After all the tape study, the combine measurements/workouts, some pro-days, and re-watching of tape, there has been slight movement in the post combine pass rusher rankings.
Jayson Braddock and Dory LeBlanc used extensive criteria that included (but was not limited to) pass rush, run defense, tackling, explosion, strength, and physical makeup into determining how those attributes translate to the NFL.
The ten-best 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB prospects are
1. Courtney Upshaw, (Both) Alabama, 6’2” 272 Lbs – There is no Von Miller in this draft. You won’t find an elite pass rush specialist. Even our top ranked guy, has serious flaws. While Upshaw won’t impress with great speed, he still finds his way to the quarterback. Courtney is physical with his hands and demonstrates one of the more aggressive grab & snatch approach. He keeps offensive linemen off balance and closes with an explosive short area burst. If he goes to a 3-4 team, need will need to fall into the right philosophy. EVEN
T-2. Nick Perry, (4-3) Southern California, 6’3” 271 Lbs – We have our first ever three way tie. It’s not saying that all of them have the exact same skill set, it’s actually saying the opposite. Any of these guys will be the next best pass rusher, depending on the team selecting the next pass rusher off the board. It depends on scheme & what the front office / coach value. Perry goes to the top of most 4-3 boards and his value increase for any team that wants a player to have a repertoire of moves. He displays power, speed, spin, etc. A team that feels they can harness is strengths and coach him up to finish pursuit, even when the play goes away from him, will want Perry. EVEN
T-2. Whitney Mercilus, (Both) Illinois, 6’4” 261 Lbs. – It doesn’t matter if a 3-4 or a 4-3 team is on the clock, they’ll select Mercilus if they want an effort guy. Whitney has a motor that doesn’t stop. He won’t be the fastest or have the best technique, but he will out work every other guy on the field. He’s the type of DE/OLB that you see tackling a running back 30 yards down field. Coaches that want the most athletically gifted, will look towards a different pass rusher. +1
T-2. Andre Branch, (Both) Clemson, 6’4” 259 Lbs. – 100% speed attack. He’s the most 3-4 ready outside linebacker out of the three. He spent a lot of time at Clemson standing up and with a hand down. He will occasionally display a spin move. While he can play the defensive end position in a 4-3, a 3-4 team will probably draft earlier as they could use his speed off the edge to force opposing quarterbacks to speed up their decision making and he wouldn’t be as big of a liability in pass coverage if asked to drop. EVEN
5. Shea McClellin, (Both) Boise State, 6’3” 260 Lbs. – Shea is someone that we have been high on for quite awhile. Any team that has several holes to fill on defense or they like to mix up their looks, will fall in love with McClellin. He’s the most versatile of all the pass rushers. He’s strong but very agile. He’s also smart and understands disguising the formation. He will be moved all over the defense and force quarterbacks to know where he is at all times. -2
6. Cam Johnson, (4-3) Virginia, 6’3” 268 Lbs. – Cam sheds blocks well and he plays with great leverage to go along with stellar balance. While he doesn’t have the change of direction of the 5 guys listed above him, his reaction to the play is one of the more elite. He gives added value to a defense that wants their defensive end to be a force against the run as much as the pass. +2
7. Ronnell Lewis, (Both) Oklahoma, 6’2” 253 Lbs. – Ronnell is a physical monster. He’s not just all bulk though. He blends good feet and high effort with his physical nature. He’s another of the scheme diverse players and while I didn’t get to see much of him in coverage, I believe it wouldn’t be as much of an adjustment for him as others. EVEN
8. Vinny Curry, (4-3 Left or Right) Marshall, 6’3” 266 Lbs. – Besides Quinton Coples, who’s listed as one of our 4-3 DTs / 3-4 DEs, Vinny would probably be the best left defensive end in a 4-3. He lacks the great speed that you would want in a pass rusher but has an amazing dip move and comes around the corners with a tight edge. Don’t get us wrong, he can play the right defensive end as well but he’s probably more suited for the left side. -2
9. Bruce Irvin, (3-4) West Virginia, 6’3” 245 Lbs – The most insane change of direction of any of this year’s pass rushers. He displays speed and energy that’s unmatched. A bit undersized but he should fit perfectly in a few schemes. If we were the Dallas Cowboys we wouldn’t hesitate to draft Irvin for two reasons. 1) he could be the pass rusher opposite of DeMarcus Ware and free him up more and 2) it now looks like Dallas will play Mike Vick and RG3 4 times a year. Irvin’s speed and change of direction is a perfect match for Dallas. EVEN
10. Adrian Hamilton, (3-4) Prairie View, 6’2” 248 Lbs – Hamilton didn’t get the exposure of the men ranked ahead of him. His level of competition will be questioned all the way up to draft day. But, when you put on the film, you see the power, the dip, the spin, and the short area explosion that matches or exceeds the best pass rushers in this class. You can question the competition but you can’t question the film. If he had a mediocre performance against that competition, I would worry about him but he broke records. You may say that it isn’t impressive to break a record against that competition but then when you realize the record he broke belonged to Robert Mathis, then the picture begins to focus. EVEN
Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You can also catch Jayson on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew every Thursday at 10:30am ET. You may email Jayson directly @ email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock