The class of defensive ends in the 2016 NFL Draft features potentially two top-six picks in Joey Bosa of Ohio State and DeForest Buckner of Oregon. What sets those two apart from the rest is there all-around talent and skill in both the run and pass game.
Bosa gets the nod for the top spot between the two. Bosa seemed ready for the NFL the moment he stepped onto Ohio State's campus and finished his three-year career with 150 tackles, 50.5 tackles for loss and 26 sacks. Ohio State utilized Bosa in a variety of roles. Obviously he made his name as a 4-3 end, but he was able to do work from the inside and even looked comfortable dropping back in coverage on occasion. Bosa is a NFL ready as a run stopper. He knows how to use his hands to get inside blockers, push them around, and get free. Bosa is a powerhouse at end, and he knows how to use his strength. He consistently keeps his legs moving to get a push and was double-teamed often. Bosa isn't a superstar athlete, and that can be considered a negative. His first step isn't bad, but he's not exactly Von Miller-like with his first step. Stylistically, Bosa's play is similar to former Giants star Michael Strahan.
The common comparison for Buckner is Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals. Buckner has a massive frame and knows how to use his length to his advantage. Buckner comes out of a 3-4 system that used him at end, and has a future as a five-technique in the NFL. Buckner knows how to pack an initial punch and throw a defender to the side to make a play. Buckner has a good motor and has shown he'll chase a play down when it goes away from him. As a pass rusher, Buckner has a good burst and can dip around edge even at 6'7. In the NFL, Buckner will have to develop a good counter because if his first move doesn't work, he can get stonewalled. As a taller player, Buckner also has to always be conscious of staying low and not giving up leverage.
Noah Spence is a wholly different type of pass rusher from Bosa and Buckner. He can speed around the corner and has the type of twitch movements NFL teams desire in an edge rusher. Spence can play with his hand in the dirt and showed at the Senior Bowl he can hold up as a linebacker. Spence has some well-known off-field issues that got him kicked out of Ohio State, so some teams will be apprehensive about taking him. If he's on the straight and narrow, though, he can be an instant impact player as a rookie.
Shaq Lawson of Clemson is a close fourth behind Spence. He's a powerful end and uses effort and technique to beat blockers. Lawson's go-to move is an impressive bull rush, which has led to many offensive tackles and tight ends getting tossed aside. He also has a useful spin move, but other than the spin, Lawson does not have overly impressive lateral agility and athleticism. He knows how to utilize his talents to get pressure, though. Lawson's teammate Kevin Dodd could be a first-round pick, as well. He's bigger and a little more purely athletic than Lawson. He only starred for one year, though, after being buried behind older talent in front of him. Dodd can work inside and out against the run, and is a real three-down player. Dodd isn't going to get a lot of sacks thanks to his pure speed, but he should be a productive left end.
If 3-4 teams miss on Buckner in the first round, they could target Bronson Kaufusi of BYU or Carl Nassib of Penn State. Both are lanky ends with power and enough athleticism. If they miss out on Lawson, Ronald Blair of Appalachian State provides many of the same strengths.
Day 3 gem: Check out these stats from James Cowser of Southern Utah: In four seasons starting, he had 293 tackles, 80.5 tackles for loss, 42.5 sacks, and 10 forced fumbles. Cowser isn't the biggest end at 248 pounds and could kick out to linebacker on a 3-4 team, but he's an active rusher with good handwork. Cowser can play special teams, a necessity for a Day 3 pick. Assuming he sticks on a roster, he could blossom into a good edge rusher.
Overall position grade: B-
The top of the class, which features a potential five first-round picks, makes this a top-heavy class. Beyond that top five, there's not a lot of dynamic talents at end this year.
Note: These rankings were finalized before Shawn Oakman of Baylor was arrested for alleged sexual assault. Purely on the field, there are still some things that could be said about Oakman. At this point, however, he may not get drafted.
|1. Joey Bosa, 6’6, 275 pounds, DE, Ohio State|
|2. DeForest Buckner, 6’7, 291 pounds, DE, Oregon|
|3. Noah Spence, 6’3, 261 pounds, DE, Eastern Kentucky|
|4. Shaq Lawson, 6'3, 270 pounds, DE, Clemson|
|5. Kevin Dodd, 6’5, 275 pounds, DE, Clemson|
|6. Emmanuel Ogbah, 6’4, 275 pounds, DE, Oklahoma State|
|7. Shilique Calhoun, 6’5, 250 pounds, DE, Michigan State|
|8. Bronson Kaufusi, 6’8, 280 pounds, DE, BYU|
|9. Carl Nassib, 6’7, 272 pounds, DE, Penn State|
|10. Shawn Oakman, 6’9, 275 pounds, DE, Baylor|
|11. Ronald Blair, 6’2 1/8, 284 pounds, DE, Appalachian State|
|12. Charles Tapper, 6’2, 282 pounds, DE, Oklahoma|
|13. Alex McCalister, 6’6 1/8, 239 pounds, DE, Florida|
|14. Ron Thompson, 6’4, 268 pounds, DE, Syracuse|
|15. Matt Judon, 6’3, 275 pounds, DE, Grand Valley State|
|16. James Cowser, 6’3 1/8, 248 pounds, DE, Southern Utah|
|17. Dean Lowry, 6’6, 290 pounds, DE, Northwestern|
|18. Victor Ochi, 6’1 1/8, 246 pounds, DE, Stony Brook|
|19. Romeo Okwara, 6'4 5/8, 265 pounds, DE, Notre Dame|
|20. Eddie Yarbrough, 6’3, 251 pounds, DE, Wyoming|
|21. Jason Fanaika, 6’3, 269 pounds, DE, Utah|
|22. Aziz Shittu, 6'3, 279 pounds, DE, Stanford|
|23. Silverberry Mouhon, 6’3, 255 pounds, DE, Cincinnati|
|24. D.J. Pettway, 6’2, 270 pounds, DE, Alabama|