The upcoming 2012 NFL Draft in many ways is like any other. It consists of future busts, backups, all pros and who knows maybe even a Hall of Famer. There are some blue chip players at the top, but the Titans aren’t at the top of the draft. They pick in an area where intensive scouting is key. So I decided to do some of my own scouting. I will include my grades for players the Titans may take in the 1st round and give you all some info on the guys. We will begin with the defensive ends. This class of ends is a risky bunch. They have talent, that is not a question, however mistakes can be made when dealing with talent in the wrong way. See Vernon Gholston.
Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
Coples is the most prototypical 4-3 defensive end in this year’s class. He has an elite combination of size, strength and speed. Coples has played at DT and DE for the Tarheels and he excelled at both. This shows scheme versatility and the ability to overpower guards as well as edge rush a quicker offensive tackle. Quinton Coples has a reputation of taking plays off. Whether he didn’t want to get hurt or simply doesn’t love the sport remains to be seen. He may lack the flexibility to be an elite edge rusher like Dwight Freeney, but he will make up for that in so many other ways. IF his new coach keeps him motivated he can be really special. His production dropped off from the 2010 season the the 2011 season and this will certainly hurt his draft stock, but don’t be surprised when you hear the commissioner announce Coples’ name in the top 10. Someone will fall in love with his frame and overlook his mental issues.
Instant Impact: 4/5
Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
6’1″– 264–31 1/5″
Out of all the defensive ends I had the most fun watching Melvin Ingram play. He is all over the place and has the ability to rush the quarterback from anywhere on the defensive line. He locates and attacks the football better than the other ends. I see Ingram excelling in a system where he is used to reak havoc from all different places. He is a relentless pass rusher and is surprisingly strong at the point of attack. He fights off multiple blockers to get to the ball. Ingram has a high motor and will certainly accept any responsibility he has in a scheme. It is up to the coach to figure it out though. Ingram is one of those players that a coach can build a system around, or get fired for screwing it all up. His only negatives are due to his height and short arms. Guys like Elvis Dumervil and James Harrison don’t care about things like that. Ingram dominated all over the field in college. He had 10 sacks, 2 interceptions and a fake punt for a touchdown. When you type versatility, athleticism, and play making ability into Google, you get Melvin Ingram.
Instant Impact: 4/5
Ah, Whitney Mercilus, the one year wonder boy. With 16 sacks in one season Mercilus deserves the hype. He has excellent burst off the line of scrimmage. His outside rip is his best move followed by the bull rush. Whitney Mercilus torched a lot of offensive tackles in the 2011-2012 season, but how does that translate to the NFL. Is he a defensive end or a rush linebacker? Why did he only have one year of production? These are the questions going through the minds of coaches around the league. I think Mercilus will be a good defensive end, but a better rush linebacker. He isn’t strong enough in run support to be an immediate starter and his frame may not allow him to add extra weight to help in this category. His tackling is poor and when in a tight area 1 on 1 with a running back he gets juked quite easily. With that said, his long arms are a big factor that scouts will fall in love with. He used them to force 9 fumbles last season. For me, I wouldn’t spend an early or even mid first round pick on him because he isn’t the complete player one would expect a first rounder to be. His speed and arm length were such a big advantage against college lineman, but in the pros he will have to extend his repertoire of rush moves.
Instant Impact: 3/5
Nick Perry is my favorite defensive end prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft. He was an animal at Southern California with increased production each year on the field. He played with his hand in the dirt mostly, but has shown the ability to rush standing up, which is a plus. Nick Perry is the most natural rusher in this class because of his wide spectrum of rush moves. He has an edge rush, an adequate bull rush, and an impressive spin move that will translate to success in the NFL. His burst off the line of scrimmage is incredible and it showed when he ran a 4.64 40 yard dash at the combine. That was after adding more than 15 pounds of muscle at the end of his college season. Perry has a great motor and has the ability to chase down runners from behind. Nick Perry shows great balance and hands on tape and he knows how to use leverage to beat an offensive tackle. He lacks the strength to take on double teams, but that can be fixed with good coaching and time in the weight room. Overall, Nick Perry is a good football player that I believe with have a wonderful career in the NFL.
Instant Impact: 3/5
Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Courtney Upshaw was a standout rush linebacker in Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide defense. He is one of many 1st round prospects for Alabama this year. Upshaw dominated the BCS National Championship and looks like a quality NFL starter. He has the strongest lower body of any prospect this year, but lacks elite athleticism. He is a tweener guy that may not pan out as a defensive end. The more I watch Upshaw, the more I like him as a strongside linebacker in a 34. He is great at setting the edge and is phenomenal in run support. He has an excellent bull rush, but lacks the burst and quickness to fool the elite left tackles in the league. When given a step Upshaw can overpower the strongest of linemen, but he may be exposed in the NFL for his lack of athletic ability.
Instant Impact: 3/5
The Tennessee Titans are filling holes at defensive end so that they are not forced to draft based on need in the first round. With that said, it would be hard for the Titans to pass on any of these guys if they are close to the best player available. My rankings for defensive end go as followed:
1. Melvin Ingram
2. Nick Perry
3. Quinton Coples
4. Courtney Upshaw
*Note: Aside from Coples, any one of these guys may be drafted as an outside rush linebacker. That is what is so interesting about this class.
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