In our last preview of the 2013 NFL Draft, we analyzed the potential options at safety for the Tennessee Titans. The recent addition of strong safety George Wilson will help to improve tackling in the secondary, and now the Titans can focus on the best available player in the 1st round. While the pass defense obviously struggled last season, too often it was attributable to a lacking pass rush.
The Titans did finish 9th overall in 2012 with 39 sacks, but only 14.5 of those sacks came from the defensive end position. Akeem Ayers, rookie Zach Brown, and the defensive tackles did most of the damage, and there is no depth at all behind Wimbley and Morgan. The Titans will look to add someone through the draft, so without further ado, here are the top 5 defensive ends in the 2013 NFL Draft.
*Note: As the Titans predominantly run a 4-3 defensive scheme, we will target players who translate well to this system.
1. Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, DE, BYU
While Bjoern Werner may be rated higher on the majority of NFL Draft boards, “Ziggy” Ansah has rocketed up the charts since his eye-popping performance at the NFL Combine. A native of Accra, Ghana, Ansah began his college career in basketball and track, only switching to football in 2010. With his limited college production and exceptional athletic talent, many scouts compare him to Jason Pierre-Paul, and rightfully so.
Ansah possesses a rare combination of speed, size, and quickness, making him a potential top 5 pick. His performances at the Senior Bowl and combine were truly impressive, possibly putting him out of reach for the Titans. If Ansah does happen to fall on draft day, the Titans will consider taking him 10th overall, and then address the offensive line in the next round.
2. Bjoern Werner, DE, FSU
Born and raised in Berlin, Germany, Werner grew up watching American football and participated on a youth club team. In high school, he played two seasons in the U.S. as an exchange student, drawing attention from several college teams. Werner excelled during his college career at FSU, and in 2012 he earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Werner is an accomplished pass rusher (13 sacks in 2012), but he also holds up well against the run. He projects as the most complete DE in the draft, and therefore is considered somewhat of a “safe” pick. The Titans have a legitimate shot at him at 10th overall, but they must decide if he possesses enough upside to warrant such a lofty draft position.
3. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
So much hoopla has been made of Damontre Moore’s poor performance at the NFL Combine, but his results are a bit misleading. True, he ran a disappointing 4.95 40-yard dash and only did 12 bench reps, but his impressive vertical and broad jump numbers convey his lower body explosiveness. The more concerning news is that Moore apparently came off as immature in the team interviews portion of the combine.
At Texas A&M Moore was one of the most destructive forces in college football, earning the nickname “DaMonster” from teammates and coaches. His college tape and combine results offer differing opinions on the talented prospect, making him an intriguing selection on draft day. The Titans could consider him worthy of a 1st round selection, but with even the hint of character concerns, it seems like a doubtful match.
4. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
The 6’8”, 277-lb Margus Hunt denies the laws of physics: a man that size shouldn’t run that fast. Hunt truly excelled at the combine, running a 4.60 40-yard dash and recording 38 bench press reps. Originally from Estonia, Hunt acquired the nickname “Eastern Block” while at SMU, blocking a NCAA career record 9 field goals (14 total blocks). Teams will see the 14 blocked kicks and think of the disrupting force of J.J. Watt.
Hunt is far from a polished player, and it would serve him well to be drafted by a team that can bring him along slowly. With that being said, he offers more upside than perhaps any other prospect in this draft. Even if Hunt can’t get pressure on a consistent basis, he can swat passes down by simply raising his arms. It’s doubtful the Titans will take him so high in the 1st round, but they would certainly consider him in the unlikely event he falls to day two.
5. Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, FSU
Carradine played well opposite of Bjoern Werner in 2012, registering 80 total tackles and 11 sacks. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL against Florida late in the season and will be recovering for much of the pre-draft process. He did participate in the bench press, displaying his strength with 28 reps.
At 6’4” and 276 pounds, Carradine is a strong defensive end that manhandles blockers in the run game. He also has a high motor, consistently playing sideline to sideline. His untimely knee injury will undoubtedly drop him down many draft boards, as scouts cannot fully evaluate his athletic ability. The Titans could target Carradine in the 2nd or 3rd round to add some talented depth behind Wimbley and Morgan.
Conclusion: The Titans could feasibly use the 10th overall selection on a defensive end if someone of high value falls to them. The most likely candidates are Ansah, Werner, and Moore, but management could instead opt to wait until later rounds to add depth at the position.
If the Titans do pass on a 1st round defensive linemen, they will probably draft a highly rated offensive lineman to help CJ and Locker. As the offensive tackle position is set with Roos and Stewart, the Titans will concentrate on the interior, and therefore we will focus on the top 5 interior offensive linemen in the next installment.
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