Despite a dearth of elite defensive ends in this year's Draft, four or five still could be selected in Round 1 because of the premium placed on good pass rushers in the NFL. The stud among this group of ends is 6-6 1/2, 292-pound Mario Williams of N.C. State, who has rare speed (4.76 seconds in the 40-yard dash) for a man his size. Williams' linemate at N.C. State, Manny Lawson, has been shooting up draft boards following a great showing at the Combine. He could join is his former Wolfpack teammate in the first round.
Virginia Tech's Darryl Tapp is an intriguing player with plenty of upside. Some teams may avoid him because of his small stature (6-1 3/8, 256 pounds), but Tapp could make one team's GM look like a genius—he repeatedly beat the nation's top college offensive tackles during one-on-one drills at this year's Senior Bowl. Additional defensive ends who have first-round potential include Penn State's Tamba Hali and Boston College's Mathias Kiwanuka.
Below is a ranking of the Top 10 defensive end prospects for the 2006 NFL Draft, which will be held on April 29–30 in New York City:
1. Mario Williams, N.C. State (6-6 1/2, 292, 4.76)
Williams has been compared to Julius Peppers, who was chosen No. 2 overall in 2002 by the Carolina Panthers, because of his rare combination of size and speed. Scouts have become so enamored with the former Wolfpack defensive lineman in recent months, it wouldn't be surprising to see him follow in Peppers' footsteps and be selected second overall, after the consensus No. 1 pick, USC's Reggie Bush.
2. Darryl Tapp, Virginia Tech (6-1 3/8, 256, 4.79)
Tapp may not have the size of a prototypical NFL defensive end, but he has the speed and the desire. He routinely beat college football's best offensive lineman at this year's Senior Bowl, a group that included top-rated tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson of Virginia.
3. Tamba Hali, Penn State (6-2 5/8, 263, 4.86)
Hali had a superb senior year at Penn State, including a four-sack performance versus Wisconsin. Scouts are a little concerned with his height and were expecting a faster 40 time (4.86) at the Combine. Nonetheless, Hali should be off the board mid-to-late first round.
4. Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College (6-5 5/8, 261, 4.73)
At 6-5 5/8, 261 pounds, Kiwanuka was considered by many scouts to be the top defensive end in college football entering his senior year. However, a mediocre season caused his stock to drop, and it didn't help that an injury caused him to sit out the Senior Bowl. Still, the former BC defensive lineman should be selected late in Round 1.
5. Manny Lawson, N.C. State (6-5, 238, 4.41)
Lawson posted a dazzling 4.41 40-yard dash at the Combine and quickly moved up NFL draft boards. At a mere 238 pounds, his best position is probably outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Lawson's speed is so special, he could hear his name called before Tapp, Hali, and Kiwanuka on Draft Day.
6. Ray Edwards, Purdue (6-4 5/8, 279, 4.79)
Edwards, a junior, probably should have stayed in school another year to refine his technique. However, his prototypical size, speed, and quickness for a defensive end will be enough for one team to nab him in the second round.
7. Stanley McClover, Auburn (6-2 1/8, 258, 4.63)
McClover, another early entry, trails only Lawson in the speed department. He explodes out of his stance and is a strong tackler but must add bulk at the next level or a switch to outside linebacker may be in the offing.
8. Elvis Dumervil, Louisville (5-11 3/8, 257, 4.83)
Dumervil finished his Louisville career as one of the most prolific defensive ends in college football history, which included a 2005 season in which he registered 20 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, and 10 forced fumbles. Despite his impressive college stats, Dumervil has two strikes against him in the eyes of many scouts: he's short (5-11 3/8) and relatively slow (4.83).
*9. Parys Haralson, Tennessee (6-0 3/4, 248, 4.70)
Haralson is another defensive end whose stock has rapidly ascended due to impressive post-season workouts. His quickness, agility, and speed were on full display at both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. Despite his slight frame, Haralson's a solid third-round pick who could sneak into Round 2.
10. Victor Adeyanju, Indiana (6-4, 267, 4.68)
Scouts love Adeyanju's measurables and his explosiveness off the edge as a pass rusher. However, he's a raw prospect who oftentimes relies on his natural athleticism to circumvent poor technique. Based on potential alone, the former Hoosier should be a Day 1 pick.
OTHER NOTABLE PROSPECTS:
Mark Anderson, Alabama (6-4 1/4, 254, 4.68)
Charles Bennett, Clemson (6-3 3/4, 262, 4.70)
Chris Gocong, Cal Poly (6-2 1/8, 263, 4.75)
Eric Henderson, Georgia Tech (6-1 7/8, 261, 4.74)
Julian Jenkins, Stanford (6-3 3/4, 275, 4.94)
Charlton Keith, Kansas (6-4, 239, 4.78)
Mike Kudla, Ohio State (6-1 5/8, 265, 4.75)
Ryan LaCasse, Syracuse (6-2 1/8, 254, 4.57)
Jeremy Mincey, Florida (6-3 1/4, 262, 4.65)
Javon Nanton, Miami (6-3 3/8, 251, 4.80)
Rob Ninkovich, Purdue (6-2 3/4, 255, 4.79)
Frostee Rucker, Southern Cal (6-3 1/4, 261, 4.80)
James Wyche, Syracuse (6-5, 262, 4.64)