This might be the most loaded defensive line draft in years.
Elite talent? Check. Substantial depth? Check.
Yep, teams in need of aid at either defensive end or tackle will have plenty to pick from. It’s possible eight or nine d-linemen will be selected on the first night of the draft.
Looking for a pass-rushing beast? Treat yourself to a few minutes of Ezekiel Ansah’s highlight tape. There you’ll find the BYU product dazzling with his athleticism and strength.
Want a force on the interior? Florida’s Sharrif Floyd brings plenty to the table.
It’s hard to remember a draft this loaded with first-round talent on the D-line. In the past quarter-century, the drafts with the most defensive linemen selected in Round 1 were 2003 and 2011 with 10 players taken. (The ’03 draft included the Vikings’ selection of Kevin Williams at No. 9 and also featured Jimmy Kennedy and Ty Warren. Two years ago, Marcell Dareus and J.J. Watt emerged as the headliners up front.)
However, this year’s class might be the best we’ve seen in a while. Even more significant than the availability of first-round difference makers is the reality that plenty of quality d-linemen will still be available on Friday and into Saturday.
That should be good news for the Vikings, who’d like to add depth at defensive tackle and must start at least thinking about life after Jared Allen, who’s now entering his 10th season at age 31.
Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Floyd may be the most explosive defensive tackle in this draft, able to use his strength and energy to get off the ball quickly. He can be a force as a run stopper and can also clutter the pocket. On top of that, Floyd showed versatility playing nose tackle, three-technique and defensive end in college.
Ezekiel Ansah, Brigham Young
Ansah could go as high as No. 2 to Jacksonville. Admittedly, he’s still very, very raw after picking up football for the first time in 2010. But he has eye-catching size (6-foot-5, 271 pounds) and length and blends that with burst off the line. Originally from Ghana, he was impressive at the Senior Bowl and again at the combine, continuing to shoot up most experts’ rankings.
Star Lotuleilei, Utah
Lotuleilei may wind up being better than Floyd, projected as an immediate starter. After a strange heart issue was detected at the combine, he was unable to participate in drills there. But Lotuleilei has since visited with specialists and gotten full clearance. He may best fit as a defensive end in a 3-4 system. But wherever he lands, his power and agility will be useful.
John Jenkins, Georgia
The strong defensive tackle battled a weight problem down the stretch of his college career, ballooning to 370 pounds. He’s since shed nearly 35 pounds of that and hopes to wow NFL teams with his hard-to-move presence as a nose tackle. He may best fit in a 3-4 scheme and won’t be a major pass rush threat. But at his best, Jenkins’ combination of size and quickness is eye catching.
Lavar Edwards, Louisiana State
Teammate Barkevious Mingo is an elite defensive end, a likely top 20 pick with a sleek frame and great speed. LSU’s Sam Montgomery is also more heralded. But with an underrated combination of speed and energy, Edwards may be a mid-round steal for one lucky team.