Looking at the draft’s top pass rushers
The Cleveland Browns got a very good 2014 season out of outside linebacker Paul Kruger. 2013 first-round pick Barkevious Mingo essentially played last season with one arm and had offseason surgery, but Mingo has shown only flashes in two seasons.
The Browns have invested a bunch of money in the secondary and have to get better rushing the passer to help that secondary and the defense as a whole. Holding pick Nos. 12 and 19 in the first round of the NFL Draft, it’s not much of a leap to see the Browns investing in the pass rush as part of bolstering their front seven.
Below are capsule looks at some of the top pass rushers in this year’s draft and how they might fit. The players are listed alphabetically.
Vic Beasley, Clemson
Beasley ran 4.53 in the 40 and had a 41-inch vertical at the Combine. His on-field production hasn’t always matched his athleticism, but he’s added weight since the end of the college season and, given time to settle in as standup rusher and 3-4 outside linebacker, could eventually be a standout. NFL.com and NFL Network’s Mike Mayock ranks Beasley as the No. 3 edge rusher in this draft, and he’s No. 16 on NFL.com’s top 50 list.
Alvin "Bud" Dupree, Kentucky
Dupree seems to have momentum in draft circles. He might be a late bloomer, too, as a former tight end and basketball player who still could be learning to dominate on the football field. He’s run fast and shown top athleticism and explosion during the pre-draft process, as expected, and his potential makes him a fascinating evaluation in the stretch run of the pre-draft process.
Dante Fowler, Florida
Probably the top pass-rush prospect in this draft, Fowler ranks No. 4 in the top 50 list compiled by NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah and has had private workouts and/or visits with multiple teams drafting in the top six. Fowler is an early entry to the draft and played multiple positions at Florida, so while he’s still raw he’ll be drafted — and early — on his potential.
Randy Gregory, Nebraska
Gregory was pegged as a top-five pick through most of last season by those who watch most closely, but off-field issues and a failed drug test at the NFL Combine could cause him to slip. Players know they’re going to be tested at the combine, and those who fail leave lingering questions. He has prototype size and a bunch of ability, but how far does he drop before a team is willing to take a chance?
Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA
How’s this for a first line of Odighizuwa’s NFL.com profile? "Absolute Greek God with the pads off." But how quickly can he become a good enough football player to contribute in the NFL? He ran fast (4.62) at the NFL Combine and showed top athleticism, but teams must diagnose his best position and guess how quickly he can catch on and catch up at the game’s highest level. He comes in at No. 49 on the NFL.com top 50 list and figures as an intriguing second-round pick by a patient team.
Nate Orchard, Utah
Orchard isn’t considered a first-round prospect, but after posting 18.5 sacks last season and posting a strong showing at the Senior Bowl in January he’s been busy over the last several weeks working out for teams trying to figure his best position. Every NFL teams need pass rushers, and Orchard can do that; how he adjusts to the NFL game and whether or not he can play on first and second down will determine how soon he gets drafted.
Shane Ray, Missouri
Evaluations of Ray seem to be everywhere from the top 10 to the top 25; he’s No. 6 in the NFL.com top 50 but Mike Mayock’s No. 5 edge rusher. A natural pass rusher, Ray doesn’t have the protoype size of some of the other top prospects but has a nose for the ball — and for the quarterback. He mostly played defensive end at Missouri and the biggest question could be which position and scheme fit him best in the NFL.