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Who Fits in Denver: Defensive Line/Pass Rush

Posted Apr 17, 2014

Independent analyst lists defensive linemen and pass rushers that could fit in Denver in the 2014 NFL Draft.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Even with the defensive line and pass-rush complement appearing to be filled, it would come as no surprise if the Broncos supplement it, with expiring contracts for two defensive tackles after this season and the value of pass rushers being at its highest point in NFL history.

PASS RUSHERS FOR THE SECOND DAY:

Carl Bradford, Arizona State: He could potentially fill three spots between the linebacker positions and defensive end, so he could be a situational player used in so many packages that he becomes an every-down contributor. He needs to develop another pass-rush move or two, and if he's used as a linebacker, he has some potential in coverage. Bradford also has enough speed to go after mobile quarterbacks without being exposed.

Will Clarke, West Virginia: Athletic and long (6-foot-7, 34 5/8-inch arms), the 271-pounder can use his size and wingspan to create an obstacle to quarterbacks, even when he isn't able to get past an opposing tackle. He tends to be a more patient pass rusher than most, in part because of his ability to deflect passes or force the passer to change his trajectory. At 271 pounds, he could also bounce inside in a "NASCAR front"-style package to create more problems, and could be a mismatch. If he develops another pass rush move or two, he could be a force. There's some tantalizing qualities here.

Kareem Martin, North Carolina: A strong senior season was followed by an above-average week of work in the Senior Bowl, where he was disruptive as a pass rusher and in making plays against the run. Martin does a good job using his length (35-inch arms, 6-foot-6 height), and if he could hone another pass-rush move or two, could be dangerous.

Marcus Smith, Louisville: At 251 pounds, he appears to be a better fit for every-down work as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but in a 4-3, he could be a valuable pass rusher. He amassed 14.5 sacks last season, tacked 18.5 tackles for losses and has decent inside coverage skills for a player his size.

Others of note on the second day: Scott Crichton, Oregon State; Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas; Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State; Trent Murphy, Stanford.

DEFENSIVE ENDS AND DEFENSIVE TACKLES FOR THE EARLY TO MID THIRD DAY:

James Gayle, Virginia Tech: It's possible he could sneak into the second day, but the 6-foot-4, 259-pounder's run defense is ahead of his pass rush, so he might end up in the mix early on Day 3. His athleticism indicates that with refimong sub-260-pound defensive ends and pass-rush outside linebackers, he had the best bench-press tally (26 repetitions), and among defensive linemen was seventh-best in the 40 and the broad jump, second-best in the vertical and sixth in the three-cone drill.

Daniel McCullers, Tennessee: Although he's a better fit in a 3-4 on the nose, the massive (6-foot-7, 352 pounds, 36 5/8-inch arms) McCullers has worked in the 4-3 the last two years. Much more of a run stuffer than a pass rusher, and at his size, there's a finite limit to how many snaps per game his stamina will allow him to play.

Michael Sam, Missouri: He led the SEC in sacks and was the conference's defensive player of the year, so he's doing something right. But his Combine results were poor, although he did shave nearly two-tenths of a second off his 40 time between the Combine and his Pro Day, and he improved his vertical jump by five inches and his bench-press tally by two repetitions between his Combine and Pro Day. His quickness doesn't show in workouts, but is evident from his game tape, and he plays a bit bigger than his 261-pound size against the run. He struggled in space when working as a 3-4 linebacker at the Senior Bowl, so his future is likely as a 4-3 end who starts off in situational work but could see his repertoire expand. If teams are scared off by his Combine numbers and he falls through the draft, he represents excellent value.

George Uko, Southern California: He can switch back and forth between end and tackle depending on the package, Uko played three positions on the defensive front at USC. If he could add another 10 or 15 pounds, he could improve as a run defender; as he is now, he can already provide some disruption in the pass rush. Uko is in the Derek Wolfe/Malik Jackson mold of versatile defensive linemen.

Brent Urban, Virginia: Another big end who can swing inside, Urban is a 295-pounder who was the tallest defensive lineman at the Combine (6-foot-7).

Others of note in the Day Three range: Deandre Coleman, California; Taylor Hart, Oregon; Anthony Johnson, LSU; Aaron Lynch, South Florida; Cassius Marsh, UCLA; Josh Mauro, Stanford; Ed Stinson, Alabama; Shamar Stephen, Connecticut; Khyri Thornton, Southern Mississippi; Ethan Westbrooks, West Texas A&M.