Pros and cons: Defensive linemen

Pros and cons: Defensive linemen
By John Murphy, Yahoo Sports
April 16, 2007

John Murphy
Yahoo Sports
Yahoo! Sports will spend this week breaking down top prospects at particular positions. On Monday, the focus is on defensive linemen Jamaal Anderson and Gaines Adams.

Height 6-6
Weight 279
40-yard dash 4.76s
Vertical 34"
225lb bench 22 reps
Arm 33 3/4"
Hand 9 7/8"
Jamaal Anderson
Height 6-5
Weight 260
40-yard dash 4.68s/4.72s
Vertical 36"
225lb bench 20 reps
Arm 34 1/2"
Hand 9 7/8"
Gaines Adams
Anderson: After being moved to left end last spring, everything seemed to come together for this former prep wide receiver. Recorded 19½ tackles for loss and 13½ sacks, which prompted his decision to declare for the draft a year early. Offers great size, good strength and impressive pass-rush ability thanks to a quick first step, long arms and a good array of pass rush moves. Is more of a quick, up-field pass rusher, but he has the size to improve his bull-rush skills. Did very well on stunts and twists, coming underneath several times to invade the pocket and create a play for himself or his teammates. Can dominate opposing blockers to the point where they begin tipping their hands based on the stances they use. Also made an equal number of plays behind the line of scrimmage and when chasing from the backside. Is motivated, works to get better and can be effective in a variety of roles, but it would seem best to keep him in a 4-3 scheme in order to get the most out of his pass-rush skills and natural athleticism. Would need to get stronger in order to handle the pressure of playing with a shade towards inside or containing the run outside, the tasks 3-4 ends are asked to accomplish. Could add 10-20 pounds to his 280-pound frame. Adams: Completed his college career tied as the school's all-time leader with 28 sacks to go along with 44½ tackles for loss, six fumbles, three recoveries and also a pair of blocked kicks. He started to become an all-around defender last season as he combined his speed off the edge with a more determined effort against the run and a higher motor. His long arms allow him the ability to escape initial blocks and most linemen he faced started to take a deeper stance in order to stay in front of him as he is a quick-twitch athlete that can make blockers false step and even draw pre-snap penalties. Sees the ball well and can create turnovers by either tipping the ball at the line of scrimmage or stripping the ball carrier while attempting to make the tackle. He plays his best when demonstrating a nasty streak. Also has an extra burst of ideal closing speed. His rare athleticism and speed were never more evident than when he returned a fumble 66 yards for a game-changing touchdown against Wake Forest last season. He has been evaluated by 3-4 teams as a possible conversion to outside linebacker, but many 4-3 coordinators feel that he will be able to instantly upgrade the pass-rush ability of the team he joins. In fact, his college head coach once compared his skill level to that of former premier NFL pass rusher Derrick Thomas.
Anderson: As the draft grows closer, evaluators tend to get skeptical of prospects with just one good year of game film. As a result, Anderson needs to overcome the fact that a number of general managers have seen underclass defensive linemen prospects fail to record ideal results early in their careers. Has some bull-rush skills, but will get high off the snap at times and can be ridden out of the play. Needs to do a much better job of using his hands to get off the block, something Richard Seymour struggled with at the same stage of his career. His overall instincts improved the past two years, but he can still lack suddenness off the snap on occasion, especially on play-action or misdirection plays. Still developing better secondary moves for when he is initially blocked, but he needs to stay low and play with balance more often when that happens. He did not play with much of a nasty streak until his junior year. Has to spend more time in the weight room; has the natural size but needs to produce more lower-body power and his frame needs to be sturdier in order to battle some of the much heavier linemen he will be facing. Adams: Will lean too much on his athleticism at times and fails to finish the play, but he did cut down on those types of mistakes as a senior. Can get engulfed at times when teams run sweeps or pitches to his side; he gets pinched inside because he lacks enough lower body weight to anchor his side. He has limited growth potential as he would not want to bulk up too much past 260-265, which could cause him to wear down late in the NFL season. While not a high reps guy, he can be a little slow at times to take some of the things he learns in the classroom and have them translate onto the field; his rumored low Wonderlic test score was likely reviewed in many a draft chat among teams picking in the top 10. There have been several 3-4 scheme teams who worked him out at outside linebacker. However, I would not feel comfortable moving him off the line of scrimmage as it would make him more of read-and-react defender and strip him of his first-step burst off the snap.
Anderson: Evaluators are split on Anderson, with some saying he can develop into a Seymour-type pro. Others have gone as far as saying his total package gives him the chance to be a 10-to-12- or even 15-sack dominant force along the lines of Michael Strahan. His current size and skills make him a much better fit for a 4-3 scheme, as he shows equal or more quickness off the ball than last year's No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams, but lacks his bulk and versatility. Williams struggled for a variety of reasons, but that should not deter anyone that has grown fond of Anderson's game film. He may never be able to dominate the line of scrimmage, but he will be a credible enough defender against the run considering his upside comes from being a full-sized pass rusher. Adams: Overall, Adams' pass-rush skills will be hard to overlook on draft day, especially since there is a lack of ideal depth at the position. The two teams that seem to be concentrating on him the most are the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals. The Lions would like to trade down from No. 2 to select him. Arizona, after adding offensive tackle Mike Gandy via free agency, is now looking for a front-seven playmaker for its defense. Adding a possible franchise left tackle like Joe Thomas is far less relevant since the backside protection for quarterback Matt Leinart comes from the right side of the offensive line. Therefore, Adams, who would fit more into being picked between Nos. 6-10 in most years, will now come off the board in the top 5.

John Murphy's 6th annual NFL Draft Bible is now available. Learn more at

John Murphy is Yahoo! Sports' NFL personnel and college prospect evaluator. Murphy's seventh annual NFL Draft Bible package for the upcoming 2008 NFL Draft coverage is now available. Learn more at

Updated on Monday, Apr 16, 2007 12:48 pm, EDT

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