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Draft Positional Analysis DE
February 4th 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
A key area to any defense is along the defensive line. The 49ers worked very hard this past season to try and solidify this area, bringing back Dana Stubblefield and drafting defensive end Andre Carter. The 49ers were happy with the upgrades but are likely to continue to look for help in this area to get more of a pass rush on the quarterbacks. Thus the team could very well go for a defensive end early in the draft and this draft has some very capable ones.

Top Ten Defensive End Prospects

  1. Julius Peppers Jr. 6'6" 285 4.6/40 N. Carolina
  2. Kalimba Edwards Sr. 6'5" 251 4.6/40 S. Carolina
  3. Alex Brown Sr. 6'3" 264 4.8/40 Florida
  4. Dennis Johnson Jr. 6'6" 263 4.9/40 Kentucky
  5. Dwight Freeney Sr. 6'1" 247 4.4/40 Syracuse
  6. Kenyon Coleman Sr. 6'6" 276 4.8/40 UCLA
  7. Charles Grant Jr. 6'3" 262 4.7/40 Georgia
  8. Bryan Thomas Sr. 6'4" 255 4.5/40 Ala.-Birmingham
  9. Greg White Sr. 6'2" 259 4.8/40 Minnesota
  10. Carlos Hall Sr. 6'3" 258 4.5/40 Arkansas
Julius Peppers is without a doubt the best defensive end in the draft. He is the type of player that teams build around and sign to ten year deals. He’s big at 6’6” 285 lbs and he’s fast. Has a good variety of moves, disrupts passing lanes and can get to the quarterback. He keeps opposing offensive linemen off balance. Shows a great work ethic off the field. Needs to improve his use of hands but other than that could be the most polished defensive lineman to come out of this season’s draft.

Kalimba Edwards is another one of the new age type defensive ends. Rather light but quite quick Edwards is full of potential. He excels at rushing the passer but does need work on his run stopping skills. Moving his body very well, he is extremely quick off the ball and can break through blocks using his lower body strength. He has a great wingspan that will help him clog passing lanes. Edwards can be summed up in the following: He’s a great athlete with size and speed that allows him to play defensive end.

Alex Brown is a good sized defensive end who doesn’t have blazing speed but he makes very good use of his strength and leg power to get to the quarterback. Brown also plays the run well getting to the point of attack efficiently and with good leverage. Brown’s natural ability is hindered slightly by his instincts that sometimes get him lost. Browns ability to play the run and pass well are what makes him a top pick in this years draft. However, buyer beware - his instincts may come back and haunt the team that goes after him.

Dennis Johnson is another good sized defensive lineman. He has great all around strength and is very good at making stops in the open field. Disrupts passing lanes using his hands and wingspan. Johnson is rarely fooled by opposing offenses, but he does not have the quickest recognition. Rarely gambles and thus is not full of big play potential but rarely makes big mistakes. He’s been known to take some games off but overall turns in a very good performance over the course of a season.

Dwight Freeney is a small defensive end that plays between 245 and 255 lbs. He is quick however, perhaps the fastest in this season’s draft. He could be the ‘pass rushing specialist’ some teams crave and has been known to force fumbles. He’s sa big play guy that attacks with moves both inside and outside and at opposing guards. Not the greatest at playing the run because of his speed, and he isn’t the type of defensive end you’d drop into coverage - despite his size and speed. Nevertheless, Freeney’s ability to make big plays will help him greatly in this season’s draft.

Kenyon Coleman came back from a major knee injury in 2000 to have a great 2001 season. He has very good upper body strength and a wide wingspan that allow him to excels at pass rushing. Times his hands well for batting down balls and benefits from his size when doing so. Coleman can beat double teams, and is fast off the ball. Coleman needs to work on improving his footwork and fundamentals at the next level. Has the natural ability to excel at the defensive end position.

Charles Grant is a good sized defensive end who is quick and balanced but not fast. He is a very versatile player and can play defensive tackle as well as end. Has great control of his center of gravity that make him hard to move even when the opposition outweighs him. A little slow on the play recognition, Grant makes up for it by being good against the run. Could use some work at tackling good running backs though.

Bryan Thomas has made a name for himself by having some of the best technique and footwork in the draft. He has been very well coached on the fundamentals but needs more work at play recognition. Thomas uses his hands well and never stops moving. He’s always around the play and has a wide variety of moves that puzzle offensive linemen. Not the best run blocker but wont let a running back get by him as he is a very good at tackling. His size will hamper him in this years draft, but a team already heavy on the defensive line, should gamble on him.

Greg White is a good defensive end that gets off the ball very quickly. He excels at pass rushing and is likely to fit in to the ‘specialist’ category. Has improved against the run greatly in his senior season. He needs to be more aggressive at the point of attack and would benefit from better play recognition. Could play linebacker too, but his problems against the run will hinder him in doing so. Gives everything on every play and is a ‘character’ guy.

This year’s group of defensive ends is very solid up top but there is a definite drop off as you go down the list. Julius Peppers really brings up this years group who all could use some help in recognizing offenses. Not quite as solid a group as the defensive tackles available this season. Those teams needing help at one position or the other - depending on whose available in the draft may go for a defensive tackle rather then reaching for an end higher in the draft. Peppers however could be a top three pick.

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