Columnist and 95.7 The Game personality John Lund continues a position-by-position look at the top players available in the 2014 NFL Draft with the defensive ends.
The defensive end position in the 2014 NFL draft features the highest rated player overall on most boards in South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. From there it is seen as a below average group with players who may take some time to develop. Given how important it is to get to the quarterback in today’s pass crazy NFL, teams will reach to find players who can put pressure on the trigger man. The Raiders finished tied for 18th in sacks with 38 in 2013, with most of that pressure coming from elaborate blitz schemes thought up by mastermind Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver. Oakland needs to generate pressure with the front four in 2014 so they don’t have to take as many defensive chances.
My defensive end rankings:
Jadeveon Clowney - South Carolina - 6’5” – 266 pounds: Based on talent and upside, Clowney should be the number one pick in the entire draft. Not refined and doesn’t have pass rushing techniques down, but has raw ability and athleticism that rivals just about any player to ever come out of college at the defensive end position. 4.53 40-yard dash, 37.5-inch vertical leap at Combine with long 34 ½-inch arms. Can run hot and cold, some scouts thought he was bored in college and will turn it on in the NFL.
Where he’ll go: He should go number one. If he somehow slips to the Raiders at pick number five overall, Oakland would have a true star building block for the defense and someone who can demand double-teams from opposing offenses.
Kony Ealy - Missouri - 6’4” - 273-pounds: Solid athlete who ran a 4.92 40-yard dash at the Combine with 22 reps on the bench press. Long 34 ¼” arms keep blockers away from his body. Nine sacks in 2013, but like Clowney, his pass rush moves are unrefined. Scouts say he has good upside and will get better with solid NFL coaching. Needs to get stronger.
Where he’ll go: Pass rushers are always at a premium in today’s pass happy NFL so he’ll go in the first round but right now his body is better than his body of work.
Dee Ford - Auburn - 6’2” – 252 pounds: Undersized but productive pass rusher had 10.5 sacks his senior season despite missing two games, including two takedowns vs. Johnny Manziel and two in the national championship game against Florida State. Makes up for his lack of size with maximum effort, and known as a good leader. May start as a situational rusher and I’m told he could play rush outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense as well as end.
Where he’ll go: Could sneak into the end of round one or slip into second round.
Scott Crichton - Oregon State - 6’3” - 273 pounds: Redshirt junior had 16.5 sacks the last two seasons and forced 10 fumbles in his college career. Ran a 4.84 40-yard dash and pumped out 24 reps on the bench press at the Combine. Doesn’t have speed rusher burst, but is strong and versatile. Oregon State moved him all along the defensive line. High-effort and energy player.
Where he’ll go: Likely a second to third round prospect with upside. A scout told me it would have helped him to stay for his senior season.Trent Murphy - Stanford - 6’5” – 252 pounds:Though a linebacker in college, Murphy is likely a defensive end in the NFL. A scout told me he is a classic “tweener.” They are not sure if he’s athletic enough to play outside linebacker. Ran a 4.86 40-yard dash and hit 19 reps on the bench. Typifies Stanford’s rise in college football with his toughness and plays with a mean streak. He had 15 sacks in 2013.
Where he’ll go: Third to fourth round. Could go higher if a team is convinced he could fit in their scheme, but has to find the right fit for his skills.SLEEPERS:
Jackson Jeffcoat - Texas - 6’3” - 247 pounds: Hard to call one of the top high school recruits in the country a sleeper, but he battled injuries much of his college career. In 2013 he put it all together and was named Big 12 defensive player of the year with 13 sacks and won the Ted Hendricks award (named after the former Hall of Fame Raider), as the nation’s best college defensive end. High effort and energy and a solid player with some burst, but not very big or strong. Could be a good situational pass rusher early while getting stronger. Ran a solid 4.63 40-yard dash at the Combine. Son of former Cowboys defensive end Jim Jeffcoat.
Where he’ll go: Third to fourth round. Could go higher based on needs at the position.
Larry Webster - Bloomsberg - 6’6” – 252 pounds: Now this is a sleeper. Played basketball four years in college and football only the last two seasons. Great athlete, ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at the Combine. 26 sacks and 31 tackles for loss in two seasons. Quick, long and fast athlete who is very raw. Played at a small school and has limited experience but has tools and father Larry Sr. played 11 seasons in the NFL.
Where he’ll go: Late rounds to free agent, but could develop as other former basketball players have. Some have suggested a move to tight end similar to Antonio Gates or Julius Thomas.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed in John Lund's Wheel Route column represent those of John Lund, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Oakland Raiders organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. The author's views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Raiders officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.