2011 NFL Draft Preview – Defensive Line

Over the past few years the focus in the first round of the NFL draft has shifted somewhat away from the skill positions, other than quarterback, and has gravitated more towards the defensive line. Last year DT’s Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy were selected No.2 and 3 overall and in 2009 there were six defensive linemen chosen in the first twenty selections. This year should be no different as there are a number of top prospects to choose from.

The following is a brief look at some of the top defensive lineman available for this year’s NFL draft.

Marcell Dareus  – Alabama
The recent past has shown that a quarterback is usually taken with the first overall pick in the draft, but the Carolina Panthers have to be very tempted to use theirs on Dareus. At 6-foot-3 and 319 pounds to go along with a 4.92 time in the 40, this one-man wrecking crew is a player you can build a defense around. He has the flexibility to lineup on the end, in the middle, of even on the nose in a 3-4 set. After the success of Suh last year in Detroit, Dareus will not last past the first three picks.

Nick Fairley – Auburn
Fairley’s stock dropped a bit after the Scouting Combines, but a recent Pro Day workout has him back in the picture as a top 10 pick, possibly to Tennessee at No.8. At 6-foot-4 and 297 pounds he has the raw strength of a lineman, but the speed and footwork of a linebacker. He is equally as strong at stopping the run as well as getting after the quarterback . The main knock on him has been his work ethic, which can be corrected in the right setting.

DaQuan Bowers – Clemson
Bowers could be the first pure defensive end taking in the draft. His primary strength is as a pass rusher, but has shown the ability to play the run as well. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds, Bowers did not run the 40 at the Combines, but has posted a 4.60 in previous workouts. There are some questions about the health of his knee which could cause him to fall out of the top 10, but he should not last past the middle of the first round.

Robert Quinn – North Carolina
Quinn turned in a disappointing 4.67 40 at the Combines after projecting out at a 4.55, but remains a top prospect at defensive end or possibly the outside linebacker position. He is a bit undersized at 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds but has a frame that can handle some additional bulk. He was suspended for the 2010 season and only has two years of playing experience, but the upside on Quinn’s overall ability should still make him a top 25 pick.

Muhammed Wilkerson – Temple
Wilkerson did not wow anybody with his 4.99 time in the 40 at the Combine, but he has caught the interest of several teams with his ability to play up and down the defensive line. At 6-foot-4 and 308 pounds he has great run-stopping skills, but also recorded 16 ½ sacks over the past two seasons. His long arms are excellent for clogging-up a quarterback’s passing lanes as he has the potential to be a disruptive force in the right scheme. Wilkerson should go in the middle of the first round, but would be a steal if he drops lower than that.

Dave Schwab

DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.