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Shaq Lawson, Clemson Tigers (December 31, 2015)

Shaq Lawson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2016 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Ends

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*These rankings and grades are based somewhat on NYG schemes and perspective.

WHERE THEY STAND

NYG is playing a risky game at the DE position but it’s a group that could be much worse off. Jason Pierre-Paul almost lost his career last offseason but he showed enough to warrant another full year opportunity. He still has the explosive, bendy legs and I think we could be in for a big year for him. Olivier Vernon was signed to a monster contract but really hasn’t been a force in the league just yet. There is potential there though. It was a rough rookie season for Owamagbe Odighizuwa injury-wise and that was perhaps his biggest red flag coming out of UCLA. This will be a big year for him. Kerry Wynn gives them an above average #4 DE if you want to compare depth charts around the league, but his upside is limited. This is far from the dominant group they used to have and there is tremendous risk all around. You can rightfully say that not one of these guys is an established edge rusher that will scare teams. That isn’t a position you want to be in at DE.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – JOEY BOSA – 6’5/269 – OHIO STATE: 87

Junior entry. All American in 2014. Took a step back production wise in 2015 but that had a lot to do with the extra attention he was receiving from opposing offenses. Bosa is an elite prospect. He is not a super, top level athlete but his power presence, intelligence, and versatility levels are. Bosa can be moved all over the line to exploit matchups. He plays too low and quick for the power blockers and too powerful for the finesse blockers. His hustle is off and on, and there have been issues off the field, albeit somewhat minor. Bosa can start right away in any scheme and immediately upgrade a defense. He will be a good starter for a long time.

*The top 10 of this draft is so back and forth and I still believe there is a chance he drops. Bosa isn’t a special athlete and teams have a tendency to go after athletic upside at the top of the draft and I think some people will talk themselves in to saying you can get a Bosa-type player in the middle rounds. Not me. I think Bosa is a legit day one starter that will be an elite run defender and above average pass rusher. He is as savvy as it gets and he shows tremendous short area power and hand-work. Bosa was a pro two years ago. He’s a safe pick and will be a long time starter.

Upside Pro Comparison: Justin Smith/RET

2 – SHAQ LAWSON – 6’3/270 – CLEMSON: 81

Junior entry. Played a rotational role over his first two years, playing second fiddle to Vic Beasley, the 8th overall selection of the 2014 Draft. Lawson was given his full time starting role opportunity in 2015 and shined. The All American led the nation with 25.5 tackles for loss, including an ACC leading 12.5 sacks. Lawson doesn’t jump off the screen with explosion and speed, but more so his relentless effort and power presence. His motor and passion are always on. He is a tough, blue collar type player that came back from an MCL sprain in just one week to start and perform well in the National Championship. Lawson is a starter in the NFL right away that will shine against the run and pass. His intangibles will help any physical shortcomings that he may have.

*Lawson is not an elite defender and I won’t consider him at #10 overall. But that doesn’t mean I dislike him, as he will likely finish in my top 20 overall. Lawson is very disciplined and smart. His on-field IQ rivals Bosa. While he lacks the important burst out of his stance, he can consistently get off blocks. He can change direction with a low pad level and heavy hands. Lawson is a tough hustler that plays with a fire you wish you stars played with. The injuries he suffered scare me a little, and I took a couple points off because of it. There is some bust potential with him but I think he can thrive in the right role.

Upside Pro Comparison: Terrell Suggs/BAL

3 – EMMANUEL OGBAH – 6’4/273 – OKLAHOMA STATE: 79

Fourth year junior entry. Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Award winner in 2014. Saw a lot of attention from opposing offenses in 2015 but still showed the ability to produce. Ogbah is a first class kid off the field and has a very disciplined approach between the lines as well. His strength and quick power are NFL ready. He can be a dominant run defending end in the 4-3 scheme early in his career with the upside of molding in to a upper tier pass rusher as well. His pad level and rush moves need work but knowing how hard he works off and on the field, Ogbah is a safe bet to eventually become an every down threat in the league.

*I still think NYG is going to like Ogbah enough to potentially take him at #10 overall. The combine only confirmed that thought. Personally I see too many movement limitations on the field for me to consider him in round 1. He has good straight line movement and is fully capable of man-handling blockers. He had plays where he looked like he was playing against high schoolers with how easily he tossed guys to the side. My concerns are a lack of quick twitch and change of direction. He plays too high and NFL tackles love to play against that. If Ogbah develops more NFL-caliber technique he can be the best DE in this class, no doubt. But he has a ways to go.

Upside Pro Comparison: Ziggy Ansah/DET

4 – KEVIN DODD – 6’5/277 – CLEMSON: 77

Fourth year junior entry. Missed 2013 with a knee injury. There may not have been a player in the country that helped his own draft stock via performance in 2015 as much as Dodd. The tool set was always there but he started to really put things together and showed the potential to be an every down threat in the NFL. Dodd finished behind only teammate Shaq Lawson nationally with 23.5 tackles for loss. His best games were when the lights shined the brightest in the National Semifinal and Championship games where he totaled 8.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. Dodd has the tools and style of play to be a star. His skill set is still developing but when at his best, he has as much upside as any pass rusher in this class. He didn’t show a top level of play for very long and there is more risk with him than others, but knowing his top tier work ethic and intangibles leads me to believe there is a long time productive starter here.

*I know people that have Dodd ahead of Lawson by a pretty decent margin. He has more of the traditional NFL body and skill set that coaches may want to work with. Dodd only really has a year of tape to look at but man, his week 1 tape vs the National Championship tape make him look like two different guys. He just got better and better as the year went on and you have to like that. Dodd has more upside than Lawson but I don’t think he is as ready to contribute right away. He needs technique work and doesn’t have enough power presence yet. But that could be simply one year away. Some teams are a little scared by the knee, by the way.

Upside Pro Comaprison: Jared Allen/RET

5 – STEPHEN WEATHERLY – 6’4/267 – VANDERBILT: 77

Fourth year junior entry. Started off at defensive end and made the transition to pass rushing OLB in 2014. Lacked the stats that jump off the screen but was a high impact player that showed more and more promise as his career went on. Tremendous power presence that made some of the best blockers in this draft look silly at times. Delivers a violent punch with long arms and easy knee bend. Won’t be pushed back. Can adjust well after contact and slither his way through traffic very well for such a big man. Loses track of body control and balance too often. Needs to grow in to his body more and understand proper footwork and its advantages. Was a bit of a freelancer. Will likely have to move to DE in the NFL but his experience at 3-4 OLB will only open up doors.

*Weatherly is the guy on this list that I like more than anyone I know, which is fine. He is an example of why I do stuff like this. I would gamble on a kid like this in round 3 or 4, knowing he needs to transition back to playing with his hand in the dirt instead of standing up. Weatherly was a man among boys in a few games I watched. He stifles blockers and swallows ball carriers. Weatherly has some craftiness to him as well, something most of the best pass rushers possess. He could be a little ways away technique wise but I see something in him that I think went.

Upside Pro Comparison: Carlos Dunlap/CIN

6 – CARL NASSIB – 6’6/273 – PENN STATE: 76

Fifth year senior that started his career off as a preferred walk on. Brother of Giants backup quarterback Ryan Nassib. Worked his way in to a scholarship in 2013 and then waited his turn to start in 2015. Nassib made the most out of that one season, leading the nation in sacks and forced fumbles. Despite not having the ideal movement traits, Nassib showed the consistent ability to defeat blockers and reach his target. His all out hustle and efficient use of height, length, and bendability make him a multi-down threat. Nassib plays the run and pass equally well and could be the ideal fit for the left defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.

*Nassib is a guy you can depend on right away but need to know will never be a star, which is more than fine. You can definitely win with a bunch of Nassib’s on your team. He is disciplined and smart. Plays well to his assignments and abilities and will make the occasional play that makes you raise your eyebrows. Nassib is dependable and could either start or give you the ever-important third DE that every good DL has. You are safe with this kid in your rotation.

Upside Pro Comparison: Chandler Jones/ARI

7 – NOAH SPENCE – 6’1/251 – EASTERN KENTUCKY: 76

Fourth year senior. His struggles off the field have been well-documented. Was heading towards being the next big thing in 2013 where he finished as a 1st Team All Big 10 defender for Ohio State. Severe drug issues pushed him out and he opted to spend a year at Div I AA Eastern Kentucky instead of bolting for the NFL to prove he matured. An All-American season and zero failed drug tests have led many to believe he is past the drug issue. On the field he has the explosive first step you want, easy bendability, and fast, powerful hands. Spence has a lot of tools and skills that teams are looking for. His lack of size and strength are apparent but it didn’t stop him from dominating all week at the Senior Bowl. Without the drug issues from a couple years back, some say Spence would be top 10 overall in this draft.

*Everyone has to downgrade Spence a little bit at least because of the off field problems. But even without them, I don’t see the special in Spence, especially for a 4-3 scheme. He doesn’t show a ton of moves and there isn’t much he can do If he doesn’t get the initial advantage. Can he add some bulk and lower body strength? Will he pay enough attention to the little details to improve the subtle but important parts of rushing the passer? Without those he won’t be a factor, again especially in the 4-3. Teams in a 3-4 scheme may have a slightly higher grade I’m sure, but man I don’t see 1st round talent here. Teams gamble on edge rushers though. For what its worth some people were very turned off by his combine interviews.

Upside Pro Comparison: Cameron Wake/MIA

8 – CHARLES TAPPER – 6’3/271 – OKLAHOMA: 76

Run defending specialist that spends a lot of time in the opposing backfield. Very stout at the point of attack. Has pro-caliber strength right now and should have no issues adjusting to the size and power of the NFL blockers. Tapper may be a but too slow for strict 4-3 DE duty, but too small to be a 3-4 defensive end. He can be a very solid role player with scheme versatility, as he played inside and outside roles for the Sooners already. Limited upside but a high floor. He will contribute somewhere.

*Tapper was one of my biggest surprises at the combine. He looked a lot more explosive there than he did on tape. I had to go back and take a look and you have to admit he really wasn’t used that well in their scheme, He didn’t really get that many opportunities to display his pop off the edge. Is there some hidden ability here? Possibly. But I’m not catapulting him in to the 1st round because he did well in tights. Tapper is versatile and smart, yes. He can play the strength game well and he often ends up near the ball, I like that. There is a good amount of upside here.

Upside Pro Comparison: Cameron Jordan/NO

9 – DEAN LOWRY – 6’5/296 – NORTHWESTERN: 75

Fourth year senior that saw steady improvement year after year. Started for three seasons. Showed flashes of being a down after down dominant presence in 2015. Stout at the point of attack that can be a plus run defender. Lowry has very good quickness in short areas. He can play low and strong and he gets off blocks very well. He is very short-armed though and needs to show more rush moves if he is going to stick in a 4-3 scheme at DE. He won’t scare anyone off the edge but the gritty, smart style of play he shows can lead him to out-produce more talented and gifted athletes.

*Lowry wasn’t really on my radar until late in the season. But when I saw the size of him and how easy he could bend, I knew how rare it was and put more attention on him. If you like Nassib, you have to at least somewhat appreciate what Lowry brings to the table. He was dominant against the run and showed ability to beat pass blockers one on one. You can feel secure with a guy like this on the bench. Some people think he can bulk and play inside too.

Upside Pro Comparison: Tyson Jackson/ATL

10 – SHILIQUE CALHOUN – 6’4/251 – MICHIGAN STATE: 73

Fifth year senior. Three time All Big 10 performer and has had several All American mentions over the past two seasons. Calhoun has been a very productive edge player over his career. He has the body that coaches will want to work with and his explosion off the edge alone is enough to warrant extra attention. Calhoun shows glimpses of being a big time edge prospect. He lacks consistency however. There is a lack of lower body strength and power presence that can be exploited at the next level. In addition, Calhoun has too many plays where he doesn’t factor. He is a one dimensional player that lacks the special ability to be considered a top guy.

*I’ve been pretty open about my dislike of Calhoun compared to what is out there. I am fully aware he is a guy that could come in to the league and be a 10-sack guy. But too many times he left me disappointed when it came to details and hustle. I’ve seen him take too many plays off. He isn’t stout enough and if he doesn’t win off the snap, he turns it off. There are some things to like here though and because of the position he plays, someone is going to take him much earlier than where I have him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jason Babin/ARI

11 – JIHARD WARD – 6’5/297 – ILLINOIS: 73

Spent two years in junior college prior to transferring to Illinois in 2014. Ward is an evolving athlete with some rare traits that will be sure to catch the eyes of coaches. The former high school wide receiver carries his weight with ease and shows relentless effort from sideline to sideline. It is rare to see a player that splits time between end and tackle making plays all over the field that way Ward does. He is a versatile talent with upside. Ideally his best fit is left defensive end in a 4-3.

*Another guy here I can see NYG being high enough on to spend a mid round pick on. Ward can be moved around more than most of the guys on this list, seamlessly. Very active guy that probably has the best football ahead of him. NYG could use a guy like this that needs a year of development behind what appears to be a trial year for 2 or 3 of their current DEs.

Upside Pro Comparison: Mario Williams/MIA

12 – MATT JUDON – 6’3/275 – GRAND VALLEY STATE: 72

Sixth year senior that missed a season because of a knee injury. Won the award given to Division II’s top defensive lineman in 2015. He finished the season with 20 sacks. He has the NFL ready frame and was one of the top combine performers. Judon has the tools and we aren’t talking about a guy that lacks the skill set. He does a lot of things right when it comes to hand placement and rush moves. He tracks the ball well and will make tackles all over the field, he is much more than a pass rusher. There is some stiffness to him, however and it is possible he is playing at a weight that is too heavy for his frame. Playing at a low level of college football will make the adjustment harder as well. He’ll need time in all likelihood but 4-3 and 3-4 teams alike will be interested in his upside.

*Judon could have finished higher on this list. The jump from Division II is a huge one though and it can’t just be overlooked. He is a tools-rich kid with talent and football skills though. He may not be as raw as most guys coming from Division II are. Judon can play DE in the 4-3 for sure but his better fit may be the 3-4 OLB role where he could play 10-15 pounds lighter with more ability to change direction and bend.

Upside Pro Comparison: Brian Orakpo/TEN

13 – VICTOR OCHI – 6’1/246 – STONY BROOK: 70

Fifth year senior. Steadily improved as his career went on and ended up leading the FCS in sacks in 2015. Played standing up and with his hand in the dirt. Shows tremendous ability to fire out of his stance with a low pad level, quickness, and strong legs. Ochi has the ability to give blockers headaches because of his low center of gravity and sneaky power. There are plenty of productive edge rushers like him in the NFL. He’ll always have to fight the size limitations and he won’t factor much against the run, but he’s got the danger-potential factor.

*Ochi is graded out as a DE for me. I don’t see him making a move to 4-3 LB, he isn’t built for it and the only reason he is a prospect is the pass rush ability. Ochi wouldn’t be an every down guy but he can be a pass rush weapon that comes off the bench and gives blockers fits. He is low to the ground with long enough arms and strong enough legs to really make a difference on the edge.

Upside Pro Comparison: Robert Mathis/IND

14 – BRONSON KAUFUSI – 6’6/285 – BYU: 70

Former two sport athlete for the Cougars. Played basketball in 2012/2013, getting consistent playing time at forward. Kaufusi is a high ceiling, low floor prospect that has a rare tool set. He has all the size to overwhelm life in the trenches. He can overpower blockers when his pad level is right and there is a quick twitch to his lower half off the snap. He has taken games over at times in 2015 and could be the next versatile inside/outside defensive linemen in the league. He needs more strength and technique work before he can be relied upon, however. Boom or bust type.

*Kaufusi can be a scary player in the league. I’ve seen him take over the trenches too many times to completely discount his potential because of awkward movement patterns. He struggles to change direction and burst, but he can be a stout guy inside with the ability to make things happen as a straight ahead interior rusher on passing downs. I see him as a situational guy more than anything but could be a dominant left DE type. Some guys love him. Some guys hate him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Derek Wolfe/DET

15 – RONALD BLAIR – 6’2/281 – APPALACHIAN STATE: 70

Fifth year senior that missed a season with a thumb injury. Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year in 2015. Lacks the ideal 4-3 DE tools and skills but Blair is an exciting guy to watch. Very powerful at the point of attack with long arms and ability to bend. Will eat up a short space in a blink and force the blocker to adjust to him, not the other way around. He won’t scare anyone off the edge but that’s not his game and that’s not what he did in college. He can stuff the run and exploit matchup problems up and down the line.

*Blair may not have the upside that you want when looking at DEs late in the draft, but I think you can depend on him to at least be a solid backup player. He has presence on the field and if you sleep on him, he will make the play no matter where it ends up. His tape against Clemson is very impressive. Pure gamer but won’t ever be a star.

Upside Pro Comparison: Chris Smith/JAC

THE REST (16-25)

16 – DADI NICOLAS – 6’3/235 – VIRGINIA TECH: 70
17 – ROMEO OKWARA – 6’5/275 – NOTRE DAME: 70
18 – LAWRENCE THOMAS – 6’3/286 – MICHIGAN STATE: 70
19 – JIMMY BEAN – 6’5/264 – OKLAHOMA STATE: 69
20 – SHAWN OAKMAN – 6’8/287 – BAYLOR: 64
21 – JASON FANAIKA – 6’2/271 – UTAH: 64
22 – BRANDON JACKSON – 6’4/273 – TEXAS TECH: 63
23 – RON THOMPSON – 6’3/253 – SYRACUSE: 63
24 – SILVERBERRY MOUHON – 6’3/255 – CINCINNATI: 63
25 – VONTARRIOUS DORA – 6’4/253/LOUISIANA TECH: 63

NYG APPROACH

While there are bigger holes on this roster, NYG needs to take a step back and consider what their current DE group has brought to the table. In 2015, these DEs combined for 43 games played and 8.5 sacks. Those numbers are scary bad. Yes, NYG can likely count on more from Pierre-Paul and Odighizuwa, but should they bank on it? DE in the 4-3 is a position that should never be passed on if the value is screaming at you. While I know NYG could use their early picks elsewhere, DE needs to always be considered. Having more capable pass rushers and a deeper group to call on will make other players better, the opposite is not necessarily true. This DE group is nothing to go crazy about but it can be a weird draft. There could be a top guy that falls further than you think and in my opinion you may have to pounce on the opportunity.

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