NFL.com

Best Defensive Linemen 



 

Special to NFL.com

At the head of this year's draft class are the men on the front line of the defense. This year's class is paced by a two pairs of teammates -- North Carolina's duo of Julius Peppers and Ryan Sims, and Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth and John Henderson.
 

ALEX BROWN, FLORIDA

Height: 6-3
Weight: 265
Birthdate: June 4, 1979
ANALYSIS
Converted from outside linebacker during his college career. Notched 33 sacks in four seasons at UF, including 31 in the three seasons he played at defensive end and 10½ in his senior season. Swift for a player at his position, as he has been timed at 4.7 seconds for the 40-yard-dash.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
 "Brown has exceptional initial quickness and a real burst up the field. He is very athletic and can counter inside very well."
Joel Buschbaum, Pro Football Weekly
"A good pass rusher and an adequate run defender. Has a quick first step and can blast past blockers. Picks his spots."
Dan Pompei, The Sporting News
MOMENTUM
He is established as perhaps the best pure speed pass rusher in this year's draft class, which might allow him to contribute immediately in the NFL.

WENDELL BRYANT, WISCONSIN

Height: 6-4
Weight: 293
Birthdate: Sept. 12, 1980
ANALYSIS
Lined up at both tackle and end during his years at Wisconsin. Led the team in sacks in three seasons. Selected as a first-team All-American by Football News and the American Football Coaches Association. Led Badgers with eight sacks and 17 tackles for losses during his senior season. 
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
 "Bryant is a good athlete who can be quick and almost sudden at times. He has an upfield burst and runs well, but not super."
Joel Buschbaum, Pro Football Weekly
"A dedicated and tireless worker, Bryant has all the intangibles to go along with his top-flight skills."
Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN
"An explosive inside player who is quick off the snap. Has all the skills. Can play the run and the pass. Gets worn down some by double teams, but wins the one-on-one battles."
Dan Pompei, The Sporting News
MOMENTUM
Is not only a skillful player, but a consistent one who has done nothing to lessen that reputation since the end of the season.

KALIMBA EDWARDS, SOUTH CAROLINA

Height: 6-6
Weight: 260
Birthdate: Dec. 26, 1979
ANALYSIS
Moved from defensive end to outside linebacker during the 2000 season, but likely projects as a defensive end in the 4-3, but an outside linebacker in the 3-4. Posted 19½ sacks in his college career, including 11 in 2000. Increased his tackle total during each of his four seasons at South Carolina. 
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
 "Edwards flies out of the blocks, has improved his pass-rush technique over the years and always hustles on plays directed to the opposite side of the field."
Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN
"Edwards has the ease of motion and ability to bend his knees and turn his hips to play linebacker, but he does not always look like a natural there. As an end, he has the wingspan, quickness and speed to be a big-time rusher but is not very strong or stout and has a hard time getting free if he does not beat the blocker cleanly."
Joel Buschbaum, Pro Football Weekly
MOMENTUM
Whether he's an outside linebacker or defensive end, he should provide pass-rushing help to whichever team decides to select him.

DWIGHT FREENEY, SYRACUSE

 
Height: 6-2
Weight: 250
Birthdate: Feb. 19, 1980
ANALYSIS
During his last two seasons on the college level, few matched Freeney in terms of pure pass-rushing skills. He set Big East single-season records in 2001 by forcing eight fumbles and notching 17½ sacks. He racked up 30½ sacks during the last two seasons of his college career. However, in Freeney's sternest college test, a November 2001 game at Miami in which he faced off against Bryant McKinnie, he was held without a sack as Syracuse fell 59-0.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
 "If used right, he may be a Fred Dean-type of player. He is superquick and sudden and has an explosive, upfield burst. He has a great first step and can counter in a flash, but his size is still a major concern."
Joel Buschbaum, Pro Football Weekly
"There is no question Freeney is one of the 32 most talented prospects available this year. But there is enough uncertainty about how he would fit in to make him a considerable gamble in the first round."
Dan Pompei, The Sporting News
MOMENTUM
Some small-but-spectacular college defensive ends have struggled in their transitions to the NFL, most recently fellow Big Easter Corey Moore, who hasn't found a defined NFL niche since joining the league in 2000. But as he enters the NFL, Freeney has over 25 pounds and two inches on Moore.

ALBERT HAYNESWORTH, TENNESSEE

Height: 6-6
Weight: 310
Birthdate: June 17, 1981
ANALYSIS
Active interior lineman who posted 11.5 tackles for losses and broke up seven passes during the 2001 season. He emerged quickly after breaking into the starting lineup last year, leading the Volunteers in "big plays," which included a team-best 20 quarterback pressures. 
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
 "He's got to dedicate himself to the weight room, which he (did) great at this year. He's got to be more consistent with his practice habits. But he can be special."
Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer
"Clearly outplayed (teammate John) Henderson last season. This kid will be special."
Pete Prisco, CBS SportsLine.com
"Enormous physical ability, and he's still developing."
Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN
MOMENTUM
A tremendous physical talent who delivered when finally given the opportunity to start in college. Is such a talent that his lack of experience -- with just 10 college starts -- isn't working against him.

JOHN HENDERSON, TENNESSEE

Height: 6-7
Weight: 290
Birthdate: Jan. 9, 1979
ANALYSIS
Statisically, his 2001 season didn't match up to his spectacular campaign of the year before, when he piled up 71 tackles and 12 sacks, both incredible numbers for an interior defensive lineman. Played hurt throughout his final season at UT, battling an ankle injury incurred in the season opener against Syracuse. Became a starter in the fifth game of his college career. 
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
 "A huge and very powerful man inside who can be explosive. While he lacks great initial quickness, he runs very well for a big man and plays hard most of the time."
Joel Buschbaum, Pro Football Weekly
"Brings hulking size and quite a physical presence to the DT spot. Commands double-teaming while doing a great job of clogging the middle and freeing up teammates to flow to the football."
Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN
MOMENTUM
Largely overshadowed by teammate Haynesworth during his final season at UT. But while his 2001 season didn't match up to his redshirt sophomore campaign, his career as a whole should still ensure a lofty draft status.

JULIUS PEPPERS, NORTH CAROLINA

Height: 6-6
Weight: 285
Birthdate: Jan. 18, 1980
ANALYSIS
In spite of playing just three seasons at North Carolina, he closed his tenure with 30½ sacks and 53 tackles for loss, finishing second in school history in both categories. He led the nation during his sophomore campaign of 2000 with 15 sacks -- just one off the school's season record, established by a man who became a pretty fair NFL pass rusher -- Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor. But it's athleticism that has garnered the most attention, as he didn't merely succeed on the football field, but on the basketball court, playing a significant role as the Tar Heels' basketball team went to the Final Four in 2000 and earned a No. 1 ranking during the 2000-01 season. The last NFL prospect to succeed like that on the basketball court was the Chiefs' Tony Gonzalez at California.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
 "If you wanted the physical prototype of an NFL defensive end, you would probably end up very close to what Peppers is."
Joel Buschbaum, Pro Football Weekly
"His final rating could be significantly higher than any other player, regardless of position on the draft board."
Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN
"Might be the best edge rusher to enter the league since Lawrence Taylor."
Pete Prisco, CBS SportsLine.com
MOMENTUM
As a pure athlete, could be second to none in this year's draft class, as he's as missed as much by Carolina's basketball team as he will be by the football team. Shouldn't be hurt by the fact that his sack total dropped from 15 in 2000 to 9½ in 2001.

RYAN SIMS, NORTH CAROLINA

Height: 6-4
Weight: 291
Birthdate: May 4, 1980
ANALYSIS
Notched five sacks, eight tackles for loss and 51 tackles overall during his senior season. One of the nation's finest run-stoppers; he earned All-America honors during his senior season. Contributed at UNC from his first day on campus, playing in an average of 34 plays per game even as a true freshman in 1998.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
 "While Peppers is an eye-catcher who makes the highlight-film plays, Sims is more of a grunt who does the dirty work and keeps blockers off his linebackers. He is a very powerful inside player who has good initial quickness and reactions."
Joel Buschbaum, Pro Football Weekly
"Head and shoulders above other defensive linemen at the Senior Bowl. Combines quickness and explosion with a non-stop motor."
Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN
MOMENTUM
Sims' impressive performance during Senior Bowl week silenced skeptics who felt that his college prowess was a result of playing on the same line as Julius Peppers. The fact that he comes from UNC, which has cranked out a cadre of solid D-linemen in recent years, doesn't hurt, either.
 
OTHER DEFENSIVE ENDS
NAME COLLEGE HEIGHT WEIGHT
Kenyon Coleman UCLA 6-6 278
Ryan Denney BYU 6-7 275
Joey Evans North Carolina 6-4 256
Charles Grant Georgia 6-3 265
Jarvis Green LSU 6-3 255
Carlos Hall Arkansas 6-4 265
Grant Irons Notre Dame 6-5 275
Brian Johnson New Mexico 6-3 280
Dennis Johnson Kentucky 6-6 265
Michael Josiah Louisville 6-3 260
Aaron Kampmann Iowa 6-4 285
Will Overstreet Tennessee 6-4 255
Anton Palepoi UNLV 6-4 275
Nick Rogers Georgia Tech 6-2 250
Connor Stephens Mississippi State 6-4 250
Bryan Thomas UAB 6-4 255
Anthony Weaver Notre Dame 6-3 285

 
OTHER DEFENSIVE TACKLES
NAME COLLEGE HEIGHT WEIGHT
Chad Beasley Virginia Tech 6-5 285
Will Beck Idaho 6-2 305
Rocky Bernard Texas A & M 6-3 290
Mike Collins Ohio State 6-3 290
Dorsett Davis Mississippi State 6-6 315
Nate Dwyer Kansas 6-3 305
Eddie Freeman UAB 6-5 300
Alan Harper Fresno State 6-2 285
Brandon Hicks Bowling Green 6-2 270
Rod Jones UAB 6-2 295
Matt Mitrione Purdue 6-3 290
Monsanto Pope Virginia 6-4 285
David Pugh Virginia Tech 6-3 270
Josh Shaw Michigan State 6-3 283
Jeremy Slechta Nebraska 6-6 285
Larry Tripplett Washington 6-2 295
....