Expected first overall 2017 NFL Draft choice Myles Garrett leads our defensive end ranking, which includes all players with 4-3 defensive end experience and projections to play the position in the NFL.
Garrett is joined by another Texas A&M Aggie in this top 10. With all 10 players generating first-round interest during the draft process, this list is one to know for the 2017 class.
NFL Draft: Top 10 DE prospects in 2017 class
10. Charles Harris, Missouri
Harris is an exceptional athlete on the edge who can be effective both with his hand in the ground and standing up. He offers explosiveness off the snap and shows impressive ability to set the edge with his quickness and change of direction. He ran a slower 40 time at the Combine than his game speed would suggest.
His spin move is his go-to, but Harris also has an effective swim move. He lacks a power punch in his hands and struggles to get off blocks, but he’s special when he’s given free reign to rush the passer off of the edge.
9. Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M
Hall can be a slow starter off the snap and doesn't offer top-end explosiveness, instead relying on his flexibility and developed pass-rush moves for success. He needs to play with better anticipation and control on the edge. His rip and swim moves have developed substantially over the last two years, and his work on the interior speaks to his potential interior versatility.
The overall perception of Hall from scouts has been one of intrigue, but also hesitation, as Myles Garrett out-shined him over the last three years. Hall's need for added development in the NFL is a bit excusable, as his body has grown (and is growing) substantially through college.
8. Derek Barnett, Tennessee
Barnett wins at the point of attack with his strong hands. His explosion off of the line allows him to throw tackles off of their initial footing. He offers a good bull rush and sheds blockers with an efficient grab and jerk. He crashes down the line after setting the edge and can make plays from the backside.
Barnett finishes plays well, sometimes violently. His negatives include his tendency to guess snap counts and jump offside, and he lacks elite edge rusher agility. He might eventually have to shift to a 3-4 five- or three-technique spot in the NFL.
7. Carl Lawson, Auburn
Lawson has the ability to be an exception to any medical threshold that keeps a team from drafting a player with injury concerns. He creates plenty of pressure as an edge rusher with plus flexibility, controlled footwork and a quick initial get-off.
With a powerful and aggressive mindset, Lawson causes frustrations for offensive tackles. He shows enough strength and vision in the run game to be used as a 4-3 defensive end on all three downs. He could be valued as a top-15 pick regardless of potential measurable deficiencies.
6. Taco Charlton, Michigan
Charlton doesn’t have the look of a great edge rusher at first glance, and he's inconsistent. However, he makes it all work, and his abilities as a run defender are obvious.
Charlton needs to improve his discipline and positioning in order to become a better-than-average end in the NFL. He’s a good bet to be a high-single-digit-sack-type player in the NFL and, at least, an average run defender.
5. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
McKinley’s high character clearly reflects with his play on the field, and his technical development, coupled with his athletic upside, has turned him into a first-round prospect. McKinley is able to stay low and balanced in pursuit, and he regains balance remarkably well when needed.
While his positioning can get a little high as a pass-rusher, his activeness and sudden bend to finish speaks to his ability to produce without being totally finished as a prospect. Even if he lands as a 3-4 outside linebacker, a la DeMarcus Ware, he has a chance to have a long NFL career after some development during his rookie season.
4. Jordan Willis, Kansas State
Bill Snyder has called Willis the epitome of Kansas State football — remarkable words from the legendary coach. And while Willis can appear stiff on film, he tested as one of the best edge athletes at the Combine.
Willis generates an explosive burst when working in a straight line, and he has remarkable movement skills and bend. He is routinely able to win with inside hand placement, and he can drive the pocket. He doesn't offer high-level counter rush moves, outside of an occasional spin move, but his initial rush wins have allowed him ample production despite playing against quick passing offenses in the Big 12.
3. Solomon Thomas, Stanford
Thomas is an attractive chess piece for any defensive alignment. His quickness, accompanied with power and finesse plays revved by an always-hot motor, shakes out to be a top-five talent.
Thomas has the traits to be an All-Pro-level player within the first couple years of his NFL career. He can be effective as an inside pass rusher but isn’t a typical, run-stuffing defensive tackle most teams would like to mold. He might be able to put on some extra weight to gain more force at the point of attack in the run game.
2. Jonathan Allen, Alabama
Allen might be best suited as 3-4 five-technique given his ability to crash rushing lanes and get to quarterbacks on third downs. His elite hand strength allows him to set the edge and keep blockers off his body. While he lacks the ideal height and length for an edge defender rushing the passer, he can be a successful edge defender in a 4-3 alignment.
Allen’s above-average agility and footwork provides insane leverage, allowing him to take on double teams and free up pass rushers and run stoppers alike. A coachable player who is fundamentally sound and smart, Allen could be on his way to a Pro Bowl career and should be selected in the top 10 picks.
1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
Garrett is built with ideal height and length for an edge rusher. He’s fast, strong, explosive, flexible and able to use those tools to win in a variety of ways. Due to his athleticism, he has never needed to win in any other way, so he’ll need to develop more nuance and technique as a pass rusher in the NFL.
He has demonstrated an ability to use counter moves effectively; he simply needs to develop better vision as a pass rusher in order to better understand how and when to use them. As a run defender, he might be the best defensive lineman in run pursuit in the entire class.