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Combine Watch List: The top five defensive ends

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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Derrick Morgan (Georgia Tech): Morgan was the ACC Defensive Player of the year after posting 12.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss in his junior season. As long as he gets first contact, Morgan has a superlative ability to get outside and around a tackle, and then to recover upfield to get to the quarterback. He can get washed out by power tackles inside, though when he's taken out of a play, it's often by way of a double-team. As a run defender, he's especially fierce -- he'll get to the ballcarrier by any means necessary. The question about his NFL future has to do with his ability to consistently get to the quarterback -- he was dominated by Iowa's Bryan Bulaga in the Orange Bowl, and Bulaga's best asset isn't his pass protection. At 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds, he's a very good multi-dimensional player, but a team looking for an instant pass-rushing threat may want to look around. The upside is that many experts believe that Morgan is nowhere near his full potential in that area yet.

Carlos Dunlap (Florida): Miami's Calais Campbell(notes) came out of the 2008 draft with an amazing combination of size (6-8, 290), strength, and speed. He's still putting it together, though his first season as an NFL starter for the Arizona Cardinals was a good one. Dunlap has similar dimensions and similar potential, but some teams will be put off by the level of his still-developing technique and the DUI he was charged with on December 1. Dunlap was subsequently suspended for the SEC Championship game against Alabama, coming back to rack up two sacks against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. His sacks come in bunches (the three against Mississippi State was a third of his 2009 total) and he's probably best with a team that has the patience to let his form catch up with his physical tools.

Brandon Graham (Michigan): Did anyone benefit more from the Senior Bowl than this guy? Probably not. He was freakish during practices, and came away with the game's MVP after forcing a fumble and bagging two sacks. There are those who will shy away from Graham because of his height (6-foot-1), but Denver's Elvis Dumervil(notes) is probably the NFL's best pure pass-rusher right now, and a lack of prototypical height hasn't hurt him at all. Graham led the nation with 26 tackles for loss in 2009, and it's easy to see how he does it -- he's amazingly sudden off the snap, possesses an effective bullrush inside or outside, and can man up against the run.

Jason Pierre-Paul (South Florida): Pierre-Paul may be the Jarron Gilbert of this draft class; the YouTube star with the ability to do things you'll simply never see on a football field. Check out the backflips!

Right now, Pierre-Paul is very much under construction; he started playing football in high school (crossing over from basketball), transferred to USF from junior college, and needs some work when it comes to the fine points of the game. But his athleticism is undeniable, and he might find himself "overdrafted" if he uses the Combine drills as he should.

Everson Griffen (USC): Griffen has all the tools -- size and speed in abundance -- but he doesn't really jump off the tape the way you'd like to see an edge-rusher do. In 2007 and 2008, he was demoted from starting spots, and some within the SC program have questioned his work ethic. Where he might be most successful in the NFL is as a 3-4 endbacker in a hybrid system, where he can use his size in less spectacular ways. Like Pierre-Paul, Griffen could see his stock rise after Combine drills -- he's run 40s as low as 4.54, and that's sure to intrigue when you're talking about a guy stands 6-foot-3 and weighs about 270 pounds.

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