Here is a list of the top qdefensive line prospects for the 2008 NFL draft. This list was compiled through a series of conversations with scouts and through game tape evaluations.
1. Glenn Dorsey, LSU, DT: A dominating interior force who spent most of his senior year playing through a series of nagging injuries. But scouts feel that, when healthy, Dorsey is the most dominant player at his position. Blessed with outstanding size, strength and athleticism, Dorsey overpowers blockers at the point and completely disrupts the offense. Though he recorded 7 1/2 sacks, Dorsey is most effective as a penetrator against the run. His ability to fight through double teams on the way to the ballcarrier sets him apart from others in the draft; and consistent dominance against SEC foes makes him a prime candidate to be selected No. 1 overall.
2. Chris Long, Virginia, DE: The ACC's Defensive Player of the Year is a high-motor player with outstanding instincts, awareness and toughness. As a defensive end in the Cavaliers' 3-4, Long displayed the pass-rushing skills that make him ideally suited to be an open-side end on the next level. He doesn't dazzle scouts with his first-step quickness, but they rave about his motor and relentlessness off the edge. He simply wears down the opposition over the course of a game, and his ability to bring it every snap is unmatched by any other player at the position. Although he possesses the athleticism to be used as an outside linebacker/rush end in a 3-4, Long is at his best when he lines up with his hand on the ground and comes off the edge. A top-five selection, Long will upgrade any defensive line with his motor, energy and toughness.
3. Vernon Gholston, Ohio State, DE: An athletic pass rusher with outstanding quickness and burst. The All-Big Ten selection wreaks havoc off the edge, and his exceptional closing burst propelled him to a school-record 14 sacks. His multiple-sack games against Wisconsin (4) and Michigan (3) highlighted his pro potential as a pass rusher. While some scouts downgrade him against the run, Gholston is held in high regard, due to his athleticism and versatility as an edge rusher. With several 3-4 teams among the top 10 selections, expect Gholston to come off the board quickly as an outside linebacker/rush end prospect.
4. Sedrick Ellis, Southern Cal, DT: An undersized interior player with outstanding athleticism, power and quickness. The two-time All-American overcomes his size deficiencies by playing with great leverage at the point and relying on outstanding agility to defeat blockers. With such impressive movement skills, Ellis is ideally suited to play nose tackle in a "one-gap" scheme (Tampa-two) that features a number of slants and stunts upfront. If placed in the right system, scouts expect Ellis to become a force as an interior penetrator/pass rusher. Expect Ellis to emerge as a top-10 selection on draft day.
5. Derrick Harvey, Florida, DE: The Gators' top pass rusher possesses exceptional athleticism and first step quickness. Though he doesn't possess a vast array of moves, Harvey was able to use his explosive burst and initial quickness to defeat blockers on his way to recording 8 1/2 sacks this season. After witnessing Harvey dominate off the edge with limited rush moves, scouts envision him becoming a double-digit sack artist as his overall skills develop. Therefore, look for Harvey to be selected in the top half of Round 1.
6. Kentwan Balmer, North Carolina, DT: A big, athletic interior player with outstanding physical tools. Balmer shed his underachiever label with a breakout senior season and established himself as one of the top defensive tackles in the draft. At 6-foot-4, 308 pounds, Balmer possesses the size and athleticism that scouts covet in an inside player. Though his inconsistent career production is a concern, most scouts rated Balmer's upside off the charts. With few quality defensive tackles available, expect a team to grab Balmer in the middle of the first round.
7. Calais Campbell, Miami, DE: A tall, rangy edge rusher with excellent athleticism and movement skills. Campbell displays better than average initial quickness and improving hand skills. Although his production was down as a junior, Campbell has collected 16.5 sacks over the past two seasons. While scouts question his ability to develop into an elite pass rusher as a pro, Campbell's frame (6'8), speed and quickness makes him an intriguing prospect as a base end. If he can post better-than-anticipated numbers in his workouts, expect Campbell to come off the board at the end of the first round.
8. Pat Sims, Auburn, DT: A massive interior player with outstanding size and strength. The All-SEC selection flashes dominating ability as a run defender, but doesn't play with great effort or intensity consistently. Despite his questionable motor, scouts remain interested in Sims due to his disruptive potential as an interior player. His ability to dominate the middle of the line is attractive to teams in dire need of an interior run stopper. Therefore, expect Sims to garner serious consideration near the bottom of the first round.
9. Phillip Merling, Clemson, DE: The Tigers' top pass rusher is a good athlete with good body control and movement skills. Despite lacking explosive initial quickness and closing burst, Merling has a knack for getting to the quarterback off the edge. Scouts question whether he can continue to be an effective edge rusher as a pro, but they are intrigued by his athleticism and potential as a base end/defensive tackle. His size, athleticism and position flexibility (spent some time in 2006 at defensive tackle), makes Merling an attractive option at the top of the second round.
10. Lawrence Jackson, Southern Cal, DE: The enigmatic Trojan has all of the physical tools to be an outstanding player. Blessed with great size, speed and athleticism, Jackson registered 25.5 career sacks at USC. But in spite of that production, scouts are troubled by his inconsistent play over the past two seasons. He has failed to excel against top competition, and his disappearance in big games has led some scouts to question his mental toughness and competitiveness. Regardless of those sentiments, a team will take a chance on Jackson in the middle of the second round, due to his enticing physical skills.
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