.)
The German-born Werner could be the first defensive lineman of the board on April 25. The junior will forego his senior season at Florida State to enter the draft. With 13 sacks in 2012, Werner is comparable to St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long, the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft. Werner may not go that high, but he’ll likely be in the top five.
Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End, LSU (6-5, 242 lbs.)
Relatively new to football, Mingo, having started playing in his junior year of high school, is hard to peg. He has the talent to be an easy top-five pick, but in a deep draft for defensive linemen, his unpolished technique could see him bypassed for more finished products. Still, Mingo’s upside will land him somewhere in the first round, probably in the top 10.
What the mock drafts say: New York Jets (9), Detroit (5), New York Jets (9), New York Jets (9), Cleveland (6), Miami (12), Cincinnati (21), Cleveland (6)
Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri (6-4, 295 lbs.)
Richardson only started one season at Missouri but made it count, racking up 75 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, three forced fumbles, a blocked kick and a 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown. His athleticism is his key trait, so much so that Missouri used him as a stand-up rusher at times and even put him in zone coverage. Similar in build to the Eagles’ Cullen Jenkins.
Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida (6-3, 303 lbs.)
The Philadelphia native was the top defensive tackle recruit coming out of George Washington High School. After three seasons at Florida, Floyd didn’t post huge numbers but proved to be a hard-working and disruptive force on the Gators’ line. He was versatile enough to play both defensive tackle and end, which should help his draft stock. Teams picking in the second half of the first round could find a sleeper in Floyd.
Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State (6-3, 335 lbs.)
Hankins is a big, big dude, but agile enough to play all over the defensive line for the Buckeyes. He has the size to serve as a nose tackle in the 3-4 or a traditional tackle in the 4-3 and, perhaps most impressively for someone his size, is usually a three-down player.
Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU
Ansah is a wild card among the line prospects. While he may be the most talented of any in the draft, he hasn’t played football for very long. Ansah has drawn many, many comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul, so there’s obviously a lot of upside there.
Corey Lemonier, Defensive End, Auburn (6-4, 246 lbs.)
Sam Montgomery, Defensive End, LSU (6-4, 260 lbs.)
Jesse Williams, Defensive Tackle, Alabama (6-4, 320 lbs.)
Alex Okafor, Defensive End, Texas (6-4, 260 lbs.)
Datone Jones, Defensive End, UCLA (6-5, 280 lbs.)
John Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Georgia (6-3, 351 lbs.)
Cornellius Carradine, Defensive End, Florida State (6-5, 264 lbs.)
Margus Hunt, Defensive End, SMU (6-8, 275 lbs.)
Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle, Purdue (6-3, 310 lbs.)
Jacksonville Jaguars: Where don’t the Jaguars need help? Might as well pick the best player available, which will more likely than not be a defensive lineman. Jacksonville had the fewest sacks in the NFL in 2012, so there’s certainly a fit.
Oakland Raiders: Richard Seymour won’t be back and Tommy Kelly is not a player the Raiders can depend on. A stud defensive tackle is needed, but an end would do just fine as well.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: The Eagles’ needs on the defensive line depend on if they intent to switch to a 3-4. If so, they will need a nose tackle. Could Star Lotulelei drop to them at four?
Cleveland Browns: The Browns’ pass rush practically didn’t exist this season. They could look to draft a rush linebacker or defensive end - or someone who can play either, like Moore.
New York Jets: What was a dominant defense just a couple seasons ago has fallen apart. The Jets need a pass rusher and could opt for a defensive end/linebacker hybrid like Barkevious Mingo.
Carolina Panthers: Defensive tackle is what the Panthers need, and at least one of the top players at the position will be there for them at 14.
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts definitely need to improve their defense, and should start with a nose tackle, since there will be quality players left at 24.
Denver Broncos: One might say the Broncos need secondary help, as evidenced by their late collapse against the Ravens in the playoffs, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, defensive tackle is definitely a need as well. Someone like Floyd could be their pick here.
Atlanta Falcons: John Abraham is 35 and frequently injured, while Ray Edwards is frequently nonexistent. The Falcons need a pass rush, so they’ll look for a defensive end.