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Recent posts by Matt Feminis
A Haloti Ngata or Vince Wilfork can anchor a "30" front for years. Penetrators such as Tommie Harris or Kevin Williams can wreak havoc on an offensive front. And every team is looking for a Jevon Kearse-like or Terrell Suggs-esque instant impact from an outside rusher, not unlike the rookie season put together by the Redskins' Brian Orakpo.
That is why the small percentage of big men with athletic ability available on a yearly basis are snapped up quickly. The bust rate for defensive linemen is significant, however. Desperate teams make desperate decisions, warning signs are ignored, boom-or-bust prospects are pushed up draft boards and mistakes are made. Infamous mistakes that ultimately cost people jobs. Dewayne Robertson, Jonathan Sullivan, Gerard Warren, Wendell Bryant, John McCargo, Travis Johnson were supposed to be interior forces. Courtney Brown, Andre Wadsworth, Derrick Harvey, Jarvis Moss, Michael Haynes and Jamal Reynolds were supposed to give offensive tackles headaches. Not so much. Meanwhile, Jared Allen (Vikings), Trent Cole (Eagles) and Jay Ratliff (Cowboys), who were drafted in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds, respectively, represented the NFC in the Pro Bowl last season.
Considered the deepest position in this year's draft, the defensive line class could feature several players from the middle-to-late rounds who establish themselves as solid pros:
- DE/OLB O'Brien Schofield, Wisconsin: Eerily reminiscent of former Badger CB Jack Ikegwuonu's situation two years ago, Schofield was coming off a strong senior season (24 1/2 tackles for loss) before tearing his ACL in one-on-one drills during Senior Bowl practice. His draft stock will take a hit, but if he's able to regain his speed and movement skills, Schofield is a prime value pick candidate. The success of undersized pass rushers such as Elvis Dumervil and Robert Mathis have opened the door for more such players and, when healthy, Schofield showed intriguing phsyical ability, including a quick get-off, flexibility off the edge and a non-stop motor. An active chase player with burst to close on ballcarriers, Schofield stood out on tape. Though he appears most natural with his hand in the dirt, his size lends itself to a potential transition to 3-4 outside linebacker as well.
- DE Rob Rose, Ohio State: Recruitniks might remember Rose, who was an elite prospect coming out of Cleveland (Rose played for Ted Ginn Sr. at Glenville High). His Buckeyes career did not live up to expectations, however, as injury derailed him before sliding down the depth chart. The NFL could be a shot at redemption for Rose, who possesses a big frame and runs very well for his size (6-4 1/4, 294). Able to stack the point, his strength and movement skills warrant consideration as a developmental five-technique in a 3-4 or a 4-3 base end with versatility to slide inside on nickel rushing situations. He is not exceptionally explosive or flexible, but flashed upside in limited exposure and could be a find if the light comes on.
- DT Earl Mitchell, Arizona: Recruited as an H-back, Mitchell didn't make the conversion to defense until 2008. After posting modest numbers in his first season at tackle, he really helped himself as a senior by tallying 12 1/2 tackles for loss while showing quickness off the ball and an impressive motor for an interior player. With speed in the 4.8 range, Mitchell is the type of penetrator sought at the next level. While he lacks ideal height and anchor strength, his 1.56-second 10-yard time will appeal to teams in need of a three-technique. He's unlikely to make it past the third round.